FORZA CLARINET EXCERPTS

Audio Equipment

I have enjoyed testing the audio tracks using a variety of audio equipment and thought I would write about my observations.

To use the audio tracks in the Forza Excerpts library you will need headphones or earphones that can connect to your phone, tablet or computer, or a speaker that connects with a cable or by using technologies such as Bluetooth or AirPlay.

There are times when I choose to play the excerpts through speakers and times when I prefer using earphones - the two methods offer a different experience, even with the same audio track. Indeed, feedback from my students suggests that using speakers can offer a particularly musical experience, and using headphones or earphones is useful for more technical work.

If you have access to both speakers and earphones/headphones it is worth working with both to see if you have a preference. You may find that it is useful to vary the equipment you use from session to session.
Speakers
To enjoy the full stereo effect and take advantage of the positioning of the orchestral instruments in the tracks you will need to use a pair of stereo speakers. Try to be central, with the speakers positioned wide enough that you hear the bassoons to your left and 1st violins to your right, etc.

Stereo speakers are super, but I have done most of my testing with a single speaker and this works brilliantly. I love how the orchestral sound fills the room, and the feeling of being surrounded by other players.

The speaker you use will need to be powerful enough to deliver a level of sound that allows you to hear the orchestra comfortably while playing. Playing the tracks through built-in phone or laptop speakers does not deliver enough volume and may even distort sound at high volume, so for obvious reasons the audio tracks will not work at their best if used this way.

The sound delivered by different speakers varies enormously. Some are very bass heavy while others are lighter. This is just something to be aware of and if your speaker setup allows you to change treble and bass levels then it may be worth making adjustments to find the sound that works best for you.

I have had the opportunity to play the excerpts through a surround sound setup, with a main speaker in front of me and two further speakers to the side and slightly behind. This was glorious - it felt like I was in the orchestra! This is a great solution if you have this available.
Headphones & Earphones
I have enjoyed using the standard white earbuds that came with my phone. These allow in plenty of external sound so I hear a good balance between the audio track and my own clarinet sound. They seem to be lighter in sound, which is no bad thing, and they have good clarity.

Some headphones, particularly over-ear ones, will block out more external sound which will reduce the level of your clarinet sound, but this can be useful when you want to hear as much orchestral detail in a track as possible.

Apple’s Airpods and AirPods Pro, although expensive, are fantastic. They offer a warmer sound than the traditional earbuds, and of course have the advantage of being wireless. I often forget I am wearing them.

AirPods Pro has one particularly interesting feature that Apple calls “noise-control”. It is possible to switch between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency, and both of these functions can also be turned off. For me, the most useful of these is Transparency mode as the Airpods do a fantastic job of allowing in the external clarinet sound while delivering great sounding audio. Switching to Active Noise Cancellation allows me to focus on the details of the audio track. The noise cancellation works to cancel out constant sounds but thankfully still allows some of the clarinet sound through. I love this idea of being able to swap between different listening modes - it fits well with the concept of Forza Excerpts.

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