Created By: awesomeJune 11, 2012 Last Edited By: 69BookWorM69January 31, 2016
Troped

Feedback Rule

StockSoundEffect that indicates microphone use, inexperience, or evokes

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Single Issue Crowner to rename this proposal now open here.
Formerly Inexplicable Microphone Feedback

Microphones have been around since the 1870s, so they have become a familiar piece of technology. Yet despite many technological developments since then, one problem plagues microphone users in Fictionland: feedback. This loud squeal or throbbing sound is so ubiquitous that Eberts Glossary Of Movie Terms has a "Feedback Rule". It seems inevitable that someone using a microphone will be interrupted by this sound, particularly when first speaking into it.

The sound can be used in different ways. Sometimes a savvy character will do something on purpose to create this sound in order to get attention, such as whistling into the mic, moving it near a speaker, or performing a Mic Drop. On a live recording of musicians or other performers, its presence lends credence to the notion that the performance is somehow raw or uncut and thus more realistic or natural. In radio plays and some early animation, the feedback is an audible cue that a microphone is in use, a kind of demonstrative sound effect that is helpful to the audience. Feedback can also serve to point up a speaker's inexperience with sound equipment (moving the mic too much and/or pointing it towards a nearby speaker being likely to result in this sound), and the audible faux pas is useful for indicating anxiety and prompting laughter. By extention, it may serve as an audible indicator of general inexperience with public speaking or performance.

This Stock Sound Effect may have some overlap with The Coconut Effect when the creators are trying to highlight microphone use and think this is what audiences expect a mic to sound like. It may also result from an instance of Is This Thing On, when an inexperienced user thinks they have to test the mic before saying their piece.

Examples:

Film
  • A downplayed example in the beginning of Das Boot, where a German soldier comes on stage at a bar and tests the mic which produces a slight feedback.
  • During the climactic scene in Brian De Palma's Carrie, principal Morton and instructor Fromm tussle over the microphone about what to say during the crisis at the prom. The resulting microphone squeal brings them to Carrie's attention; she disposes of these goofballs by electrocuting them with the mic wiring.
  • On Toy Story, Woody gets feedback when he starts the meeting, so he tells the speaker for the toy microphone to step back.
  • Occurs in The Fugitive when Doctor Nichols takes the podium to announce his new anti-cholesterol drug. Subsequently averted when Doctor Kimble seizes the mic to declare The Reveal. In this case, the squealing mic can apparently Detect Evil.
  • The Cannonball Run has a delayed reaction. When Mr. Foyt takes the stand at the Friends of Nature meeting, the microphone behaves itself. Then it feeds back in the middle of his speech.
  • Happens in Fourteen Oh Eight when a bookstore clerk grabs a mic to announce the hero's autograph session for that night.
  • In the Shaun The Sheep movie, the rooster crows through a megaphone and winces from the feedback.
  • In Begin Again, when Keira Knightley's character plays guitar and sings on stage, there is a noticeable mic feedback at one point. It's questionable why because that part wasn't louder than others, it was probably added as a reassurance that this was indeed a live performance.

Literature
  • In The Stand, Stu deals with this during his speech at the first public Free Zone meeting. He says they have to get used to technology again (most of Boulder still had no power but they had a generator set up for the meeting). Plus, Stu was also nervous.
  • Artemis Fowl: Commander Root does this once (either by accident or on purpose) when he needs to get a crowd of people out of the way to get their attention.

Live Action TV
  • MASH. In, "Change of Command," Radar prepares to make an announcement for the senior officers to report to Potter's office. In response to the P.A. microphone's immensely loud feedback, he drops the mic as if it hurt his hand.
  • Saturday Night Live: Will Ferrell & Ana Gasteyer's recurring sketch about middle school music teachers Marty Culp & Bobbie Moyhan-Culp, who are there to do a gig by playing popular music in a classical style, always begins with mic feedback. "Ooh, we got a real hot mic here."
  • NYPD Blue: At Sipowicz's Bachelor Party, held at a bar with a Karaoke machine, when Maritnez steps up to the mic there's feedback as he says "Is This Thing On" (even though someone else just got done singing) before launching an off-key rendition of "My Way."
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the episode "The Empty Child" when the Doctor grabs the mic. There's a bit of comedy in a technologically advanced alien having this problem with a piece of technology.
    • In "The Pandorica Opens" at the beginning of the Doctor's big speech, with a barely-audible comment about him dropping the device. In this case, it's not even a microphone he's using, but a communicator that he jury-rigged to work as a megaphone and transmittor, so it creating microphone feedback is pure Rule Of Funny.

Music
  • During Bob Marley's rendition of No Woman, No Cry from Live! you can hear one of the microphones give some feedback after he sings: good friends we had or good friends we lost..., just during the pause before he continues ...along the way.
  • In a concert recorded in 1973 and first released in 1980 as the album Jim Croce Live: The Final Tour, Jim Croce reacts to an instance of feedback by imitating the sound and saying, "Sounds like a great big om."

Video Games

Web Originals
  • In the Team Fortress 2 short Expiration Date, Scout privately turns to Spy for help earning the heart of Ms. Pauling. However, since Scout made fun of Spy earlier, Spy responds by activating the intercom and blowing into it to create the feedback squeal that alerts everyone else, making it clear that Scout will have to really swallow his pride for Spy's help.

Western Animation
Community Feedback Replies: 86
  • June 11, 2012
    TonyG
    On Toy Story, Woody gets feedback when he starts the meeting, so he tells the speaker for the toy microphone to step back.
  • June 11, 2012
    RedneckRocker
    In the South Park episode Butt Out!, Mr. Garrison deliberate does this to get the kids to shut up and listen.
  • June 11, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Saturday Night Live: Will Ferrell & Ana Gasteyer's recurring sketch about middle school music teachers Marty Culp & Bobbie Moyhan-Culp, who are there to do a gig by playing popular music in a classical style, always begins with mic feedback. "Ooh, we got a real hot mic here."
  • January 31, 2013
    Azaram
    And pretty much every time one of The Simpsons gets near a mike.
  • January 31, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    This is already described in Stock Sound Effects - Technology. Do we need it listed as a separate trope?
  • January 31, 2013
    troacctid
    ^ I think so.

    Needs A Better Description though.
  • January 31, 2013
    eroock
    Film:
    • Happens in Fourteen Oh Eight when a bookstore clerk grabs a mic to announce the hero's autograph session for that night.
  • January 31, 2013
    MaxWest
    Daffy Duck did this in the 1938 short "Daffy Duck in Hollywood", but on purpose rather by accident. On a movie soundstage, Daffy Duck whistles loudly into a microphone and causes ear-splitting pain to a headphone-wearing technician on the receiving end.
  • December 11, 2013
    PogoPhoenix
    Happens in the Doctor Who episode "The Empty Child" when the Doctor grabs the mic. Really should be a special trope just for this.
  • December 11, 2013
    ZuTheSkunk
    It could use an explanation why that happens in real life and why it doesn't make sense most of the time in fiction.
  • December 11, 2013
    DAN004
    By "feedback" you mean "echo", right?
  • December 11, 2013
    PogoPhoenix
    I mean the whine of feedback that comes from a high signal or being close to a speaker (creating a feedback loop). In very many situations the character will grab the mic, say something and cause a whine to happen.
  • January 30, 2014
    XFllo
    Copying an example from another ykttw which is about the same concept.

    Literature:
    • In The Stand, Stu deals with this during his speech at the first public Free Zone meeting. He says they have to get used to technology again (most of Boulder still had no power but they had a generator set up for the meeting). Plus, Stu was also nervous.
  • January 30, 2014
    Alucard
    In Play Station All Stars Battle Royale, Parappa's microphone attacks (forward and neutral Circle) all give off a quick feedback squeal to indicate what he's using as a weapon.
  • January 30, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ That loud whine? Ah, I see.
  • February 28, 2014
    Prfnoff
  • February 28, 2014
    paycheckgurl
    Removed the hat it had. There's potential here, but it's going to need A LOT of reworking.
  • February 28, 2014
    Chabal2
    Artemis Fowl: Commander Root does this once (either by accident or on purpose) when he needs to get a crowd of people out of the way to get their attention.
  • November 7, 2014
    Patachou
    It should be added that most of the time the whistling sound of a microphone is added to create ''realism''. This is especially true in animated cartoons and radio plays, where the idea of a microphone that functions well doesn't give the audience enough of the illusion that characters are speaking into it. Therefore they will add a whistle or some feedback sounds, just before someone speaks into the mike.

    It is also prominent on some Live Album recordings. During Bob Marley's rendition of No Woman, No Cry from Live! you can hear one of the microphones give some feedback after he sings: good friends we had or good friends we lost..., just during the pause before he continues ...along the way.
  • November 8, 2014
    DAN004
    Maybe call it Inexplicable Microphone Feedback. Just "mic feedback exists" is chairs.
  • November 9, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • Occurs in The Fugitive when Doctor Nichols takes the podium to announce his new anti-cholesterol drug. Subsequently averted when Doctor Kimble seizes the mic to declare The Reveal. In this case, the squealing mic can apparently Detect Evil.
  • November 9, 2014
    justanotherrandomlurker
    Live Action TV
    • MASH. In, "Change of Command," Radar prepares to make an announcement for the senior officers to report to Potter's office, but in doing so, the P.A. microphone's immensely loud feedback hurts his hand.
  • May 18, 2015
    ZuTheSkunk
    Bump?
  • May 18, 2015
    Patachou
    There are enough examples, but somebody needs to put all the examples in the above article.
  • August 5, 2015
    eroock
    Film:
    • A downplayed example in the beginning of Das Boot, where a German soldier comes on stage at a bar and tests the mic which produces a slight feedback.
  • August 5, 2015
    randomsurfer
    ^^^^I don't think it hurts his hand, he just lets go of the mic and its on/off button [sorry can't think of the right word] so it would stop broadcasting the feedback.

    EDIT: OK, having just watched it I could be wrong. Radar does act as though the mic shocked him. But I still don't think the feedback hurt his hand so much as the electrical shock which hurt his hand also caused the feedback.
  • August 6, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    I think there's something tropeable here. It strikes me that in several of these examples the sound is a kind of sign of someone's inexperience with the equipment (i.e. they don't know they're standing too close to it or holding it too close to some other piece of equipment). Also, Patachou has a point about the audible emphasis of the mic use. It certainly can be Played For Laughs.
  • August 10, 2015
    randomsurfer
    Eberts Glossary Of Movie Terms calls this the Feedback Rule.
  • August 11, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^ So it is a thing then.
  • August 20, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Perhaps you might want to use some of this for a trope description:

    Microphones have been around since the 1870s, so they have become a familiar piece of technology. Yet despite many technological developments since then, one problem plagues microphone users in Fictionland: feedback. This loud squeal or throbbing sound is so ubiquitous that Eberts Glossary Of Movie Terms has a "Feedback Rule". It seems inevitable that someone using a microphone will be interrupted by this sound, particularly when first speaking into it.

    The sound can be used in different ways. On a live recording of musicians or other performers, its presence lends credence to the notion that the performance is somehow raw or uncut and thus more realistic or natural. In radio plays and some early animation, the feedback is an audible cue that a microphone is in use, a kind of demonstrative sound effect that is helpful to the audience. Feedback can also serve to point up a speaker's inexperience with sound equipment, and the audible faux pas is useful for indicating anxiety and prompting laughter.

  • August 21, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Another music example: In a concert recorded in 1973 and first released in 1980 as the album Jim Croce Live: The Final Tour, Jim Croce reacts to an instance of feedback by imitating the sound.
  • August 24, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Is this proposal still under the care of the OP, or is it Up For Grabs?
  • August 25, 2015
    Arivne
    ^ The OP awesome has not posted here since they added this to YKTTW in 2012. Also, the last time they edited a trope/work page was on June 6th 2012.

    In short, they've been gone for more than three years so it's Up For Grabs.
  • August 25, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    I think either the name is too broad and/or the trope is too narrow. Perhaps it could be any time a mic has Inexplicable Mic Feedback.
  • August 25, 2015
    Generality
    In media this is often used as shorthand for "this guy is an awkward public speaker", as the character's unfamiliarity with the microphone somehow causes it to work improperly, but other times it's just used to remind the viewer that a microphone is being used, in the same way that guns click every time they move so that the viewer doesn't forget about them.
  • August 26, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    OK I've retitled it, substituted description text, added and categorized examples, and I'll look for an image. In re The Simpsons, anyone got specific episodes? Also, did I format the examples correctly?
  • August 26, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    I tried using the image uploader and it didn't seem to work. Probably my bad, for I'm using a recently acquired tablet and I'm still getting the hang of it. That said, I think this might do.
  • August 26, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Even if that was a symbol meaning feedback (not really versed on radio pictures symbolism), it doesn't show it happening just for dramatic effect.
  • August 26, 2015
    eroock
    ^^ Good work.
  • August 26, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^^ Feel free to suggest something better. My battery is low and I have to put this aside for the day.
  • August 26, 2015
    TonyG
    On the Shaun The Sheep movie, the rooster crows through a megaphone and winces from the feedback.
  • August 26, 2015
    BKelly95
    Film
    • The Cannonball Run has a delayed reaction. When Mr. Foyt takes the stand at the Friends of Nature meeting, the microphone behaves itself. Then it feeds back in the middle of his speech.
  • August 26, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    ^^^ Since it's a sound, this may be impossible to show visually, unless a comic shows this happening (perhaps a web comic might spoof this).
  • August 26, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Yeah, that's the problem I faced (well, that and my now-usual time crunch). Surely somebody knows of a good comic panel depicting this (and I'm sure there is one somewhere), but the above could be a fallback.
  • August 28, 2015
    robinjohnson
    May be used as a subtrope of The Coconut Effect when the creators think this is what audiences expect a microphone to sound like.

    Maybe cool it with the "whenever" and the "no matter who they are" - absolutes tend to play badly in trope titles, because you only need a counterexample to show it's untrue, and the frequency with which the trope appears doesn't really matter anyway.
  • August 29, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Oh, you mean the stuff in the laconic? I haven't done anything with that (honestly, I'm not too sure what I want to do with it); it was put there by the OP. I think it's more a case of higher-than-expected probability. Besides, what actually happens to the laconic after launch? I haven't launched a trope in a long time.

    In re your point about The Coconut Effect: am undecided whether to make that a parenthetical point after the second paragraph's sentence on radio plays and animation or put it after the second paragraph in the usual "compare/contrast" spot. Have you a preference?
  • August 29, 2015
    randomsurfer
    ^Copy and paste the Laconic into Laconic.Whatever The Title Ends Up Being.
  • September 1, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Thanks! I thought it had to go somewhere.

    So, the current laconic obviously needs help. What about something like this:
    Stock Sound Effect that highlights microphone use, indicates inexperience, or evokes "realism".

    Yeah, not great, but I guess it's a start.
  • September 1, 2015
    rcmerod52
  • September 4, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^ OK but do you know why the mic was dropped? Nerves? Or some other reason?
  • September 7, 2015
    randomsurfer
    ^Mic Drop (which should be potholed in the example).
  • September 8, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Thanks! I wondered about that, but I've never seen the show, so I didn't know for certain. Will pothole and add the example.
  • September 8, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Looks like we need a page image and a couple more hats for launch...
  • September 10, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Thanks @eroock for the upload. I went ahead and put it in the description. Does anyone have a better one?

    Also looking for more examples and more hats. Hope to launch soon. Battery low, will do more later.
  • September 10, 2015
    TrueShadow1
  • September 12, 2015
    justanid
    Hat!
  • September 15, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    OK Five hats. I plan to launch tomorrow. Last call, y'all.
  • September 15, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Oh just one more thing: Inexplicable or Ubiquitous Microphone Feedback? I think the meaning of the u-word works better, but how many people know it?
  • September 16, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    @ TrueShadow1 Am unfamiliar with the game. Do you think your example is a highlighting the mic use, or is it played for laughs, or is something else going on. I don't want it to get tagged as a ZCE.

    Dug up the Croce concert album, gave it another listen and amended description of the example.

    The Simpsons fans: anybody got specifics on uses of this in the series. I haven't seen much of it to give context or circumstances.

    Title input also requested: Ubiquitous Mic Feedback, Inexplicable Mic Feedback, or something else. I take the point about needing a qualifying word to avoid sounding like chairs, just want to pick the best one before launch. Will set up a title crowner if necesary.
  • September 16, 2015
    eroock
    ^^ I don't, but English not my mother tongue.
  • September 17, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Inexplicable = there seems to be no practical reason for the feedback howl to occur.

    Ubiquitous = the feedback howl occurs because it's expected to occur, regardless of practicality.

    My vote goes to Ubiquitous. In most cases, the noise happens when someone new, or nervous, or weird first approaches the microphone. It's as though the equipment is saying, "What, you? Euw." In Hoyt's case in The Cannonball Run, it sounds like a case of the equipment saying, "Dude, y're boring." There's a certain felicity to ubiquitousness which underpins this concept.
  • September 19, 2015
    eroock
    Film:
    • In Begin Again, when Keira Knightley's character plays guitar and sings on stage, there is a noticeable mic feedback at one point. It's questionable why because that part wasn't louder than others, it was probably added as a reassurance that this was indeed a live performance.
  • September 22, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    OK Have tweaked the title and added the latest Film example. Am curious what happened to all the hats while I was sick.
  • September 23, 2015
    YasminPerry
    That picture is awful. Pick another one.
  • September 23, 2015
    eroock
    Please not "Ubiquitous" - that is too much for users with English as their second language.
  • October 6, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^^ Please find me another one. I'm not having much luck. I've even searched comic strips and come up dry. I rather think a good comic panel would do the trick.

    ^ Yeah, that was one of my objections to "inexplicable" aside from the snag that it often has an explanation. Maybe "frequent" is better, though that doesn't seem right either. Time to consult a theasaurus.
  • October 6, 2015
    randomsurfer
    May overlap with Is This Thing On

    • NYPD Blue: At Sipowicz's Bachelor Party, held at a bar with a Karaoke machine, when Maritnez steps up to the mic there's feedback as he says "Is This Thing On" (even though someone else just got done singing) before launching an off-key rendition of "My Way."
  • October 13, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Definitely. Many thanks.

    Just so you know, I'm not ignoring you lot or this proposal: I have a trainee at my job and have to spend my shifts showing him the ropes, so postings from me will be light-to-nonexistent for the week. Perhaps the initial word in the title could be settled and an illustration found in the interim. Will check in when I can.
  • October 20, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Some other initial adjective suggestions: commonplace, ever-present, omnipresent, inescapable, rife, prevalent, usual. I still like "ubiquitous" better than any of those.

    Only other thing I can think of is to invoke Ebert's name (perhaps as a kind of memorial, or a reference to that rue of his?). "Ebert's Microphone Feedback"? I'm not sure how it would be naming a trope for him—too Eagleland-centric?
  • October 21, 2015
    randomsurfer
    ^If we really want to memorialize Ebert with this the simplest thing would be to name it as he did, Feedback Rule since it is the Pre Existing Term he coined.
  • October 22, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • During the climactic scene in Brian De Palma's Carrie, principal Morton and instructor Fromm tussle over the microphone about what to say during the crisis at the prom. The resulting microphone squeal brings them to Carrie's attention; she disposes of these goofballs by electrocuting them with the mic wiring.
  • October 26, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^^ That might work. It solves the adjective problem while ducking the "sounds like Chairs" objection.

    I did get some pushback on the construction "Rule of" having a specific use in another YKTTW, though the Rule Of Index actually says that not all tropes named that way fit that index (implying that the specific use isn't a hard and fast rule). Do you think there'll be a similar problem with "Feedback Rule"?
  • October 28, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Should there be a vote in a title crowner?
  • October 30, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Hooray for the five hats! Title crowner?
  • October 31, 2015
    eroock
    ^ Please.
  • November 5, 2015
    Noah1
    • In the Team Fortress 2 short Expiration Date, Scout privately turns to Spy for help earning the heart of Ms. Pauling. However, since Scout made fun of Spy earlier, Spy responds by activating the intercom and blowing into it to create the feedback squeal that alerts everyone else, making it clear that Scout will have to really swallow his pride for Spy's help.
  • November 6, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    @ eroock The crowner is up. @Noah1 I've added your example into a Web Originals folder.
  • November 9, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Bump for crowner votes. I hope launch in a week.
  • November 13, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    "Ubiquitous Microphone Feedback" and "Inevitable Microphone Feedback" currently tied.
  • November 30, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Current title "Ubiquitous Microphone Feedback" tied with "Feedback Rule". Wondering if it's time for the single issue crowner to retain current title or change it to "Feedback Rule".
  • November 30, 2015
    Generality
    Another Doctor Who example:

    • Happens in "The Pandorica Opens" at the beginning of the Doctor's big speech, with a barely-audible comment about him dropping the device. In this case, it's it's not even a microphone he's using, but a communicator that he jury-rigged to work as a megaphone and transmittor, so it creating microphone feedback is pure Rule Of Funny.
  • December 2, 2015
    eroock
    Western Animation:

  • December 28, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Single Issue Crowner to retain current name or rename this "Feedback Rule" is now open.
  • January 11, 2016
    69BookWorM69
    Rename crowner as of today: 2 yes, 1 no. I'll launch this as soon as there's a more decisive vote.
  • January 13, 2016
    69BookWorM69
    Bump for crowner votes

  • January 25, 2016
    69BookWorM69
    If no one objects, I'll launch this with the title "Feedback Rule" shortly. No further votes seem to be in the offing, so I guess these results will have to do.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable