Friday, February 26, 2010
What is compression?
the reason people ask about compression is because they find it the hardest concept to understand or hear.
A basic explanation is to imagine compression like an automatic volume control, when the audio is loud it gets turned down and when it's low it gets turned up.
This means sharp signals are now curved and fading signals are now picked up and heard for longer. It also means smoother sounds and can add a lot more weight to your notes.
Soft knees are generally used for everything from snares to vocals to final mixing,
Where as a hard knee compression is a lot more audiable and less smooth,
I tend to use hard knee compression for fattenning my basses.
Vocals are one of the hardest and most dynamic sounds you may come across. My
advice would be to try and catch the peaks in the song. Use soft knee compression in your vst, set the ratio to around 2:1, attack to 0.09ms, release to 100ms then adjust the threshold to catch the loudest parts of the vocal, so you get about 8dB of reduction. (remember, Use this as a guideline).
Old skool engineers often use the trick of sub grouping the drums to a stereo pair then applying a stereo compressor to achieve a pumping sound.
Remember though the golden rule, What you have applied, You cant take away, So always back up your tracks.. even while writing.
Pretty much everything will sound better with a little compression , this includes the whole sonic spectrum from bass drums to jews harps.
Try and try again
Instead of putting a whole sound through a compressor, a cool trick is to split it to two channels, heavily compress one of them and mix that with the uncompressed channel. This works particularly well on drum sounds and can
be applied to an individual snare drum or a stereo submix of the whole drum pattern (or some of its parts).
The compressed version of the sound can be tweaked to make it pump by setting an appropriately short release time and can then be added to the uncompressed version to get a more exciting and dynamic rhythm.
When working with a sound source which covers a full (or at least large) frequency spectrum, such as a complete mix, normal compressors tend to introduce a 'pumping' effect. This is because the lower frequencies which tend to trigger the compressor will normally be doing something quite different to the higher frequencies, yet the
compressor will attenuate the entire output by the same amount. Multiband compression, as the name suggests, uses a crossover to split the full-bandwidth input sound into smaller bandwidths which are then compressed separately.
The results are then mixed back together, the result being a much louder,tighter mix which doesn't pump or sound squashed, This makes for a thoroughly better sounding overall mix.
Hope you can learn from this, In another blog I will write how to use the king of electronic music production "Side-chain compression".
It will show you how to effectively "duck" a bassline to retain the power your tune needs.