Tip of the Day: Learn about Compression - 4 Tips to get started
You use compression, when you want a signal to be louder in the mix, right? Wrong!
The concept of compression is one of gain reduction in the first place - it makes loud signals more quiet and quiet signals louder.
Think of a big hot steamy block of aluminum, that gets pressed in a wield - you take away from the top and the bottom, but fatten the middle. The material gets more dense and strong, but loses other qualities. Basically the same thing happens to your audio track, when you turn on the compressor. If you know what you do, you can get that super robust but yet lightweight aluminum pipes for a high class mountain bike. If you don´t, you end up with aluminum foil - you will never win a downhill race.
Tip 1: Mixing - always start with adjusting levels and panning first!
There are so many mistakes that can be done, while applying a compressor to a track, because you are not satisfied with the sound or you just need more volume. Use a compressor when you really need one.
Check our videos or any other video on compression, to get a better understanding of the concept.
Tip 2: Bus compression
You are about to apply a compressor to multiple tracks with similar adjustments?
Try routing them to a bus and compress only that channel. That way you not only save CPU and resources, but also get a more even sound.
Tip 3: EQ before compression
You want a certain sound to stand out in the mix? Did you really do everything you can with your EQ? Let´s assume you want your vocals to pop, did you substract the frequencies needed for that from pads, leads, guitars or synths? From all of them? You did? Good, then maybe tip 4 helps you to get what you want, before applying a compressor.
Tip 4: Panning
Same example, your vocals need to shine more. Main vocals are usually not panned at all, to hit you right in the middle at point C. But maybe you forgot to get the other instruments layed out in the panorama? Doubled guitars are usually panned all the way left and right, pads and layers between 45 and 60, leads also in the middle, when they do not play at the same time as the vocals. If they do, substract unnecessary frequencies and pan them to 15. That way you have a lot more space in your mix and maybe don´t even need compression. If you still do, you will hear the differences a lot better now.
The list of tips for compression is endless and this is not the “Ultimate guide to compression”. But to get started, you need to know what each knob in your compressor does and how it can enhance your sounds.
Do you want to learn more about compression and mixing a track?
Then check out this Start to Finish Online Course!
1. Compression Techniques
2. EQing Techniques
3. Bass Layering & Sub Bass Separation
... and a lot more you need to know, to make your production shine!