Here is a tip for the digital age:
Keep your individual track recording levels below -8db and keep your global mix levels below -3db!

minus8db

This hasn’t always be the case.
In the analog days, we were taught to record tracks as close to 0db as possible… and above! This was to limit the tape noise. The loader signal hid the noise. It is the famous “signal to noise” ratio. “Driving” your analog gear actually created a nice warm distortion very desirable.

But this no longer applies.
Digital recording is exempt of tape noise.
And worse: at 0db, it clips horribly.

In these circumstance, keeping a good amount of “headroom”, i.e. keeping a margin of gain between the loudest part of your track and 0db, is virtuous:

  • it won’t reduce the quality of your recording, especially when recording at 24bits.
  • it will ease your mixing: summing multiple tracks will not cause clipping.
  • it will also give your master engineer room to play, making for a potentially more dynamic master (dynamics of a song = difference between quietest and loudest moment of the song)

Enjoy!