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Whether one is producing music, podcasts, game sounds, or film sound effects, Digital Audio Principles provides the tips and techniques that will make the project a success. Author Dave Schroeder explains the basics of digital audio production techniques and covers the essential hardware and software. He also discusses sound theory, frequency response, the range of human hearing, and dynamic range.
In this section we're going to talk about the analog mixer or a mixing board. And whether or not you're going to use this in your setup or not, it's worth learning about and seeing kind of what the different sections are and functions, because eventually you'll see that in software and in your DAW, you'll find a mixing component in there that's directly modeled after the way a mixing board works. So once you kind have an understanding of some of the things on an analog mixing board, you can apply those to your digital mixing board. We'll cover the digital mixing board in depth later. But right now we are going to look at our hardware mixing board and kind of demystify it a little bit.
I know these can be intimidating with all these knobs and stuff. But really, once you kind of think about it in a certain way and kind of break it down into sections, it's digestible, and you'll definitely be able to manage it. So a mixer is used to route or mix signals, inputs and outputs. It's like traffic control. You can send microphones in, lines out to your recorder, lines out to your audio interface. You can send effects loops in, if you have hardware devices that like have reverb units and things like that in it, you can loop those through this.
You can use it to set levels, you can use the preamps to get gain in levels for microphones or line inputs. You can also use an equalization section or EQ section to adjust your sounds before you send those in. Mixers also provide auxiliary inputs in bussing. Which basically are just other ways of getting signals in and moving them around, just another set of options for how you move things around in the mixing board in traffic control, as I'd like to call it. The best thing to do is think about a mixing board in three sections, and once you have that and kind of digest what each section does, you'll be in a better spot.
Now the easiest way to think of a mixing board is to kind of break it down into three different sections and each of these sections has kind of a different function. So we'll do a quick overview of what these sections are. What to do there, what the knobs there are likely to do, and kind of the way it's arranged. Let's start with the input section. This is fairly similar to what we've been talking about in terms of kind of the preamps and even your digital audio interface in terms of having mic inputs, line inputs, and phantom power, padding, things like that. A lot of those things you'll find in preamps, you'll find here.
You'll also find some other line inputs for like tape machines, RCA inputs, things like that, different auxiliary sources, CD players, whatnot. This is where we're getting things into the board, into traffic control. There'll also be some outs that are called sends here that are a way of sending things out but not out for good. We kind of want to get them out and get them back in. They function as inputs, it's an input loop kind of. The next section to think about is the Channel Strips, and I put the S there on purpose, because really there's a channel strip, and if it's a 16 channel mixer there's 16 of the strips, if it's a 32 channel mixer, there's 32 of these strips.
But if you know how one of these strips is set up and what all the knobs do in that strip, then you know what all the rest of the strips do. So more or less once you learn the channel strip on a mixing console, or on a mixing board, you usually know over 75% of all the knobs on that board, you know how to use those, because they are just repeated, it's a different instance of the same set of controls, it's a different channel. In those channels you have things like a fader, a pan control, which will let you turn things left and right and balance in different speakers, an EQ section, where you can add highs, lows, or mid frequencies.
You'll also see a few functions probably related to preamps in the channel strip as well, and then finally there might be something called bussing, which allows you to assign a channel to a different channel, which we'll discuss, which happens over here in the Master section. In a nutshell what bussing is, is let's say I have four tracks, and there are the drum set, and I like them, but I wish they were all on one fader, and I didn't have to move all for those faders every time. What I can do is assign through bussing, which we'll show on a board, if you're pushing some buttons and turning some pan pots to make selections towards numbers, we can route all four of those signals into one fader over here, which would be called the bus.
It's a little bit more invisible on the digital world, but it works well. And finally, we have the Master section, which is probably the trickiest part actually of a mixing board. Just because there're a lot of knobs and a lot of kind of one time knobs there, so they all get pushed together, and it gets a little confusing, and this is where you determine what signals will be sent to what outputs. Now there are a lot of different volume controls and a lot of different things like a main mix output, which is what you would send a kind of if you're mixing down to tape or to DAT or something to that effect.
There's also usually a control room output or control room volume, which if you're working in your workstation, and you have a pair of monitors, that will probably be set up to control the control room volume. There will be a lot of other options like things like a tape out or different kinds of outputs that you can use in different scenarios. Mixing boards are good in a lot of applications, not just recording. Sometimes you can use them for live sound or just to route a lot of signals. I've some friends here who have really hyped up home stereos and they use a mixer to look cool, but it does look cool. There's a lot of options in the Master section, and you'll find that, that's kind of where grabbing the manual and seeing what your manufacturer, what words they are using for certain things, that makes a lot of sense.
But in the next few movies we're actually going to look at this in person, and we'll get a closer view of what's going on with the mixer, and I'll be able to show you some of the different routings and some of the different knobs and things like that that you will counter. Even if initially you're not going to need a mixer you're may be just working by yourself, it's good to be aware of what kind of things and capabilities a mixer can add to your setup. At some point if you want to record with more instruments and more musicians or just record other bands not your own, it's good to know that you can get more inputs and more outputs and set up things like better headphone mixes and things like that.
So it's good to know what a mixer is capable of and kind of what the features and functions are. In the next movies we'll take kind of a tour of each section and look at them a little bit more in depth, and I'll actually get to show you some of these inputs and outputs.
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