We’re back with another episode of FAQ Friday! We have some marvellous questions to answer this week!
Today’s featured question is: what are some definitive ways of making sure there is enough head room left in your mixes?
Gain staging inside of a mix is different in a DAW than it is in a console. In a console, you have line inputs and actual gain controls, and then you have a fader. If you’ve recorded in your DAW and it’s something like ProTools for example, there is no independent gain controls, you can of course put a trim on there and control it. but the reality is that most people opt for the fader. That is where you would start balancing your mix and making sure you’re leaving enough head room.
You want to avoid clipping one plugin into another. In the early days of plugins, you would clip a plugin but the output would be turned down so you wouldn’t look at the indicator of the input going into it. You want to make sure that you are not doing this.
Take Genre into Consideration
For dense music (electronic, heavy rock, metal, etc.), you are probably going to employ a decent amount of compression and maybe even limiting along the way, so that you can keep it dynamic. The kinds of genres that will be overly dynamic is going to be film school pieces, organic pieces, performances where you want to hear huge dynamic sections; when you’re working with these it’s a whole different mentality then working with dense tracks. Each song and each genre presents its own issues; controlling either the compressions, volume automation, etc. will help resolve this issues, you just need to apply logic to it. Leave yourself just enough head room so there’s enough to apply some gentle EQ, compression, or whatever it might need.
Since every song and genre is different, there is no magic formula, you just need to make sure there is enough head room to work, make sure you don’t clip it, and make sure that it sounds good sonically. The choice of how loud you want it to be should be left to the mastering stage.