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The Compression Game
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Tausif
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#1
22nd June 2011
Old 22nd June 2011
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The Compression Game

So I've been compressing my drums a lot lately, mainly to get that loudness you hear from mainstream to track, and of course to make it bump

However, I'm starting to second guess myself and think I might be overdoing it

My beats sound loud as hell, but when I play it in my friends car, it sounds way shitty, and the bass is just crazy. However, when he plays shit off the radio he can play it louder than my beats without the bass killing the rest of the song.

Right now I'm using the FabFilter Mastering Bundle. I EQ, compress then limit.

So heres a little clip of just a drumbeat dry then with compression.
http://soundcloud.com/djtausif/compression-am-i-doing-it

You guys wanna lemme know what I'm doing wrong? Maybe I am compressing the track to much, or maybe I'm just not doing it correctly?
#2
22nd June 2011
Old 22nd June 2011
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J CraQ is offline
Hey Tausif,

There is no right or wrong way to do things... Sounds to me like you need a better monitoring environment or you need to learn yours a little better.

If there was too much bass and you heard it in your friends car it's because there was too much. Learn a little about acoustic spaces and proper monitoring and youll be straight! It's ok to compress the shit out of stuff if it sounds good and ends up at the right level.

Check out Ethan Winer he's got all the acoustics info.

Later
#3
22nd June 2011
Old 22nd June 2011
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compression isn't really a cause of having too much bass. of course when you compress something, it can shift the frequency balance, but that isn't the problem, because a balanced EQ is all relative; if compressing your bassdrum brings up the bass of your track to disproportionate levels, that needs to be rectified by proper mixing techniques.

as said above, your monitoring environment is askew. you're likely not even really hearing the low end in your mixes because of your monitors/room, so you're mixing your bass levels way too loud to compensate for what you aren't hearing, even though it's there.. and so when you stick it in a car system with a sub and actually hear the bass that's there, it's going to be overpowering.

i don't know what your monitoring/room situation is, but i can guarantee you that if you're listening on small nearfields, particularly without room treatment and your mixes (in that room) sound like what you'd imagine a car system w/ a sub would sound like, then you have way, way too much bass. you'd have to expect that same mix, when played back on a full-range system with a sub will be all bass.

i can just look at the waveform of your track above and it's easy to tell that your bassdrum is disproportionately louder than your snare, and therefore your EQ balance is going to be off.
#4
22nd June 2011
Old 22nd June 2011
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Hm. Ok, I want to help.
Compression has many uses, and your not wrong to think, "Cool, I compressed my drum part and now it's louder, so that's better."
At it's core though, compression is meant to tame a track/ performance with many (or few) peaks and valleys of dynamics. So look at your soundcloud wave form closely. The original track is very leveled off at the peaks. To my eyes (and ears) there is no difference between the uncompd and compd drums except volume. Therefore, why don't you just turn it up and not send your sound through another layer of processing.
I know that's just that one little example and you are likely compressing or limiting your mixes also, to make them loud and hoping it sounds more cohesive. That's where JCraq is right and you need to be hearing your bass, mid, and high response a little better in the room. or just trial and error with different listening environments until you get a feel for what translates the best.

So(if this isn't too boring) the other cool use of compression is when it adds some distortion. I'm sure there are plugs that do it well, but if you want an easy realworld experiment. Send a stereo track to a cassette four track and crank it then re-record that. That's compression with color (cheap, probablycrappy and not usable but effective).

I say until you have found a compressor or setting that does what you want it to do,leave compression for your vocal duties (lots of dynamics there) real bass and guitar and synths. If your in a program like Reason and just playing everything at max midi level, look elsewhere for the radio ready vibe (like awesome samples, doubling kicks and snares, eq, etc.)

I hope that helped, and anyone else please feel free to fill in the many blanks I left or correct me if i'm wrong.
Tausif
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#5
22nd June 2011
Old 22nd June 2011
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ty everyone all great feedback

and I guess u guys were kinda on the money, cause I did kinda quickly do this with my cheap headphones, I usually do have monitors, but they are cheap Edirol MA 15D

The thing is Im going back to college, and the dood who lives on top of me is a total arse and stomps when ever I play really loudly. So I was thinking about getting the Stanton Pro2000 Headphones cause thats what Laidback Luke uses when he mixes and masters...and its a cheap alternative

Also my room at uni is covered with carpet instead of wall paper..wandering is that a good thing of a bad thing?
#6
22nd June 2011
Old 22nd June 2011
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Well most mastering studios have wood floors and the have several sound diffusers throughout the room. All in all, i think carpet is bad. Its a sound deadener, so it kills the a lot of the sound by absorbing it. Being in a dorm..makes sense really, that way you can't hear your neighbors as well.

Id stick with the headphones
pan
#7
22nd June 2011
Old 22nd June 2011
  #7
pan
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Compress the bass, not the drums!
#8
22nd June 2011
Old 22nd June 2011
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i'd look into the audio technica ath-m50s or even the krk 6400's. you can find both for 100$ and they have a relatively flat frequency response. even with those, you really have to learn to use them properly, which means learning what a balanced mix actually sounds like on them. one problem with headphones is it can be really easy to crank bass levels because it won't necessarily sound unbalanced with excess bass even if it is.

probably the best thing you could possibly do is download voxengo's free SPAN plugin, and spend enough time to learn it thoroughly. if you can understand all of its settings and how to properly use it, it can be an invaluable tool for your situation and you can use it as a reference to check if your levels are balanced or way off.
Tausif
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#9
23rd June 2011
Old 23rd June 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atma View Post
i'd look into the audio technica ath-m50s or even the krk 6400's. you can find both for 100$ and they have a relatively flat frequency response. even with those, you really have to learn to use them properly, which means learning what a balanced mix actually sounds like on them. one problem with headphones is it can be really easy to crank bass levels because it won't necessarily sound unbalanced with excess bass even if it is.

probably the best thing you could possibly do is download voxengo's free SPAN plugin, and spend enough time to learn it thoroughly. if you can understand all of its settings and how to properly use it, it can be an invaluable tool for your situation and you can use it as a reference to check if your levels are balanced or way off.
Those KRK headphones look nice, I have the extra $$ so I might even get the 8400.

I looked into the SPAN Plugin and it looks similar to the spectrum plug-in on Ableton. I think O_O not sure. Im not gonna lie, I have no idea what it does...or how I would use it.

I'm guessing it shows the visual read out of the frequencies and I would EQ visually along with the headphones??

Also should I re-eq after I compress and limit?

again thanks for all the help
#10
23rd June 2011
Old 23rd June 2011
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you shouldn't eq after you limit. the limiter should generally be the last plug on your master bus, unless you're using a dedicated clipping plug.

you could eq post-compression, but i personally wouldn't. i'd run the EQ before the compressor and have them work in tandem to get whatever result i'm after. eq'ing post-compressor can tend to somewhat undo the compression effect, depending on what exactly you're doing..

but part of the issue is just basic mixing levels. i'd have all your individual sounds routed to their own fader in your mixer so you can easily just bring the snare drum up in volume, instead of immediately thinking you should EQ something. a good balance depends on EQ but also a great deal on how you actually mix things, and what their relative levels are compared to one another. for example, if you simply brought up the level of your snare drum high enough in your snippet above, then there wouldn't be the same excess bass issue, because frequency levels are all relative—if the snare were loud enough, it would give you a proportional amount of treble vs. the amount of bass.

you also should be doing all your processing in real-time.. in other words, every channel should have an fx chain with your EQs, compressors and everything else that you can mix into and work with while you mix, rather than doing that processing offline.
#11
23rd June 2011
Old 23rd June 2011
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Yeah, Span is a spectrum analyzer, it just happens to be one of the best ones available. you wouldn't really be visually EQing anything, it's more there to give you feedback as to the balance of your track. but it's simply re-contextualizing the same information that's being fed to your speakers, and displaying it visually in a highly detailed manner, so you'd use it as an adjunct to help you better understand what you're hearing (or not hearing, depending upon your monitoring environment).

it's pretty simple to use—the lowest (bass) frequencies start at the left of the display and get progressively higher through midrange and up into the treble at the far right. the default settings work fine, but i'd recommend going into the EDIT button and turning the Block Size up to 8192 or so—this just increases the resolution of the display so the information is more accurate. then you can set the Smoothing setting to 1/6th octave, and that will just interpolate some of the really high frequency information into a smoother display, which makes it easier to read and get an idea of average levels in that range.

a really useful thing is to carefully read the analyzer while running professional, well mixed tracks in a similar style to your own through it. this will give you an idea of what kind of bass levels those tracks have.. and then you can use it on your own material and easily compare.

it's just something you need to spend some time working with and get accustomed to, but there's a lot you can do with it and learn from it once you understand the information it's giving you.
Tausif
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#12
24th June 2011
Old 24th June 2011
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Ok cool! thank you so much for all the help!
#13
13th July 2011
Old 13th July 2011
  #13
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Augsy is offline
In most cases when using downwards compression I find too many people pay too much attention to the GR meter and not to the actual settings. For example if you are using a lower ratio like 2:1 you would need to lower your threshold much further down then you would if you were using an 8:1 ratio, in order to achieve the same GR. Try this:

1. Set your threshold first - Be careful not to set this too low regardless of your ratio/attack/release choices. You "generally" only want to compress the very top off the sound.

2. Set your ratio - obviously a higher ratio will result in a higher GR. Like I said before dont pay too much attention to that. A higher ratio will start to act more like a limiter. This is where you decide how much you want to take off above your set threshold amount.

3. Attack - shorter times will clamp down right away while longer times will allow some transient through, making for a punchier sound. Spend some time adjusting this

4. release - Be careful not to set this too long or short. Too short of times will induce distortion/pumping, while too long of a release setting will not allow the sound to return to its normal level fast enough. I would go with the shortest time you can get away with.


Again this is my opinion only, and these are just general compression ideas.

Good luck.
#14
14th July 2011
Old 14th July 2011
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The Compression Game

Nothing wrong with eq into a comp into another eq. You don't necessarily "Undo" the compression, though I understand the point is that you could.

Let's think of a lifeless muddy kick drum... Hmm what to do? My answer woul be to replace it with uf5 and drumagog! But that can also get you taken off a project pretty quick too if you're not sure if the artist/producer/label isn't cool with you making such decisions

So how about: subtractive eq to remove a bit of flab... It's context sensitive but let's say it's at that pesky 250 freq. Let's drop that by (again context sensitive) 3db. Now compress. See what it's like now to a/b your results with the eq on and off. Likely it will sound better ON because the comp is more likley to work more efficiently.

Analogy time. You paint houses. Customer says paint the outside of my box shaped house. You do. Except he only wanted three walls painted... Dont you think that would affect you proformance? Would you be more efficient painting only the part he wants painted? That's why you subtract before compression!

But wait! Our kick still doesn't have that bump... Eq the new tighter kick with some pultec style 60hz.

Very common.
#15
15th July 2011
Old 15th July 2011
  #15
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SongsByGROVER is offline
I used to mix stuff too bass heavy back when I was mixing in my bedroom... i learnt to get better by getting Harbal. I really recommend Harbal!

basically i would put every mix i did in there, load up a track that you know sounds great as a reference, then compare. you can instantly see where you went wrong, then go back to your DAW and fix the problems. or if it's just a demo or your in a rush, just fix the eq right there in harbal.

i wish there was an audiosuite version of it, that would be bad-ass! then it'd be convenient enough to use on individual instruments.
(what other eq matching plugins are there, except the BIAS one which is fairly awful)

i still use this to check my rough bedroom mixes, it never fails. also, i go into the next room while listening to the mix and the bass level is much more evident than when sat in front of my nearfields.
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