The best solution to avoid clipping is to ensure that your signal levels are much over the limit as you operate.
Gain staging is a technique for getting adequate headroom throughout your operation.
But, at its most basic level, all you need to do is understand your audio metrics and keep track of them as you go.
If you already know how they work, you can use a rule of thumb: aim for your signals’ peaks to be around -9 dBFS and their bodies to be around -18 dBFS.
As you record with your interface, apply plugins, and mix tracks in your DAW, keep this in mind. If you do it correctly, you won’t have to significantly cut your faders at the end of your mix to get a file that doesn’t clip.
While we’re on the subject, the most critical area to avoid clipping is on export after you’ve captured all of your audio in your DAW.
The reason for this is due to the way your DAW’s mixer handles the math involved in combining your signals.
Even if you didn’t hear clipping in the project, clipping could appear once the file exits your DAW.
As a result, addressing the risk of clipping should be at the top of your pre-mastering to-do list.
Clipping can be handled by adjusting the master fader, lower than the amount of individual track faders, or using plugins to fix gain issues as you prepare your audio for mastering.
If you stick to the -9 dBFS/-18 dBFS rule, you’ll have plenty of headroom leftover for mastering.
Once you understand why clipping is a problem, it’s a simple problem to solve.
But that doesn’t rule out the possibility of it causing chaos in your mix. A distorted, clipped mix is a recipe for terrible mastering sound.
Fortunately, the information in this article will ensure that you never make that mistake again.
Return to your DAW and continue creating now that you’ve mastered the basics.