Convention for assignment of channels?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Axtman, Jan 24, 2014.

  1. Axtman

    Axtman Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    Years ago when I took a recording/mixing class I remember the instructor explaining that there was a convention for how each channel was assigned on a mixing board. I remember that the drums are in the first channels but don't remember anything after that, and I can't find anything on the internet.

    Can someone explain to me the convention for assigning channels to a mixing board?

  2. Hmm, I'm not really sure I understand what you're trying to ask - but, IF it's the order of instruments to the console channels - every soundman/company may do it different. For example, some may have the Kick on CH-1 whereas others may have the Lead Vox on CH-1.
  3. morgansterne

    morgansterne Geek U.S.A.

    Oct 25, 2011
    Cleveland Ohio
    I recall a tape op interview where the subject talked about eq on the kick drum and referred to it as channel one, as if that was where everyone would put it.
  4. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Sub'd because I know I must be doing it incorrectly...but here's how mine looks:

    1-5 Vox

    6-8 Guitars, Keyboard

    9 Bass

    10-11 Drums

    12-14 Spare

    15 CD or IPod

    16 Effects

  5. It only matters if you're working for someone that insist in assigning channels in a particular order - otherwise there is no incorrect order.

    FWIW: My board might look something like this for a small power trio ~

    Starting with CH-1 ~
    KK, SN, HH, LOH, ROH, 1T, 2T, FT, Bass, GTR, VOX, delay return.

    EDIT: Sometimes you might have two or more bands up on a console at the same time - for example, with an older analog board "Band A" might be on CH-1 through CH-12, and "Band B" might be on CH-13 through CH-24, and the MC might be on CH-48, and etc.
  6. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    It's generally a good idea to keep similar stuff together. For example, all vocals together, all drums together, etc. I prefer to keep the vocals in the upper channels because there & the main section are where most of the action occurs & it's handy to not have to go so far between them.

    My typical layout:

    Drums (Kick on 1, others in L-R visual order, overheads last), "front" instruments (in L-R visual order), effects returns, vocals (L-R visual order), tape/PC/iPod in the last, stereo channels.
  7. MonkeyBass


    Mar 22, 2009
    Denver, CO
    The whole idea of a standard channel assignment was to put the stuff you don't need to mess with near the ends of the mixing console. So drums 1-10 (or however many mics) bass after that, guitars, keys... then vocals, horns... whatever you need under your hands as you sit in the middle of the board in the middle channels. So, depending on the size of the board that could be channel 16 for your first vocal (on a 32 channel board) or channel 21 (on a 48 channel board). Ultimately it doesn't matter.

    The other reason for putting kick drum on the first track was back when people used tape the high frequencies tended to drop off on the edges of the tape (or so I'm told). So they'd put low frequencies on the channels that were on the edges of the tape.
  8. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    Your instructor was mistaken. There is no convention, only the way a sound person or engineer prefers to set up his/her mix. I keep vox together, drums together with bass nearby, horns together, guitar together, etc., but where each block is on the board may change.
  9. Axtman

    Axtman Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2008
    Seattle, Washington

    That is an interesting theory. Since most people are right handed it would make sense to put the "set it and forget it" stuff to the left of the board.
  10. MonkeyBass


    Mar 22, 2009
    Denver, CO
    That's what I always do. Stick the vocals in the middle by my right hand. Set the set-and-forget stuff on the far ends of the board.
  11. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    the convention as i've always seen it, from local clubs to various band riders, is K-SN-HT, toms small to large, OH, bass, other stuff, then vocals.
  12. Bufalo

    Bufalo Funk in the Trunk Supporting Member

    Jan 6, 2005
    Harrisburg, PA
    I must be an oddity. When I'm running sound for music I usually like to have vocals to the left in the low numbered channels so that I can juggle those faders with my left hand and keep the right available to tweak the master and any subs and to turn eq and send knobs. I'm typically only on smaller (16 channel) boards, maybe in a larger setup my habits would change.
  13. bigswifty1


    Dec 8, 2011
    Interesting thread.

    I don't claim to be right, I always put the lead Vox in channel 1, since lead Vox are always the ones whining about something, and it's just natural for me to just go straight to the "1". Where I can pretend to move a fader, hear "Ahhh that's much better, thank you" and then get on with the job of making them sound like they have a clue. In fairness, plenty of em have plenty of clues, I just seem to remember the lousy ones for some reason. But I digress .....

    Then I put the other Vox, usually in the order they are on stage, left to right, from where the desk is standing.

    Then guitar(s), bass and drums in order of kick, snare, toms, hat, overheads.

  14. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    Ah, yes, the Placebo Knob. I have used it many times to placate drunks and guitarists' girlfriends. :D
  15. Almost everyone I know does it a slightly different way.

    Of course, virtually always, the channels follow some kind of logical grouping, such as vocals together, drums together, guitars e.t.c. instead of having them assigned randomly and what usually changes is just the order. (example: someone might prefer having the drums first, then bass, then guitars then vox, another guy could like having the Vox first.

    What I tend to do at the moment:
    Kick, Bass (a little bit unorthodox) Snare, OH, Percussion if any, Guitars, Keys, Vocals
  16. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    ...more or less ditto this. I like to put sax next to Vox as they EQ similarly. One superstition I have when working with an unknown (new to me) board is to avoid channel 1. I figure it gets the most abuse. ...not sure if that really makes sense, but...
  17. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    In a related story…

    I was once coaching a new sound person on learning to run sound for her brother's band. At the beginning of the night I dragged out my white tape and Sharpie to label the channel assignments on the board. She told me that she had wanted to do that but her brother told her that that would be "cheating".
  18. I play bass and run sound from the stage when we don't have a sound guy so I try to make it as simple as possible so that I can make quick adjustments with a glance. In general I group by people and label them with different colored sticky note paper-each guy with a different color. So, on the typical 16 track mixer, usually, it's drums in the first 4 channels and then lead singer, lead guitar and his vocals, etc. This kind of simplicity also makes it easy for everyone to run their own mic cables and plug in.
    The only change in this plan will occur when I need channel with an insert for some reason...usually a vocalist or horn that I want to compress for volume control.
  19. scowboy

    scowboy Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2006
    Sacramento area
    Normal practices in touring and rental companies would put drums starting at channel 1. The rest of the back line would follow after the drums, left to right with channels numbers following in an ascending fashion. All vocals would be after the back line and effects returns are normally always in the last channels.
  20. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    Unless the engineer wants to assign them in a different order, which is perfectly fine.