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Ensemble Hand-Clapping Experiments under the Influence of Delay and Various Acoustic Environments

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With ensembles composed of musicians connected over large distances via the Internet, the issue of sound delay becomes very important. This study explores the effect of delay on tempo change, imprecision, leader–follower strategy, and quality. Eleven pairs of musically experienced subjects clapped a simple complementary rhythmic pattern together for about 15 seconds while the delay was varied from 6 to 68 ms. Acceptable delay thresholds were empirically determined.

JAES Volume 57 Issue 12 pp. 1028-1041; December 2009
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Marshall Guerra
Comment posted January 11, 2010 @ 16:26:04 UTC (Comment permalink)

Great study. I was thinking about this subject a few years ago in regards to winter drumline percussion competitions. These competitions (such as the WGI series) take place in reverberant gymnasiums that also have echo. The ensembles consist of highly rehearsed musicians playing complex rhythms on instruments that produce a highly impulsive response. If there are 8 snare drummers playing side by side, the reverberance may have a smaller influence how clean (precision) they play together. But if they are trying to play in unison with the mallet percussionists 30 feet in front of them, reverberance probably plays a larger role. The winner of the competition is the group that has the highest judged precision. As the paper illustrated, judgement goes down as the delay (echo) is increased. But to what degree are the musicians and judges able to adjust to the environment? How long does might the adjustment take? Would the drumlines have an advantage if they were able to warm up in a reverberant environment vs outdoors in a reflection free environment? Maybe these could be investigated in the future.

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