Western Michigan University
THEA 332: Lighting and Sound Design

Sound in the Theatre


I. The Nature of Sound in the Theatre
     A.   Powerful design element
     B.   New and constantly changing as a design element
     C.   Design process is not as clearly defined

II.   The Nature of Sound
     A.   A Sound is a Pressure Wave
     B.   Three Basic Qualities of Sound
          1.   Frequency
               a.   Cycles per second (hertz, or Hz)
               b.   Directly Proportional to Pitch
          2.   Intensity
               a.   Quantity or Loudness
               b.   Measured in Decibels
          3.   Timber
               a.   Quality or Purity
               b.   Harmonics and Overtones
     C.   Sound Perception Phenomena
          1.  Distance and Loundness
          2.  Masking
          3.  Recognition
               a.   Duration
               b.   Familiarity
               c.   Volume
          4.  Reverberation

III.   Basic Acoustics
     A.   The Science that Studies the Absorption and Reflection of Sound.
     B.   Reverberation
     C.   Live or Dead
     D.   Decay time

IV.   The Role of Sound Designer
     A.   Artistic Member of The Production Staff not just a Technician
     B.   Responsible for the complete audio experience
     C.   Other Players
          1.   Music Director
          2.   Composer
          3.   Audio Engineer/Board Operator
          4.   Audio Technician
     D. Production Sound Design Process
          1.   Script Analysis
          2.   Moment Breakdown / Sound Score
          3.   Sound Plot

V.   What is a Sound-System?
     A.   Input Transducers
          1.   Microphones
               a.   Types
               b.   Pickup Patterns
                    i.     Omnidirectional
                    ii.    Bidirectional
                    iii.   Cardioid
                    iv.    Hypercardioid
          2.   Playback Devices
               a.   Analog
                              Reel-to-Reel, Cassette, Cartridge, Turn Table
               b.   Digital
                              DAT, CD, CDR, Mini-Disk, Computer Based I/O, SFX
          3.   What is Digital Audio?
               a.   Sample Rate
               b.   Bit Depth
               c.   Compression (MP3)
               d.   MIDI
     B.   Signal Processing Equipment
          1.   Patch Bay
          2.   Mixing Consoles / Mixers / Boards / Desk
          3.   Preamplifiers
          4.   Power Amplifiers
          5.   Processors
               a.   Equalizers (Graphic & Parametric)
               b.   Reverb Units
               c.   Delay Units (Imaging and time alinement) 
               d.   Feedback Eliminators
               e.   Compressors & Limiters 
     C.   Output Transducers - Loudspeakers
          1.   Frequency Range
               a.   Woofers
               b.   Mid-Range
               c.   Tweeters
          2.   Types
               a.   Cone
               b.   Pressure Driver and Horn
          3.   Speaker Cabinets
               a.   Infinite Baffle
               b.   Base-Reflex Enclosure
               c.   Ducted Port
          4.   Crossover Networks
          5.   Speaker Hookup Methods
               a.   Low Voltage Systems
               b.   High Voltage Systems 

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Matthew A. Knewtson, Associate Professor of Theatre
Western Michigan University
Comments to:  matt.knewtson@wmich.edu
Revised :  November 2009