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Thread: Mixing after gain staging confusion

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    Mixing after gain staging confusion

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    Ok I've done my research and I'm confident that I have a good understanding of gain staging but the problem is mixing afterwards. I keep everything in the green when I record and make sure nothing clips prior to mixing but when I start mixing I'm obviously changing the levels to get a mix but it's like I'm pretty much undoing all the gain staging that I just did. Do I gain stage at even lower levels for more headroom or am I missing something?

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    Yes, that is part of gain-staging. You will be changing volumes overall and in relation to each other. Then again at mastering. Just make sure that you have healthy levels that don't clip. Be mindful not to record too hot, as this can mess your headroom up later. Also be aware that you don't necessarily need compression and limiting on everything, all the time. Let some tracks breath. It is a balancing act. You will get used to leaving the necessary headroom the more you mix.

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    Gregg Juke
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by J-Minor View Post
    Ok I've done my research and I'm confident that I have a good understanding of gain staging but the problem is mixing afterwards. I keep everything in the green when I record and make sure nothing clips prior to mixing but when I start mixing I'm obviously changing the levels to get a mix but it's like I'm pretty much undoing all the gain staging that I just did. Do I gain stage at even lower levels for more headroom or am I missing something?
    hi there J-Minor! Perhaps an thought to add here: is gain staging actually a one-and-down procedure...?

    I think your thought about gain staging for low low levels at the beginning is certainly a helpful thing: things to creep up as balances are sought, but there is certainly no shame in gain staging periodically.
    It is difficult though. Especially if you have bus processing or level sensitive processors (eq, sat, dyn,etc) receiving content from fader/track outputs. Perhaps being keenly aware of your processing aspirations for any given track could help you select specific moments in your mix process for checking/lowering overall levels again.

    Some methods I find helpful for these areas:
    -VCAs for individual tracks, perhaps a master VCA for individual tracks-----this to quickly and evenly lower levels of large groups or all tracks
    -use your ear breaks to go hunting for red lights/tracks clipping or tracks close to it (rectify situations as needed)
    -pick a target true peak level for each gain staging adjustment----I often stick with the handy analog realm number -18 for individual track true peaks and -6 group/master bus true peaks, no real reason other than easy to remember and gives all plenty of room for a mix sitting

    Dont get be crippled by the number selections though, there are no magic numbers, numbers are just guiding the real purpose: being proactively conservative enough for spontaneous artistic decisions to remain below clip levels

    also clipping just aint the end of the world. just be ready to notice, be prepared to compensate. easy-breezy yall. e-z-bree-z.

    best
    -MadHat

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    For me, during the mixing stage, I try to keep all tracks within the green and at maximum "yellow." So basically, I don't clip any of my tracks by entering the "red." And nothing goes over 0 db, rarely. Then the only thing I consider after that is making sure the master channel or stereo output channel (whichever one your DAW has) isn't clipping either. In general, I keep the master peaking around - 8 to - 6 db maximum. That leaves a healthy amount of room for the mastering process after you're finish mixing the track. Hope this helps in someway.

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    Here's my opinion.
    As I mix, I'm gain staging. The reason being, When effects are added, there is typically a change in decibels as well. I tend to know which effects are going to raise and lower my volumes now that I've mixed so many tracks. I do lower the volumes if I see an increase in a sound that I don't want to necessarily be loud. I do this so that there is headroom in my mix so when I go to master my track, I have enough space to work with. You will need that space in the mastering phase.

    Hope this helped you.. it sure helped me typing it out.

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    I’m also having an issue with mixing after getting my levels properly gain stagged. Once I start mixing and adding effects like eq and compression my levels go up. Now at this point do I just refer back to my clip gain on the vocal/instruments channel, and adjust it back to its prefered level (in my case -18 DB) and continue to do this when needed? Wouldnt doing this just take wag from whatever effect you added?

    Also, would using the output on whatever effect im using be the same as using clip gain?

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    What most people don't understand is that gain staging is a continuous process through the whole mixing process and they don't know/understand the difference between dBFS and dB RMS.
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