I love compression… to the point that it’s probably an issue.
Day to day, I write dance music, so i love pumping as an artistic choice, rather than an accident or an unintentional production method. But, other than using compression for these types of arty (some might not find it arty) and creative reasons, compression is there to serve a myriad of purposes.
Let’s talk compression, when mixing:
First off, if you’re new to mixing or have never used any compressors before, then you’ll be wondering what compression actually is.
Compression is used to enhance the level of track, make it louder (sort of).
Compressors act by turning down (essentially) the loudest peaks in a waveform and therefore make the average more consistent. You can turn up these tracks in the mix, without having to worry too much about distortion and peaking.
The real reasons we use compression when mixing? Because when done with finesse, it can really enhance a track. It can make instruments and vocals sound richer, warmer, tighter and just generally a bit nicer.
Knowing the tools of your trade is important, and getting to grips with compressors can be a bit of a nightmare. You’ll generally see the following on all software and hardware plugins:
Ratio and Threshold
Attack and Release
How you use the above settings is completely up to you and is completely dependant on the sound you are going for. If you are using a 4:1 ratio and threshold, then you’re going to get a very hard sounding compression, where as if you were to use 2:1, you’ll get a softer compression.
The same can be said for attack and release, if you’re using a quick attack time, it will sound much harsher (if using a 4:1 threshold) than using a longer attack time.
For vocals I would use a slower attack time, with a 2:1 ratio, where as for ‘pumping’ dance bass, I would use a long attack time and a 4:1 ratio. Using compression gives you the ability to morph and shape sounds a little differently, so getting used to your gear and having a play around is definitely worth it.
Using compression can really add to your track, and just by using your ears you’ll be able to know when enough is enough. It’s a good tool to help even out tracks within a mix, but remember that every track doesn’t need a compressor!
Check out our blog on compression and what not to do!