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The Effects of Reverberation on the Emotional Characteristics of Musical Instruments

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Previous research has shown that reverberation influences the perception of clarity, spaciousness, and other aspects of music. But the degree to which reverberation influences the emotional experience of musical instrument sounds is still not known. The authors conducted a listening test to compare the effect of reverberation on the emotional characteristics of eight instrument sounds representing the wind and bowed string families. The subjects compared paired stimuli for eight emotional categories: Happy, Sad, Heroic, Scary, Comic, Shy, Romantic, and Mysterious. For simple parametric reverberation, the results showed the following: a significant effect on Mysterious and Romantic for the back of a large hall; a medium effect on Sad, Scary, and Heroic for the back of a large hall; a mild effect on Happy for the front of a small hall; relatively little effect on Shy; and the opposite effect on Comic, with listeners judging anechoic sounds most Comic. These results give audio engineers and musicians an interesting perspective on simple parametric artificial reverberation. The motivation for this research was to understand how emotional characteristics vary with reverberation length and amount in simple parametric reverberation, which are equivalent to the hall size and the listeners distance to the front.

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JAES Volume 63 Issue 12 pp. 966-979; December 2015
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