When musical bands prepare nowadays they at length state meaningless sounds for the microphone, but in times past they stated something like "one, two, three". Are there good reasons for this change in microphone testing, and when did it start?

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    The premise of the question is actually incorrect. "Testing, one, two..." is both old and has never been universally used. There has not been a major change at any point in time in how microphones are tested. – Todd Wilcox Sep 10 '18 at 14:32
  • Your second question does not indicate that there was no change. – Sapiens Sep 10 '18 at 14:39
  • I don't understand your comment. I didn't ask a first question or a second question. I asked zero questions. – Todd Wilcox Sep 10 '18 at 15:23
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    @Some_Guy I'm not sure I really understand your comments either. The idea that "in times past" it was common to say "one two three" into a microphone and that "nowadays they at length state meaningless sounds" might be true in the asker's experience, but it is not at all a universal experience and the asker would have to ask those specific people why they made the change. I still hear people say "one two three" and I used to hear people make all kinds of other sounds. And I have said "one two three" and also made meaningless sounds at many gigs myself. There is no answer to this question. – Todd Wilcox Sep 10 '18 at 20:29
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    I was under the impression that there was uniformity around the world in microphone testing, and the answers here suggest that my impression was false. At the moment I live in Brazil, and here musicians make these off meaningless sounds into the microphone before starting the gig. Thanks for your help!! – Sapiens Sep 14 '18 at 17:38

The "microphone test" is actually a complete system test designed to find problems in the microphone, cables, amplification and speakers system. Testing one, two, accomplishes the task and requires little thought, but there's no restriction here and any kind of vocalization can accomplish the task. Performers just need to know the system is functional and reliable before they begin their show.

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    Specific vocalizations test specific things. Round vowels ("one") test lower vocal frequencies. Narrow pinched vowels ("three") test higher vocal frequencies. Plosives ("two") test bass frequencies and pop resistance. Sibilants and fricatives ("cash, charge") test frequencies above the range of the vocal tract. All tests seek to excite certain frequencies to see if there's any ringing that would indicate the system is close to feedback in that range. Different engineers have different favorite words they like to use, and what is said varies depending on how things sound. – Todd Wilcox Sep 10 '18 at 15:28
  • @Todd Wilcox- I get better results using a real time analyzer to tune the system and I include the stage mics as part of the process, but first I plug everything up and do a "microphone test" to find the "gremlins". However, I recognize there is more than one way to "skin a cat". – skinny peacock Sep 10 '18 at 15:47
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    Don't understand the downvote (I fixed). It is true that any words at all or even just tapping on the top of the mic will find problems in the mic, cable or amplification and speakers system. Thanks to Todd Wilcox for information I was unaware of with regards to there being a practical reason for using the words one, two, three. Sometimes I leave off the three and just say "Check, one two". I suppose I should not stop at two. – Rockin Cowboy Sep 13 '18 at 0:04
  • @ToddWilcox Todd you seem to have greater insight into how specific words or vocal phrases can provide more information besides just if all the components are connected and working. I don't think it's common knowledge that certain words are better for testing certain frequencies. At least I never knew it. Perhaps you should do a full answer and share all your knowledge. Tim had some input along these lines as well in comments to the question itself. – Rockin Cowboy Sep 13 '18 at 0:07

'Testing, one two...' is traditional and still very much in use. Another favourite, particularly in theatre and TV is 'tell us what you had for breakfast?' Actors find it easy and natural to respond to that.

Prolonged sound checks, and that horrible practice of 'ringing out' normally indicate bad equipment, a bad setup, or an attempt to run the show far too loud.

Experience and skill are required. Performers rarely manage to give an idea of performance level in a sound check. Actors are sometimes reluctant to wear a body mic in the position it WILL be worn in. Anticipate the ways in which they are misleading you :-)

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    Ringing out is (or at least was) a practice widely used a world-class venues. I suppose today digital signal processing may make it not as much necessary. Ringing out should not be done after any members of the audience have shown up, so ringing out with audience around might be evidence of poor practice and lack of promptness, but finding an eliminating resonant frequencies in a monitor system is a good practice that should be undertaken by all engineers, and that practice is usually called "ringing out". – Todd Wilcox Sep 10 '18 at 20:26
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    First priority should be to make FOH and monitors sound GOOD. As a last resort, locate and cut problem frequencies. But this was often done as a FIRST resort, so that volume levels could be not only bloody loud, but effing loud. And not only with metal bands. I've seen it done in theatres. – Laurence Payne Sep 10 '18 at 22:16
  • I find it important that foh and monitors sound as similar as possible so everyone has an accurate idea of what's going out of the main pa. – Tim Sep 11 '18 at 11:45
  • Ringing out is part of making FOH and monitors sound good. Every room has resonant frequencies, i.e. where FOH will sound far louder than it should. Ringing out gets rid of these. I agree FOH should not be run at maximum achievable loudness. – Hobbes Oct 4 '19 at 11:11

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