Gain Staging? What is This?

Whilst working in the digital domain has its awesome advantages, there are however a number of crucial things that we need to bear in mind in order to maintain the highest quality and sonic integrity of our music production output. Most of us are probably aware of the basics and follow these principles as a matter of course but it’s always worth reviewing some of these protocols from time to time just to make sure that we are optimizing the tools at our disposal and maintaining the process of achieving the very highest quality results. Having come from the old school analogue recording days, there were a number of techniques I would use in order to achieve a particular sound. But now that all of my productions are done in Logic Pro X and I stay almost entirely in the digital domain, many of these processes are done quite differently. I will be highlighting some of these things which we all need to watch out for to avoid getting ourselves into problems in terms of audio clipping and unwanted distortion. I’ve created these two video tutorials to address some of these key points and hope that they would serve as a reminder to those of us who have been working in both analogue and digital domains. Despite the fact that I have demonstrated these techniques using Logic Pro, you can apply these transferable methods to whatever DAW platform you are working in, whether you operate in Pro Tools, Cubase, Digital Performer, Reason, FL Studio, Reaper, Presonus Studio One or anything else not mentioned.

Working With Analog Gear in the Analog Domain

Now in my early days of recording in analog I worked with tape based reel to reel machines, decent quality analog mixes and other outboard gear. One of the vantages of working with this type of equipment is the fact that you were able to drive your audio signal quite high up in terms of gain and distort the signal somewhat to create a particular sonic of character. This character shaping was derived from the over-driving and distorting of the analog equipment and electronics as well as the over-saturation of the tape. These principles have now changed when working in digital because as soon as you cross that 0DB threshold you will encounter an unpleasant break up of your audio signal. Now to avoid this there are plug-ins that you can insert into your Logic channel strip to replicate that sense of analog distortion and tape saturation. However you do have to follow some important principles void to overloading your channels as I will demonstrate in the videos.

Gain Staging

So in the first video I will show you how to ensure that your signal path from your musical instrument or voice, all the way through to your output channel in Logic X, is all set up correctly to avoid overloading and distortion. By following a simple set of guidelines you will be able to ensure that your signal path is optimized. This process is called Gain Staging and as I will demonstrate you can achieve this with relative ease by just making sure that you observe the different points at which gain can be boosted or attenuated within your signals path.

Digital Distortion & How to Avoid it

In the second video I will show you how to ensure that your signals are correctly balanced in your DAW following your recording session. This is important particularly when it comes to mixing and mastering your tracks. If you find that your channel strips are clipping then that means something needs addressing and as we know RED often means danger so keeping an eye on your channel strip meters as well as those on your group buses and master bus is crucial. That being said, once you have watched the video you will see exactly what I’m referring to and as with all of my videos I do my best to demonstrate the entire process, breaking down each aspect into easy to understand chunks.

Watch the Videos and Leave Feedback

So as always, do make sure you leave a comment, like and subscribe to my channel as I very much welcome your feedback. This particular set of videos is part of my music production tutorial series on Logic Pro X so make sure you check out my channel for more tips and tricks on how to optimize your music production process and workflow. I’ll be adding more over the coming weeks and months so stay tuned and locked in. Above all I do hope that you learn something from these lessons that will benefit you in your music production journey.