Strategy for adjusting part volume song-to-song

So this is probably overthinking a simple question, but what’s the most common strategy for changing an instrument’s volume from song to song? For example, I have all instruments defined as linked racks. On one track the piano’s more forward in the mix, but in the next song I want it to be background so the volume should be lower. Manually adjust with faders? Bind the song to different plugin gain levels? Create different states of the same instrument for background vs. lead?


I typically treat Cantabile like I would a regular mixer. I try to set up my linked racks where at 0dB on the top level rack fader they have the same perceptible loudness. Then on a song to song basis I adjust the rack faders, giving the individual songs control over the mix and visual feedback of the relative mix.

Yep, all I do is open my songs, set the volumes where I like for each rack/instrument, save it- done. Well really, I do it as I create each song but there are invariably adjustments as I hear them in context.

If you use states to change volumes inter-song, keep in mind that CTRL-U will save the state after you’ve set the volume to the desired level. I know it does this anyway when I change or add a different state with my settings for that, but in case I quit without changing states this ensures the change got saved. (A safety habit, I guess!)


Nope, simply use the rack gain sliders to create your song-specific static mix. Use state behaviors (as @terrybritton illustrated) to vary between song parts (e.g. push the piano +4dB for the solo, then take it back again afterwards). Since the rack gain fader is part of the song, not the rack, this level-setting does not affect the rack, so no need to adapt anything within the rack.

It is super-useful to calibrate all your rack presets to a normalized volume level, so that any rack you insert into your song is at about the same perceived loudness when you load it, so you have a common basis to start from. Note: normalizing measured loudness is only part of the process; depending on the overtone structure, you’ll have to adjust your sounds’ volume after setting rough levels using a VU or LUFS meter.

I generally calibrate my sounds first with a VU meter and then use a standardized backing track to finalize levels. A Rhodes piano sound needs more volume to cut through the mix than an acoustic grand piano - its sound has lower overtone levels, so it needs to be louder to be heard.




Just an FYI thing … have you seen this VU meter?

I use it to “gain stage” my audio tracks in my DAW.


Torsten, you mentioned Free G in some Threads.
What are the benefits of Free G in this case?

If i like to adjust the general Volume of any instruments from, song to song, couldnt i use the
“Output Ports” Fader.

I forgot to mention that (for 22 more hours) they have it listed for 50% off.

If you simply want to adjust the overall volume of all plugins within a song, and if your songs are built simply without any adjustment layers in between different instrument groups, you can use “Output Ports” to raise or lower the volume of everything.

My songs are usually a bit more complicated: see here; this is a typical song in my setups:

  • the top five slots are just my way to organize input routing
  • then there are four slots to create the sound I play on my main keyboard, in this case a piano sound with a hammond layer underneath, plus some reverb for this layer, overall controlled by the “_Main Volume” rack
  • next, we have the hammond solo sound, with a utility that converts pitch bend to modulation, so I can use my pitch wheel as a leslie switch, then the organ sound plus separate delay and reverb. All this controlled by a separate volume rack
  • finally, my master rack contains some compression and another layer of volume control - this time NOT controlled by the song, so I can raise or lower volume levels persistently across songs. After this, there is just a separate rack to switch presets on my VoiceLive

If I simply used the Output Ports fader to control volumes, this would just adjust EVERYTHING, but, like you are doing in the screen shot you shared, I first use the rack output gain faders to create a mix between the used racks - set the piano a bit louder or give the solo organ some more kick.

I have FreeG in all of my racks as a final volume control (usually renamed to “Volume”)

Its gain parameter is bound to CC7 in the rack bindings, so by sending CC7 to this rack, I can dynamically control the specific rack volume (fade in, fade out), as opposed to the “static” mix I create by using the rack output gain. So I set the target level of the rack using output gain, but I may use the modwheel or expression pedal to dynamically adjust the volume of the hammond layer underneath the piano from 0 to the pre-set level.

Also, there is a FreeG in each of the volume setting stages (_Main Volume, _Solo Volume and Master Rack), again bound to CC7. So, by routing faders or other controllers to each of these racks, I can dynamically control levels at instrument, layer and total song level during the performance.

Why do I use FreeG instead of simply automating the “Output Ports” slider of the rack via CC7? I simply like the response curve of FreeG - it hits 0dB at a CC value of 64 and provides a boost of up to +18 dB from 64 to 127, which just feels good to me. Plus, it provides a first layer of VU metering at the rack level when I am tuning my volumes.

But I could as well use the Output Ports slider within the rack to create my dynamic volume control; this is just how I started building my racks, and it works nicely, so I haven’t seen the need to change my ways…




Hmm, hadn’t seen that one before - but I’d be suspicious of any automatic gain adjustment. Wouldn’t want anybody to fiddle with my levels during a performance.

I use two metering plugins in my master rack: Klanghelm VUMT and LUFS Meter by Klangfreund. Between these two, I can usually find a decent calibration.



I understand that using this in my DAW is a static situation, but I tossed it into the conversation because it works very well and the price is certainly right. I wasn’t aware of its existence until saw it being used during a YouTube mixing seminar on “Gain Staging”.


Hi Douglass,

I use it, but I turn off the automatic gain control when using it live in C3. It uses look ahead and that’s not a good live thing. It works just fine as a regular meter though. I also use Torsten’s choice of the Klanghelm VUMT, because I am used to the feel of the old VU meters! An excellent piece of kit for that, but both are very accurate.


after reading your description 5 times, slowly i get a clue whats going on in your setup :grinning:.
I think 10 more readings and i’ll get it. Maybe I’m drawing a data flowchart?

But what you say about 0dB at 64 sounds very nice and makes sense fore me.
not to mention the VU-meter.

i think i start with the Free G on Song-Level and see where i’m sailing to.

One more question: You write that the rack-gain is bound to CC7 and the Free G too.
This means that if you send CC7 both of them are reacting?!

And by the way. How do you configure your Volume Pedal? also CC7 or CC11 or?

No, I’m binding CC7 to the “1: Gain” parameter of FreeG, so it controls the actual fader in the plugin.

And by the way. How do you configure your Volume Pedal? also CC7 or CC11 or?

My volume pedal from my master keyboard originally sends CC11. For my songs, I route it to whatever rack needs foot control, and I use a Controller Map filter in the route to convert it to what is actually needed.

  • for an organ plugin, I like it to remain CC11, so it controls the actual organ pedal. This way, I can control the volume before the Leslie, so this controls the amount of overdrive I get. If I used the volume plugin after the organ, overdrive would be fixed.
  • for most other racks, I map CC11 to CC7, with the values narrowed to 0…64, so that I can control the level from -oo to 0dB. Sometimes I go 0…74, so I can have a bit of a solo boost.



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Wow-- thanks, all-- so much to process here. I haven’t done the kind of calibrating Torsten describes up in #5, but I can see how important and relevant that is.

EDIT TO ADD: This is probably a huge question, but any advice on preparing/using that kind of normalized backing track to balance levels? Unfortunately (in this case), I’m using a combo of VST instruments through Cantabile and raw audio from my keyboard for my main piano sound, so I’ll need to use a post-mixer meter for leveling.

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What audio interface are you using, and does it support “direct monitoring”?

I’m using a Focusrite iTrack Solo for the PC out. It does have direct monitoring, although I’m mixing the 2 keyboards and PC signal down into a Behringer X-Air mixer controlled off the same computer. I’m thinking that I can balance pretty easily using the monitoring built in to the X-Air software.

If you plug the keyboard into the line level inputs in the iTrack and enable direct monitoring you can merge the software synths and the hardware keyboard into a single pair of inputs on the X-air. This will simplify mixing AND give you the ability to view your software synths and keyboard together in a loudness monitoring vst.