How do you use Gain?

Brad has blessed us with so many wonderful improvements over the past year, and I must admit, it is quite a challenge to keep up in my feeble little world. I am off stage for a short period of time, and am transitioning to 35XX on another computer. While trying to resolve a problem with gain, I researched through past posts and found a treasure trove of information. But, so much has changed since 90% of those posts were written, I found myself wondering what the resident Guru’s are doing now in the latest 32XX and 35XX.

From start to finish, how is your signal being controlled gain-wise. Are Gain racks still being used? Pedals being used on curves? Pre-amps? Gain bindings? Compression? Anything that makes your live performance volume work . Thanks for any input. Hopefully this will be a good source for others to learn.




Well I’m having to go through all my songs and lower everything- in the process of trying to level my patches to each other they’ve crept up so hot that some are red-lining the main output. It would be cool to have a macro that would lower every single output in a setlist by some specified amount, like say 3dB. (There isn’t anything like that is there? There’s so many crazy features in Cantabile I haven’t discovered even yet!)

Other than that I might have dynamic processing on specific instruments for whatever reason but that’s it. I count on the built-in limiter at the main out to keep outputs from going out of control generally. I also have a little Korg nanoKontrol I plan to incorporate for fader and some transport control functions, just haven’t had time to set it up yet.

Hi Fred

I have been having the same problem. On many of my wurly’s and rhodes, I barely touch the keys and the sound explodes with distortion. I think the problem began when I added my pedal. I put a curve on my pedal to reduce the sensitivity, but it didn’t help that much. I thought about limiting it, but like you, I really haven’t discovered many of C3’s newest features yet.

Dear Corky,

I think the most important thing to have is a reference-sound which you do not touch at any time regarding gain / volume. On my rig it’s the piano-sound. It is at 0db at anytime and it is far away from clipping. I made the experience, that the outputs of an interface (Babyface here) is so hot that the engineers want me to lower it anyways. So you don’t loose anything of the dynamic range.

So if I start creating a new song the first thing I do is adding my reference sound and adjust the volumes of the other sounds in relation to the piano-sound.

Another trick that really helps is adding a button, that sets mainvolume -20db. With that trick you can hear very easily which sounds are way too loud. I think this has to do with the natural compression of the ear. If you have an overall loud-volume your ear will compress the sounds and it’s hard to tell which sounds are way to loud. So turn down the volume significant and play your song. If you still here an instrument very well you know: It’s too loud and will blow your ears on stage.

I don’t use compression as VST too much. But on most of my natural sounds (especially strings) I limit the dynamic range of the velocity-input. To be honest: As keyboarder you might have the widest dynamic range on stage and that is a problem. I learned, that I have to limit myself regarding dynamic when playing in a band. And I really don’t need a range of 0-127 on a strings-sound… especially if it’s just a pad.

And of course it’s very useful to have a song-volume-rack where all other instrument racks are routed into audio-wise. This allows you to easily adjust the volume of the whole song with one slider.

I hope that helps! :wink:


Great tips! I usually have compression on my highly percussive organ sounds, maybe a bit on certain pianos and electric pianos for effect. Most other sounds in the keyboard world don’t really benefit from it, you are correct.

1 Like

What I am doing in all my songs: I have a “Master Rack” with two master faders in it (one for guitar, one for keys). This rack is the final gain control - and I’ve set it to NOT be controlled by the containing song, so it doesn’t get initialized when songs change. To lower the level of all keyboard sounds in a set, I simply pull the master fader (via a midi controller) - all keys sounds immediately go down across all songs.

Before this “final level”, I have five levels of gain control:

  1. first, within the plugins, I try to set the levels to a common loudness when designing the patch
  2. where this is not possible (sample set too soft, too much filtering), I use the plugin gain to boost when necessary
  3. Every instrument rack has a final fader plugin that is controlled by sending CC7 to the rack. I use this for manual volume control via expression pedal or modwheel or whatever. This fader gets initialized on state change so I’m sure that it’s initially on 0dB
  4. within songs, I use the gain slider for every rack to define the “static mix”: balance the individual sounds against each other
  5. Within each song, I have separate “volume racks” for main keys, solo keys, extra sounds. These are bound to a fader on my keyboard, so it’s easy to simply lower the solo sound, even though it may be composed of two or three individual racks. Also, the effects racks for main, solo, extra feed into these volume racks, so that I lower/boost both the sound AND the effect.

Finally, all these volume racks feed into my master rack as explained above. This one contains a separate master EQ, compressor and volume control for guitar and keyboard sounds.

So, on my master keyboard, there are dedicated faders in every song for:

  • main keys volume
  • solo volume
  • extra volume
  • keys master
  • guitar master

Beyond this, I usually have faders assigned to

  • main reverb
  • solo reverb
  • solo delay

Others are then assigned specific to songs (e.g. string layer volume)




And yes, @FantomXR’s suggestion is essential: balancing all your sounds against a fixed reference is key to avoid nasty surprises! I also use my main piano as a reference; my master rack contains loudness meters (not peak!) for a first rough balance, but in the end it’s still tuning by ear. I usually use a standard backing track to do this; a rhodes will need to be objectively louder to be heard against a mix than a piano due to its lack of overtones, so some manual adjustment will be necessary.

I usually set the levels of all my basic sounds in my racks like this (unless I’m too lazy, which I usually regret later…), then putting them together in a song is pretty easy.




Cool, that’s basically the approach I plan to use with my NanoKONTROL.

Thanks for the ideas everyone !! :grinning:

I use some of the above ideas already, and granted, my setup is not as amazing as the ones described. I wasn’t sure if any of the upgrades have affected the current thought of gain usage. I like the idea of having a reference. I also was not sure exactly where many are controlling gain, such as; within the VST itself, the rack, the output, or even the input. I usually control gain at the output level with a controller. I keep everything else at unity (0db) and maybe at -6db within the VST itself. I think the problem I have been having the past few months is trying to keep up with bandmates as the volume drowns my rig out. Understand, I am speaking of uncontrolled, non-FOH. floor monitors situations. Controlled gigs are not a problem, but the free -for-all situations in a couple of the bands I perform with makes me think I need a PA system just for my rig output. My audio interface and amplifier are usually at 3/4 volume, and, as I try to keep up with gain in C3, distortion reigns. Other than not being with these bands, or setting up a huge PA, I really don’t know what else to do except experiment with ways of keeping a clean sound in such an environment. Maybe a Marshall stack…hmmmmm.

Thanks for the replies


Hey Corky,

Are you using any limiting or compression? it might squeeze more volume out out of the gain stages of C3 before clipping. I use the DMG Track Limiter and it allows much greater levels without clipping. I don’t use the built in one anymore because I like what i’m getting with this. Otherwise the best solution is always more raw monitor power so you don’t have to clip your amps. On a side story I can say that I get what you mean about loud stage situations involving guitarists, I turned that 180 in my old band to where I could bury the loud Marshall player we had with an ELP sort of sonic meltdown way by way of extensive sound reinforcement for my keys rig. My bold display of poorly played British Prog-rock riffs at ‘11’ curbed the guitar volume problem by bringing the issue into focus by being waaaay too loud on the keys, soon afterward he turned down (the next song lol) but like all stories that have many turns he eventually joined a 3 piece ZZ Top style group with another Marshall player just as loud so no lasting lesson learned except don’t dare Dave to out volume you because if you have 250 Watts he has 1500! Nowadays I am happy to play at greatly reduced (but still stout) levels. :smirk:



I was thinking about using both. Are you using it in a separate rack after VST rack, or within the VST rack? I think I have the DMG.

Edit: Yes. I do have DMG

I use it inside the B5 Rack following the plug to level it out some (low notes to high notes) and I use it on the Main Buss Output Rack I created that has all the plugins and reverb uses sent to it and it becomes the final out. I don’t use the limiter inside the other racks because I like the way they are sounding level wise and they have plenty of gain. I lower the threshold on the limiter to start squeezing the whole mix and then re balance the separate racks and plugs a little and then squeeze some more and then adjust the makeup gain and i can drive hard to unity gain but avoid the clips. The new TrackComp from DMG is also on my list to employ as a possible replacement for the limiter on the B5 rack using it as a opto type leveler but that’s about all I might change at this point.


Thanks Dave. I am excited to try this. I am still setting up 35XX but will go back to my main laptop and try this. I have the DMG track range so I have the track comp as well. Thanks for the info. Will get back to you and let you know how it works.

Many Regards



The 1000 watts I am pushing is just not enough. My poor ears!!

Feature request: Gain controls that go up to 11…


We best not dare @brad lol

1 Like

Yessssss !!! But why limit it there? 13 is a must!

Brad…+1 on feature request

1 Like

Feature request: Facility to transform “poorly played British Prog-rock riffs” (@dave_dore) into superbly played British Prog-rock riffs. That would save a bunch of practice time.


**@dave_dore **

The DMG limiter worked very well. But, the TrackComp did much better. I ran a Scarbee Wurly thru both and got more volume out of the TrackComp without push to distortion. It is time to play my bold display of poorly played British Prog-rock riffs at maximum clean gain through my 1000 watt amp and impress my mates with my amazing +11 volume, even tho they do not play Prog-Rock.

Look away Rick Wakeman…look away

1 Like

Let me in on your settings with track comp if you will ! and I will look away …

1 Like