Tips for getting your attack and release times right?
Old 7th March 2006
  #1
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Thread Starter
Tips for getting your attack and release times right?

One thing I always try to do when tracking is err on the side of caution too avoid overcompressing anything. That said, I try to go with a fairly slow attack and fast release. When it comes time to mix though, I'm a little uncertain of how best to dial these in, especially if I'm going for radical compression. Any tips? I read somewhere that Jerry Finn (not the kind of music I'm doing BTW) always uses the slowest attack and fastest release but I know a lot of guys that use a really fast attack, so is it just a personal preference? Obviously it will change for every instrument, but I'm still a little confused on how best to get them set right. I should probably just experiment.
Old 7th March 2006
  #2
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hmmmmm

it really is just personal preference. it's all about the sound that you are going after. i like to set my attack and release times based on the tempo of the song. that way the compression fits the groove of the song, just a bass, or drummer would.

i.e. you have a song that's 120bpm
the bass isn't sustaining enough, lets say the sustain is only a 1/4 note in length
so if you set the release of your compressor to 500ms you will be releasing the
compressor in the time of a 1/4 note, thereby extending the sustain of the
bass guitar note.

you set your attack times the same way. just figure out what all the subdivisions are in milliseconds, and go for it.

this is just the way I approach and tweak from there.

AudioAlchemy
Old 7th March 2006
  #3
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Thanks... I'll try to mess around with it some. It's alot easier to hear what's going on with the attack and release when you're really compressing something hard, but it's more difficult for me to tell when it's subtle. Do you use the meters to help time the attack and relese much?
Old 7th March 2006
  #4
Gear Head
 

different times for different waves

it's also worth mentioning that instruments with lower frequencies should have slower times in general.

You're smart to err on the slower side with the attack. Once the attack is squashed, it's not coming back. You can always attack it a little more after recording it in the daw.

For vocals I like to have an attack anywhere between 6 and 30 ms. Release of .1 to .3 seconds. Or between 4 and 6 on the big white knobs for those with a distressor.

Sean
Old 8th March 2006
  #5
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Well I find the attack times can really take the edge off sources (transients) which can be good or bad (usually bad for me). So I dial in the attack while listening to the source and then set the threshold to taste.
Old 8th March 2006
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeanFL
For vocals I like to have an attack anywhere between 6 and 30 ms. Release of .1 to .3 seconds.
I'm guessing you never use an 1176 or Purple MC76/77 for vocals?
Old 8th March 2006
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanEldred
I'm guessing you never use an 1176 or Purple MC76/77 for vocals?

Yeah, good point. I mean this whole "slowest attack and fastest release" thing that gets thrown about is such a red herring - the SLOWEST attack on an 1176 is still faster than the fastest on some compressors!
Old 8th March 2006
  #8
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QUESTION: Under what circumstances would you use a slow attack? I always seem to prefer the sound when the attack is set fast.
Old 8th March 2006
  #9
pan
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Pump up the Jam

Sometimes I have set the release so slow, that the next hit is still in the recoverycurve and I get away with slower attack for more punch but an overall compressed sound that doesn't sound overcompressed due to transients slamming the signal.

I agree on the "musical" timing - a compressor can become a vital element of the groove.

-> also referred to as "pumping"

n
Old 8th March 2006
  #10
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DontLetMeDrown's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by pan
Sometimes I have set the release so slow, that the next hit is still in the recoverycurve and I get away with slower attack for more punch but an overall compressed sound that doesn't sound overcompressed due to transients slamming the signal.

I agree on the "musical" timing - a compressor can become a vital element of the groove.

-> also referred to as "pumping"

n
Maybe I should have asked that better:

In what specific instance in a session would you use a comp with slow attack? ie: which instrument (or sound) would benefit from having a comp with slow attack?
Old 8th March 2006
  #11
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This is maybe a little off-topic... or just a little off-thread...

But when I use compression, it's to solve a problem, and usually the problem is that volumes are jumping up too much and drawing attention to themselves and spoiling it for everyone else in the mix.

So I say the settings are "right" when you can't hear anything happening... it just sounds like the levels are all right and working together. You see, on the compressor, when it's compressing and how much, but you don't hear it as a process, you just hear the song come through unimpeded.
Quote
2
Old 8th March 2006
  #12
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DontLetMeDrown's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson
This is maybe a little off-topic... or just a little off-thread...

But when I use compression, it's to solve a problem, and usually the problem is that volumes are jumping up too much and drawing attention to themselves and spoiling it for everyone else in the mix.

So I say the settings are "right" when you can't hear anything happening... it just sounds like the levels are all right and working together. You see, on the compressor, when it's compressing and how much, but you don't hear it as a process, you just hear the song come through unimpeded.
wow, that's a great explanataion. I've been doing this for a few years and only recently am I starting to really grasp compression. I would say that was "on topic".

Thanks Joel
Old 8th March 2006
  #13
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When I don't know exactly what I want, but the signal needs some compression (either for effect or for taming) I like starting with heavy ratio and low threshold and long release, so I can hear it compressing excessively. Then work with the attack until I like it. Then I focus on the release until it feels right with the song. Then bring the ratio down and back off the threshold gradually until it is compressing appropriately.
Old 8th March 2006
  #14
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I use a slow attack when I want to shape the envelope of an instrument and bring it to the front of the mix. This really allows the transient to pop through and thus makes the sound more present. Examples of this would be to enhance the pluck of a bass, the finger picking of an acoustic guitar, or the beater hit of a pillowy kick drum.

It seems counterintuitive that you would lengthen the release to increase sustain of a bass guitar. I think I kind of get it...you're compressing the dynamic range of the whole 1/4 note length of the bass sound and so when you turn up the gain to compensate for the compression you have a bass that sounds like it's sustaining longer. Do I have this correct? On the other hand, if you set a fast release it also seems to increase the sustain of bass. Can anyone shed more light on this?

thanks,
Brad
Old 8th March 2006
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad McGowan
I use a slow attack when I want to shape the envelope of an instrument and bring it to the front of the mix. This really allows the transient to pop through and thus makes the sound more present. Examples of this would be to enhance the pluck of a bass, the finger picking of an acoustic guitar, or the beater hit of a pillowy kick drum.

It seems counterintuitive that you would lengthen the release to increase sustain of a bass guitar. I think I kind of get it...you're compressing the dynamic range of the whole 1/4 note length of the bass sound and so when you turn up the gain to compensate for the compression you have a bass that sounds like it's sustaining longer. Do I have this correct? On the other hand, if you set a fast release it also seems to increase the sustain of bass. Can anyone shed more light on this?

thanks,
Brad
Thanks Brad. Can you give me examples of the settings you would use to compress the bass pluck, finger pick, or kick to enhance its attack. Compression is something I need a better understanding of. Thanks for helping to clear up some of my confusion. I hope I didn't hijack this thread.

Old 8th March 2006
  #16
Gear Head
 

Joel classic explaination !! , I actually use an 1176ln as part of the sound for bass mainly and also bass drum , I use it for vox to control the fade in/out during takes

Of course I love the sound of an 1176

LAter
Buzz
Old 8th March 2006
  #17
Biggest tip:


Close your eyes... turn the knobs and let your ears decide what you like.



Whatever feels right is right.



This works better than mixing with your eyes.



This works for compressors as well as EQ's.
Old 8th March 2006
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad McGowan
It seems counterintuitive that you would lengthen the release to increase sustain of a bass guitar.
thanks,
Brad

Your not really increasing the sustain.


By slowing down the attack the sustain portion in the sound highlighted.

In making the dynamic range more even the impression given is that the low level details are brought up in the makeup gain.
Old 8th March 2006
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson
This is maybe a little off-topic... or just a little off-thread...

But when I use compression, it's to solve a problem, and usually the problem is that volumes are jumping up too much and drawing attention to themselves and spoiling it for everyone else in the mix.

So I say the settings are "right" when you can't hear anything happening... it just sounds like the levels are all right and working together. You see, on the compressor, when it's compressing and how much, but you don't hear it as a process, you just hear the song come through unimpeded.
Thats exactly how I feel also. When cutting vocals especially. When you get in that zone it just feels right and everything works.

Great description.

Michael Greene
Old 8th March 2006
  #20
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Brad McGowan's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by thethrillfactor
Your not really increasing the sustain.


By slowing down the attack the sustain portion in the sound highlighted.

In making the dynamic range more even the impression given is that the low level details are brought up in the makeup gain.
Ah, that makes sense. Thanks for the clarification.

I tend to do what you recommend...turn knobs until I get something I like.

Brad
Old 8th March 2006
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DontLetMeDrown
Thanks Brad. Can you give me examples of the settings you would use to compress the bass pluck, finger pick, or kick to enhance its attack. Compression is something I need a better understanding of. Thanks for helping to clear up some of my confusion. I hope I didn't hijack this thread.

Well if you have a Distressor set the attack to 7-10 and the release to 0-2 for starters. Something in the 20-50ms range for attack would be considered "slow" in my book. Fast release is relative to the compressor at hand, but anything at the end of it's range will work. What kind of compressor are you working with? I can give more specific tips if I know that.

Brad
Old 8th March 2006
  #22
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AudioNinjaJosh's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson
This is maybe a little off-topic... or just a little off-thread...

But when I use compression, it's to solve a problem, and usually the problem is that volumes are jumping up too much and drawing attention to themselves and spoiling it for everyone else in the mix.

So I say the settings are "right" when you can't hear anything happening... it just sounds like the levels are all right and working together. You see, on the compressor, when it's compressing and how much, but you don't hear it as a process, you just hear the song come through unimpeded.
That's a great idea, but it should be said that if it's only a FEW jumps in volume or you're just trying to lower the overall peak in the song, it'd probably sound better to automate the volume in your daw for those peaks. Just a thought.
Old 8th March 2006
  #23
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DontLetMeDrown's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad McGowan
Well if you have a Distressor set the attack to 7-10 and the release to 0-2 for starters. Something in the 20-50ms range for attack would be considered "slow" in my book. Fast release is relative to the compressor at hand, but anything at the end of it's range will work. What kind of compressor are you working with? I can give more specific tips if I know that.

Brad
I use Waves C1 Compressor. I dont have a distressor. Are the settings you gave in milliseconds, or is that 7-10 on a 10 digit dial?
Old 8th March 2006
  #24
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The settings I gave are specific to the markings on a Distressor dial. I think the longest attack time you can dial up on a Distressor is about 30 ms if I recall. I'm not a big fan of the C1. If you have the UAD plugins you can get some better sounds out of the EX-1 compressor.

Brad
Old 8th March 2006
  #25
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Absolute's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson
This is maybe a little off-topic... or just a little off-thread...

But when I use compression, it's to solve a problem, and usually the problem is that volumes are jumping up too much and drawing attention to themselves and spoiling it for everyone else in the mix.

So I say the settings are "right" when you can't hear anything happening... it just sounds like the levels are all right and working together. You see, on the compressor, when it's compressing and how much, but you don't hear it as a process, you just hear the song come through unimpeded.

Well thats exactly what the compressor was invented for. Its kind of like saying ..I use an amplifier so I can hear my electric guitar . Of course you do.

But there are many other things a compressor has been found to do that doesnt fit with the obvious intention of the device. Much like the guitar amplfier was turned up to the point of blowing up--inventing the distorted guitar sound.

So pumping room sound, the illusion of sustain, chopping off the attack of a sound, Destroying all dynamics, adding various colors are really the interesting aspects of it

But to the poster. As Thrill says ..use your ears. But let me add that many people cant even hear compression when they are first learning about it. So while you listen--look too. It can help to see what compression does to a waveform.

Just pull up a kick drum track and set to the fastest attack and auto release...crush it...process the file and look at the wave while listening. You will see that huge peak brought down to the rest of the body of the kick causing a mushy kick. You will see what the compressor did and that can help you understand what you are hearing and why you used it. Rinse and Repeat at different settings.
Old 9th March 2006
  #26
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TanTan's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jebjerome
When I don't know exactly what I want, but the signal needs some compression (either for effect or for taming) I like starting with heavy ratio and low threshold and long release, so I can hear it compressing excessively. Then work with the attack until I like it. Then I focus on the release until it feels right with the song. Then bring the ratio down and back off the threshold gradually until it is compressing appropriately.
great technique , except for when using models where the compression knee is changing on different ratios , in this case i'm working with the attack \ release times using the compression ratio i'm gonna finaly use starting with the threshold as low as i can
Old 9th March 2006
  #27
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The book Mixing With Your Mind has a great chapter called "Cracking Compressors" which likens setting the controls on a compressor to cracking a safe and which I found very valuable. YMMV, but for someone less experienced like myself, reading that chapter was very enlightening.

I suppose that I could reveal an outline of the method, but, out of respect for the author's time and effort spent in writing the book, I won't.

Contrary to my sig, I have no affiliation with the book or its author. I'm just someone who bought the book and feels that it is a rare gem and that the author deserves credit and compensation for his contribution. I hope that is understandable.

Old 9th March 2006
  #28
Gear maniac
 

Compression

For those seeking a fundamental rudimentary understanding of compression:

Compression 101

Take It To The Limit

Advanced Compression Techniques

I would go ahead and post a chapter from Bob Owsinski's book: "Dynamics - Compression & Gating", but I don't want to get railed for copyright infringment.

So, PM me if you would like this chapter in a word document.

Best, trans
Old 9th March 2006
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thethrillfactor
Your not really increasing the sustain.

By slowing down the attack the sustain portion in the sound highlighted.

thethrillfactor, did you mean by slowing down the release?

(also, i PM'd you a few days ago, not sure if you received or not.)

after learning some cool stuff on GS (thanks thrill, jazzius) i like using compressors as a color/EQ effect. not to say compression is an afterthought, altho when attack & reslease set properly, it gives that particular inst/vox a character that can be separated from other stuff in mix. using different compre for different inst works well for me.

i think about the attack and release as the ADSR graph.. so in general, percussive stuff gets slower attack and faster release (a sharp, Eiffel tower-like triangle); and smoother/flowy stuff gets the faster attack and slow release (a slopy monolith plateau).

mixing with my mind's eye
Old 9th March 2006
  #30
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Marjan's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by thethrillfactor
Close your eyes... turn the knobs and let your ears decide what you like.

Whatever feels right is right.

This works better than mixing with your eyes.

This works for compressors as well as EQ's.
thumbsup ...and just keep practicing.
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