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- Learn 6 pro audio compression techniques from 6 professional recording engineers.
- Hone in on how to nail compression so you can get your music release-ready.
An ability to know when and how to use compression is what separates the good producers from the great producers. With the wealth of information available online, we’ve compiled a list of 6 top compression tips from some of our favourite engineers and producers.
The following audio compression tips are from:
- Andrew Scheps
- Joe Barresi
- Steve Albini
- Chris Lord Alge
- Eric Valentine
- Warren Huart
6 Quick Compression Tips From The Pros
The "rear buss" technique is a parallel compressor for everything in the mix except the drums. It helps glue the instruments and vocals together and make them interact. Typically it's a multi-mono 1176 plugin with a low ratio, slow attack and fast release. The key is that the sends to it are at 0 and post fader, so basically you are making a copy of your mix (minus drums), compressing it and then blending it back in with the uncompressed tracks.
I'm not a transparent compressor guy. I may send one compressor into the other as well. That works well if you need a very up-front vocal. When I'm mixing I'll compress the vocal further, perhaps using an 1176 again or something that's a little cleaner and more accurate, like a Distressor or the SSL console compressor.
Most of the time (when recording bass with two mics), the microphone that favors the low frequencies has a couple dB of compression on it. I don't usually compress the brighter of the two microphones so that the effect of the distortion is more evident. It's a way of mimicking the way the bass sounds live, where clicking on a distortion pedal not only changes the sound quality but actually gets louder.
Don’t over compress. Mix with your ears not your eyes. Push the faders up and get a balance before you put a compressor on every channel. Don’t process until you’ve listened to the song first and heard what needs the processing. If you process everything you are eliminating the dynamics.
Let's say I want a single mono (drum overhead) to sound more compressed without changing the balance between the cymbals and the drums. What I do is use an expander and a compressor at the same time. The idea is to set the amount of compression the same as the amount of expansion. So if the compressor is compressing 8db on the significant hits, than the expander should be turning down the signal 8db around those hits.
I use multiband compression on bass guitar, the reason why is so that I can get an even bottom end. I find with live bass the bottom end sounds huge, then disappears and never sounds consistent. (By compressing the low end) no matter what the bassist is playing it still has that fullness in it.
More On Compression
- 5 Free Compressor VSTs Actually Worth Your Time
- 4 Creative Uses Of Sidechain Compression
- The Basics Of Compression You Need To Know
- 4 Types Of Compressors & When To Use Each Of Them
What’s Your Favorite Compression Tip?
If you have a favorite compression tip that belongs on this list, please let us know down in the comments below!