You see it all over the place.

Heck, I’ve done it in a few videos.

The idea is that if you want the lead vocal to stand out in the mix, if you want to be able to hear every word the vocalist sings, you need to “ride the fader.”

In other words, you need to write volume automation on the track.

And you especially need to do this cute, artsy little “push” at the end of vocal phrases, so we can hear every single sound that proceeds from the mouth of the singer.

But the reality is it’s just not all that necessary.

Honestly, the times I’ve “ridden the fader,” I end up spending the next 20 minutes “fixing” what I did. And sometimes I scrap the whole automation ride entirely.

Here’s what I’ve been doing lately, and it’s working nicely.

Two words: Clip Gain.

Your DAW may call it something different, but I’m talking about the ability to chop up the vocal track into sections and adjust the volume of JUST that section. So if the singer sings, “Man I love a good fader riiiiiiiiiiide,” but you can’t really hear the words “a good,” you can chop those two words into their own region, then adjust the volume up to match the rest of the phrase.

It’s simple, effective, and it gives you a good, consistent vocal volume BEFORE you start reaching for your favorite compressor or limiter.

Try it on your next mix. Sure beats riding the fader.

What’s that? You don’t have a mix to practice on?

I’ve got you covered. Join Dueling Mixes here:

…and you can start your mix tonight.

Joe Gilder
Home Studio Corner

P.S. If you’re still not quite sure what I’m talking about when I say “clip gain,” check out this video I made:

2 Responses to “A Case Against Riding the Fader”

  1. dwhalen8

    I don’t ride the fader. I write a few adjustments, usually blocked in with phrases or verse/chorus/bridge scheme. Remember back in the 80’s and early 90’s when the vocal would sometimes blend into the music and didn’t necessarily pop all the time? I like that sound and miss it. Even on Wasting Light by the Foo Fighters, the vocals aren’t all crystal clear. I prefer that sound.

  2. Noah

    Awesome! I’ve done this technique since I started. In the back of my mind, I always wondered if it was “wrong” because everyone else seems to do automation. Thank you for removing my doubt, Joe!


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