Historically, DAWs relied upon using faders, often controlled in the form of volume fade automation, to make volume adjustments to a track over time. Clip gain or region gain (the term varies depending on your choice of DAW) can be used to get a visual representation on your volume adjustments, speeding up the pace of your editing workflow. Even better, it can be used to adjust levels before plugin input, allowing you to do things like attenuate pops that would otherwise create a pumping effect in a compressor.
Region gain isn’t the solution for mixing all audio, but it’s a great tool to have in your arsenal and allows for excellent coarse editing. Use the method to roughly adjust levels when someone laughs or whispers, then rely upon gain automation tools like compressors to the rest of the work. We’ll use Logic Pro X for this demonstration, but the same concept applies to any DAW that allows users to edit the gain of an individual clip or region. (Here’s a link to a demo for adjusting clip gain in Pro Tools).
To begin, start a new session on Logic Pro X, and load an audio file onto a track. Press “I” to view the inspector window.
Next, highlight the region by clicking it. In the “gain” row of the inspector window, click and drag the mouse to increase or decrease the gain. You’ll see the waveform increase and decrease in size as a result of your gain adjustments.
Next, make a series of cuts to the region by using the scissors tool, or by moving the playhead cursor over the region and pressing Cmd + T.
Click the first region and adjust its gain. Use the right arrow to select the adjacent region, or simply click the next region with your mouse. Adjust the gain for each region one by one. Until the waveforms are roughly even in height.
Lastly, use the fader tool to smooth out transitions between regions where the gain was adjusted. This is will help keep the gain changes from abruptly jumping up and down in loudness.
Bonus: Use the mute region tool to eliminate silences between spoken words. Smooth transitions from silences by fading in and out of regions This isn’t appropriate for all scenarios but comes in handy when recording in multiple-mic setups. If there’s any obvious ongoing background noise such as a computer fan or a ticking clock, the effect will be distracting.
As you can see, it’s quite easy to make clear, visual volume adjustments and smooth out the volume of dynamic recordings. The key is to make coarse volume adjustments and rely on compressors to do the rest of the light work. Region gain or clip gain offers a great deal of flexibility and convenience for making gain adjustments to when editing and mixing. Incorporate this into your arsenal of tricks to start editing like a pro.