Labeling your mixer with masking tape is pretty much the same as putting a sign on your back that says “I have no idea what I’m doing“.
You only have to do this important job with masking tape once to understand what I am talking about.
One reason that utility grade masking tape is so inexpensive is that it uses a very low quality adhesive. This rubber resin based adhesive has good holding power when it is fresh, but dries out very quickly. When this happens, the adhesive separates (de-laminates) from the paper backing. The paper can be lifted off, but the dried out adhesive stays behind.
I recently stumbled upon a pro audio blog that was actually recommending the use of white electrical tape for console labeling. That is definitely not a good idea.
The rubber-based adhesive used for electrical tape is much more likely to leave a sticky residue on your console than paper tape or even gaffers tape.
Once that adhesive starts to build up on your console, it can start to migrate into the faders and other controls and start causing a number of problems that you can’t see. Sticky faders can be really hard to clean.
Because electrical tape has a smooth vinyl finish, Sharpie Marker is really easy to smudge, so you can’t touch the label until the marker ink is completely dry. This takes just a second with proper paper tape, but may take a really long time with electrical tape.
Finally, electrical tape is not really hand tearable, so in the process of tearing it, you also stretch it. That makes it narrower and gives it a wrinkly finish, both of which make labeling more difficult.
I grew up in a family of left handers and watched as my brothers struggled to write without smudging their work. It took a lot of effort to learn just how to hold a pen or pencil.
When labeling a sound console with a Sharpie Marker, you really have to be careful to keep the side pad of your palm off of your labels until it has a chance to dry.
Since Permacel 724 paper tape is coated, it does not absorb the ink from the marker. Until the ink actually has a chance to dry (it takes only a few seconds), touching it with the side of your hand will smear the ink across your label, staining your hand in the process.
Either keep your hand off the labeling or learn to write from lert to right!
Several tape manufacturers have recently introduced console mixing tape in lots of colors. It is seductive to think about using a cool newer color that no one else has, but you should consider this before making the switch.
That makes no sense, now does it? Here’s what I’m talking about.
Permchrome is the kind of ink you find in black Sharpie Markers. Flatback is the kind of paper tape that is used for console marking.
Sharpie ink is considered to be permanent, and once it has dried it is almost impossible to get off of the tape (or your clothes). That means that once your console labeling dries, no matter now sweaty your hands get or how much beer you spill on the mixer, your labels won’t smudge or rub off.
Flatback is the type of tape that is used for the best console tape. It has a smooth coating to make it easy to write on and is able to prevent permchrome ink from bleeding through the tape and getting on the surface of the equipment you are labeling.
If you are labeling expensive equipment with a Sharpie, make sure that the tape you are using is flatback.
People who create temporary labels for sound consoles focus, rightly so, on “the horizontal”. By that, I mean that the primary purpose of the label is to indicate what microphone is represented by each input on the mixing desk. Normally the labels go directly under the mix fader and include information like “vocal”, “bass”, “kick drum”, etc.
Since most mixers are a long row of identical control strips, the labels make sure that the tech doing the mixing is moving the correct fader to make the changes they want.
The use of half-inch wide console tape allows you to expand this labeling to mark additional information about every control knob for each individual console input. Using tape that will fit between the fader strips means that you can also make notes and marks about equalization, aux sends, monitor mixes etc. It dramatically improves your ability to retain detailed information when you have dialed in a mix that you need to recreate later.
When I used to mix sound regularly, it seemed like every time I turned around, my console tape had disappeared.
It turns out that there are lots of uses besides console labeling on event and show sites.
Here are some other uses you might try
Temporary posting of signs like dressing room assignments
Post daily schedules
Labels on patch cables
Make direction arrows on the floor
Mark edges of the stage and steps
Create “pre” show setup diagrams on the floor
Spike marks on the floor
Temporary name tags