Category Archives: Compression

Why Use Compression Anyway?


Compression destroys a lot of mixes but everyone loves to discuss just how amazing it is. So why is it held with such high regard? Should we be using it in our mixes?

Everyone loves to talk about how awesome compression is, but it’s also ruined so many mixes. So what’s the deal with compression? Should you be using it in your mixes? If so, why? And how?

Following an article I wrote on equalization, today I want to share the simple truth about compression.

Automatic Gain Fader

Compression was first developed to keep things from exploding. Well more than that it was used to make sure that electronic equipment wasn’t being overloaded. On the hole, music is very duynamic, from the snares, to the vocals, to the guitars. These can all be very quiet and then become very loud at a moments notice.
more on dynamic range compression here.

So before compression was invented, the engineer had to control all of these peaks by hand by using the volume fader and riding it as it went to tape.
Eventually someone wise up and decided that this was something that needed to be automated. How much easier our lives became after that point. No more need to ride the fader (unless you want to of course).

I personally believe that this is the best way to control volume dynamics – with compression. With little bits of compression here and there you can control the peaks and valleys of your audio for a much more pleasing experience for the listener.

Give Me Some More Energy

Compression is also a great way to add more life to a tack. By setting the compressor up with a slow attack, you can bring the quetier parts up and the louder parts down, all without destroying the front end of the audio – or the transients.

This is a little trick that can be very effective on vocals or acoustic guitars. By having the peaks and values closer to one another, you are bringing out more excitement in the audio sigle. This of course results in a much more exciting song.

More Length and More Awesomeness

Did you know that a compressor can have a sonic footprint that will impart a certain characteristic to your audio?

Basically they are instant tone machines. That’s why 3 different compressors can actually give your vocal a much different sound.

They also can be used to lengthen sustain of a sound. By using a fast attack to remove some of the transient and then turn the make up gain control up so you can effectively lengthen the audio.

Don’t Go Too Crazy

Just like with equalization, the compressor should be used sparingly and only as needed in your mixes. Remember we are trying to enhance the record and not butcher it. You need to develop your ear so that you can hear when and when not to use it, but with time you should be a master compressor user.

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Another YouTube Mixing Trick

Okay so here I am back on YouTube, gathering some information so that I can process it and then apply it to my mixes. I wanted to share another one with you.

This one comes courtesy of Dave Pensado. He does this parallel compression technique where he makes the kick really snappy and then he boosts a ton of bottom eq to make the kick really pull through the mix.

I have my own sort of parallel techniques but I definitely learned a lot from this one. Dave is really cool and he shares a lot of his knowledge with us home engineers for free. You should really check out his channel if you can.

Also watch the video below and let me know how you approach your parallel channels.

By for now!

Video Courtesy of his Pensado’s Place YouTube Channel

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An Interesting Approach to Compressing Vocals

So the other day I was watching a YouTube video on vocal compression from modern mixing. I try not to read too much into what I see on YouTube but this guy has a pretty decent following so I thought I would give it an honest watch.

He talks about compressing vocals where you think about it like a piece of sandpaper. So basically if you had a piece of wood that was a little rough around the edges, you would take out your sandpaper and smooth it down. He would use compression in the same sense where its just knocking off some off those rough peaks.

I found it really interesting because I always used compression as a away to make things louder and never thought it could do much more. Wow, you learn something new everyday.

Anyways check out the video below or read his post on vocal compression and let me know what you think.

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