The last lesson on the input section will be about the various controls that have to do with the main volume levels. Some of the controls discussed in this section are obvioius. They are the controls that most “untrained” sound techs use “exclusively”. However, there are a number of controls that influence how well the mix sounds and how easy it is to achieve a good mix.
As we look at the bottom part of the channel strip, we see the big slider. It controls the volume level of this channel that goes to the mains. Yep. That is what the untrained sound tech thinks is the most important part of the board. WRONG. That slider is certianly used often and to control the volume level in the mains, but that is such a simplistic and ultimately incorrect way to think about this control. Lets look at the other controls in this section and then we will step back and take an overview of it again.
The top control in this section is the “Pan” control.
“Big deal. We don’t run stereo anyway.”
True. Most churches wouldn’t run stereo sound out of the mains and if they do, it is probably a dumb idea because most people aren’t setting in the proper place to get a good stereo image anyway (a bit of an overstatement to make a point). However, the “Pan” control is used often. It is used in conjunction with the little buttons a little further down the strip that are labeled “1-2”, “3-4” and “L-R”. Your mixer will probably not be exactly the same (depending upon how many “sub mixes” you have). But it will likely have at least a Pan control.
Why do we need to use these controls. They allow you to segment your inputs into sub groupings. For example, wouldn’t it be nice to have all of the instruments on one volume control and all of the vocals on a different volume control? In that case, you would press the “1-2” button on all channel strips and pan all of the instruments all the way to the right and all of the vocals all the way to the left. Now, when you get to the output section, if you turn up “Sub 1”, you are turning up the vocals and if you turn up “Sub 2”, you are turning up the instruments. Cool Huh?!? If you have 4 subs, you can segment them into 4 groups, etc. With the channel strip at the right, if you do not have any of the “sub” buttons pressed in, it won’t matter where you pan the channel … you will not get any sound into the mains. By the way, we will talk about this in the output section, but if you don’t turn up the subs, you won’t get any sound either!.
In this section, you also find a “Mute” button. Not all mixers have this, but it is a nice feature. When you press down on this button, you will not get any sound from the channel. It allows you to “turn off” the channel without having to touch the volume level. That way, when it is not in use, it can be muted so that it won’t pick up unwanted sound, and when someone wants to use it, it is already set to the correct volume level. Some mixers mute the entire channel and others just mute to the mains. Check on your board to see how it behaves in your environment. Also, note that there is a nice little red button with a line going up to the mute button. If you mute the channel, the red light comes on so that you know why “Harry” can’t be heard any more. The visual indicator is a nice feature.
The “Solo” button is kind of the opposite of the Mute button, but typically only in the headphone “mix”. This button is used to isolate one or more channels. When you press the solo button on one channel, only that one channel can be heard. You can press the solo button on more than one channel if you want to hear multiple channels. Again, typically, this is only in the headphone mix, not what is coming out of the mains. Why would you use this control?
It is great to see what you are really hearing on that channel. You may be hearing someone singing who is really off key … but you aren’t sure who it is. Plug in the headphones and use the solo button to see who it is.
I know that there have been times when I have wanted to turn up or down a particular instrument or singer and have adjusted the volume many times but it just never seemed to make a difference. When I used the Solo button, I found out that it wasn’t on the channel I thought it was.
There are many other uses for the solo button, but it is used primarily as a diagnostic tool to assist you in isolating what is coming from a particular channel. This particular mixer has a solo “indicator light” that blinks when you have it soloed. That helps to remind you that you have it pressed so that you won’t have a heart attack when you only heare onw voice in your headphones.
Well, there you have it. We have talked about all of the controls on the channel strip at the left. You may have controls on your channel strip that haven’t been covered here. Well, they aren’t important. OK … they are important, but they are probably less important than the ones we have covered here. If you still have questions about other controls on your mixer, find the users manual and read about them. You should have enough of a base from these lessons to understand what you read.
So, how that we have covered the volume controls, is the volume slider the most important control on the board? You can now see how so many other controls on the channel strip effect what happens when you push the slider forward or pull it back.
The next lesson will begin our foray into the output section. Once you have completed all of those lessons, you should understand how the channel strip and the output section interacts.
Go to Lesson 6: Sub Mixes