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Why should i have compression on tracking?
Old 22nd January 2007
  #1
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beau_mckee's Avatar
Why should i have compression on tracking?

Sorry for the extreme noob question, but why do people track drums/bass/guitars/vox with a small amount of compression? Im using Protools and im used to doing everything in DAW, but id like to know what the benefits (apart from hardware compression being nicer than Plugins) what it can do for me and why people do it?

Thankyou in advance!
Old 22nd January 2007
  #2
Gear Nut
 

I dont generally do this as I like to do it all post but sometimes singers ask me to put a little on their voice as it helps them hear the subletys in their own performance.
Old 22nd January 2007
  #3
I wouldn't worry about it,if your mixing ITB, cause you can mess around and change

the settings to fit the mix if you don't need to record it to disk .

if you really learn compression you can track with settings knowing what they'll do.

some instruments/sounds in some set-ups get a similar type of treatment.

Personally for me it does come down to liking hardware's sound, and thats

why I track with outboard gear.
Old 22nd January 2007
  #4
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yeah - it's really all about the sound. a nice juicy analog comp w/ tubes or a cool tranny and maybe a nice opto circuit just kills a plug-in. just have to be careful not to over do it.

for me once a signal gets digital I like to keep it there so I do a LOT of processing before hand. rarely do I screw it up . . . and usually it's on something that I played and I was too busy creating the part . . . so I just re-do it. it just takes some trial and error w/ you compressor, but once ya know it, it's definitely a better sound.
Old 22nd January 2007
  #5
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It's all about the art of knowing how to record and deal with audio.

Asking why you use compression in recording is asking why you use EQ.


It's just part of the deal.
It's about how it sounds.

DB
Old 22nd January 2007
  #6
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joaquin's Avatar
 

I believe that if you are going to tape, with a limited dynamic range, or any noisy format, you can improve your signal to noise ratio for the softer parts of the material.
For 24bit digital recording, I personaly, prefer to track absolutely clean and leave any processing for the mix. YMMV
Old 22nd January 2007
  #7
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henryrobinett's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by joaquin View Post
I believe that if you are going to tape, with a limited dynamic range, or any noisy format, you can improve your signal to noise ratio for the softer parts of the material.
For 24bit digital recording, I personaly, prefer to track absolutely clean and leave any processing for the mix. YMMV
Ditto.
Old 22nd January 2007
  #8
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Knowing how to use compression is one of the tools that will improve your work.

These days a lot of people have access to multi-tracking because of DAW, but they don't have as much access to good compressors, EQ, etc...
If nothing there is more emphasis on recording stuff and dealing with it later.
The lure of plug-ins is partly to blame.

Myself, I know how to use compression and most all of the tools because I have used the stuff for years on end.

It is far easier to BUILD A PRODUCTION than to have to CREATE A PRODUCTION at mix time.

Again, a seductive concept that seems like a good idea.
Old 22nd January 2007
  #9
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Keldog's Avatar
 

another ditto here. heh
Old 22nd January 2007
  #10
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Compression

Compression can really bring in the outliers in your sound. Keeps bass drums from being too clunky, fattens snares, helps control your signal from peaking out by evening out the highs of your dynamics. Too much will make your sound flat. The right amount tightens everything up and reinforces the sounds made without having to add anything artificial, like using Acid to place an additional (canned) snare sound along with each hit. Compression gives you sound reinforcement for recording.
Old 22nd January 2007
  #11
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firby's Avatar
 

Compressing on the way in very often sucks more room into your recordings. Give your room a listen and deteremine whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.
Old 22nd January 2007
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by firby View Post
Compressing on the way in very often sucks more room into your recordings. Give your room a listen and deteremine whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.

Hmm, and when you compress the sound after tracking, then you still suck up your room.


Jakes

www.jkgstudio.dk
Old 22nd January 2007
  #13
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s.d.finley's Avatar
Sometimes its nice to add the sound of a certain compressor, without compressing the holy bejesus outta it!!
Old 22nd January 2007
  #14
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paterno's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by beau_mckee View Post
Sorry for the extreme noob question, but why do people track drums/bass/guitars/vox with a small amount of compression? Im using Protools and im used to doing everything in DAW, but id like to know what the benefits (apart from hardware compression being nicer than Plugins) what it can do for me and why people do it?

Thankyou in advance!
In addition to the comments of dbubba above, I'd say experiment and see what works for you. People who process on the way into the computer do so because they like what it does to the sound.

I am very leary of the 'fix it later/process it later/ play it safe' kinds of approaches. You are making the record the moment you hit record, so why not make it as great as you can right then and there??

Quote:
Originally Posted by joaquin
I believe that if you are going to tape, with a limited dynamic range, or any noisy format, you can improve your signal to noise ratio for the softer parts of the material.
For 24bit digital recording, I personaly, prefer to track absolutely clean and leave any processing for the mix. YMMV
Going to tape will limit your dynamic range as soon as you hit it hard. While it may increase the 'audibility', I don't see how limiting the dynamic range of a signal [that's what a compressor does, right?] can improve the signal to noise ratio. If you are using makeup gain to increase the level of a compressed signal, you are adding gain to a signal that has been lowered in volume, and the net result is a loss in signal to noise.

For digital recording, I find the medium a lot more dynamic than tape ever was, so compressing going in helps to keep things within a dynamic range I deem useable, while shaping the sound tonally while going into the recorder.
Old 22nd January 2007
  #15
I think the best way to answer this question is to rephrase it.

"Should I record a sound that I know is not the sound I want in the final mix?"

The answer is no, track with compression.

If you're concerned with accidental overcompression, it's still addressed by the same question - don't track with a sound that you don't want in the final mix.

If you don't know how to set a compressor during tracking to be the sound for the final mix, or to be far closer to the sound that tracking without, that's just a lack of expereince which doesn't change the ideal - track with finished sounds.

I guess you could get to the expereinced point by tracking without compression until you see what you're likely to do in the mix, or you could just learn on the job and maybe make a few mistakes.


If you're traking your own album and don't want to make any mistakes, then you've discovered why people hire professionsals.


If you've bought gear and have built a studio and are charging money so you feel like you can't make a mistake, you've discovered why the big studio system with interns and apprenticeships existed.


I think the best thing is to strive for the best and fail until you succed. There's really nothing wrong with failing when you're learning. Hell, there's nothing wrong with failing when you're at the top of your game. No one ever bats 1000.
Old 23rd January 2007
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by paterno View Post
... Going to tape will limit your dynamic range as soon as you hit it hard. While it may increase the 'audibility', I don't see how limiting the dynamic range of a signal [that's what a compressor does, right?] can improve the signal to noise ratio. If you are using makeup gain to increase the level of a compressed signal, you are adding gain to a signal that has been lowered in volume, and the net result is a loss in signal to noise...
Hi Mr. Paterno. I believe that by Compressing the signal Before it hits the recording medium, and bringing up the low level info with make-up Gain...(all of this if necessary), you'll be able to stay away from the noise floor of whatever media you are going to. Since Tape hiss is a lot noisier than the noise floor in Digital Media hence my statement.
I also believe that one must experiment and develop any techniques that may fit the Artistic vision.
Thanks...........................Joaquin.
Old 23rd January 2007
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joaquin View Post
Hi Mr. Paterno. I believe that by Compressing the signal Before it hits the recording medium, and bringing up the low level info with make-up Gain...(all of this if necessary), you'll be able to stay away from the noise floor of whatever media you are going to. Since Tape hiss is a lot noisier than the noise floor in Digital Media hence my statement.
I also believe that one must experiment and develop any techniques that may fit the Artistic vision.
Thanks...........................Joaquin.
Hey Joaquin --

Please -- call me John.

I understand the point you are trying to make, but I think the terminology is a bit suspect. By using make-up gain on the compressor, you will be adding some amount of noise to the recording chain [in addition to whatever noise the rest of the circuit produces] that would not be present otherwise.

On the otherhand, if you are trying to keep levels consistent in a performance, and need to keep a track from getting swallowed up by other things, then a compressor is the way to go. Although you are decreasing the noise floor with the addition of the compressor, you are also limiting the dynamic range so that the soft parts will be closer in level relative to the loud parts of a performance, and the track as a whole will most likely sit better when blended with the other elements of your mix. In this case, you are sacrificing noise floor to decrease the dynamic range, but you are gaining a more intelligible part in the context of the whole mix.

It comes down to making a choice between one thing or the other. The situation will guide the choice.

Cheers,
JP
Old 23rd January 2007
  #18
Gear Nut
I think that aside from doing this to get a higher level onto "tape", there are sometimes other reasons to do this. In particular, with vocals I use compression when tracking because as a vocalist I sing "into" the compression. In other words, it changes the performance because of how the singer reacts to what he/she is hearing. George Massenberg also says using compression in this context improves pitch intelligability.

Recording vocals without compression would to me be like recording an electric guitar direct and then applying the sustain and distortion later. You certainly wouldn't play it the same way as if you could hear the distortion and sustain while playing.

Since we are allmost all blessed with a huge number of tracks, you could always split the signal out of the mic pre and record one clean and one with compression.
Old 23rd January 2007
  #19
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Thanks Jhon for your answer.
Still I do not see the point, when recording to 24bit, to commit to artificial leveling of a performance, when in theory you can do it later in a more appropiate enviroment, safe conversion issues. The only reason that I see (apart from an artistic statement), is, if the Musicians would perform better with automatic leveling. And if that's the case you can always use plugins to accommodate the headphone mixes...!?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paterno
By using make-up gain on the compressor, you will be adding some amount of noise to the recording chain [in addition to whatever noise the rest of the circuit produces] that would not be present otherwise.
To what noise do you refer?
Thanks........................................Joaquin.
Old 23rd January 2007
  #20
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Personally I don't think it's a good idea to track solely with compression. In other words I run a mic direct into channel 1 and then a compressed version through track 2 for some good ol parallel compression later in the mix. Then I can balance the 2 tracks with each other trying to use the uncompressed track the most. I also use selected points within Adobe Audition to control specific detailed dynamics, (Pretty much like volume automation but way more detailed and microscopic if needed). In fact, I could use that alone to control dynamics but sometimes it just sounds bigger mixing in a little of the compressed version of a vocal in with the original. What's nice is when tracking like someone else said I monitor in mono so that the performer can hear the compression and thus can hear some of the softer/quieter parts which in theory seems would help with reducing flat notes...

bcgood
Old 23rd January 2007
  #21
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paterno's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by joaquin View Post
Thanks Jhon for your answer.
Still I do not see the point, when recording to 24bit, to commit to artificial leveling of a performance, when in theory you can do it later in a more appropiate enviroment, safe conversion issues. The only reason that I see (apart from an artistic statement), is, if the Musicians would perform better with automatic leveling. And if that's the case you can always use plugins to accommodate the headphone mixes...!?

To what noise do you refer?
Thanks........................................Joaquin.
The noise I'm talking about is the noise generated by the make up amplifier on the compressor. Any added gain stages in the recording chain will in effect increase the amount of noise in the system.

Remember, any leveling you do is artificial -- even fader rides -- from a purist standpoint. And I think the most appropriate environment is 'in the moment', whenever that occurs. If you hook it up and it sounds cool, then USE IT !!! If you can get the sound you are imagining in your head -- do it !!

Recording anything has elements of documentation and artistic statement, couldn't you say? I prefer to capture it the way I imagine it -- whatever that takes.

Using plugins to accomodate headphones mixes sounds like a bad idea, in my experience. There is nothing more dis-heartening for a musician than having it sound great in the headphones and then coming and being disappointed [when you bypass the tracking compression, that is]. And when a musican 'plays off' the sound in the headphones, talking the effect away will change the intent of the musician's perfomance, won't it? I say, take the extra time to work on the sound and commit to it.

People complain about the sound of recordings today, the bad performances, etc. -- and yet the majority of these records have no vision or conviction to begin with. I hear it in a lot of records, and I see it when people send me songs with maxxed out track counts to mix.

Cheers,
john
Old 23rd January 2007
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bcgood View Post
Personally I don't think it's a good idea to track solely with compression.
Why ?
Old 23rd January 2007
  #23
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The technical points of raising gain before and/or after is irrevelant. The musician/singer should hear something as close as possible to the final mix to give a performance that takes advantage of the compression. So either you compress his monitoring only or the take, but do it! When tracking the guitar, you let the guitarist hear his sound and the drum, not a click track and a dry guitar!!!tutt

Multi stage compression also usually sounds better than smashing once, so compressing a little while tracking AND a little as an insert AND a litttle on the bus AND a little on the mastering helps. Lots of that "typical demo vocal sound" comes from using only one compressor stage (or none!) (a good mike is needed as well!)
Old 23rd January 2007
  #24
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RUSCO's Avatar
Quote:
So either you compress his monitoring only or the take, but do it! When tracking the guitar, you let the guitarist hear his sound and the drum, not a click track and a dry guitar!!!
Yes that's true. Compression I find can often help vocalists if they are using headphones .
I usually compress Bass and Vocals at least on the way in. It seems to tighten everything up. Great on kick too but better applied later.
Old 23rd January 2007
  #25
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joaquin's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by paterno View Post
...I think the most appropriate environment is 'in the moment', whenever that occurs. If you hook it up and it sounds cool, then USE IT !!! If you can get the sound you are imagining in your head -- do it !!

Recording anything has elements of documentation and artistic statement, couldn't you say? I prefer to capture it the way I imagine it -- whatever that takes....
... I say, take the extra time to work on the sound and commit to it.

People complain about the sound of recordings today, the bad performances, etc. -- and yet the majority of these records have no vision or conviction to begin with. I hear it in a lot of records, and I see it when people send me songs with maxxed out track counts to mix.

Cheers,
john
Thanks for the answer!
Inspiring approach. I shall create some music with it
Though, I think that such method is more related to Production (producer) rather than engineering. and there's also the incognita of posible later overdubs that may upset the intended balance.
Anyway, I appreciate you answer, for someone that knows well the colors and create with a confident stroke fuel the ARTS.

PS. I never create monitor mixes that may mold the performance towards an inexistant sound...Iwas just trying to get my point across!
Thank again.....Joaquin.
Old 23rd January 2007
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by paterno View Post
Why ?
I guess for me I just like to have more options in the final mix. I'm a big fan of dynamics and maximum expression in recording. If the singer is good, their use of great mic technique sometimes makes it possible to use a completely compressor free vocal take in the final mix, nothing beats the frequency range and expressiveness of a vocal take like that...

bcgood
Old 23rd January 2007
  #27
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Man, there's a lot to think about here.

I will say that from a more DIY perspective when what you are really trying to do is make marginally talented clients not sound as bad as they do, I will track with a touch of compression to make sure the dynamics are even - mainly because the "artists" I usually work with are not sophisticated enough to use dynamics correctly anyways - think karaoke queen bobbing and weaving like a drunk Aretha in front of the mike as if she has any idea what the hell she is doing, or a guitarist who hits his chords at 5 different levels of attack, yet expects them all to sound even...

Sometimes I track with comp just to get a more even amount of information (vocals) or a little more smoothness and sustain (bass and guitar). But for bass and clean guitar, I usually use a footpedal compressor (I have an analog Ibanez comp that I love) and do two tracks.

I think that the idea of parallel compression is where I would like to go - that's something I will have to work on. Thanks!
Old 23rd January 2007
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bcgood View Post
I guess for me I just like to have more options in the final mix.
What kind of options do you really need? As long as you are paying attention to what you are doing, why not make the call right there in the moment? Having options like you are talking about in the final mix just slows down the process and makes you question a hell of a lot of tracks rather than mixing the music.

Let's face it -- it's just music. If you screw it up, it only sounds bad.


Quote:
Originally Posted by bcgood View Post
I'm a big fan of dynamics and maximum expression in recording. If the singer is good, their use of great mic technique sometimes makes it possible to use a completely compressor free vocal take in the final mix, nothing beats the frequency range and expressiveness of a vocal take like that...

bcgood
If. Sometimes. Possible. Sounds like some theory but not much application.

I've found it rare [if ever] that a singer has anywhere near the 'mic technique' that you are talking about. Especially when there are other instruments in the final mix.

But that's me...

Cheers,
John
Old 23rd January 2007
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pasta4lnch View Post
yeah - it's really all about the sound. a nice juicy analog comp w/ tubes or a cool tranny and maybe a nice opto circuit just kills a plug-in. just have to be careful not to over do it.

for me once a signal gets digital I like to keep it there so I do a LOT of processing before hand. rarely do I screw it up . . . and usually it's on something that I played and I was too busy creating the part . . . so I just re-do it. it just takes some trial and error w/ you compressor, but once ya know it, it's definitely a better sound.


Old 23rd January 2007
  #30
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Great thread. And like another poster said, this is very inspiring. I see two schools of thought here. Both methods are necessary depending on the circumstances. So many variables. It depends on the performer(s). The equipment. The amount of time. The budget. The creative freedom. The size of the ego. The mood. And the willingness to start a new habit or break an old one.
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