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#2052005 - 03/21/13 02:47 PM Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling?
Mark_C Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
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Loc: New York
Even with all the places I've been in my 200 years grin I don't really know the answer to this, and I might need to.

We're considering moving to a house that has a nice big living room (about 15' x 25') but with a ceiling height of barely 8' (7'11 to 8'). (Our old house was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy but that's another story.) mad

I've never lived in a place with such a low ceiling in the time since I've had large grands. I love the resonance and richness of the sound in a good space and that would be hard to give up. I'm used to ceilings of at least 9' and I know that something like 8'6" can be OK. But I can imagine that 8' might be pushing it. Anyone have experience with such a space with such a low ceiling, and with a B-size grand or something close to it? Thanks in advance for any feedback. It will be much appreciated.
(I'm also asking this on Piano Forum.)

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#2052016 - 03/21/13 03:21 PM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: Mark_C]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Registered: 05/29/01
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There are so many variables it's hard for anyone to predict with any certainty. Even if someone had the exact same piano in the same room, positioned the same way, furnished exactly the same way, with the lid in the same position, voiced the same way, regulated the same way, etc., there would still be the person's own particular hearing and personal sound preferences.

Another very important variable is if the room opens up into other areas which is often the case. If so, in terms of the sound the room is effectively larger than it's actual dimensions.

There have been threads where people liked the sound of as large or larger pianos in smaller rooms as the one you mention or where they disliked smaller pianos in rooms of similar size as you mention.

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#2052017 - 03/21/13 03:24 PM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: Mark_C]
JoelW Offline
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Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4763
Loc: USA
200 years? Getting pretty old there.


Sorry about your old house. That sucks.


I've never played anything (drums or piano) in a low and wide area like that. Does it have wood floors? This is a must as you probably know. Anyway, I'd imagine the sound might be less resonant but perhaps might be a little louder, since the sound has much less of an area ABOVE you to escape your ears and more bouncing from side to side of you. I'm no sound engineer or physicist, but this is just what I think might be the case.


I've always wanted to try putting my 5'7 grand in my bedroom. It's just a medium sized, 4 wall standard bedroom with CARPET. I'm curious to see if I would like the dry sound. I'm a huge fan of dry sounding recordings. (Horowitz's tone in The Last Romantic, and also Peter Frankl's Debussy album). I absolutely hate recordings with tons of reverb.


Edited by JoelW (03/21/13 03:31 PM)

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#2052021 - 03/21/13 03:29 PM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: Mark_C]
BruceD Online   content
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I can't answer that one Mark. There are two many variables in play, some of which pianoloverus mentioned, to know what the results might be.

My living room is 15-1/2 feet by 28 feet with 9 foot ceilings housing a 6' 4" (190 cm) grand; it seems to be a fairly good musical match. My dilemma is the replacing of the floor covering : do I replace the current carpeting with new carpeting or do I go to hardwood - the current rage in interior floor design? What will hardwood do to the resonance of the room, even with a large area rug under the piano? Will the sound be even better or will it be too harsh? Who knows? Decisions, decisions!

Regards,
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#2052022 - 03/21/13 03:33 PM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: Mark_C]
beet31425 Online   content
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Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3763
Loc: Bay Area, CA
I'm really sorry to hear about your house, Mark: I had no idea.

Here's another data point, for what it's worth. When my parents first retired to Berkeley, my father had his Steinway D in their den-like family room. Ceilings were low, certainly below 8'. I loved playing there; the closed-in space gave me a rich sense of control. Later, they moved the piano out to the living room: gabled ceiling, varying in height between 10' and 15'. I don't like it there at all now. Everything feels echo-y, distant and muddy.

Good luck on the move.

-J
_________________________
Beethoven: op.109, 110, 111

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#2052194 - 03/21/13 11:41 PM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: pianoloverus]
Mark_C Online   content
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Thanks for the replies! Very useful already. I'm hoping there might also be some more input. (And thanks for the sympathies and well-wishes too.)

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
There are so many variables it's hard for anyone to predict with any certainty.

Very true. For sure there's definitely "not enough information" for any definitive answer. But....maybe I should have added that the other essential variables all seem quite favorable. Like:

Quote:
....if the room opens up into other areas which is often the case. If so, in terms of the sound the room is effectively larger than its actual dimensions.

Great example, and the room does do this to a pretty good extent, and it has just about everything else going for it too. So, what I was asking, and I thought it was reasonably clear but maybe it wasn't, was whether there's any significant chance that it could be OK, like if anybody has known any such space where the acoustics were quite good in the respects I noted ("resonant, rich"), because in that case this room would have a good chance to fill the bill. Or, alternatively, if some people's experience with such things would enable them to say that such a low ceiling would have almost no chance to be all right.

Originally Posted By: JoelW
....Does it have wood floors?

yes

Quote:
....I'd imagine the sound might be less resonant but perhaps might be a little louder, since the sound has much less of an area ABOVE you to escape your ears and more bouncing from side to side of you. I'm no sound engineer or physicist, but this is just what I think might be the case.

Yes -- I think that's a good breakdown.

Originally Posted By: BruceD
My living room is 15-1/2 feet by 28 feet with 9 foot ceilings....

Oooohhh! I want that room! ha
Actually that's pretty close to the dimensions of a living room I used to have.

Originally Posted By: beet31425
....When my parents first retired to Berkeley, my father had his Steinway D in their den-like family room. Ceilings were low, certainly below 8'. I loved playing there; the closed-in space gave me a rich sense of control.

I loved reading that. smile

Quote:
Later, they moved the piano out to the living room: gabled ceiling, varying in height between 10' and 15'. I don't like it there at all now. Everything feels echo-y, distant and muddy....

Huh -- I would have thought it would be kind of like a concert hall!

That's sort of the kind of ceiling we have where we're staying now. The room is just medium size but with ceilings like that (although not quite as high). I like the sound a lot.

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#2052334 - 03/22/13 08:28 AM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: Mark_C]
Morodiene Offline
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Mark: What are the floors covered with? Hardwood, carpeting, or tile? I think hardwood/laminate floors would be ideal in this sort of setting, and you could always adjust things once you get in there and your ears get accustomed to the new sound of your piano in the space. I would not make this be a deal-breaker for you, as there are many options to adjust the acoustics of your space to accommodate your tastes.

Is this an open floor plan or an enclosed living room? It is better if the sound has somewhere to go.

Also, where you place the piano can have an effect on the acoustics as well. So there are lots of things to consider, and you can dampen the sound if it's too much with the low ceilings (acoustic tiles on the walls, area rug if tiling or hardwood floors, etc.)

FWIW, I had my 9' Petrof in a room that was about 12x14, but with 9' ceilings and hardwood floors. It was an old house, so it was a fairly enclosed room so the sound really was quite loud. It took some getting used to, and we added a large area rug and a tapestry on the wall in back of the piano to help dampen things a bit.

You may want to post this on the PIano Forum as well, there are some pretty good acoustic guys on there that can offer more specific calculations that may help in figuring out where to place it. But mostly I think you just have to see what you have when you get the piano there.


Edited by Morodiene (03/22/13 08:30 AM)
_________________________
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#2052411 - 03/22/13 11:38 AM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: Mark_C]
sleepy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/06
Posts: 330
Hi, Mark,
I'm not sure if my situation is comparable, but here goes:
I live in a studio apt with low (dropped) ceilings and low-pile wall-to-wall carpeting, and my Baldwin L sounds fabulous in there. So maybe you'll be OK!
sleepy

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#2052476 - 03/22/13 01:25 PM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: Mark_C]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2728
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Mark,

It sounds like you're considering a house with a fairly open floor plan, but with relatively low ceilings. The open floor plan will work in your favor by making the room relatively larger. The lower ceiling will raise the frequency of any room modes by a note or a few. In the absence of wall to wall carpeting room modes will be more likely because coherent reflections between the floor and ceiling will be stronger. This will manifest by some notes sticking out more than others. In my house it's the G above the treble staff (8' ceiling). The way to control this without carpet is to have some furniture by the piano bench, bookshelves work pretty well, Monica found a large stuffed animal helpful. This may not help the rest of the room but will break up the room mode where it will be heard most, at the piano bench. I'd try it out first with nothing and see if room modes are a problem for your ears.

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#2052529 - 03/22/13 02:51 PM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: Morodiene]
Mark_C Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19737
Loc: New York
Thanks, Morodiene, Sleepy, and Steve!

Originally Posted By: Morodiene
What are the floors covered with? Hardwood, carpeting, or tile? I think hardwood/laminate floors would be ideal in this sort of setting, and you could always adjust things once you get in there and your ears get accustomed to the new sound of your piano in the space.

Hardwood.
Area rugs covering most of the the floor will immediately be included -- it's how we do it anyway. And, judging from what you and others have said, we'll need to be ready to do some additional stuff too.

Quote:
Is this an open floor plan or an enclosed living room? It is better if the sound has somewhere to go.

Fairly open.

Quote:
Also, where you place the piano can have an effect on the acoustics as well.

Yes -- how about let's talk about that too. smile

What I like, and where I've always placed the piano in my last few places, is as though the room were a little auditorium -- imagine one side of the room being a stage, and placing the piano as it would be on a stage: centered on that wall, bench on the left (i.e. "stage right"), and piano sound being projected outward into the room.

Any opinions on how that would jibe with such a room? (The piano would be on the far end of the room, by one of the 'skinny' walls [15'] with the sound projected out toward the 25' dimension).


Originally Posted By: sleepy
....I'm not sure if my situation is comparable, but here goes:
I live in a studio apt with low (dropped) ceilings and low-pile wall-to-wall carpeting, and my Baldwin L sounds fabulous in there.

Great info for me -- I think that's very comparable!

Originally Posted By: Steve Chandler
It sounds like you're considering a house with a fairly open floor plan, but with relatively low ceilings. The open floor plan will work in your favor....The lower ceiling will raise the frequency of any room modes by a note or a few. In the absence of wall to wall carpeting room modes will be more likely because coherent reflections between the floor and ceiling will be stronger. This will manifest by some notes sticking out more than others....

Wow -- this is some stuff I never heard of, and don't even understand!
What's "room modes"? I think once I know that, I'll understand your reference to their "frequency." In fact, I'm pretty sure I already do; I just don't know about "modes" (in this sense). Is it something like "resonant frequency"?

There won't be wall-to-wall carpeting but there'll be enough coverage from area rugs that I think it'll be close.

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#2052553 - 03/22/13 03:34 PM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: Mark_C]
Phil D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/10
Posts: 551
Loc: London, England
The room modes are the resonant frequencies of a room. They occur, at their simplest, when there is a multiple of the wavelength of a note between two facing walls. They also occur when a whole multiple of the wavelength can 'fit' in a regular shape bouncing off one or two walls, returning to the same point.

There are tools for analysing the room modes of a room, but they probably won't be necessary.

Whether a particular mode is excited or not depends not just on frequency but on the location of the sound source - the room modes have fixed positions called nodes that correspond to the zero-crossings of a sine wave. If you put energy in here, the room mode will be cancelled out by the node. The maximum of the mode is the anti-node, and if you put energy in here at the right frequency and you will hear the resonance.

So the upshot is, modes can be mitigated for by moving the piano around. Trial and error is the best way - move away from an anti-node at one frequency and you'll probably hit one from another frequency. Towards a corner helps for the lower notes, but for the low-mids it's anybody's guess (without sophisticated analysis).

There are also things you can do to the room to reduce the effect of modes, but it's quite likely this won't be necessary.
_________________________
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The Cycling Piano Tuner

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#2052564 - 03/22/13 03:53 PM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: Phil D]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19737
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Phil D
The room modes are the resonant frequencies of a room. They occur, at their simplest, when there is a multiple of the wavelength of a note between two facing walls. They also occur when a whole multiple of the wavelength can 'fit' in a regular shape bouncing off one or two walls, returning to the same point....

Thanks -- what I had thought from Steve's post.

An infamous unfortunate example from real life (and in fact "modes" are talked about on there):


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#2052586 - 03/22/13 04:20 PM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: Phil D]
tend to rush Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/05/13
Posts: 51
Originally Posted By: Phil D
The room modes are the resonant frequencies of a room. They occur, at their simplest, when there is a multiple of the wavelength of a note between two facing walls.


If you don't mind doing some renovation, you can avoid this by eliminating parallel walls.


Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola - New York

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#2052856 - 03/23/13 09:01 AM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: Mark_C]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11764
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
What I like, and where I've always placed the piano in my last few places, is as though the room were a little auditorium -- imagine one side of the room being a stage, and placing the piano as it would be on a stage: centered on that wall, bench on the left (i.e. "stage right"), and piano sound being projected outward into the room.

Any opinions on how that would jibe with such a room? (The piano would be on the far end of the room, by one of the 'skinny' walls [15'] with the sound projected out toward the 25' dimension).

This is exactly how I like to set up my piano! Always need a "stage" of some sort. wink
I think this set up should work just fine, but as Steve Chandler mentions, there could be some notes that present problems. From what I've heard (but never experienced) is that a note can get a weird "repeat" sort of thing going on with the acoustics of a room. Again, this can be corrected with strategically placed acoustically dampening material and slightly adjusting the placement of the piano in the room. I think it best to wait until you move it and have your technician tune it and check to see if this is an issue at all.
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#2052858 - 03/23/13 09:04 AM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: Mark_C]
LarryShone Offline
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Registered: 10/01/10
Posts: 793
Loc: Darlington, UK
8foot is about normal ceiling height round here!
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#2180031 - 11/10/13 10:50 AM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: Mark_C]
Mark_C Online   content
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Loc: New York
Link to update (post on Piano Forum)

Cliff's Notes: It's great. smile

Many thanks to everyone who replied. The discussions here and on Piano Forum were extremely helpful.

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#2180090 - 11/10/13 01:04 PM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: Mark_C]
dolce sfogato Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 2630
Loc: Netherlands
What a dreadful story about Sandy and your house! I moved from a house with an 8 foot room (20 years!) to one with 12 feet, never been bothered by the low ceiling: sensible carpets, lots of bookcases, the works, first impressions in the new room: cathedral/indoor swimmingpool, done the same: books, carpets, conclusion: equally happy, only more space, haha.
_________________________
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#2180112 - 11/10/13 01:45 PM Re: Acoustics of big room but with low ceiling? [Re: Mark_C]
sleepy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/06
Posts: 330
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Link to update (post on Piano Forum)

Cliff's Notes: It's great. smile

Many thanks to everyone who replied. The discussions here and on Piano Forum were extremely helpful.


I knew it would be fine :-)

Thanks for letting us know!
sleepy

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