Getting the Right Signal Gain

Signal gain has a lot to do with achieving a nice, balanced overall mix. When micing instruments or recording direct signals from guitars or keyboards, it’s very important to capture the right amount of the signal.
This is paramount when recording on analog systems, but a bit easier with digital.  If there is too much gain on each track, when they are “summed” in the main mix it will be over saturated. All those dB’s add up!
The only way to make sure your signal gain is correct is to use the visual meters.  Here are a few examples of too much gain:

When the signal is too “hot,” you will see the visual waveform extend to the edges of the track view.  This is not good.
You can reduce this signal by using the “Gain” feature in AudioSuite. Or better yet, re-record the take and lower the gain on the input signal.
When you have the right amount of gain on the input signal, you should see the meter bouncing around 50-75%. Once the track is recorded, you should see the waveform filling the track view, but not reaching the top or bottom of the track.  See the examples below for a the correct signal gain.

Notice the “headroom” above and below the waveform.  This will be very important once you get to the mixdown phase. (future post)
I’d love to hear what you think about this and any experiences dealing with signal gain.