How to Use a Mixer

If you’re a musician you should probably know how to use a mixer. Many do, this guide is for those that don’t. Please use this image below as a reference for terms and positions that will be explained later. Whilst it can all seem overwhelming once you know what does what it starts making a lot of sense.


• So first off let’s explain the layout of the desk. All desks are going to be slightly different but if you learn the basics of one it can help you with others. You have columns (in this case 8 separate columns) which control the volumes and parameters of each sound. Each column has an external instrument/microphone plugged into it at the top of the desk.

• I’ll go from top to bottom here. The very first input is for an XLR cable(microphone cable). This will be used to obviously plug a microphone into. Next we have line inputs which are for 1/4 inch leads (from a guitar/bass/keyboard etc)

• Underneath that we have one of the most important knobs on the mixer. This white knob controls the gain or how much the signal is amplified into the desk. You want to have enough so that there is a strong signal but not too much that it distorts.

• On this desk there is a compression knob underneath the gain (this isn’t common on all desks). The compression will limit the dynamic range of the sound. In other words it will make the loud stuff a little quieter and the quiet stuff louder so there isn’t as much range of volume on the channel.

• Below that we have a simple 3 band eq to adjust the high middle and low frequencies. Put simply if you want more or less of each frequency on a channel you adjust it accordingly. Say you have a bass plugged in but it has no clarity you might want to turn down the bass and turn up the highs slightly.

• Below that we have an aux knob which acts as volume for an auxiliary send. Now you might think what on earth is that? It’s a channel on the output of the desk that sends a separate sound (different to the main output) to another speaker. This is almost always used as fold back or stage sound.

• Underneath this is an effects knob which will add whatever effect you have selected (see the effect channel on the desk)

• Under that we have a panning control so you can select where you want it to sit in the mix, whether it be more centered or to the right or left.

• Under that we have a mute button which can be extremely useful. You can mute channels when you aren’t playing to prevent unwanted sound etc

• PFL which stands for pre fade listen is underneath that and can be used to listen to the incoming signal from your sound source.

• The fader essentially controls the volume of the channel you’re putting to the main output.

• This is the basic explanation of the channel. There are however some other important things to point out. The phantom power button (+48 volts) will send power to microphones that need it (you should know if yours does). The other is the outputs, both the main out and the auxiliary output. Auxiliary is for fold back and your main out goes to the front of house system that your audience hears.

• That’s a quick summary of how a mixer works, good luck in using this information practically.

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