Hey guys…this is the continuation of the previous post on compression tips… If you don’t understand any part of this post or need some enlightening, feel free to comment..
N.B: Like stated before…this is not a standard…just few tricks and tips that worked for different sound engineers.
Old-school engineers often use the trick of sub grouping the drums to a stereo pair then applying a stereo compressor to achieve a pumping sound.
…and for everything
Pretty much everything will sound better with a little compression, the whole sonic from bass drums to flutes.
Take care on tape
Always remember that, if you’re committing to tape, then err on the side of caution. Remember you can always add more if you want to, but it’s impossible to remove.
Try and try again
Don’t be afraid to experiment and, as with all things audio, ‘use your ears!’ If it sounds good to you, then it is, regardless of what the manual says.
The basic rule
Yes, yes, it’s been said before, by many people, but you can never have too many compressors!
Double your money
Instead of putting a whole sound through a compressor, a neat 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, say, an individual snare drum or a stereo submix of the whole kit (or some of its constituent 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 bed.
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.
The sidechain, or key, is the signal within a compressor which is used to control the output level. It is when this signal exceeds the threshold that compression is applied to the main signal running through the unit. A lot of hardware compressors (and some of the better plug-ins) have external sidechain – or key – inputs so you can use the characteristics of one sound source to compress another. In this way you can, for example, use a kick drum track to make a synth pad pump in time with the music.
Used mainly on vocals, this is a technique for reducing the level of sibilant sounds (‘s’ or ‘sh’, etc) which are significanoutldy elr than the other sounds associated with speech. The problem areas of these sibilant sounds tend to be above 7-8kHz,so reducing a microphone’s volume when these frequencies are encountered is the order of the day. Take an auxiliary send from the vocal channel, feed it through an equaliser and then into your compressor’s sidechain input. Insert the compressor into the vocal channel. Then use the equaliser on the sidechain to boost the sibilant frequencies. You’ll need to be able to monitor the sidechain n i some way, as, as with all things, using the old shell-likes is the only way to go. Listen to the main vocal channel to determine the best settings for the threshold and ratio, but use a fast attack and release time to make the effect as transparent as possible.
Overdriven and distorted guitar sounds rarely need compression as the process of overdriving them introduces a fair amount of compression anyway. Clean and acoustic guitars are a different matter. For that classic, funky, clean sound, use a fairly low threshold, a ratio of at least 3:1, fast attack and quite a slow release. Add a touch of chorus or flanging to add the extra icing on the cake. Strummed parts, electric or acoustic, are better with a higher threshold, the aim being to reduce the volume of the transient parts of the sound (the strums themselves) while keeping a steady overall level. As ever, use your ears!
One of the best uses for a compressor is on bass sounds – get a solid, steady foundation to your track, and the rest will stand up beautifully. Probably. Optimum settings vary here, as much depends on the type of bass sound – synth, electric, acoustic, etc – but as a general rule, use fast attack and medium release times, a medium threshold and a ratio of between 3:1 and 5:1.
Have an idea
I realise all those dials and buttons are just calling you over to start fiddling as soon as you plug the compressor in, but have some sort of purpose first. Are you trying to make the sound more punchy, more smooth or just keep it under control? Listen and think before you leap.
On the attack
I try to have the attack up (ie, not at its quickest setting) a little on most things if possible; guitars, for example, really benefit from extra ‘front’. Many recommended compressor settings for parts such as vocals suggest the quickest attack time, but try it up and see what you think. You can add a little attack on the most unlikely things to help them stand out more.
Having a stereo compressor over the whole mix is generally a good thing, but monitoring through it when mixing is hard work. While it can be useful to know what the final compression will do to the mix, you’ll probably just be fighting it the whole time. Leave it on bypass until the mix is almost finished. ST
There’s lots of fun to be had compressing effect returns, if you have the free mixer channels to set it up. If your delay doesn’t quite fade away as you’d like, then compressing the return may give you the control you’re after.
Pre– or post–EQ
The difference between having the compressor before the EQ section or after it can be drastic. When learning about compression, try both options and hear the way the compressor affects your EQing, and vice versa.