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GRiFF
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12th May 2004
Old 12th May 2004
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Compression Techniques

Well, its another easy to answer question.
I wanted to get back some info on how you guys use your compression, especially for bass, drums and percussion.

For example some schools of thought here are that 2-5 ms attack and 150 ms release, make all the difference to the sound of a snare drum, this seems a very UK attitude.
Then another school - the US, seems to prefer a slower attack upto 60ms, with shorter release times etc.

My question is what the differences bring out, why these difference of opinions exist. What element in the sound do you think these approaches focus on.

Can you tell me what settings you like to use (generally of course)
for the following examples...

Kick&Snare
Hi Hats
Cyms
Bass guitar
Hammond
Other percussion

Also, how can I best create 'pumping' and what areas is this useful/or not useful for.

Finally, do any of you guys use multiband compression (other than mastering) for anything in the mix?

What I don't want to stir up is an argument on the correct or wrong way to compress, just post your uses and explain how it effects the sound and why you like it.

I'm putting together an educational piece for training purposes and I want the low down of how commercial users of this treatment are employing it in 2004 - I guess if you could mention what genre you work with - Rock, Hip Hop, Pop, that would be SUPER DUPER!

Thanks in advance dudes and dudettes
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Oh man... just tweak'till it sounds the way u want!
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Wow, thanks for that jeronimo.
I'll pass that on.
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in a way he's right...grab the knobs and yank......forget rules......sheep follow the one in front, while the shepards look on.......don't forget to listen!

another way to think about compression is like an envelope......same as you'd find on a synth or sampler.........you can change the shape of a sound.......different comp's have different shaped curves, colors, characteristics....compress for a reason, not 'cause so-and-so does it.....etc etc
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Hey guys, I understand why your telling me this in this way, but I created my thread because I'm collecting research for a technology lesson I'm putting together.

Its not going to be enough to say just tweak a few knobs. I'm also not after the how does a compressor work routine.

I'm trying to collect a few examples of why some producers choose to use a quick attack on a drum or why some might favour a slower one (or any other instrument)

For example: A kick drum with its attack set at 10ms and release at 150ms, allows the click of the beater to go through un-processed, while the release adds a more substantial prescence.

I'm not expecting anyone to answer all the questions, just attatch anything that you think might be useful information to pass on and that work as good starting points.
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do a search.....it's all there.......there's some pretty advanced compression techniques discussed on this forum.....

for instance:
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Jazzius, bassmac big thanks for those
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Sorry GRiFF u didn't say u need tech info for classes...
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s'cool man, I'm sure you get enough repeat asks for the same information - will promise to search threads.
In the meantime just after some sweet pieces I can chuck at them - keeping them from the scent of fear (mine)

If I can say Dr Dre does such n such, that'll probably get me thru.

thumbsup
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I'm trawling through all the material I have on this subject, but one thing I am going to run out of time on will be the use of multi-band compression.

If anyone has a great way to demonstrate a creative use of multi-band other than in mastering, or knows of some links I can look at it'd be truly appreciated.

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Multi-brand compression is almost self explanatory....

It's freq dependant compression...so let's say you want more upper mid range in your piano but don't want to use phase inducing eq, then you can set up a multi-brand compressor with a freq range of 3-6 K and squash that freq, using make-up gain to bring it's level up without affecting the level of the rest of the freq's of the instrument.
Or you could do it the other way and compress all freq's except what you want to be louder...then you have controll of all other freq's level.

What if you wanted the bass of the mix as a whole to pump for some wacked reason. Then you'd set up a multi-band compressor with it's freq range being 50hz-250hz, set a fast attack around 2-10ms and a release being something of the tempo of the song, a ratio of 8:1 or so and adjust the threshold untill it pumps like you want. Then bring up some make-up gain untill the mix is level.

I can't say what Dr. Dre does....he's a producer not an engineer. Every engineer uses compression in a different fashion.

For me personally compression uses and techniques vary from song to song and artist to artist. To say I do this on kicks or I do that on bass would be like a painter saying he always uses blue for people's eyes and neon green for grass......
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I read in an article a while ago that Dre is a big fan of the dynamics on an SSL 4 (G-E?).......that he likes the limiters, and he like to lean on the SSL 2-buss comp......note this is one of the older SSL comps, not that new X-thing rubbish.....

.....he's also a fan of tape (another form of compression - one of the best IMO)....

...also,i spoke to an engineer who worked on some Dre sessions who said he uses a lot of board eq.....

....but IMO the key to Dre's sound is the sounds he chooses to start with and the arrangement.
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I like the multi band compressor Piano example and I agree totally with Dr.Dre (and Jazzius) on the merits of tape compression.
I use an old TEAC reel to real for some incredible bass tone. Its not even that great a machine.
I don't think a plug in like PSP Vintage Warmer does the same thing at all.
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I'm still trying to get the hang of compression. The key is to REALLY hear what's going on when you make changes to the controls. Most of my compression applies to modern/alternative rock.

Basically a lot of times I'm using it on kick,snare,toms to make them sound quicker/pointier/sharper/more up front. I usually set a medium attack where it's no so fast as to take away all dynamics, but fast enough to even things out. I usually set a fast release that's kinda in tempo with the song. Long enough to hold out for the hit but fast enough to recover for the next one.

On snare's I'm trying to just have them hit hard and then die out quickly. Be really quick and piercing. Try to get all hits to sound consistent. Same thing goes for kick. It's usually about bringing out the point/beater.

As I said earlier, being able to hear what effects each knob is doing is important. I adjust attack and release untill it gives me the desired sound. Sometimes hearing the compression part (threshold,ratio, and GR) is harder. Depends. For me that part seems a lot more subtle. And as I said, I TRY to listen to see what sounds best.

I always use a lot of compression on vocals. Just try to get all the words to be present and not get hidden in the mix. Sometimes, you can only do so much and will probably need to use volume rides as well. On a strumming acoustic guitar, I'll use compression to even out the strokes/dynamics.

In my last mix I used one of Charle's new techniques. I placed Waves C4 Multi-Band compressor in my vox chain. Helps to de-ess a little bit (I still used another de-esser in the chain). Kinda of like prepping for another compressor. That's how I used it.
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13th May 2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by jeronimo
Oh man... just tweak'till it sounds the way u want!
You are a moron. That wasn't his question. Your answer could be the answer to half the questions on this board. Geez, take yer thumb out your a**.
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14th May 2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by hi-res
You are a moron. That wasn't his question. Your answer could be the answer to half the questions on this board. Geez, take yer thumb out your a**.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

nice to have you here on these boards hi-res.
eloquence and class is always awe inspiring.
i wonder what your 4th post here will be.
s
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Quote:
Originally posted by hi-res
You are a moron. That wasn't his question. Your answer could be the answer to half the questions on this board. Geez, take yer thumb out your a**.
This dude have some issues... a**hole
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Quote:
Originally posted by hi-res
You are a moron. That wasn't his question. Your answer could be the answer to half the questions on this board. Geez, take yer thumb out your a**.
An attitude like that won't get you anywhere in this bussiness....good luck.

That's actually a fine answer to the original question and really is what everyone should be doing.

But the originator was looking for something more specific...which is great and people like you shouldn't be answering questions like this because your immaturity is ovbious as is your inexperience in handling adult situations...


Merry Christmas.
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14th May 2004
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Ok, Ok guys - hi res was just sticking up for me a bit, I think he felt how I did about jeronimos initial response to a post that I felt he probably hadn't read.

hi res is not an asshole and sorry djui5 that was not a decent answer to my original question, you need to do what jeronimo should have done - read my original post!

Meanwhile hi res, jeronimo already apologised for mis-understanding the question, if you had of read the consequent posts, you would have realised this.

Moral of this story, READ the POSTS!
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maybe you guys share some more ideas bout compression

what i like a lot about the compressor is that you can get the " same " result ( not soundwise ) doing different things :

you can reach a certain amount of gain reduction using :

a) a low treshhold and a high compression rate
( f.ex treshhold - 5db compression 10:1 )
b) a high treshhold and a low compression rate
(f.ex treshhold -20db and compression 2:1 )

of course you can add attack & release as well to those examples . you have 4 knobs to tweak to get what you want ( basic setup ) . attack & release depend a lot of the material & the song or music . so thats kinda hard to describe cause theres not a " general rule " . it simply changes from tune 2 tune .

to my ears example a)s bringing out more tone out of f.ex a drum sound . it sounds like you get more " snap " out of the particular drum instruments which is really nice on snare , toms & bd . b)s making it sound more " fat " .

just throwing in some basic thoughts so maybe we can discuss them

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Quote:
Originally posted by GRiFF
hi res is not an asshole and sorry djui5 that was not a decent answer to my original question, you need to do what jeronimo should have done - read my original post!
Your right and I was out of line with my reply.

What I need to do is not be replying to posts after nights of heavy drinking.....


my appoligies.
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I recomend not answering after a long day of work either
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15th May 2004
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I got to agree with Jeronimo... tweaking its the only way to go. Its a good question from Griff, but what is the man asking for... a long list of compression settings or something? For what compressor? For what application? Face it, it comes down to what sounds good on the gear you have, for the application you have. If you're doing a snare, listen for the snares natural attact and use the compressor to exentuate that. Im sure that would be different for a million different snares and a million different compressors. I really dont think it is possible to say 'bla bla' ratio and 'bal bla' attack will work for 'bla bla'. At least that is what i was taught (by guys who know). Maybe 4:1 and 2m/s might be a fair starting point, but I dont think I would call it the diffinitive answer. Especially if I were teaching it in a class...

So for those who missed it the first time... just tweak that shit! Im no compression guru, but this much is clear to me.
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15th May 2004
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To all,

Please excuse the recent outcropping of asterisks, I was just trying to freshen things up a bit around here. I hope no one takes offense. I tried to not affect the content of the posts, just tone down the virility.

Thanks.
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As far as the "tweak till you like it" and not having experience.. I agree no one can tell you how to use a compressor exactly, but good standard starting points could be given that could accelerate your learning curve. And probably this was the original intention of this thread.
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About GRiFF's original questions, I have to say that after reading his post I was looking forward to reading + participating in a very informative thread (as I'm sure many of you were). bassmac + jazzius II: thank you very much for the excellent links. Sadly though, the focus turned all too quickly to someone's rectumus-potamus status. (Not really interested in this non-part of the topic.)

Why don't we turn back to the topic of the thread. The question that piqued my interest most was hearing an interesting discussion between engineers from the UK+Europe, the Americas, and the Pacific regarding whether anyone feels there are different approaches to the way compression is used in these regions and comparing them. The difference in the sound of records made in the UK + US has always existed. I was hoping some of the more worldly engineers among us might chime in to discuss it.

I think it's an extremely valid + interesting question, and I think GRiFF has stated it very well. If any of you would care to post on the question of regional compression techniques + why you think they exist, as well as the history behind how you believe they evolved, I think your posts would be extremely educational to many of us.

As a reminder, GRiFF's question about this was:

"My question is what the differences bring out, why these difference of opinions exist. What element in the sound do you think these approaches focus on."

With all the international engineers on this forum this topic could + should really stir up an interesting discussion.

Thanks.
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Quote:
Originally posted by tee boy
I really dont think it is possible to say 'bla bla' ratio and 'bal bla' attack will work for 'bla bla'. At least that is what i was taught (by guys who know).
tee boy,

The original question began with the assumption that different engineers approach the same problem, but come up with different solutions. And that these solutions seem to center themselves on different regions of the world. As I said in my previous post, this is an extremely interesting question + there's no better place to discuss it than here @ gearslutz.

Quote:
Originally posted by tee boy
So for those who missed it the first time... just tweak that shit!
In case there is any doubt on this topic, experienced engineers do not insert a compressor and then begin to randomly rotate the knobs until they happen upon a sound they like. When I place a compressor on an instrument or vocal I have starting point settings I begin with, clearly they don't yield the sound I want at first, but when I begin compressing I always have an idea of where I want to go + how I want to get there.

I'm sure many of you do as well. I'd love it if you would please share your starting points + why you prefer them.

Thanks.
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