This article is intended as a brief oversight of some of my favorite audio tools and their uses.
The gain knob is the best place to manipulate the sound of an incoming signal on the console. With enough gain applied I can increase the perceived attack on an instrument or the clarity from a vocal microphone. This is the single most important setting for each instrument and it drastically alters their tone. I like to think of the gain knob as a microphones sensitivity control.
2. High Pass Filter
This tool is the most simple way to quickly take care of unwanted low resonating frequencies. I use this roll off to clean up vocals, take the mud out of guitars or reduce rumble from the overheads.
Lately by utilizing some of the other tools in this article the levels of my faders have been ending up right around unity. The more I mix the less I need to compensate with the channel faders, but they are of course a great way to quickly get a mix up and sounding balanced.
Equalization is a great tool to scoop out unwanted frequencies or to boost the harmonic content of each instrument or voice. Generally I am scooping with the EQ and I try not to make it obvious that an instrument has been altered.
One of my favorite toys for keeping instruments sitting just right in the mix, I use compression to reduce the dynamic range of channels so they consistently stay right in the volume pocket I want.
A gate is an excellent tool for stopping unwanted resonance in floor toms, to tighten up the drums, or to reduce audio leaking into an unused vocal microphone.
Why layer all of your instruments on top of one another in the mix? Panning is the best way to produce separation in the room which tends to improve the overall clarity.
8. Bus / Group
Why should I be trying to adjust large groups of channels while trying to keep their relative volume? Instead I send them to a bus to keep their relationship while maintaining overall volume control. Sometimes I will also use this tool to boost the volume of a specific instrument by double bussing it to a group and the master at the same time.