Most DAWs give you the power to control the volume of recorded audio on a per‑clip level — and with this power comes immense creative potential!
I’d like to talk about clip gain. It’s a subject that, on the face of it, may seem a little dry. But clip gain has grown to become one of my favourite creative production tools, and I’d like to talk about why this is.
My music production journey began with experimental electro‑acoustic sound work. Computers didn’t have the processing power they have today, and dynamics had to be controlled using more rudimentary tools and effects. Much of my work involved hours of painstaking volume automation, carefully shaping a finished piece by combining pieces of recorded audio.
Fast‑forward to the present day, and in the work I do with artists as a producer, engineer and mixer, something of this early sensitivity to volume levels has taken hold in my production techniques. The best example is probably my use of clip gain in vocal production.
Vocals are the heart of any song. They engage the listener emotionally with the song and hence the record. I like vocals front and present and prominent in the mix, and I like them sounding smooth and utterly beautiful.
As much as I’d like every vocal take I record with an artist to be perfect (and getting a good take and capturing a great performance is certainly the starting point), most vocals require some comping and some dynamic control to make them ready for repeated listening. And it is at this point that clip gain comes in. I’ll make no apologies for being a Pro Tools person through and through in my examples, but the techniques I’m going to describe are readily applicable in most DAWs.
The process begins with vocal comping: adjusting the clip gain of the takes I’m choosing for...