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Audio Mastering: A Guide for Home Studios
January 19, 2016
Home Mastering Insider Tips
February 3, 2016

Compression: Things You NEED To Know

CompressionA GUIDE FOR COMPRESSION THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE

It is time we dive into one of the most essential and confusing aspects of audio engineering, audio compression! Whether you are new to mixing and mastering or are a home studio owner with a handful of compression plug ins, you are most likely in the same boat! Audio compression is not intuitive and we all want music production to be intuitive! So tonight, we will talk about mixing plug ins and recording software tips to start using compression in ways that impact your mixing and mastering while preserving your dynamic range!
Let’s start with recording software tips. These music production tips are for the people who only have native plug ins or have a very limited amount of plug ins!

Here are 5 tips every beginner “audio pro” should know to maximize native plugins!

Work with ONE compressor for a week and then move to another. It doesn’t matter what piece of recording software you are using or what the compressor emulation is modeling. Use one compressor on EVERY source so you know what the compressor works well on and what the compressor does not work well on!
Maximus

 

NUMBER 1

Less is always more, but in the beginning using more will teach you how to use compression while mixing less! In EDM music using high amounts of compression on sources is common, so… push your compression adjustments really hard so you can hear the compression strongly!

NUMBER 2

Every DJ knows that volume is important when mixing and remixing tracks live. But every music producer should know that when you use compression you are lowering the amplitude of that element in the mix. In order to truly A/B your “in the box” dynamics processing be certain to adjust the make up gain accordingly!

NUMBER 3

Always be conscious of preserving the dynamic range! Electronic music is known for smashed tracks which often lack dynamics due to an extreme amount of compression. Strive to not be a part of this passing fad! The music artists who are doing this are ruining their tracks and they do not care because they are popular music artists! Here is tip 1 in your life long music education saga as a music producer – dynamics are you best friend! Don’t over compress in bulk!

NUMBER 4

If a part needs to have an insane amount of compression while mixing, then use anything your recording software application offers to restore some transients on some layers so your mix does not sound lifeless when you get to the mastering phase! Audio engineering is process of trial and error, so don’t be afraid to try things! No one is going to die if you crank the hell out of the threshold!
CompressionNative plug in users know this: Itb (in the box) compression is very powerful if used correctly and very destructive if used aggressively. Native plug ins will not touch the sonic quality of analogue hardware but they will effectively change the dynamic range of your music, which is the greatest reason for utilizing compression during the mixing phase.  Above is a perfect system to start with! Rinse and repeat this process weekly, and you are bound to get a few steps closer to compression mastery in music production!

Now, for those people who have mixing plugin suites and are past the phase of trial and error when it comes to which emulation to use, here are 5 tips to jumpstart the quality of your audio engineering skills when using compression!

NUMBER 1

Controlling Your Tracks So You Are Not Hearing The Audio Compression

When you just want to control peaks so you do not effect the whole track use a fast attack and fast release to “grab” the peaks you want to control with your digital compression box. A great compression ratio to start with is 4:1. Make sure to be mindful of your threshold adjustment which will change based on your source material. A variety of compression algorithms will work here! Try a few out

VCA CompressorNUMBER 2

Flattening The Tracks That Lack Dynamic Range So They Don’t Get Lost In The Mix

This is a great technique if you need something to stand out in the mix, which is lacking dynamic range. If you are recording music this is a great thing to do to help a vocal or guitar part not get lost in the mix.  Generally an 8:1 compression ratio is a good starting point. The compression attack and compression release will vary.

NUMBER 3

Put Some Punch In Your Kick

For a punchy kick sound start with a 6:1 compression ratio and leave the attack about half open. The release should be in fairly closed; this will depend on the compression algorithm you are using. Traditionally, well-designed DBX emulations of itb (in the box) compressors have been on par with the analogue hardware. (For you native guys both Pro Tools and Logic X come with great models to experiment with, especially the Focusrite Red emulations).
dbx-160X-image-resized

 

NUMBER 4

Throw Some Thump In Your Kick

For thumpy big kicks start with a 6:1 compression ratio and keep both the attack and the release closed! You can experiment with the release a bit, but don’t open it too much! Actually don’t take our word for it! Try it, let your ear guide you and teach you!
2500 Compressor

NUMBER 5

Give The Bass Line A Consistent Vibe and Feel

Whether you are recording a real bass or using a VST you are bound to have inconsistencies with amplitude when playing. For rock producers, this human feel is sometimes desired, but for most EDM music, Dubstep, Chillstep, Trance, and other electronic music genres it is not. The best mixing plugin to use for bass is an 1176 (most recording software programs offer some kind of emulation of this iconic compressor). This fabulous mixing plugin not only keep the performance/recording consistent but will also give your bass track some character and vibe! And during the mixing phase, character and vibe is desired!
1176

 

We hope this article helps you better understand the confusing world of compression! For now, go turn some knobs and hear some things happen in real time!

Go SMASH some tracks!

http://www.musictech.net/2011/11/25-tips-for-compression/
http://www.soundstosample.com/blog/how-to/how-to-use-compression
http://www.noiseaddicts.com/2012/04/audio-compression-tips/
http://www.musicradar.com/tuition/tech/25-mixing-tips-33907

As Always,

Stay Passionate Music Producers and Never Stop Making Art!

Written by: Kriss Walas

A Licensed Continuum Music Studio Blog Creative Work

© Copyright 2016 Kriss Walas and Continuum Music Studio. All Rights Reserved

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Kriss Walas
Kriss Walas
Kriss Walas is a constantly expanding musician, composer, music producer, mixing engineer, mastering engineer, writer, DJ, artist manager, CEO, record label owner, Reiki practitioner, meditation enthusiast, avid learner, and spiritual activist. Now, at age 31 Kriss has committed himself to living through heart and only spending his time on endeavors he is passionate about. It is for this reason he is proud to be working with the amazingly passionate and talented artists, partners, and educators who are affiliated with The Continuum Music Studio and The Music and Recording Arts Academy.
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