Gain Creep...

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by DogsoverLava, Mar 31, 2016.

  1. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    So I learned this lesson today. Working on a song - being very conscientious about gain staging in the recording process and have been mixing as I go -- getting to a stage where the mix has revealed itself and I'm pretty clear on where I'm going.... then slowly and subtly over time realizing the mix got away from me -- particularly with the levels. Basically mix creep or gain creep... a little boost here, a little there, -slight re-balance, boost, boost, re-balance, boost -- yikes why am I redlining?

    The good news was because I was really conscientious about gain staging during recording it was an easy fix (once I abandoned the fear of losing my mix) - plus I used master track folders which allowed me more control over groups of instruments --- but holy cow I was surprised how out of whack things got with those faders being pushed up and up. Good lesson.
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "Gain Creep". I like that term... never heard that one before. We used to refer to it as gain "nudging", but I like your term better. ;)

    It sounds as if you had a cool learning moment.

    Gain can indeed get away from you if you're not attentive. And not just for DAW's, either, although that's what most people are using these days - but with analog, too... although it could be a bit more forgiving, still, there were mixes that started to get away from me from time to time, back in those days of tape and desks... and until I got hip to the newer gain specs for digital, and became aware of LUFS, I'd be lying if I said that there weren't a few times where things got hot on me in digital too.

    As an exercise, you might want to try mixing from a reductive approach - instead of putting all the faders at -12 and then gaining them up to 0db over time, you could try putting all the faders up at 0db and then bringing down those tracks that are too hot.
    Just remember that compressors and limiters - and EQ, too, can add gain as well as reduce it...

    in the words of my instructor and mentor, Steve Hebrock: "always be aware of your signal - where it's going, and what's happening to it."

    Which I think is even more apropos now... back in the days of desks and tape, we had to physically patch in the processing; into a channel insert, or a bus, or using auggies from and to the desk ... by patching cables and connecting things through the bay; so we were somehow more aware of how signal was being effected.

    Now, with the right-click of a mouse, you can insert any processor you want - in seconds - and I think that makes it easier to lose track of your gain staging, and for mixes to "get away" from us quicker.
    We also didn't have the plethora of processing choices that we do now with plugs. Even the most well-stocked OB rack didn't have 14 Pultecs, 16 LA2's and 18 1176's... not to mention the gear that nobody had ( well, almost nobody) like Fairchilds.
    Choices needed to be made, and there were times when those limitations were beneficial. I think too many novice DAW users reach for plugs on tracks too easily; just because we have them to use doesn't mean we have to use them.

    IMHO of course.
  3. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    I went back to a few of my earlier mixes just last week and I could not believe how hot they were.

    The first thing I did was knock 10db off everything across the board, even the master bus...everything from left to right exactly - 10db

    I could not believe what I was opened those old mixes up beautifully to the point where they actually sounded 10 times better than ever before.

    Im more conservative now than I was back then, but they were hotter than Hades.

    I'm actually thinking about getting my levels where I want them in my mixes now and as a rule of thumb taking 10db off everything just to see how they sound.
  4. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    For me it was just those little bumps here and there - then the compensating bump --- always going up. Sudden;y my drums were hitting red yet they were not loud enough in the mix and I went "hold on a sec...."
    It was a good lesson because the mix was getting away from me and I was chasing after it....
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Yup. That's usually the way it happens.

    Don't beat yourself up over it. You learned a great lesson, and I'd wager that there isn't anyone here who hasn't done the same thing at some point in their career.

    I know for a fact that I have. ;)
  6. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    I love your term 'gain creep' too. It's so much easier to turn one thing up, rather than everything else down a couple dB, and I have to watch the same thing or it can get away from you.

    That's another good reason to take a 10-20 minute break once in a while to give your ears a chance to recover.
  7. Chris Perra

    Chris Perra Active Member

    If are monitoring with your speakers calibrated at 84 db with -20 db pink noise.. you'll never want to hit the top end of your meters.. Be careful though listening to a mastered cd on that set up is stupid loud.

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