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On Three, You Lift: Methods Behind The Madness
Sometimes there actually is a little something beyond rote recitation of "check one, two"...
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“Check one, two… one, two…” As a soundperson, I’ve had to repeat this phrase ad nauseam—at times I even hear it in my dreams.

Everyone wants to know: “Why can’t you count to three?” To which the punch line follows: “Because on three, you have to lift.” Ugh, like I haven’t heard that a thousand times before. (In addition to “when will this be over” and “is that really necessary?”)

Years of enduring these tired refrains finally prompted me to give the matter some serious thought. What is it about those little words - “check one, two”—that help in quickly setting up and tuning a system and room? I soon re-discovered a few things that had become instinctive and subconscious over the years.

After getting a system up and running, I make sure to flatten the channel and house equalizers, but this then begs the question: What’s the point of having a 1/3-octave EQ for some of these smaller shows anyway?

It’s a question I’ve actually had to answer a few times, and sometimes is followed by quite a fight to get even one EQ unit actually included for some of my systems. It’s amazing how many folks ignore the importance of EQ.

Yet two of the biggest factors in my area of specialty, which is corporate sound reproduction, are feedback reduction and tonal balance, both of which can be optimized with a decent graphic EQ. Therefore, it’s invaluable.

Anyway, continuing the process. After returning the EQ and console to “normal” positions, I’ll grab a microphone to begin testing. For this portion, I employ the same mic model in use on the lectern, and stand-mount it to keep my hands free for adjustments.

Then, “check.” The first thing I look for are any frequency imbalances in the system. “Check” can cover anything from 2 kHz down to 630 Hz, depending on the voice. The “ch” sound can be hit harder for the upper mids, and separating the “eh” sound can help in identifying problems in the mids. Try dipping each one of these bands while saying the word in order to filter out any harshness without sacrificing clarity.

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