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Question regarding compression and expansion while tracking drums?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
konkon's Avatar
Question regarding compression and expansion while tracking drums?

Excuse me in advance if this is a dumb question. I am just learning all this and want to understand a few things.

What do you guys think of compressor vs expansion vs neither on drum tracking? And high pass / low cut filtering? And if you think any are usable, what are your views on which drums / mics to use any of it on and which not to?

I am new to all this so still learning how it all works.

I would presume that an expander MIGHT be useful to minimize bleed if talking about drums, whereas a compressor would bring up the bleed you don't want. On the other hand it might be able to even out or thicken a snare or kick sound? I know it could be good for a room mic to bring up room tone at least. Maybe...

So far I only understand the basics of how comp/exp work. I don't even know what would happen if you team them up together. For example, if you expand to minimize bleed and noise, then compress, would that just undo the expansion? And vice versa?

Or would there be a good way to expand to limit noise, then compress the parts you do want to even them out even more and bring up what you want to bring up? And would this all be better done in the mix anyway?

I am sure there are many ways to do this, thinking logically, but not sure what the best way would be. Or would this be a dumb idea anyway and better not to bother at the tracking stage?

This is all assuming you want to record pretty separated drums to have a lot of stereo panning and widening options when mixing. Recording in a far from ideal room too, so maybe dead and separate is better than having a band room sound, at least you can build from a dry set of tracks.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks. Not sure if these are even viable questions but what the hell.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
Quote:
What do you guys think of compressor vs expansion vs neither on drum tracking? And high pass / low cut filtering? And if you think any are usable, what are your views on which drums / mics to use any of it on and which not to?
Everything can be usable! Your options are limitless. I use hi-pass and low-pass filters when i deem its needed. My ears along with how the original sound source sounds (drums) and the sound i want to print will tell me what i need to use. Same goes for compression, but i leave compression for after its been recorded. Its not needed in 24bit recording. You have too much headroom.
Quote:
I would presume that an expander MIGHT be useful to minimize bleed if talking about drums,
You mean a gate. an expander would still let some low level pass
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
Quote:
So far I only understand the basics of how comp/exp work. I don't even know what would happen if you team them up together.
Why would you use both, They do the opposite. One makes more dynamic range and one eats it..

There are downward and upward compression also, but anyway us, it will negate, as they are opposites in most cases, just as anything and everything in music production

FYI: Bleed can be good and ca be used for the betterment of the mix.
Quote:
Or would there be a good way to expand to limit noise, then compress the parts you do want to even them out even more and bring up what you want to bring up? And would this all be better done in the mix anyway?
Or you can do it 1000 other different ways. Its all about how it sounds and what you like.
If that is what gets you to the desired sound, then do it.
Quote:
I am sure there are many ways to do this, thinking logically, but not sure what the best way would be
You got it!!! And there are no best ways to do something in music production. The best way is different for everyone and every mix
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
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i'm often using expanders and compressors on the way in as i like my signals to be pretty much 'finished' when hitting the tracks - old habit from the analog days...

anyway, if doing so, you better be sure that things are correct! most folks therefore will only apply dynamics during mixdown.

oh, and i'm always using expanders, never any gates!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #5
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konkon's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
Everything can be usable! Your options are limitless. I use hi-pass and low-pass filters when i deem its needed. My ears along with how the original sound source sounds (drums) and the sound i want to print will tell me what i need to use. Same goes for compression, but i leave compression for after its been recorded. Its not needed in 24bit recording. You have too much headroom.

You mean a gate. an expander would still let some low level pass
Thanks for these insights. Interesting. Yeah, I was thinking in a less than ideal room, some low cut at least might be a bit useful, incase any boomy stuff or weird low noises would be bleeding into other tracks.

Also, am I wrong in thinking a gate is just a more extreme version of an expander then? I figured the expander would just reduce unwanted noises, whereas a gate would try to just kill them totally?


Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
Why would you use both, They do the opposite. One makes more dynamic range and one eats it..

There are downward and upward compression also, but anyway us, it will negate, as they are opposites in most cases, just as anything and everything in music production

FYI: Bleed can be good and ca be used for the betterment of the mix.

Or you can do it 1000 other different ways. Its all about how it sounds and what you like.
If that is what gets you to the desired sound, then do it.
Yes I figured that if you expand then compress, you're just reversing what you did, but I wondered if there is a way to expand and push down what you don't want, then compress ONLY the parts you did want (that were not pushed down) to bring those all up and closer together? I was wondering if and how this could be done.

For example, let's imagine you have a snare with a bit of hi-hat bleed in the background and let's say you don't want to embrace the bleed and want it to be eradicated as best possible. Is there a way to use an expander to reduce that bleed further, but then use a compressor after to compress the actual snare sounds without bringing back up the bleed? Would there be a way to set a compressor just to hook onto those louder parts and then compress those?

I understand there's also multi band compression too, but I figured that wouldn't do that job because it is based on focusing on certain frequencies rather than on grabbing onto loud parts and compressing those without bringing up the quiet parts, which is what I am asking. Is there no way of doing this?


Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
i'm often using expanders and compressors on the way in as i like my signals to be pretty much 'finished' when hitting the tracks - old habit from the analog days...

anyway, if doing so, you better be sure that things are correct! most folks therefore will only apply dynamics during mixdown.

oh, and i'm always using expanders, never any gates!
Interesting. Yeah I was wondering if I could get into a mess trying to over-complicate things.

Any chance of knowing how you use them in conjunction usually?

Also, I have read stuff here and there about trying to keep the audio in the analog domain as long as possible before hitting the converters. Is there any weight to that or is it just pseudo-science?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post

oh, and i'm always using expanders, never any gates!
yeah i will go with that.

Old 4 weeks ago
  #7
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BIG BUDDHA's Avatar
i always compress kick and snare to tape. (hardware comps)

seems pointless not to.

Buddha
Old 4 weeks ago
  #8
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konkon's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by BIG BUDDHA View Post
i always compress kick and snare to tape. (hardware comps)

seems pointless not to.

Buddha
This is actually what I was thinking. Would it be maybe worth compressing SOME channels but not others. For example snare and kicks and maybe a room mic, but leave the rest uncompressed (toms, overheads, hi-hat if having it's own mic, etc.)?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by konkon View Post
(...)

Also, am I wrong in thinking a gate is just a more extreme version of an expander then? I figured the expander would just reduce unwanted noises, whereas a gate would try to just kill them totally?

Yes I figured that if you expand then compress, you're just reversing what you did, but I wondered if there is a way to expand and push down what you don't want, then compress ONLY the parts you did want (that were not pushed down) to bring those all up and closer together? I was wondering if and how this could be done.

For example, let's imagine you have a snare with a bit of hi-hat bleed in the background and let's say you don't want to embrace the bleed and want it to be eradicated as best possible. Is there a way to use an expander to reduce that bleed further, but then use a compressor after to compress the actual snare sounds without bringing back up the bleed? Would there be a way to set a compressor just to hook onto those louder parts and then compress those?

I understand there's also multi band compression too, but I figured that wouldn't do that job because it is based on focusing on certain frequencies rather than on grabbing onto loud parts and compressing those without bringing up the quiet parts, which is what I am asking. Is there no way of doing this?

(...)


Any chance of knowing how you use them in conjunction usually?

Also, I have read stuff here and there about trying to keep the audio in the analog domain as long as possible before hitting the converters. Is there any weight to that or is it just pseudo-science?
there's no mystery: a comp and an expander work the same, except that a comp affects levels above a threshold and an expander below a threshold. the latter is also true for a gate but a gate does so at an infinite setting while with an expander, one can choose the ratio (or how steep this setting shall be) from very mild to infinite. on the infinite setting, an expander reacts (almost) exactly the same as a gate.

so why not use a gate? cause a gate acts like an on/off swtch (except for the lower part of the dynamics if you choose a milder attenuation which imo is pretty pointless though): cutting a signal entirely may not really be what you want but also, if the dynamics of the playing shift just a little bit, the gate either stays almost constantly open (and shows none of the intended effect) or almost constantly cut's out the signal.
(finally, the hysteresis imo is very often not well implemented in gates, both hardware and software, but this may be just my personal view on things...)

an expander however keeps attenuating the lower portion of the signal no matter how soft or hard an instrument gets played if the threshold is set reasonbably low.
my (digital) desk has four dynamic processors in each channel so i could use the limiter to tame the very highest peaks above -3dBfs, the comp to attenuate signals above -18dBfs, the expanders below -45dBfs and the gate (!) below -60dBfs.

___

a word of caution: compressors and expanders beyond their dynamic function are also rhythmic tools!
by manipulating the attack and release of a signal and depending on the settings, they can affect the groove of rhythmic instruments - experienced musicians may notice this if settings don't get chosen very carefully or more simply put: settings need to get adjusted not only according to the dynamics but also to the tempo...

___

and while we're at it (dynamic tools): i'm hardly ever using a dynamic equalizer except maybe for a de-esser or a multiband comp for tracking; the latter lives on one of several master busses though so i can monitor kind of a pre-mastered mix if i want to (and it gets used to keep things under control when mixing live and certaily for broadcasting).

___


regarding staying in the analog domain for as long as possible, i'd only recommend doing so if your analog gear performs better than your digital gear and/or if you don't need to adjust things very often.

and no, you don't have to use dynamic tools only 'cause you have them: to this day, i'm not having more than 12 comps in my analog studio (but i have hundrets available on my digital desk) - also, level riding in the daw can replace dynamic tools in some cases...

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 4 weeks ago at 11:37 AM.. Reason: typo and edited twice
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
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Sigma's Avatar
so many of these queries on threads..

FIRSTLY "have a cause" what do you HEAR that you want to manipulate?????

then use the tool palate at hand to accomplish it ..it ain't rocket science although a few of great engineers were physics majors

Roger Nichols -He attended Oregon State University where he studied nuclear physics

Tom Dowd -- He continued his work in physics at Columbia University. He worked on the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb.

i usually want more "crack" outta a drum piece like a kick snare and toms so i use a pre with a good rise time and then a compressor to clamp after the transient to make the transient point out ..know what you want then learn how to use the tools to do it NOT "hey i got these tools where can i put them?"...
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
Gear Guru
 

Not sure if it's been said already but a I'd do what the musicians need primarily. As long as it doesn't tie my hands.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
Gear Head
 

Do you know what you want these tools to do well enough (as well as the settings to achieve it) that you will be happy with whatever you print on the way in? If not, you're taking a risk with your mix.

And that may be fine if you're doing it to learn. But just think it through. Do you know what you want that comp/expander to do to the instrument, and how to set it right to achieve that? Then, do you know that it will sound good in a mix, vs how it sounds to you during tracking?

When you can answer yes to both you'll probably be in the best place to print dynamics on the way in. Like, say you've got a few great snare comp settings that always work for a type of player in a type of music, and you are recording that music, and you've got a great outboard comp you want to use, it would make sense to print that snare comp, because you're familiar enough to know it will work in your mix.

If you were less familiar, you could create all sorts of unwanted dynamics, bleed issues, etc that you have to now mitigate in your mix.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #13
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BIG BUDDHA's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by konkon View Post
This is actually what I was thinking. Would it be maybe worth compressing SOME channels but not others. For example snare and kicks and maybe a room mic, but leave the rest uncompressed (toms, overheads, hi-hat if having it's own mic, etc.)?
ok i will give you the full drum rundown/advice for the less experienced engineer.

Kick and snare get compression to tape/DAW. 3db reduction to tape is absolutely fine, and more usually gets added in mix, more often than not.

no compression on the hats and toms to Tape.

experienced people like DeeDeeYeah can do these thing of course, especially as its common in live sound, but off tape is safer, than to Tape.

overheads are best left non processed if you are not an experienced professional, which i assume you are not, by the nature of your questions. on my analog desk i usually engage the filters at 45hz for overheads to Tape/DAW. in mix that value usually comes up much higher, often to 120hz or so.

in big studios room mikes are often compressed hard and processed to get that slammed room mic sound that some rock engineers like. think 1176 in NUKE mode 20/1. all buttons in.

myself personally i dont go there, i just find a place where the room mics compliment the rest of the kit in a nice way and send it to tape reasonablly flat, but maybe with a bit of limiting/compression to stop high level transients from peaking recording levels into the red (where digital clips and sounds evil) in analog tape land its usually ok.

set levels on the hats when he is playing OPEN, and dont add Hi Frequency EQ to the hats without soloing the channel and getting the drummer to play the crashes and ride and china, to hear what else comes through.

also its ok to hi pass the hats from about 140hz. close mic the thing and a pencils best from a perspective of directionality.

i never hi pass the kick at all. full bandwidth.

snare can often use a filter set to pass above from 45 to 60hz. this just cleans up the input signal to tape by removing super low frequencies that are generally more related to kick spill than anything that the snare is doing.

when you mix just bring up the kick and snare untill the balance is right. then add hats and toms. then listen for a good while before you add the overheads. often the overheads dont need to be too loud in relationship to the others.

thats how you get a modern hard hitting punchy sound. close mics and direct energy. room mics and excessive overheads will just wash it out. (distance means softer) listen to those 60s recordings if you dont believe me and check out the sonics before close mic technique evolved to solve the problem of lack of definition.

Albini does a trillion other complex thing with room mics, but thats another planet and you have to be Albini and like that type of drum sound. its NICHE sonics, and wont work for many types of recordings.

try all this and see what you think. hope it helps.

Buddha
Old 4 weeks ago
  #14
Gear Maniac
 
konkon's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by BIG BUDDHA View Post
ok i will give you the full drum rundown/advice for the less experienced engineer.

Kick and snare get compression to tape/DAW. 3db reduction to tape is absolutely fine, and more usually gets added in mix, more often than not.

no compression on the hats and toms to Tape.

experienced people like DeeDeeYeah can do these thing of course, especially as its common in live sound, but off tape is safer, than to Tape.

overheads are best left non processed if you are not an experienced professional, which i assume you are not, by the nature of your questions. on my analog desk i usually engage the filters at 45hz for overheads to Tape/DAW. in mix that value usually comes up much higher, often to 120hz or so.

in big studios room mikes are often compressed hard and processed to get that slammed room mic sound that some rock engineers like. think 1176 in NUKE mode 20/1. all buttons in.

myself personally i dont go there, i just find a place where the room mics compliment the rest of the kit in a nice way and send it to tape reasonablly flat, but maybe with a bit of limiting/compression to stop high level transients from peaking recording levels into the red (where digital clips and sounds evil) in analog tape land its usually ok.

set levels on the hats when he is playing OPEN, and dont add Hi Frequency EQ to the hats without soloing the channel and getting the drummer to play the crashes and ride and china, to hear what else comes through.

also its ok to hi pass the hats from about 140hz. close mic the thing and a pencils best from a perspective of directionality.

i never hi pass the kick at all. full bandwidth.

snare can often use a filter set to pass above from 45 to 60hz. this just cleans up the input signal to tape by removing super low frequencies that are generally more related to kick spill than anything that the snare is doing.

when you mix just bring up the kick and snare untill the balance is right. then add hats and toms. then listen for a good while before you add the overheads. often the overheads dont need to be too loud in relationship to the others.

thats how you get a modern hard hitting punchy sound. close mics and direct energy. room mics and excessive overheads will just wash it out. (distance means softer) listen to those 60s recordings if you dont believe me and check out the sonics before close mic technique evolved to solve the problem of lack of definition.

Albini does a trillion other complex thing with room mics, but thats another planet and you have to be Albini and like that type of drum sound. its NICHE sonics, and wont work for many types of recordings.

try all this and see what you think. hope it helps.

Buddha
Thanks a lot. This is super helpful and one of the most specific, clear and detailed responses I have seen. I think this is all I need to know to at least start and get going.

And yes, I am new to this. I am a guitar player. I just have to learn all this ASAP to start delivering some recordings of my band concept to industry folks!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #15
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Sigma's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by BIG BUDDHA View Post
ok i will give you the full drum rundown/advice for the less experienced engineer.

Kick and snare get compression to tape/DAW. 3db reduction to tape is absolutely fine, and more usually gets added in mix, more often than not.

no compression on the hats and toms to Tape.

experienced people like DeeDeeYeah can do these thing of course, especially as its common in live sound, but off tape is safer, than to Tape.

overheads are best left non processed if you are not an experienced professional, which i assume you are not, by the nature of your questions. on my analog desk i usually engage the filters at 45hz for overheads to Tape/DAW. in mix that value usually comes up much higher, often to 120hz or so.

in big studios room mikes are often compressed hard and processed to get that slammed room mic sound that some rock engineers like. think 1176 in NUKE mode 20/1. all buttons in.

myself personally i dont go there, i just find a place where the room mics compliment the rest of the kit in a nice way and send it to tape reasonablly flat, but maybe with a bit of limiting/compression to stop high level transients from peaking recording levels into the red (where digital clips and sounds evil) in analog tape land its usually ok.

set levels on the hats when he is playing OPEN, and dont add Hi Frequency EQ to the hats without soloing the channel and getting the drummer to play the crashes and ride and china, to hear what else comes through.

also its ok to hi pass the hats from about 140hz. close mic the thing and a pencils best from a perspective of directionality.

i never hi pass the kick at all. full bandwidth.

snare can often use a filter set to pass above from 45 to 60hz. this just cleans up the input signal to tape by removing super low frequencies that are generally more related to kick spill than anything that the snare is doing.

when you mix just bring up the kick and snare untill the balance is right. then add hats and toms. then listen for a good while before you add the overheads. often the overheads dont need to be too loud in relationship to the others.

thats how you get a modern hard hitting punchy sound. close mics and direct energy. room mics and excessive overheads will just wash it out. (distance means softer) listen to those 60s recordings if you dont believe me and check out the sonics before close mic technique evolved to solve the problem of lack of definition.

Albini does a trillion other complex thing with room mics, but thats another planet and you have to be Albini and like that type of drum sound. its NICHE sonics, and wont work for many types of recordings.

try all this and see what you think. hope it helps.

Buddha
lol at sigma we always used a bk 5A on the kick because it rolled off at 50hz the 5b rolled off at 30..i have a B and roll it off at 50 with eq ..IMHO the bass guitar owns the lower octaves..to each their own

Last edited by Sigma; 4 weeks ago at 06:41 PM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigma View Post
lol at sigma we always used a bk 5A on the kick because it rolled off at 50hz the 5b rolled off at 30..i have a B and roll it off at 50 with eq ..IMHO the bass guitar owns the lower octaves..each their own
That's a rare RCA mic right? The last line you said might apply even more to my case, since my drummer is using small kicks and a lot of double stoke roll on double kick drums, so they kinda need to punch through not to become a blur.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #17
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Not really rare you can get one a little banged up for 500-600 or mint with ball screen and rubber iso mount for 1800..there on ebay from time to time and reverb too

it was supposed to be the next gen 77dx which i don't get because its a single pattern..cardiod
Old 4 weeks ago
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigma View Post
Not really rare you can get one a little banged up for 500-600 or mint with ball screen and rubber iso mount for 1800..there on ebay from time to time and reverb too

it was supposed to be the next gen 77dx which i don't get because its a single pattern..cardiod
Ah right. Kinda a killer price blow for me though, especially having TWO kicks to mic. Hahah. Not that I was considering, was just interested in your process and setup.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #19
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Buy an AKG D200e awesome kick mic..you can pick one up for 125-250 on ebay or reverb

last sessions i did i put a D200e inside kick and an re 20 outside came out VG
Old 4 weeks ago
  #20
Gear Maniac
 
konkon's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigma View Post
Buy an AKG D200e awesome kick mic..you can pick one up for 125-250 on ebay or reverb

last sessions i did i put a D200e inside kick and an re 20 outside came out VG
Thanks for the tip! Will look out for some of those. So are they superior to the typical AKG D112?

Would they be good just on outside without an inside? Just because I was thinking it might be a bit tough grabbing enough gear to have 2 in and 2 out since I have to record 2 kicks, as well as having to record the rest of the kit.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #21
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Sigma's Avatar
to me a lot better that the 112 ..it's not as scooped and rock metal like..just it inside is great alone too
Old 4 weeks ago
  #22
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konkon's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigma View Post
to me a lot better that the 112 ..it's not as scooped and rock metal like..just it inside is great alone too
Sounds good. Yes I am not looking for a scooped metal sound. It's more of a "fusion" concept.
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