Become a proactive mixer!
By: Dwayne Hooper
This was not a mindset I could relate to. When I was first being trained on audio in church, I was eager to know what everything on the board did. I say this mindset is tragic for two main reasons. The first reason is that I do believe as good stewards of the tools we are given in the church, we should be striving to learn to use them to their greatest potential. I believe this to be true whether we are dealing with a small frame analog board or a cutting edge large frame digital console.
The second reason is that we should be learning to use these tools to our greatest potential. Learning what the rest of the board does can greatly improve the quality of the mix you are producing. Having said that, as complicated as soundboards can be; each control can generally be simplified to one of four basic functions. Each control either deals with: volume, frequency, time, or routing.
- Let’s look at volume first.
- Channel gain is a macroscopic volume control
- Channel fader is a microscopic volume control
- A mute button just turns off the volume
- A high pass filter turns down the volume of all frequencies below a set frequency
- Auxiliary pots are volume controls for additional outputs
- The gain control in an EQ section is reducing or boosting the volume of a certain group of frequencies
- Even a threshold control on a compressor is a volume control, it just sets at what volume the compressor will become active
- Likewise, ratio on a compressor sets how much the compressor will reduce the volume, yet another volume control
- Frequency controls work in a couple of ways:
- A variable high pass filter chooses what frequency below which the filter turns down the volume
- A frequency control in the EQ section chooses what frequency the EQ gain acts on to turn up or down the volume
- The Q control on a parametric EQ chooses how many frequencies that EQ will affect
- A side chain on a gate chooses what frequency the the gate will respond to
- Examples of time controls include:
- A channel delay stops the sound from passing through until a certain time period has passed.
- Many of the controls on a compressor deal with time: how fast does the compression happen, how long does the compressor stay active, haw fast does the compressor stop working, etc...
- Many of the controls on effects processors deal with aspects of time.
- A side chain on a gate chooses what frequency the gate will respond to
- Routing controls direct how sound goes from one point on a sound board to another point.
- Does an input channel go through a subgroup or DCA or does it go to the main fader
- Digital boards use patchbays to connect the physical inputs to the actual channels
This post is not intended to explain every control on a soundboard and how to use it but rather to illustrate that most controls boil down to 4 main things: volume, frequency, time, and routing. So take some time and grab a manual and figure out what the controls on your soundboard do. If you forget what a control does, ask yourself does it deal with the volume, frequency, time, or routing.
Once you understand how a control manipulates a sound it makes it easier to listen for that change as you use these controls. This also means you will begin to mix in a proactive fashion rather than a reactive manner. You will begin to twist a knob anticipating to hear something rather than trying to hear what it is doing.