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Trying to get the hang of using compression in Gainstaging, mi brane urtz!

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Dear Anyone.


Yes, I've watched loads a lot of YouTube videos on gainstaging but I think they've got something I haven't and I'm beginning to think that something's called a 'brain....'!

There might well be other incredibly dumbass questions but can I start with compression? Everywhere says GAIN'S volume going into the compressor, Volume is amount of sound coming out.  I was doing OK with that till I saw a button on my compressor called 'Output Gain'!  If sound coming out's Volume, sound going IN's GAIN, how the heck can you have OUTPUT Gain?  Is that just another word for Volume? And if you want your track to sound as 'full' as yer average Karaoke track - because you're writing it for someone to sing over - do you just have more GAIN going in?  Last dumbass question.

As you can use a compressor to make anything any sound level you want, assuming there's enough GAIN going INTO it (am I right on that, that's only something I've read) how do you know how MUCH GAIN to put into it, in other words how loud a signal to put into it? And I've got a BUNCH of VST synths that all start off at different volume levels - if you select a preset on each of them, without touching the controls, they'd all be very different sound levels.  Do you use the COMPRESSOR to even out the volume levels, or do you get all the volume levels the same going into the compressors?  If the second, how do you automate the volume because when it comes OUT of the compressor, you can't automate it can you?  You have to automate it going IN, as far as I can tell.

I use Quick Score Elite Level 2 DAW.  And I'll apologise again for the dumbass questions - yes I've watched YouTube vids.,  and read stuff, I just can't get my tracks' waves as FAT as those I download.  I mean I download a YouTube track - or record a bit of one with Audacity - and it can look like a blue brick.  Mine all look like wiggles in cotton.  Yet my tracks are often as LOUD as the YouTube ones, just not as FULL-sounding.  I know their sounds cost far more than mine do but I'm pretty sure that's not all that's going on, there's lack of techie knowledge on my side too.  And the plug-in I always have most trouble with is GAIN/Gainstaging!

Yours respectfully



Yours respectfully


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  • 2 weeks later...

Ah, the trials and tribs of tech. I've always thought it's possible to get caught up in the technical and lose sight of the art, so tread carefully through that wood and don't let the trees distract you. I like to refer back to  Louie Louie by The Kingsmen; can't make out a word except the title but it's a classic.


I've always taken gain staging to be getting enough of a signal if your signal isn't peaking enough, though care is needed not to distort or boost your noise floor. Having said that, psychoacoustics, used in aural exciters, can actually add distortion to make something stand out in a mix. Confused? Isn't that just lke art?


The blue brick is due to loudness, for which there was a war. Loudness is when you compress/limit the signal, thus ramping up the lower bit of the waveform while stopping the top part getting too loud. Upload sites lke YouTube will normalise your audio on playback to maintain a consistent volume across the site. Different sites have different levels -  YouTube adjusts to -14dB. If you right-click over a video and select 'Stats for Nerds' you'll see the reduction in real time. If your audio is too quiet, they won't boost it. You don't need to worry about all that, because listeners have volume controls, but you can see your Loudness if you check your DAW for a LUFS meter. But when you start trying to mix according to LUFs, you're really looking at trees, not the wood. Been there, shot the squirrel.


The blue brick occurs because the song has been mastered for loudness, at least the video upload version. While there's been a drift away from loudness in tutorials, download a big hit and you might still see the bricks. Some do, some don't. If you put your song through Bandlab's masterng tool, which was devised with the help of Grammy-winning producers, it'll adjust for loudness. So if they're doing it, it can't be all bad. It is still an algorithm, not an actual Grammy-winning producer, but it'll give you an idea of how you're doing with your mixes. I found I was fine with loud sections but it boosted quieter sections, which changed the dynamic. Horses for proverbial courses.




And one of the best tips I got from a tutorial was to get a delay calculator - Lyons Den is free - to get a start point for attack and release times. If your compressor is working in time with your tempo, it'll pump nicely.

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