Assemblers intro You are hereEngineers intro Performers intro Safety Glossary Microphones Mixing facilities Effects Amps & speakers Decibels PA Proverbs PA for places of worship FAQs Calculations Self-test quiz Training Manufacturers Suppliers Other links Projects Contact Menu Engineers intro
Click for the PAforMusic home page
Getting Started -
  for Mixing Engineers

Back to PAforMusic Home


Engineering or Art?

Well, both really. Sound mixing, although in one sense a form of engineering, is also something of an art form, and can only be properly learned by a combination of technical understanding and working experience. It is not a simple subject, and any book covering the subject to a reasonable depth would be quite thick. These things said, one has to start somewhere and it is hoped that the information on this page will provide a useful starting point for sound engineers responsible for mixing, without getting too theoretical.

There are basically two aspects to sound mixing, which to some degree 'run in parallel'. The first aspect relates to the overall objectives − what you are aiming to achieve. The second aspect is the 'mechanics' of the operation − the practical tasks to be completed to get the system working so as to give the best quality of sound. It is very easy to go through the motions of a mixing technique whilst losing sight of the underlying objectives, so we will look at those first. Then we consider a possible mixing methodology.

For information about the facilities typically found on a mixer, see the Mixing Facilities page.

Some Objectives

Each heading below states one of the fundamental objectives (not in any particular order) that you should be aiming to achieve, as far as is practicably possible in each situation. For each of these objectives, some notes are provided (bulleted) related to that objective. In practice, you will find that these objectives are not independent of each other − indeed they all overlap to some extent. A little compromise on one is sometimes necessary in order to adequately satisfy another. Each working situation will be different, as will be the constraints (budget, set-up time, room acoustics, etc.) that you must contend with. These notes assume a relatively simple system, but the same basic principles can be extended to much larger systems.

Meet the Expectations of the Audience

Provide Appropriate Monitor Mixes at Appropriate Sound Levels

Maintain an Appropriate Overall Sound Level

Balance the Sound Sources

Achieve Clarity

Avoid Feedback

A Methodology

For those who are new to mixing, one of the main problems can be knowing where to start. The key is to adopt a methodical approach.

No two PA systems are identical − there always will be differences in aspects such as:

Nevertheless, it is possible to generalise to a large degree as to how the task should be approached. The following is a tried and tested method which should be useful in the vast majority of situations. However, it is by no means the only approach, and others may work just as well. For convenience it is arranged into six major stages, each consisting of a number of steps. For example, in the case of a permanently installed in-house system with the speakers properly equalised, you can ignore stages 2 and 3.

Go to the top of this page.

This page last updated 05-Jun-2019.