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There are two sources of sound in the recording studio. One is from the musicians you are recording, the other is from the tracks already recorded on your multitrack tape or digital audio workstation.
You will need to be able to listen to all the individual channels and tracks that form the input and the monitor signals on your control room loudspeakers.
Mixing consoles traditionally are of either split or inline monitoring design. A split console has a number of input channels, and has a separate monitor mix panel elsewhere on the control surface. The distinction between the channels and the monitors is very clear and obvious - easy to understand for a newcomer.
Split monitoring consoles also have group faders. The groups - often incorrectly called subgroups - are the outputs to the multitrack recorder. You can mix several channels into one group and record it onto one track. The group fader will control the overall level going onto that track.
An inline console in comparison incorporates multitrack monitoring into the channel strips. So each channel strip has both an input signal path and a monitor signal path. This is confusing.
Let's take Channel Strip 1. The input path will take the signal from the wall box socket in the recording area labeled '1'. All the other channel strip inputs will do the same, numbered consecutively.
Channel Strip 1 will also have a monitor path for Track 1 from the multitrack recorder. This is an entirely separate signal path. There will be two faders in the channel strip - one for the input path and one for the monitor path. The fader for the input path controls the level of the signal going to the group and then to the multitrack. The fader for the monitor path controls the level you hear of the track that has already been recorded.
Where it gets confusing is that each channel strip also has a 'bus trim' rotary control. This performs the function of the group fader on the split console. So Channel Strip 1 also has the bus trim for the group that feeds Track 1 of the multitrack recorder.
So - leap of reasoning here - you can plug microphones into wall box inputs 1 to 4 in the recording area. These will come up on the input paths of Channel Strips 1 to 4. You can route these to Group 20 (say), hence to Track 20 on the multitrack. The bus trim, which is the output level control of the signal going to the multitrack, is in Channel Strip 20.
When you play the recording back, you will listen to it through the monitor path in Channel Strip 20.
Honestly, it does all make sense. But it's no wonder why people find this a bit of a hurdle to leap when they are learning about recording.
Oddly enough, the way a mixing console is used these days is quite different, at least for the type of recording that can be done one track at a time.
The engineer will very likely use an external microphone preamplifier and connect this to whatever track he wants to record on, bypassing the console. The console is now used for its monitoring abilities alone and the input signal paths of the channels are ignored.
This might be a tricky topic, but if you wanted to work professionally in recording or broadcast, you would need to master the concept of the inline mixing console.