Understanding compression is imperative for achieving a great mix. For this, we have compiled 10 tips to help you grasp this important technique.
1. Why Compression Is Important
Compression can help a track sit in a mix, shape its transient character, as well as add clarity and warmth. When used effectively, compression can be one of the most powerful tools at your disposal.
The threshold is the dB level your audio must exceed before gain reduction occurs. Adjust your threshold in accordance with where your audio peaks. Use your ears, as well as your meters, to find the sweet spot.
The ratio determines the amount of gain reduction applied after your audio passes the threshold. While certain tracks such as rhythm sections can benefit from higher ratios, it’s best to keep a low gain reduction as a starting point.
4. Make Up Gain
The makeup gain is responsible for lifting up the overall volume after gain reduction. With the help of your meters, adjust your makeup gain to accompany the original input volume. This will result in “compression,” as opposed to a mere reduction of your peaks.
The attack is the amount of time it takes for the compressor to react. Keep an attack time that is high enough to let your transients breathe through. However, not high enough to miss the attack completely.
The release determines the time it takes for the compressor to let go of the signal’s gain reduction. With dynamic audio like drums or vocals, we suggest slower release times. This will allow time for the compressor to ride the next transient.
7. Multi-Band Compression
Compressing independent frequency bands is a great way to control a track’s spectral balance. For instance, load a multi-band compressor on your drum bus and compress only the sub bass region. This will tighten up the low-end and keep the higher frequencies dancing in the mix.
8. Parallel Compression
A fantastic way to add punch to your track is by mixing it in parallel with a compressed version. While many suggest to duplicate the desired track, we recommend to instead use an AUX send. This way, multiple tracks in your mix can be glued together for additional presence.
9. A/B In Bypass
While dialing in your compressor settings, occasionally compare the track in bypass. This will help you hear how much compression is needed and retain the original intent before compression is applied.
10. Don’t Over Do it
An overuse of compression will make a track sound squashed and lifeless. Avoid spending too much time fiddling with settings, and don’t compress because you’re “supposed to.” With any mixing technique, be swift and do so with purpose.
We hope you found these 10 compression tips to be helpful! Is there something we missed? Let us know in the comments below.