Step 2: “Aux” The Signal
Once you’ve set up the channel gain on your mixer, you can proceed to the auxiliary sends, sometimes referred to as “mon sends,” or the monitors. Each of these knobs (two to eight) operates as a kind of valve that allows you to send sound to another output.
One aux send could flow sound to monitors or loudspeakers on stage so that musicians and other people on the platform can hear each other. Another could flow sound to a digital or analog recorder for making recordings, another to the nursery loudspeakers, and still another to an overflow seating area.
The bottom line is that aux sends offer the sound engineer a way to send sound to various places without affecting the main speaker system.
What’s important to understand about an aux send is whether it is pre-fade or post-fade. If it is pre-fade, or pre-fader, then sound will be sent at a certain level regardless of the position of the fader at the bottom of the channel.
The gain (or trim) is the only valve that will affect the amount of sound that goes through the aux send. If the aux send is post-fade, or post-fader, sound will be sent in proportion to the fader at the bottom of the channel and in proportion to the gain. So if the gain is set properly but the channel fader is down, no sound will be sent through the aux send.
I like to run my stage monitors pre-fade. This allows me to make changes to the house sound mix without affecting the monitors.
Conversely, I like to run “recording send,” “effects send,” and “sends” post-fade to other sound systems. This allows those levels to follow what I am doing on the channel faders.
Step 3: Equalize The Mix
We could have many good discussions (OK, disagreements) about this point. But equalization offers sound mixers the opportunity to be creative, smart, and innovative (or on the other hand, inept). To begin, I recommend that sound engineers start with the equalizer section set flat. That means all level controls should be set at zero, or straight up.
Next, we need to understand how we hear sound. We hear sound from a low of about 20 Hz (Hz = hertz or cycles per second), which is a very low frequency. A kick drum is usually tuned between 80 Hz and 100 Hz.
At the other end, we hear sound up to about 20,000 Hz or 20 kHz (k = 1,000), which is a very high frequency. A dog whistle at around 22 kHz is out of the range of the human ear.
The equalizer on a mixing console allows you to select a frequency or frequency range and to increase or decrease the level of a specified range. For example, if I am hearing ringing or feedback, I try to equate it to a number. If the ringing I hear is about the level of an “A” on the music scale, it equates to about 440 Hz (a piano is tuned to A440).
I would then either turn the midrange section down on the mixing board, or I would select 440 Hz on the frequency selection knob, then turn down the level control for that frequency. The key to successfully using the equalization section is learning to translate what you hear into numbers representing Hz (cycles per second).