The reverberant acoustics in most traditional band rooms makes the unfamiliar speech common in a learning environment harder to process, making it harder to learn.

There are classrooms and there are high intelligibility classrooms. Who gets high intelligibility classrooms?

  • Hearing and learning disabled
  • Language Arts
  • Vocabulary oriented rooms
  • Music and practice rooms
  • TV learning centers
  • Multilingual population rooms
  • Larger classrooms and lecture halls

Most band rooms are quite reverberant, as acoustics were not primary elements in design and construction.

Foreign Language Classes & Second Language Learners

In a low intelligibility room, full comprehension is almost impossible because there is limited shared experience that can lead to expected word sequences. Since the classroom language is not their native language, they are not used to the new context of sounds and therefore have reduced confidence in expectation of word sequences. They cannot hear through band room noise as easily as primary language-based students. These second language students operate with a learning disadvantage due to poor room acoustics.

Language is used here to apply to spoken languages and also topical vocabularies such as biology or physics.

Reverberant Rooms

Unfamiliar speech is much harder to understand in a reverberant space.

Semi-Reverberant Rooms

Familiar speech is easier to understand in a semi-reverberant space. The familiar context and expectation of sound sequences will help the listener understand or properly guess/anticipate what is being said.

Hearing Impaired

Students who are hard of hearing can be much more easily distracted by the reverberation of sound. It becomes more difficult to discriminate between the intentional, direct sounds from the teacher, audio material and other students and the time-delayed cacophony sounds after they have undergone multiple reflections within the room.

Large Rooms

Larger classrooms and lecture halls present another cue factor which helps students to “see through” noisy, reverberant classrooms. This is the visual cue. In small classrooms, the student can focus on the mouthing of words to help to understand. Over long distances, this lip-reading factor disappears leaving only body language as support for sentence detail.

Even normal-sized classrooms suffer from the loss of visual cues. In the back of the room, reverberant levels are greatest and the direct signal is weakest. The distance from student to teacher is greatest and visual cues are weakest. This is complicated as the heads of other students are often in the way. Accompanying all this is the shuffle and murmur or “self-noise” noise levels. As intelligibility is reduced in the back of the room, this inherently makes it more difficult for students to sustain focus, attention and retention. The conglomeration of these effects serves to suggest that wide shallow classrooms ought to be preferred over long narrow rooms.


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