|Most Important Thing A DJ Can Do|
|14 December 2007|
If a DJ can match beats does it make him or her a good DJ? How about if he or she can program a good set, or successfully read a crowd? Does that make them a great DJ? What do you think determines whether or not the night completely goes off in an incredible display of audio execution? Is it the records they play? Is it the way they play those records? Or, does it boil down to something so much more important, yet something so completely overlooked in many situations? You are absolutely right! It is the volumes of the house and mixing channels.
Maintaining the volume of the mixing channels and the volume of the house system is the most critical element to creating and maintaining the vibe through an events progression. Now you may be asking, “Don’t you just set the volumes once and leave them alone?” And, to that a reply would come to the fact that there are several factors that modify and manipulate volume. Understanding the physical existence of the sound waves compared to the size of and architecture of the room is key just as an introduction to sound application. Sound has three basic components; Volume, Frequency, and Time. Every piece of professional audio equipment in existence was designed to modify, amplify, process, or direct one of these components of sound.
The six main volume control points are (in the case of the Pioneer 500 or 600 Mixing Board), in order of, where the signal starts, to where it ends up: 1) The Line Trim Knob, 2) The High, Mid and Low Frequency Equalizer Knobs (if your mixer has all three), 3) The Channel Fader, 4) The Cross Fader, 5) The Master Out, and 6) The Signal Processing Units (Amps, Crossovers, Compressors, etc.). The final destination is the speakers, and ultimately your patron’s ears. Determining what they get, all depends on what you put into the sound systems precision designed components.
Dealing with the first arrival point of any signal sent into the mixer is the Line Trim Knob. For this example, we will use a very popular mixer for association purposes. The Pioneer 500 or 600 has a Peak Level Meter on each channel. The Peak Level Meters light up and warn you by going into red LED lights when you are boosting the trim on that channel above 0. You can adjust the amount of “reds” you want by turning the Line Trim Knob at the top of the channel you are trying to adjust. Each small red light increment indicates that you are getting closer and closer to over amplifying the signal before it even gets to the Master Out on the mixer. It would be appropriate to note that all vinyl records are pressed differently, and depending on how the actual track came to be, the signal level that physically comes off of the vinyl, can be lower or higher on any given vinyl pressing.
On the Pioneer 500 or 600, you never really want to push into the “reds” on the Peak Meter Level more than 3-4 “reds.” If the Peak Level Meter is “peaked,” meaning that all the LED bars are red and not bouncing back, then you have defeated the sound system before the signal even leaves the board. By carefully monitoring each channel’s Peak Level Meter, you will insure that you are not sending an over amplified signal into the Master Out area of the mixer. Once the output signal leaves the board you have no control over it. One note to be made at this point would be the fact that the Line Channel Frequency Equalizers and any EFX modules that are in use can work for you, or against you. Since the EQ and The EFX modules both affect the level of the signal being output to the Master Out, it is important to always check your levels before freaking on the EQ, or adding any type of EFX to the signal. Equalizers affect volume. EFX affect volume.
The second stop that the signal makes is into the EQ section. Each channel has a pre-determined number of knobs that will allow you to, in most cases, adjust the low frequencies, mid frequencies, and high frequencies, depending on the manufacturer. Lets continue to use the Pioneer 500 or 600 as our example. Just under the Line Level Trim, there are three different knobs, respectively each one is color-coded and controls a different “slice” of the channels signal (lows, mids, and highs). Now, when you turn the EQ knobs up, or clockwise, you increase the decibel level of the signal as well as amplify the area of the signal that you have chosen to adjust.
In reverse, if you turn the knobs down, or counter clockwise, you decrease the decibel level of the signal as well as decrease amplification of the area of the signal that you are isolating with the EQ. This will cause a few things in the signals path. 1) The volume level will increase or decrease depending on how much you turn the EQ clockwise or counter clockwise. 2) The frequency band that you have chosen to amplify or cut will cause that band of frequencies to become more apparent or less apparent over the “live” sound. It is important that you don’t use the EQ to boost the desired “volume” output. If you want more volume, you should adjust the Line Level Trim at the top of the channel. The EQ is an “instrument, inside an instrument.” With practice, you can learn how to manipulate the EQ to control a room. Walk with caution when you get excited and start using the EQ as an instrument.
On its way to the Master Output, the signal can go to a multitude of other places, but for simplicities sake, we will assume that you are just mixing records, without using any off board processing equipment, such as samplers. The signal travels through the EQ, to it’s third destination, The Channel Fader. Each channel has a fader assigned to it, that can, if decided, be used with the cross fader.
The Channel Fader only does one thing. It allows you the opportunity to fluidly and precisely control that channel’s output. The Channel Fader, when moved to a desired position on the slide, will give you that percentage of that channel’s signal. So, in reference, if you move the Channel Fader in the “up” direction to “7,” you are sending 70% of that channels signal to the EFX and Master Out section of the mixing board. The same scenario would apply for the cross fader, if used. The result of having all of your levels set correctly at this point pretty much means that if the Master Out is set correctly, and the Amplifiers and sound processing equipment is properly adjusted, you should have nothing but pure, clean, analog sound coming out of the speakers.
Next, the cleanly trimmed signal hits the EFX section. Keep in mind that any type of EFX that you administer to the signal on its way to the Master Output will affect the volume in some way. Since all mixers do not have EFX areas, we don’t really need to dwell on this area. It is, however, important that you understand that EFX can be very tricky if not used properly. It is recommended that you take some practice time just to see what each EFX module does, and then figure out how to apply it to your performances.
The final stop before the signal leaves the board is the Master Volume.
If all of the affecting points of volume control are properly adjusted to this point, the Master Volume setting is an easy one to make. You want to run the level of the Master Volume at 2or 3 “reds.” This is the optimal setting for pushing the signal “out” of the mixing Board and into the second phase of delivery to the speakers.
The Amplifiers take whatever you send it and proportionately make it louder. Based on the size of your room, the acoustics, and how many people are in that room, the amplifiers can be adjusted to successfully fill the area with good sound. Compressors, crossovers, noise gates, and limiters, can all aid in the processing of the signal for distribution to the speakers, and ultimately your customers ears.
In closing, everything starts, and is controlled by the guy or gal moving all those knobs and faders. No matter how good the records are, or how well you beat match, or how great you read a crowd, the key to the most successful night, is still how well you can take your audience on that seamless, unnoticeably changing ride on the sound system of your choice. Think volume. Then think, “Where are my “REDS” at?”
by DJ Airek
|< Prev||Next >|