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Gain Staging - First Simple Step To Set Up Your Mix

beginners mixing plugins Jan 26, 2022

Gain staging in mixing starts as soon as you import your tracks. The first glance at the waveforms is when you make your first important mixing decision.

Any place you have the opportunity to change the gain in a mix is a "gain stage" and that is not only reserved to "gain" parameters but also applies to gain added or taken away using EQ and dynamics controllers. In this video, I'm going to show where the very first instance of gain staging takes place and how to get the optimum levels into your plugins.

One of my earlier videos is gain staging with a VU meter. And what's actually happened is that I'm prepping a mix for another video and I saw this and thought that it was actually going to be quite good. To help illustrate a few points I was trying to make in that video and also answer some of the questions that you guys had because there were certain aspects about it that I think were a little bit confusing because I was basically deconstructing an old mix to try and reverse engineer what I'd done in order to explain how I approached gain staging. But the problem was with that mix is that it was my full mix template and I had lots of group buses, lots of submasters and lots of processing going on that all have an impact on gain staging because the definition of a gain stage is anything with the volume pot on it.

So you can imagine in the mix you've got volumes and gains all over the place. So it's really easy for things to get out of control and to get too loud and ultimately end up clipping at the mix bus. When I say in the video that I just kind of eyeball the waveform and look at a few levels before I even begin mixing perhaps wasn't very helpful to new mixes in understanding how to set up a mix from scratch. So here what I was doing is literally setting up a mix from scratch and I thought this would actually be a great way for me to help explain that preliminary stage before we get into setting up the kick and the bass. This is what I do to help me prevent clipping in my channels and in my plugins and then therefore ultimately at the mix bus, the ultimate reason for gain staging is really to build in headroom, and we need headroom to be able to comfortably add any EQ boosts or use compressors or limiters in any way and even reverbs.

Watch the video to see the demo!



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