How To Use Compression – Detailed Tutorial

Understanding compression and how to hear it is an essential mixing skill.
In this video, I am going into a huge amount of detail to explain how to deeply hear and understand vocal compression so that you are no longer confused. I will show you all the important settings while compressing vocals and guitar.

Video Notes:
1) Listen to compression when all your tracks are playing, if you can’t hear the other instruments and vocals it is usually a waste of time (unless you are highly experienced…in which case…why do you watch my videos!)

2) Often you need compression to make a vocal sound natural in a mix, surprisingly – This is due to how the microphone picks up some peoples voice

3) Have an Aim! If you don’t know what you are aiming for, how will you be able to guarantee a good result? When you listen to the uncompressed audio, ask yourself:
“What do I want to change?”
“Do I need more sustain on this vocal?”
“Are my vocals too punchy or transient?”

4) Compression Settings

The point or level in dB where the compression will start being applied.

How much compression should be applied?
2:1 = Gentle Compression
10:1 = Aggressive Compression

A ratio of 4:1 means that the signal has to go 4dB above the threshold to get 1dB out (3db of compression)
8dB over = 2dB out etc ( 6db of compression!)
This 4:1 ratio means only 25% of the signal above the threshold will pass through, so this is very noticeable.

A ratio of 2:1 means that for every 2 dB the signal goes over the threshold, the compressor will only allow 1 dB through, so this only allows 50% of the signal above the threshold to pass through, this is considered gentle.

The higher the number, the more gain reduction will be experienced when the signal passes the threshold. 20:1 and higher is usually getting into the range of limiting, where you have a virtually infinite ratio to prevent any peaks.

How fast should the compression start after the threshold is passed?
Fast attack time = Heavy, soft vocals
Slower attack = Punchy, transient vocals

How fast does the compressor recover after the signal falls below the threshold?
Slow release = Mushy vocals
Fast release = Choppy vocals

▶Makeup Gain
Compression turns your audio signal down, so we apply a boost at the end to bring it back up to the original level. With this boost applied and the peaks brought down, the overall signal is louder and more full!

The knee of a compressor makes the threshold act more smoothly, so that compression is triggered in a smoother or more gradual manner. Experiment to see if it gives you a more natural tone.

Song: Consequences by Calvin Prior – Available on YouTube


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