Last updated on September 16, 2021 by

Gain staging is one of the most important steps to getting a pro sounding mix.

But it’s easy to get wrong!

That’s why I’ve put together this list of 9 gain staging secrets. These’ll help you get the most out of each mix.

Get industry-quality every time (steal this framework)

I’m guessing you’re here because you want to make your mixes sound professional.

We put together a brief training that covers a totally new approach to music production. Until now, everyone has been teaching production totally backward.

Just click below to watch.


But if you just want to learn about gain staging specifically, keep reading.


What Gain Staging Mistakes Are You Making?

Gain staging is one of the most important steps to getting a pro sounding mix. But it’s easy to get wrong! That's why I’ve put together this list of 9 gain staging secrets. These’ll help you get the most out of each mix. But if you just want to learn about gain staging specifically, keep reading.


Why is it So Important?

The name “gain staging” sounds fancy, but it’s actually very simple.

It just making sure the volume of your tracks is set well. You’re looking at all of your instruments and making sure there loud enough to be heard clearly, but not so loud that they’re distorting.

gain changing volume fader

Whether you’re recording or mixing, gain staging is a crucial step to making your song sound professional. 

Turn up an instrument that was recorded too quietly and you’ll get a lot of extra noise with it. If an instrument is too loud, it’ll start distorting.

Your song will sound muddier and quieter than those on the radio.


It’s super important for getting a professional sounding sound.

By following the techniques in this article, you’ll be one step to getting top notch mixes every time!


How Gain Staging Works

But how does it work?

First we’ll look at how it can help while recording and then we’ll talk about using it before you mix.

For Recording…

vocalist singing into microphone

You’ll want to make sure everything you record is the right volume. If your recordings are too soft or loud, you’ll run into unwanted surprises in the mix.

So make sure you set the preamp properly before you start recording. You want the volume to hover around -18 dBFS.

The channel’s meter in your DAW will have numbers next to it. That’s how loud the channel is in dBFS.

dbfs meter

For Mixing…

logic pro x mix view

Go in and add gain or trim plugins at the top of your plugin chain.

plugin chain

Then pop a VU Meter on your mix bus.

vu meter

Go track by track, listening to each instrument while it’s soloed. You’ll also want to pick out the section where each instrument is at its loudest.

Check for anything that’s usually above or below 0 dB on the VU meter. Turn it up or down until its sitting around 0dB.

vu meter hitting 0 dbvu

To help you keep this in mind for every mix, I’ve whipped up this step by step diagram.

how to gain stage your mix infograph

It goes through all the fundamental steps your mix needs. Keep it on your desktop for easy access!

But there’s more to great gain staging.

Here are 9 secrets the pros use to make sure their songs sound great.


Secret #1: Top Notch Recordings

condenser microphone

This is one of the most important steps.

Most people record their instruments too loudly.

person talking into a megaphone

It may sound counterintuitive, but your recordings are too loud, your song will sound quieter.

Why is that? When your song’s too loud you have less headroom while mixing and mastering.

You won’t be able to turn the volume up to match pro standards.

You’ll also get some nasty distortion. So recording at the proper levels is really important!

When recording any instrument, watch the meters of your track(s).

The meters in your DAW measure in dBFS. You want to aim for an average of -18 dBFS with peaks hitting around -10 dBFS.

dbfs meter

You never want a channel to go above -6 dBFS while recording.

dbfs meter too loud

Set yourself up for success by keeping each track’s volume in this range!

Bonus Tip:

Musicians tend to play louder while recording than while sound checking. This is due to the hubris of man.

So you might want to give yourself an extra dB or 2 of headroom while setting the preamps level!


Secret #2: Adjust for Plugins That Add or Subtract Volume

This one’s easy to miss!

Over the course of your mix, the volume of your tracks will fluctuate. That’s because plugins will naturally add or subtract volume.

Take this EQ for example.


As you can see, it’s cutting out a lot of frequencies.

But cutting these out, the track as a whole will be quieter.

So to make sure your mix is still balanced, you’ll need to turn it back up! Here’s how you can figure out how much to turn it down.

First, put an LUFS on your master bus. Then, solo the track with the EQ on it.

loudness meter

Bypass the plugin and see how loud the meter is.

loudness meter with eq bypassed

Then, turn the plugin back on and play the same part of the song.

loudness meter with eq engaged

As you can see, the track is a few dB quieter when the EQ is on. Now we know how much we need to turn it back up!

It’s really easy for plugins to change the volume of a track, so you’ll want to use this technique frequently. Just check whether the volume changes with the plugins turned off and, if so, adjust for it!


Secret #3: Protect Your Compression Settings

This one goes hand in hand with the last one. If you have an EQ that’s adding volume to a track, you might think you should turn the fader down.

But this would be a big mistake!

Doing this could throw your mix out of balance if you have something like a compressor on the channel. By turning down the volume going into the compressor, it’ll actually compress less.

So what do you do if you need to change the volume of a track that has plugins on it?

Instead of turning the volume down at the beginning of the plugin chain, we’ll turn it down at the end. Go to the end of your plugin chain and throw on another gain plugin.

plugin chain

Now you can change its volume without messing up the rest of your effects!


Secret #4: Use a VU Meter

vu meter

I know I talked about this earlier, but this one’s important!

While setting your preamps and plugins, you’ll want to pop a VU meter on your master bus.

Why a VU Meter?

VU meters will help you save time!

VU meters show you an approximation of how loud something is. And since you’re focusing on average volume of a track, VU meters are especially helpful.

Double check that your VU meter is set to -18 dBFS. This just means that 0 dB on the VU Meter is the same thing as -18 dBFS.

Later on in your mix you’ll want to use an LUFS meter. VU meters aren’t great for surgical stuff like adjusting for volume changes made by plugins.

But when it comes to setting your initial levels, VU meters are really handy.

Most DAWs don’t come with a VUMeter. But TBProAudio has a free one that’s really good!

By default it’s set as a peak meter. So make sure you click on the word “Peak” and change it to “VU.”

vu meter


Secret #5: Pay Attention to Your Buses!

bus tracks

It’s really easy to forget about buses.

If it has plugins on it, it needs to be gain staged.

The busses are just as simple, though. If the signal’s coming in too hot, just add a gain plugin at the beginning of the plugin chain and turn it down. That’s all you need to do.

plugin chains

Make sure to do this for the stereo output as well.

NOTE: Create space and separation in your mixes using submixes:

Gain staging is one of the most important steps to getting a pro sounding mix. But it’s easy to get wrong! That's why I’ve put together this list of 9 gain staging secrets. These’ll help you get the most out of each mix. But if you just want to learn about gain staging specifically, keep reading.


Secret #6: You Don’t Need Premium Plugins

You don’t need expensive tools to gain stage effectively!

There are plenty of fancy plugins out there that

You’re better off sticking with your DAW’s stock plugins instead of dropping a ton of money on premium ones that do the same thing.

logic pro gain plugin

Save yourself some money by sticking the plugins that come with your DAW. If you have to get something, look for a free version first.


Secret #7: Don’t Leave Any Faders Down Low!

After balancing your mix, you may realize that some faders are really low.

volume fader super low

Maybe something that’s only supposed to be barely audible, like a shaker or a pad.

The problem is that the closer you get to the bottom of the fader, the less resolution you have. One tiny movement could change the volume by 10dB!

You should aim for your faders to be around 0dB to keep that resolution high for the mix.

If you’re coming across this as a problem, check the volume of the track when it’s soloed before turning the fader back up to 0.

Then, add a gain plugin to the end of your chain, and cut the volume there. That way you still have access to the full resolution of your faders.

gain plugin reducing volume with volume fader left at unity


Secret #8: Automation – Gain Staging on Steroids

This one’s huge. Pros use this all the time to make sure their songs sound consistent.

Automating a channel’s gain over time.

Ever had a track that’s too quiet in one section, but way too loud in the next? It’s really frustrating!

How are you going to get a good mix balance if the volume is all over the place?

That’s where gain automation comes in! By changing the gain throughout the song you can make sure a track is the right volume at all times.

By simply turning the gain up when it’s to quiet, we get it into the ideal range of -18 dBFS. Then we’ll just turn it down when it’s too loud.

volume automation

Voilà! This should sound a lot better!

Bonus Tip: Automate Individual Phrases

This technique isn’t just for full sections. You can automate the gain of individual phrases, words, or even syllables.

This takes a lot of stress off your compressors and limiters. It also helps your plugins to perform better because the vocal will always be around that -18dBFS sweet spot.

But don’t try to do this for everything. Automating the gain of every channel would take way too long. Save it for the stuff that needs to be at the very front of your mix, like lead guitars and vocals.

Different DAWs have different ways of doing automation. If you aren’t sure how it works, google the name of your DAW followed by “gain automation.”


Secret #9: Don’t Be a Perfectionist! Set it and Forget it.

Nothing kills creativity like agonizing over the details.

mixer frustrated at computer

Here’s the thing: gain staging is important. Without it, your mixes will never sound professional.

But it’s not a magic wand!

Making sure your tracks have the right amount of headroom is more like leveling the playing field. It’s making sure you have every opportunity to make your mix sound incredible.

But by itself it’s not going to make your mix sound incredible.

This process doesn’t need to take more than 2 or 3 minutes if you’re eyeballing it, or 5 or 10 if you’re getting a really specific.

Not every track needs to be perfectly set to an average of -18dBFS. Just making sure it’s around that area (and not peaking higher than -6dB) is all you need. Set it and forget it so you can move on to more important things.


And there you have it!

The 9 secrets you need to knock it out of the park.

By using each of these techniques, you’ll be one step closer to making professional sounding mixes every time.

UPDATE: Check out our complete guide to gain-staging:

Gain staging is one of the most important steps to getting a pro sounding mix. But it’s easy to get wrong! That's why I’ve put together this list of 9 gain staging secrets. These’ll help you get the most out of each mix. But if you just want to learn about gain staging specifically, keep reading.

Next Steps

If you want to dig deeper into music production and learn what it actually takes to make mixes that sound pro…

And you’re an intermediate or advanced producer…

Be sure to check out the free masterclass:


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95 comments on this article

  • Avatar

    One way to make a hard hat sit lower on the head is to adjust the suspension system inside the hat. Most hard hats have a system of straps and bands that can be adjusted to fit the wearer’s head.

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    This is terrible mixing advice, first of all how can you even say that buying plugins is a waste of money? Waves has some of the best plugins out there, and can actually emulate hardware almost dead up. The automation made me cringe, so you just want to create static mixes that have no dynamics or taste? That’s a great way to make a song boring just by blasting it at the same volume the whole time, and the chorus doesn’t bare any impact. Don’t waste your time with this garbage, he’s just trying to scam you into buying a course. Then show you how to default your way into mixing without using your ears.

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      Hey man,i am pretty new to all that mixing stuff.I just started with Cubase and first i want to understand the signal path of the material.Comes pre-gain or simply gain,before the fader of the channel?Sorry if it´s a stupid question but i really need to understand that.

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    thanks man I really appreciate the post.

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    Hi Rob
    Thanks for you video and article, I’m just starting out so this was very helpful (even though much of it is over my head at this point) however, your delivery made it much more accessible. I would like to use the template you mentioned but couldn’t see the link anywhere?

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    Thanks, great article!

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    I have a question – if using instrument busses, why not just use the gain stage procedure on these rather than also on the individual tracks feeding the busses?

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      Providing of course one is not doing any processing at the individual track level. I normally process at the track level and bounce, then route those bounced tracks to busses. Here the initial track level processing would require gain staging at the track level, and then once i move on to the bus routing I can only gain stage the busses, or am I missing something?

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    Regarding #3: In what other situations would you normally not adjust the gain between two FX plugins?
    The example mentioned (EQ -> Comp) makes totally sense.

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    Hey Rob,
    thank you for your very interesting article.

    “When your song’s too loud you have less headroom while mixing and mastering.

    You won’t be able to turn the volume up to match pro standards.

    You’ll also get some nasty distortion. So recording at the proper levels is really important!”

    Could you explain this statement in greater detail please? Why would you need headroom in a digital recording when mixing in mastering? I read that argument a lot, but I never understood why. I get it that for broadcasting you would avoid clipping at all cost but in a mixing situation that is not live, you will not lose control if the tracks are at e.g. -3dBFS as you are repeatedly able to check the meters.

    All the best,

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    Hi Rob, thanks for this helpful great article!

    I’m just not really sure what exactly you mean by “an average of -18dBFS” (for vocals). Do you do that metering by eye messurement?
    Or do you use a metering plugin like Voxengo Span? If so is the average of -18dBFS you are talking about the RMS value?
    If I try to reach an RMS value of -18dBFS the whole vocal track is very loud and there is not much headroom left. So I guess this is not what you mean.
    I would be happy to get some help there!

    Best regards from Germany!

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    Hi Rob
    Appreciate your well presented info and wow, if only it was around 40 years ago hehe. Just a couple of things…totally agree with recording, keeping stuff in the sweet spot etc.

    I did a lot of testing about 12 years ago in regards to busses and daws. What I found was, when it comes to daws with >32bit floating internal, the final mix can easily overshoot +6 (I even tested +12 in old 32bit SX; Cubase is 64) and there was zero difference audible difference: by simply exporting 32bit for mastering OR turning down -12 in a 24 bit output. So whilst its great to absolutely iron out acquisition; most mastering houses are fine with 32bit files and its nearly impossible to distort the massive headroom of 32bit float.

    CAVEAT: Be really careful re old plugins as they def 0 and distort especially old UAD/Waves etc

    Keep up the brilliant work!

    Kind regards and greetings from Sydney

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    Hi Rob! First of all, thanks for all informations about gain staging & mixing. Well, I set all the tracks at around -18 dbfs before recording my guitar solo. But then I couldn’t hear the guitar sound (nuances, tone details) loud enough. So, what’s the problem? Generally, I use my headphones (dt770 80 ohm) for listening & recording. I also use focusrite scarlett 2i2. Do you recommend headphone amp or for this situation? Thank you.

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      If you still can’t hear it well enough after turning the monitoring volume up on your focusrite, a headphone amp is probably your best bet. You can get some decent ones fairly cheaply, but they may add some more noise to what you hear in the monitors. Usually this isn’t a problem for the actual recording, but you may want to double check those recordings before moving on!

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    Hi, Thanks a ton for this article!

    However, I read this a bit late.. ie, I have mixed the song & now realized that my mix is peaking above 0dbFS.. when I check the level at the master bus. Now I dont want to disturb the relative levels of the tracks. Can applying a Gain plugin in each track(before all other plugins) and applying an equal gain reduction for all the tracks help? Many Thanks!

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      Yeah, that’s probably the easiest solution to avoid clipping. You can save a little more time if you copy and paste a gain plugin with the correct settings to all of your tracks.

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    Hi Rob, I’m an amateur recording ac guitar and vocals at home.
    On this matter I’m a little confused for two reasons so let me check them with you:
    – the first one – in some of your replies, here in the comments, sometimes you stress the point: “keep the avg to -18” and sometimes you say, instead: “most important is to keep the peak at -6”. So?
    – the second one – when you say -18 (or -6 peak) you mean that should be the values of the louder part of the track, before you start mixing,. After mixing maybe I would like to have different levels for ac guitar and voice so that means that the ac guitar level at the output of the last plugin in its chain could be less than -18 (or-6 peak): right? And also, I maybe would like to have different levels for different parts of a song: right?
    Thank you.

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    So I was testing this out in Logic and cranked my EXS24 gain to get a sampled hi-hat up closer to the zero sweet spot (-1.4) on that free VU Meter you suggested, but now my Level Meter reads a peak of -4.2, which is kinda loud.

    Granted this a non-dynamic sample playing through a “Software Instrument” track vs. an “Audio” track.

    I know I can Gain or Fader it back down to where I want it, but I’m wondering if you think your advice would be different in regards to sampled drum machines playing through Software Instrument regions that don’t have a lot of dynamic range?

    Go with the third-party VU sweet spot? Or stick to somewhere between -18 and -6 dB peaks on Logic’s own Level Meter?

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    thanks alot !!!!!!!

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    I have been doing everything wrong! I can not believe i have stumbled onto musicianonamission. thank you ,thank you, thank you for helping guys like me who want achieve the best !

  • Avatar
    Martin Adjartey says:
    June 27, 2019 at 07:14:13 pm

    The best tip I ever came across….thank you Sir

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    Thanks a lot .

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    Hello i have a question. I need to raise the levels to 0 dVU of the tracks that are too low? please im overthinking things a bit and this is something Im not sure


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      You set the fader so it shows zero but you use a gain plugin to turn the volume down. That way the fader is up but the sound is low.
      You may have been told that the level should always be as high as the fader position. If you do that with quiet sounds it’s hard to move the fader without changing the volume too much

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    Hey Rob, I’m finding your tutorials extremely helpful. There are hundreds of videos out there for this sort of thing but yours are by far the clearest and most concise. I’m getting way more confidant in my own skills thanks to you.

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    Hey Rob !!
    Your really doing a great job !

    God bless you brother

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    Hi Rob,
    Salutes from Argentina!
    I like to said you the type of meter that you are using to read de levels is extremely important!
    I did a research about audio meters and found that the gauging they do is so, so important.
    In a RMS meter, the energy it measures is similar to the human ear then its readings are very representative of the volume.
    In an average meter (the must common types) the level reading is fine for signals with low crest factor (sine signal), but they are very inacurate for signals with large crest factor like the studio’s material (in the pre mastering material).
    Of course, a peak meter is useful to check the crests, as the electronics limits the excursion.
    Then, I designed a method to identify the differents audio meters, and it was published in the Journal of AES. You can see it here:
    As conclusion:
    A real vu meter calibrated at 0VU with a sine signal that have a crest factor of 3dB, when measures a signal with 6dB of crest factor (correspondent to a sine signal pulsating at 50%), – that is 3dB more -, falls 4 VU, while the software meters I tested fall 6 VU!!!!! Showed me that they are average meters not vu meters!
    All the software vu meters I tested, (around all disponible) that said to mimic a vu meter, don’t work as a SVI meter. All are wrong!
    May be nobody knows really how a volume meter works?
    Sure, Howard Chinn is wallow in the grave!


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    Hi Rob,

    Perfect, thank you for the tutorial! I’m finally starting to understand how all this stuff works :)

    One question about gain staging: is It safe to do that on the file itself, rather than the clip(s)?

    In Logic, here is what I do:
    1. Open the Editor
    2. In the Editor window, go to “File”
    3. Select the whole waveform or only a portion of it
    4. Functions – Change gain – Search maximum – Adjust to desired level

    Thank you!

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    Hey Rob,

    Should I use the gain plug-in on each instrument or just the instrument submix?

    Also will using lots of instances of Gain-Plug-ins affect my CPU? 13 submixes or 70+ instruments?

    Cheers for the article. A great read!

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    Hello Rob
    Thanks for your tips, very useful!
    I`ve had all these mistakes and now I can go on more confidently!

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    Rob God bless you. What you are giving us is too expensive to get. Thank you

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    Hi !
    When putting EVERY track in the mix at -18dBFS the volume of the whole song is reaching A LOT more & not staying at -18dBFS… if you gain staging, as you suggested- than 12 or 14 tracks at -18dBFS will get the master volume to -10dBFS or maybe more load (because the sum of 14 tracks played at -18dBFS). I don’t think that in a song the whole tracks need to be at the same volume (-18dBFS ), but you need that in the end your whole mix will be at -18dBFS.

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      Some right, but mostly wrong. You may want every single track to be prepared with -18dbfs in order to preserve headroom and suit the plugins well. Now all tracks hit that sweet spot. Now the song sounds awfully bad, because there is no big difference in volume and depth. BUT every single track is prepared well for MIXING now. Start for instance with the drum group: Everything at -18dbfs does not sound like a drum kit in a room. Maybe raise the snare, lower the toms, lower overheads but raise room mics a bit, whatever. I’m sure that unlesss you’re doing drastic fader surfing your mixdown will automatically be somewhere at about -16 or -14 dbfs in the end, maybe -12 which is PERFECTLY FINE! Why? Because there should be no plugins on the master mix bus here! No need to aim for exactly -18dbfs in the master fader, just keep as low as possible below zero. Mix that mix down to one file and go on to mastering stage –> Apply gain trim plugin first and set your mixdown’s level to an average of… EXACTLY! -18dbfs. Now the first plugins in the mastering chain again receive that nice sweet level where they probably work best.

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    Rob, enjoyed the article and am learning a ton from your “Music & Audio Production in Logic” course … thank you so much for doing all the hard work to put these resources together!

    After reading this article, I started applying the technique to some vocal recordings (works great!) … and it occurred to me that there might be a bit of an easier workflow than chopping the source audio into different regions and adjusting the gain of each … how about writing some fader automation (and even opening the automation editor and doing some precise fine-grain fading on particularly loud peaks, or particularly quiet areas), then bouncing in place with “Include Volume/Pan automation” ticked? Am I overlooking something important, or will this technique work equally well?

    All the best!

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    Rob, thanks so much for this, I never really understood this concept until reading this article. Also, I use Logic and had no idea you could do this so easily. Question, if I’m creating VST tracks in the box, for example using Logic’s “Drummer” or a plug-in synth emulator, should I simply aim for an average volume of -18dbFS prior to printing said part to audio? Thanks!

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    Starting a mixing project with this technique, would that mean you leave the faders at unity when starting gain staging?

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    Hey Rob. Loving your logic course – the learning curve is huge but making huge strides thanks to your help. With gain staging do you apply only to the individual channels or also apply -18 to the instrument busses? For instance I’ve applied -18 average to each drum channel but the drum bus is averaging around -12. So should that now be brought down to -18 or left alone? Cheers mate

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    Unfortunately, for me, I’m using PT 8 LE so I don’t have that option to just bring that little fader up and down.

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    Hi Rob,
    When I load the Cubase template in Bubase Artist 8.5, I get a warning for each channel that “Plugin Q cannot be found”. Which plugin did you use there? Thanks!

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      That was just cutting 10dB of gain on every channel, you can achieve the same thing with any other plugin with a gain adjustment.

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        Once u set ur faders on say ur main vocal channel and u want to use clip gain can you do clip gain automation on just the end of each bar for broghtening the punches in the mix without clipping? Does setting the channel gain prevent clipping if you use clip gain automation for creative syylable rap? My concern is clipping

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    Rob, you said if you are mastering your own track. Use gain and a limiter as the final plugins. Where at? On the stereo track ? I’m using logic. And also, the limiter plugin has gain within it. So which one do you adjust and why?

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    Hi Rob,
    Great tip – would you ever do this by normalising the tracks to -18dBfs instead of using clip gain plugins?


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    Hi Rob I appreciate all the info great tutorials
    I’m a Reason User
    I had a question regarding gain staging in Reason the meters look different
    It would seem that on Reason -18dbs is way to low I would have to cut the trim way back
    I did some research and it seems like -10 to -7 dbs is the way to go in Reason per track
    Any tips ? thanks

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    I have been trying to leave a comment on your compressor tutorial video, but for some reason I am unable to leave a comment, so I will try and copy/paste here in hopes you see this.

    I am confused on something, mainly because of some article I read in the past.

    In an article I read somewhere in the past I read that for a louder track you can put a compressor on the master bus with a very low threshold and a very low Ratio 1:1.5 ish. therefore cutting out just a few DB’s from your overall track, not noticeable to our ears but it cuts a couple of decibels from your track allowing for more headroom. This is where I am confused, you say that if the threshold never resets or goes back up then you are only essentially turning the volume down?

    Does this mean that the above tip from this other article is complete nonsense? Or does it still tame peaks somehow even though the threshold is always below the signal? Am I just turning the track down essentially making it a complete waste of time?

    I hear that having a low threshold (always below signal) is a common compressing method for lead acoustic guitars on instrumental tracks, with a very low ratio. Is this all wrong information you think?

    I have been wondering this for a few days and have been trying to google lots for information on this while I can’t find anything that answers my question, can you please tell me what you think?

    Love this channel, thank you for doing what you’re doing!

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    Thank you “so” much for this. This tip is a really big deal for me. I feel that if I’d have only done this on my earlier mixes they would have turned out so much better. As a logic X user, the fact that you got the snapshot of the settings to tweak above is crazy helpful, thank you once again,

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    My problem is with drums. Setting the kick, snare or even overheads to an RMS of -18 dBFS pushes the transients so much that they hover above -6 dBFS and even clip (pass 0 dBFS) at times. Is that a tell that compression is needed? With a guide of -6 dBFS mimicking 0 dBFS, does this mean I need to pre compress transients by about 6 dB if they clip with the RMS at -18 dBFS (or -10 dBFS mimicking 0 dBFS would imply 10 dB compression on a transient?!?) ? That sounds a little drastic.

    Any insight here please! With bass vocals and everything else really -18 dBFS is no problem. Only on percussive stuff that the transients just poke out too much!


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      Hi Gabe,

      The main concern is headroom. Don’t worry too much about the average level with drums – jsut make sure you have around 10dB of headroom on the peaks (so the peaks should be around -10)

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    Would setting the gain on my preamp to -18 db help my settings

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    Hey Rob,

    Finally ! Once again, you’ve nailed the explanation. It takes a while to read through this article but it’s totally worth it.

    Now I really get how to implement ‘gain staging’ on top of understanding the purpose !
    Thanks !


    PS : I listen all the time to my 14 y.o. music to keep focusing on something important (mine is Ben Harper ; “still my kisses”)… ha !

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      Great to hear, thanks Elliott!

      Haha, I’m glad I’m not the only one. I know some people who just listen to the same song on repeat – that would drive me crazy.

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    Thanks Rob for the Great article ,Thanks for sharing that advice

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    Great foundation info.

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    thank you sir…very well explained. I might ask a favor though of you. I’m migrating from my original DAW to Studio One Artist. Without making a big deal of it, for me it’s a perfect balance between what Pro Tools does (and I cannot afford) and my current DAW which is by design “Musician Friendly”, but seriously Top Heavy in the CPU and ram usage.

    I have been using the Sonakais Trimmer in my original DAW for a long time. Still looking around S1’s stock plugins for an equivalent, just haven’t spotted it yet.

    While Studio One is very similar to Pro Tools, it has it’s differences. Can you include in your demos from now on examples using Studio One? I think you’ll find a lot of people are in fact switching over for the reasons above. I know all DAW’s are essentially the same but the “Re Learning” of keyboard commands, and so on is always time consuming and takes away from productive workflow.

    The process you described in the instructions and video are easy to do in my original DAW as I’m used to it, but I screw up mixes right now in S.1 as I forget their are different key strokes and so on from what I’m used to.

    One thing I’ve noticed though about S1 is that it seems to default to minus about 15 when loading even if the faders are at zero. Can you explain? Thanks.


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      Hi Marty!

      I can’t really comment on the -15 problem at this exact moment, as I’m not a regular S1 user. But I will certainly start using it more often and include it in my examples!

      Thanks for your comment, it’s much appreciated.

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      Hi Justin,

      Thanks a lot for your tips. I am a hobby musician and a hobby mixer – both at a reasonable leve.
      I have been mixing the last three or for years. For the most recent son I am mixing I try to apply a trim and gain plugin and clip gain automation, of which I never heared before until three or for days ago.
      After that I find it easier to apply a decent and nice compression on all tracks. And I can already say that it makes the mix more open and clear (already in the first stages of mixing).
      Can’t wait to read/hear/see more of your advise.

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    Tanya “Cookbeat” Markovich says:
    March 11, 2016 at 09:33:00 pm

    Wonderful article, great tips. I have more experience in composing, but I just recently started mixing and mastering my works,so as a beginner I must say, I know so little of this and would love to know so much more, so keep on adding these types of articles, they are of much help to me personally. Now, I work in FL Studio 12, and only with virtual instruments, so my question is, do I apply the same rules and can you recommend a plugin that will help me with FL Studio 12? Thanks a lot!

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    Hey Rob this info is priceless….Just took an old Dub mix which I didn’t particularly like and striped it back and applied your gain staging technique….Result…Different track…Thank you so much for this..

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    Joost van Dinther says:
    March 10, 2016 at 01:56:00 pm

    Thanks Rob for the info. i’ve been doing this a long time on Pro Tools too, but wasn’t aware. I als use the Phase Scope to control the peaks (at -6dbs) and RMS (at -12dbs) on a track. Advice from sound engineers. I guess I have to adjust this? Maybe you could do an article about the peak/RMS part of volume? Thanks for your enthousiasm.

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      Hey Joost, thanks for your comment.

      -12 should still give you enough headroom, but -18 is the optimum for most plugins.

      Don’t become too obsessed with exact peak/RMS levels. That’s more for mastering. Eyeballing it is usually enough!

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    nice, for the gain staging I`m using Hornet VUmeter, because it does it automatically. And in Reaper there`s a very useful extension, called Peak RMS or so. You can split all items, then select them all, press 1 button and it will bring them all to the right level, adding different amount of gain to each item.

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    great article….. something else I do all the time at -20db.i’ll switch to 18… but whats this gain trim plugin you mentioned? I seam to be doing everything manually.

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      Hey Peter, which DAW do you use?

      In Pro Tools it’s called Trim. In Logic Pro X it’s called Gain.

      I like to use Klanghelms VU Meter, great little plugin. Cheap and gives your DAW a bit of analogue class:

      It’s easy to read average level with a VU meter too!

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        Protools 12.4 now picked up a focusrite 56 after my project mix died. 56 would not run on protools 11 or below they had to upgrade focusrite software.
        Subject: Re: Comment on Gain Staging: What You Need to Know and More

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    Great article Bro! I’ve been using the same technique for a long time now & have always loved it! And I LOVE logic’s clip gain adjustment too!!! Let’s you ride your compressors in a more consistent manner & makes for much easier to manage multi stage compression as well. Thanks for the post Rob!!!

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      Cheers Jason!

      Exactly, it makes applying compression a much more pleasant experience :)

      I love that feeling of being able to make small adjustments to improve the tone without having to worry about controlling the levels as much.

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    I’ve never thought about clip gain, my problem is the noise floor though where the FireWire connection introduces noise to the recordings, so in my situation I kinda have to uses as high level as possible to mitigate this problem. In any case, once I’ve resolved my FireWire problem iI’ll be giving this a go! Thank rob!

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    Tormod Vold Mikkelsen says:
    March 9, 2016 at 09:26:00 pm

    This is how I’ve been doing it for a while. Also, in case I’m running out of headroom on my master bus, I keep a trim plugin last in chain on each track. That way I can adjust the volume without changing how the track hits the compressor and so on. Really useful…

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    Lottie Mosley says:
    March 9, 2016 at 07:19:00 pm

    Great article, very clear and easy to follow!

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    Can’t wait to give this a try! Never thought of doing it that way. Great tip, thanks Rob

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    Haha love the fact that you lsiten to emo teen music to focus!