Study Hall

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“Tap-Tap-Tap, Is This Thing On?”

Identifying your particular "type" when it comes to checking a PA. Warning: humor is involved...

There are many different ways of checking PA systems. Some of us play music and walk around the venue, while others use sweeps or pink noise and deploy on a measurement program. Many do a combination of both.

Regardless, at some point in the process, we usually grab a microphone and listen to the PA with our own voice. Witnessing hundreds (thousands?) of these voice checks over the years has led me to compile the following “types.”

Which one do you resemble?

The Assistant Principal: “Tap-Tap-Tap, Is this thing on?” Also called the Rotary Club Presenter, and inevitably followed by, “Can you hear me in the back?”

The Singer: “Feelings, nothing more than feelings.” You’re a frustrated karaoke star and can’t help but break into song when a mic is in your hand.

The Rapper: “I like big bass and I can’t deny…” You like to bust out some rhymes whenever you get a chance. Bonus points if you cup the mic.

The Dad: “Microphone test channel one, this is a microphone test.” This is how my dad started every recording on his cassette tape recorder. It only works with gear built in the 1970s.

The Drive-Thru: “Do you want fries with that?” You’re hinting at a previous career in an illustrious field. The only question: why have you fallen so far?

The Not-So-Sophisticated: “Hey, watch this! Ow, oh, arghh…” Didn’t Jeff Foxworthy base an entire comedy routine on your life?

The Willie Mays: “Hey, Hey, Hey.” Unlike the real Say Hey Kid, you have not hit 660 home runs, you do not possess a career batting average of .302, and there is no plaque dedicated to you in the Major League Baseball Hall Of Fame. So please stop saying “Hey.”

The Tom Hanks: “Sibilance, Sibilance, Sibilance.” We all love Tom Hanks in Wayne’s World as Aerosmith’s roadie, but the only time you’re allowed to say “sibilance” more than twice is when you’re tying the scarves onto the lead singer’s mic stand.

The Joker: “A horse walks into a bar. ‘Why the long face?’ asks the bartender.” You crack yourself up telling jokes on the mic. The key word here being yourself.

The Whistler: “Tweet, Tweet.” When I was a young soundman, The Old Soundman told me to never whistle into a mic. Now that I’m an old soundman myself, I’m telling you.

The Checker: “Check, Check, Checking.” Nothing but checks. Hey, I’ll pick up the dinner check if you stop saying “check.” I swear, the check’s already in the mail. Go check.

The Tester: “Test, Test, Test.” Sometimes you might mix it up and really put it out there by swapping in the word “testing.” How about swapping in the word “annoying” instead?

The Fence Sitter: “Test, Check – Test, Check.” You’re perpetually undecided about which word to use, so you go with both. At least it’s better to be sitting on the fence than thrown under the (tour) bus.

The Counter: “One, Two – One, Two.” Come on, everyone, let’s say it together: Never count to three, because on three you lift.

The Professional: “Test, Check – One, Two.” Combining the best of both worlds. You’re thorough but making it look easy, following the mantra of never letting them see you sweat.

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The Overachiever: “Tap-Tap, Test, Check, One, Two, Hey, Hey, Huh, Yo, P, B.” You’re a true audio person of the world, multilingual in the art of PA checks and not afraid to use it. Just be careful: mixing physical action, words, numbers and random consonants is not for the faint of heart, but you know it’s the only way to true PA excellence. Bonus points for using an SM58 exclusively! Double bonus points if you play Steely Dan tracks through the system as well!

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