The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
Understand compresssion, don't know when to use it
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Understand compresssion, don't know when to use it

I have been mixing for 3 years or so. Mixing isn't my primary role. I'm a musician that mixes his own stuff. Over the course of time I have gotten pretty good at mixing and have learned to sculpt my music so that it sounds the way I want it to. I have a ton of learning to do, but overall I'm pretty happy with where I am.

Here's the thing. There's one thing that I find perplexing and that's the compressor. I have a pretty good understanding of what it does on a technical level, but when it comes to context I don't think I am using it to its full potential. In my head I normally only reach for compressors when I want to color a sound or want to sidechain. I never really reach for it to "tame dynamics" because I can't really ever pick that up. I normally just adjust volumes at the source if there is a high variance in my signal with respect to volume. Does anyone have any helpful tips on when to know when to pull our a compressors, other than for color or sidechain purposes? What are the situations where you think to yourself "I bet a compressors could help here!".
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Dynamic Range processing is a compressors primary role. Best thing to do is run a solo drum track and mess with all the settings and see how each function affects the signal and you might get a light bulb moment of how you can attain particular effects with a compressor. It's that high variance in signal amplitude that you want to use a compressor mainly.

Compression was developed to control the voices on radio broadcasts but then found it's way into the creative process also.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by mixing_man_200 View Post
I have been mixing for 3 years or so. Mixing isn't my primary role. I'm a musician that mixes his own stuff. Over the course of time I have gotten pretty good at mixing and have learned to sculpt my music so that it sounds the way I want it to. I have a ton of learning to do, but overall I'm pretty happy with where I am.

Here's the thing. There's one thing that I find perplexing and that's the compressor. I have a pretty good understanding of what it does on a technical level, but when it comes to context I don't think I am using it to its full potential. In my head I normally only reach for compressors when I want to color a sound or want to sidechain. I never really reach for it to "tame dynamics" because I can't really ever pick that up. I normally just adjust volumes at the source if there is a high variance in my signal with respect to volume. Does anyone have any helpful tips on when to know when to pull our a compressors, other than for color or sidechain purposes? What are the situations where you think to yourself "I bet a compressors could help here!".
First of all try to listen in a good sound system or headphones. I've remember my beginnings, trying to identify a change modifying just a bit one or another parameter of a compression... hillarious.
Second... like ''mrfantastic'' also said, start with some percusive elements. Instruments with high transients react more obvious to compressors and can be a help for you to identify which button do the job.
Third... as a more specific tip, start with a snare and try to obtain a long tail or a short one, tweeking the release and treshold first, letting attack in 10 o'clock (I don't know your scale) and ratio 4:1.
Enjoy!
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

I was at the same place (and sort of still is), but using the softube console 1 really helped. Not because of the plug-in and overpriced hardware, but simply because I could do adjustments with eyes closed instead of focused on numbers on the screen.

I guess any midi controller with plenty of knobs would do. Map the knobs to your favorite compressor and play around with it on a drum track. Then on a bass. And vocal. And guitar. That’s how I am learning now.
Old 6 days ago
  #5
Lives for gear
Sounds to me like you're doing well and are using them in a way that works for you. I'd simply continue tinkering with them and go with what sounds best, possibly including not even using one.
Old 6 days ago
  #6
Lives for gear
 

It may actually be better if you don't use it if you can perform the music and maintain the volume levels through the physical musical performance itself. if you play notes solid and even there is no need for compression. Too many amateur musicians think compression is an absolutely necessity instead of seeing it as a crutch to help crappy players maintain an even volume level.

Truth is, if you can get a song to mix well without compression its going to sound absolutely killer when its mastered properly. Finishing a song is a two step process and trying to make a mix within a DAW program sound as good as a commercial release is often a futile effort. Many think its a one step process > Mix to commercial loudness and that simply isn't the case with most mixes, yea maybe some solo singer or acoustic song can get by simply slapping a limiter on the main buss and that's it but for most songs. Mixing is baking the cake, getting a good balance of all the events. Mastering is putting the icing and all the garnishments on it to make it sound great, and loud enough to match any other pro recording. Most audio tools can't do that job taking one giant step, you need to use at least 2 to get there, just like they did making most pro analog recordings.

What lacks is allot of info on the topic. I don't begrudge mastering engineers keeping their secrets close to the vest but having beginners completely ignorant isn't going to get them many clients either. The way i got into mastering digitally was when I first started combining analog and digital. Instead of mixing my multitracks to a stereo tape, I started mixing down to a computer so I could burn my own CD's. Then I started collecting some audio editing programs like Wavelab, Sound Forge, Cool Edit and started cleaning up and boosting the mixdowns to sound better on a CD. After a time I bought high end plugins like Waves and later suites like TRacks and later Ozone. Har-Bal was another essential tool for balancing a mix.

After that I came across this tutorial and followed it religiously. You should download this file, print it and hang it up in the studio, then use it till you have the process memorized. You'll see a huge difference in improvement once you get your head wrapped around what's going on. https://hdqtrz.com/Files/Har-Bal_Mastering_Process.pdf



In short, there are three main objectives after your mix is complete. The first is to get the mix flattened out using a stellar EQ. When you mix you do most of this buy balancing the individual channel levels. When you master you have to tweak the stereo file globally. The goal is to get the frequency output set so most commercial stereo systems sound good without having to tweak its settings. Think of it as putting a song in rotation on the radio. You want it to play as good as any other song so you EQ it to have enough Highs, mids and lows without hyping things or overdoing it. If you always leave your bass and treble volume on the car stereo set in the middle for commercial or radio songs, you shouldn't have to touch those settings playing back your own music.

After globally EQing the song, next comes compression. You can use a single band compressor that compresses all frequencies so long as its coloration and punch is something you actually want when you're done. If you hear the mix pump, breathe, swell, then you're likely using double the amount you want/need to and probably need to go back to the mix to tame things a bit more there. if you can get it done in the mastering stage using only 1 layer of compression there will be a whole lot less noise and a whole lot more kick.

You can also use a multiband compressor here. It does magical things when used properly to make a mix sound fantastic. I often skip using the global EQ and go right to a multiband instead because I've gotten my mixing skills so refined I don't need to use that tool a whole lot any more. The multi band compresses each band of frequencies independently. The lows bands will clue the bass and kick together and make the Woofers in a Hi Fi punch together instead of having a a double hit at different frequencies and velocities. Think of it like a car engine that has spark plugs missing, the uneven vibration makes you irritable. The multiband low bands makes the lows hum like a race engine punching evenly every time. The mid bands are tuned to things like snare, HH, Guitars and part of the Vocals, you ave both snap and sustain here so getting things to pop with that snare is a critical element. The hits on the snare are different then those of the kick and the frequency ranges are different too. You want the loudest item in the mids to be smoothed and the weak items to come up and compete with the loud. The highs are mostly cymbals, esses from vocals and anything else that adds presence. You can add what I call Chrome to a mix here and make it glitter or you can dial it back and make it sound more vintage. The mix will determine what's best.

What's cool about the Waves plugins is they can auto sense the compressor thr4esholds and save you all kinds of guesswork as seen in that tutorial. Then if you want to override that's your choice. This is a big piece of that puzzle giving a mix its own personality. You can use many different types of compression or multiband here and give the mix your own signature sound. You have to know what you're doing however. This isn't guesswork, its far more scientific them many think and there are definite goals and benchmarks you work from as you bring a mix to commercial release levels.

In between you can use other plugins like stereo balancing, noise reduction, even mild reverbs and such, just realize your goal is to enhance, not reinvent what's already there.

Last is always a brick wall limiter. This is the tool that makes you mix as loud as any other recording. Some daws have tools call levelers. They're the same thing. I suggest using the same one for awhile till you know its capabilities. I've used Waves L2 for years because it adds that bright edge most hit rock songs have. I do have others I use as substitutes in all these steps. I swap them out to get different flavors depending on what the music needs. How much for any one particular song is purely a matter of experience mixed with good taste. Its not something you learn to do over night. Think of it more along the lines of being a life long profession just like playing an instrument is and you'll go farther faster and understand the work involved getting you there.
Old 6 days ago
  #7
Lives for gear
 

It may actually be better if you don't use it if you can perform the music and maintain the volume levels through the physical musical performance itself. if you play notes solid and even there is no need for compression. Too many amateur musicians think compression is an absolutely necessity instead of seeing it as a crutch to help crappy players maintain an even volume level.

Truth is, if you can get a song to mix well without compression its going to sound absolutely killer when its mastered properly. Finishing a song is a two step process and trying to make a mix within a DAW program sound as good as a commercial release is often a futile effort. Many think its a one step process > Mix to commercial loudness and that simply isn't the case with most mixes, yea maybe some solo singer or acoustic song can get by simply slapping a limiter on the main buss and that's it but for most songs. Mixing is baking the cake, getting a good balance of all the events. Mastering is putting the icing and all the garnishments on it to make it sound great, and loud enough to match any other pro recording. Most audio tools can't do that job taking one giant step, you need to use at least 2 to get there, just like they did making most pro analog recordings.

What lacks is allot of info on the topic. I don't begrudge mastering engineers keeping their secrets close to the vest but having beginners completely ignorant isn't going to get them many clients either. The way i got into mastering digitally was when I first started combining analog and digital. Instead of mixing my multitracks to a stereo tape, I started mixing down to a computer so I could burn my own CD's. Then I started collecting some audio editing programs like Wavelab, Sound Forge, Cool Edit and started cleaning up and boosting the mixdowns to sound better on a CD. After a time I bought high end plugins like Waves and later suites like TRacks and later Ozone. Har-Bal was another essential tool for balancing a mix.

After that I came across this tutorial and followed it religiously. You should download this file, print it and hang it up in the studio, then use it till you have the process memorized. You'll see a huge difference in improvement once you get your head wrapped around what's going on. https://hdqtrz.com/Files/Har-Bal_Mastering_Process.pdf



In short, there are three main objectives after your mix is complete. The first is to get the mix flattened out using a stellar EQ. When you mix you do most of this buy balancing the individual channel levels. When you master you have to tweak the stereo file globally. The goal is to get the frequency output set so most commercial stereo systems sound good without having to tweak its settings. Think of it as putting a song in rotation on the radio. You want it to play as good as any other song so you EQ it to have enough Highs, mids and lows without hyping things or overdoing it. If you always leave your bass and treble volume on the car stereo set in the middle for commercial or radio songs, you shouldn't have to touch those settings playing back your own music.

After globally EQing the song, next comes compression. You can use a single band compressor that compresses all frequencies so long as its coloration and punch is something you actually want when you're done. If you hear the mix pump, breathe, swell, then you're likely using double the amount you want/need to and probably need to go back to the mix to tame things a bit more there. if you can get it done in the mastering stage using only 1 layer of compression there will be a whole lot less noise and a whole lot more kick.

You can also use a multiband compressor here. It does magical things when used properly to make a mix sound fantastic. I often skip using the global EQ and go right to a multiband instead because I've gotten my mixing skills so refined I don't need to use that tool a whole lot any more. The multi band compresses each band of frequencies independently. The lows bands will clue the bass and kick together and make the Woofers in a Hi Fi punch together instead of having a a double hit at different frequencies and velocities. Think of it like a car engine that has spark plugs missing, the uneven vibration makes you irritable. The multiband low bands makes the lows hum like a race engine punching evenly every time. The mid bands are tuned to things like snare, HH, Guitars and part of the Vocals, you ave both snap and sustain here so getting things to pop with that snare is a critical element. The hits on the snare are different then those of the kick and the frequency ranges are different too. You want the loudest item in the mids to be smoothed and the weak items to come up and compete with the loud. The highs are mostly cymbals, esses from vocals and anything else that adds presence. You can add what I call Chrome to a mix here and make it glitter or you can dial it back and make it sound more vintage. The mix will determine what's best.

What's cool about the Waves plugins is they can auto sense the compressor thr4esholds and save you all kinds of guesswork as seen in that tutorial. Then if you want to override that's your choice. This is a big piece of that puzzle giving a mix its own personality. You can use many different types of compression or multiband here and give the mix your own signature sound. You have to know what you're doing however. This isn't guesswork, its far more scientific them many think and there are definite goals and benchmarks you work from as you bring a mix to commercial release levels.

In between you can use other plugins like stereo balancing, noise reduction, even mild reverbs and such, just realize your goal is to enhance, not reinvent what's already there.

Last is always a brick wall limiter. This is the tool that makes you mix as loud as any other recording. Some daws have tools call levelers. They're the same thing. I suggest using the same one for awhile till you know its capabilities. I've used Waves L2 for years because it adds that bright edge most hit rock songs have. I do have others I use as substitutes in all these steps. I swap them out to get different flavors depending on what the music needs. How much for any one particular song is purely a matter of experience mixed with good taste. Its not something you learn to do over night. Think of it more along the lines of being a life long profession just like playing an instrument is and you'll go farther faster and understand the work involved getting you there.
Old 6 days ago
  #8
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by wrgkmc View Post
Too many amateur musicians think compression is an absolutely necessity instead of seeing it as a crutch to help crappy players maintain an even volume level.
It's neither. Music is extremely varied and some by nature will be well served with some, some with a lot, some with little or none. "An even volume level" is nothing to brag about per se. In fact it can be "crappy," again depending on the specifics.
Old 6 days ago
  #9
Lives for gear
 
skillz335's Avatar
Compressor= automatic volume control... Similar to penciling in volume automation or riding the faders. Basically it can brings the lows up and or push the highs down. But some compressors have a "sound" that depends on its components. Also with hardware compressors you should be cognizant of its reaction times.
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump