I just started looking into performing live.

When I purchase a mixer, I'll have the guitar, bass, vocals, maybe even piano, pass through the mixer correct? Different channels. But do mixers only have one output? Would I have everything go to one speaker? So guitar,bass and vocals come out of one speaker?

That can't be true.

  • You'd need to look at the specs for your mixer. I have one here with 6 outputs (plus FX send), but I have another with only 2. Of course you can have a single output - and you could have 1000 instruments through it - it would work.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Feb 22, 2014 at 15:05
  • @JayJennings - this appears to be on topic according to this meta post. It is a rather basic question, but it appears to be about live mixing which is now on topic.
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 15:30
  • 2
    @AJ Henderson, there seems to be a disconnect between what I feel has made SSD great in the past and what the meta post says it should include now. Personally, I don't see the above question as having anything at all to do with sound design. That said, I'm going to refrain from voting to close questions for now because obviously me and the meta post are at odds. Leave you with this comment: Bring back the spirit of the original SSD pre-Stack Exchange! Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 0:18
  • @JayJennings - I would leave a word of encouragement that I think that we'll figure out together where this new community is and I think it can be stronger than either of them was before, but it is going to be a tricky transition as both groups get used to things that were outside their previous comfort zone. :) I know SSD has opened me up to much more broad and opinion based questions possibly having a place. I think we can make it work, both SSD and AVP crowds have some adjusting to do to get used to it though. Will be interesting to see what the next few months bring.
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 1:01
  • 1
    110% in agreement @JayJennings Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 2:33

5 Answers 5


Sound is additive. It is a combination of a large number of different frequencies of sound that all blend together into a complex waveform. A soundboard blends together a bunch of different inputs to a final output, each input is mono and the output is normally either mono or a stereo set with each channel spaced a little bit in each of the channels.

If properly mixed, the tone and sibilance of each sound should come through clearly when played through the speaker. It's entirely possible to do it with just a mono mix, though stereo does offer a few more options to you.

It isn't exactly simple to make it all sound good when it comes out and that's why there is an entire field around mixing audio, but every CD you've ever heard is making use of just a right and left channel to work from and you could make it come out of just one speaker without any significant loss in quality.


Do you only have one ear? Does your stereo only have one speaker? Does ever concert you have ever been to only have one speaker? really?

maybe google the term 'stereo'


While mixing you combine multiple sound entities into one sound entity.

For music that means that you create one stereo track (=song) by adjusting the volume, dynamics, frequency spectrum, room, panorama, etc. of multiple mono or stereo tracks ( single instruments, vocals, percussions and sounds). Those tracks are typically your mixer channels on your mixing desc or in your DAW (digital audio workstation).

So basically mixing is like cooking -> the right amount of all ingredients will make the soup taste good. Right amount of every instrument will make the song, that is coming out of 1 (mono), 2 (stereo) or multiple (surround) loudspeakers, sound good.

The biggest problem with mixing is, that you need to fit everything into those loudspeakers. Now imagine, you need to put a whole band into those 2 stereo speakers. Thats crazy, but with the right balance of your "ingredients", possible. So at the end, when you close your eyes, it should feel somewhat close to listening to the band, when you listen to your speakers. Its the same with the soup. You can't put a whole lot of ingredients into the pot. So you can't take a whole chicken and put it in with 5 litters of water. You need to decide how much and which part of your ingredients you want to put in. For example you just want 200g meat of the chicken. And 1 litter of water.

To translate this into music -> You for example want the drums and vocals with the volume faders quite high. And the guitar you want more in the background and you don't want the bass frequencies of the guitar. So you need to remove the with an eq.....

.....and here your journey of mixing begins.....

  • Thanks Tobias. I guess I should have been more clear for the other comments. I know of course at a concert there are tons of speakers. But I was wondering if all of those speakers are creating the same sounds (vocals,bass,guitar all in one) Or if maybe 5 of the speakers are doing vocals, 2 of them are doing guitar and so on.
    – user7509
    Commented Feb 22, 2014 at 17:13
  • Ah ok Its like that -> If one sound is in both speakers at the same level, the sound will occur in the middle of them like a phantom image. By changing the level or time between the speakers you can change the position of the sound between them (=panning). It is usually a good idea to position important elements and bass sounds in the middle (=vocals + drums + bass + main keys/guitar) the rest can then be spaced out in the stereo field. Just try it out and listen to music, to learn where the instruments appear. Gl Commented Feb 22, 2014 at 18:57

Sure it can! When you listen to the Beatles in mono, is your mind blown by hearing the whole band come out of one box?


For the most basic sound system think of a set of headphones. All of the sounds come out of the 2 headphones. Try it with just one headphone in you can still hear all of the instruments.

Some speakers might produce different sounds but not in the way you might think. Some speakers are designed to produce different pitches of sound Bass or Treble. A crossover (piece of equipment) basically sends bass to the subs and everything else to speakers designed to work with higher pitches.

If there are two sets of speakers (left and right) it works like the headphones. This lets a sound guy "pan" sound to make it louder or quieter from side to side so one side may have a particular instrument or vocal part at a louder volume.

If there are speakers way out in the crowd (outdoor concerts) these are used to help the sound reach farther (distance "eats" sound). These speakers will play the same sounds as the ones at the stage but delayed so that the sound comes out of them at the same time as the sound leaving the stage.

Hope this helps.

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