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VC’s Brief Guide: The Mixing Board -Pt. I

Harness some technical know-how and advance your vocal work –says Wes Maebe.

In today’s article we’ll be looking at the mixing board’s “input strip”.

When you look at a mixing desk for the first time it can be quite a 
harrowing experience – all those buttons and knobs!

Not only that, sound engineering has its own language and there are many terms to get to know – and slang versions of those terms…

However, not only can you understand mixing desks, but you can harness that knowledge to advance your vocal work.

The trick is to find a “door” into mixing board knowledge – sometimes word-pictures are the best doors.

Sound as Flowing Water

Think of sound as water, a river of movement flowing from your lips.

A mixing board is, basically, a way of directing and changing the flow of that water.

Auxiliary sends are like openings in the water channel that can route amounts of water to other streams.

The Equalizer and fader/volume changes the size of the streams, regulating how much water can pass through.

If you can keep that image in mind, you will always have a simple reference point for the complex processes that go on inside a mixing desk.

Basic Terms

OK, now we’re ready for some basic terms. The first have to do with all those buttons and knobs.

You’ll hear some sound engineers refer to ‘knobs’ and another to ‘pots’. They’re describing the same thing.

Pot is an abbreviation for potentiometer, the electrical part that controls the sound. Knob refers to the plastic or metal cap placed on the pot that you grab with your fingers.

You’ll notice that the mixer is divided into channels – sometimes called an input strip.

Each channel is a path the sound takes through the mixing console – yes, “console” is another way to say “desk” ;-)

A channel starts at the top with its own gain setting, then flows down into items like auxiliaries, 
equalizers, pan control and fader – we’ll talk about each of these in due course.

For now, all you need to know is that, as a vocalist, your sound will be going through one of these channels.

The Input Controls on Your Mic’s Channel

Now we’re going to look at the first section of the top of the mixing desk which is generally the “input section”

Just choose what you want to know about—just click on the word below to find out more…

Wes Maebe directs his own mastering room in West London and has worked as FOH, studio/location recording, mix or mastering engineer for numerous clients including: Sting, Chaka Khan, Glen Matlock, Yusuf Islam, Alexandra Burke, Melanie C, Deborah Bonham, The Kooks, New Model Army, Elliott Randall, Hayley Westenra, Ann Peebles, Fairport Convention, Stiff Little Fingers, Specimen, Mo Foster, Exit 10 and The Zimmers!See Wes’ site.

  • One of the best things someone told me when I was faced with all the daunting buttons and switches on a mixing board for the first time was:

    “Remember that, with the exception of a few special segments of the board, all of the channel strips are the same. Once you know what one strip does, you know what they all do.”

    It takes the fear factor out for sure :)

  • You can “Mix me up” anytime Wes ….just love your work!