Hey everyone…this is the first post for the blog… I decided to start with this because it’s one of the major problems experienced by beginners and ‘sometime’ intermediate sound/audio engineers. Most (esp. here in Nigeria) don’t like using it ‘cos of it’s complexities. We are going to give you some few tips to play around with…these tips are not gotten from one particular sound guy but several sound pros.
N.B: it’s not a standard..but u can start from these settings.
Compression basically explained: the reason people ask about compression more than anything is because they find it the hardest concept to understand or hear. A basic explanation I heard when I first started was thinking of compression like an automatic volume control, when the audio is loud it gets turned down and when it’s soft it gets turned up. This means sharp signals are now curved and fading signals are now picked up and last longer. It also means smoother sounds and fatter notes.
Soft knee, hard knee
Unless you have a software compressor or a really high-end model, you won’t be able to choose the setting. You simply have to decide whether to get a soft knee compressor or a hard knee one. Try to buy a soft knee compressor as it will be useful on practically everything without crushing the sound. Mostly used on vocals and mixes, it means a larger amount of compression can be applied, while hard knee compressors, which can be heard working, will be typically used on bass. It is more of an audible effect than soft knee.
Yours is a Urei
Kate Bush was rumoured to have two compressors across her vocals: the infamous studio compressor Urei 1176 one on its flat-out setting (all ratio buttons pushed in) and another added just in case any peaks got through. It sounds crazy, but the 1176 is famous because of its super-soft character on vocals, and on this high a setting she would have had every breath picked up by the mic and every peak squashed. This gave her a unique sound.
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, set the ratio around 2:1 (but maybe as high as 6:1 for voiceovers and spoken word), attack to 0.09ms, release to 100ms then adjust the threshold to catch the loudest parts of the song, so you get about 8dB of reduction.
Get what you pay for
Software compressors are fantastic now and the built-in compressor in Emagic’s Logic has done the job for me on many vocals now. However, I still went out and paid for a classic compressor like the hand-wired perfection of the all-valve Chiswick Reach. This put across the outputs of Pro Tools is amazing. A lot of money compared to software, but the sound is worth every penny.
The beat goes on
Drums can be transformed by compression in a mix. On a snare try a soft knee, use a ratio of 4:1, a long attack and a little longer release, then adjust the threshold to just grab the first couple of dB of reduction. Now try adjusting the attack shorter, and the threshold higher to adjust the sound to fit the track, the R&B type of snap or the pop type of slap.
We are stopping here for today…
To be continued later…
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