Compression and limiting

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by NCdan, May 24, 2008.

  1. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    Hi, all, I'm new here, and popping in to ask for some professional advice and may stick around if this forum hasn't been engulfed by the 16-year-old army that plagues so many forums :p . I record speed punk music, think: RKL, DRI, old NOFX, old Suicidal Tendencies, old Guttermouth, etc... I in now way, shape, or form consider myself to be a vocalist, but I can lay down decent snotty punk vox for my home recordings, and better to have decent vox than no vox, at least imho.

    So, to get to the actual question: I'm having trouble getting the quieter parts to be as loud as the screamed parts. I already know how to properly handle a mic., and yes, I'm using and Audix OM5. What I want to know is, should I hit a compressor or limiter first (I'm using a two channel Maxcom for my physical compressor/limiter)? Also, how drastic should the compression be? Should I do a threshhold of -10 at 3 and use multiple Adobe 3.0 compressor plugins, staging the compression, or should I hit it hard with the physical compression? Thanks.
     
  2. Greener

    Greener Guest

    Try em all and see what sounds good.

    "I'm having trouble getting the quieter parts to be as loud as the screamed parts."

    Compressing things will bring the parts together, although a little "fader riding" in the mix can help this too without affecting dynamic range.
    In other words, turn the vocals up when you're whispering jack, and turn em down when you're shouting at the heavy petting zoo.
     
  3. MarkG

    MarkG Guest

    I would definitely hit your hardware compressor first and then compress again at mixdown. I try to use less compression at different stages instead of a lot of compression all at once, this makes the compression less noticable.
    You could also try highlighting really soft passages and increasing the gain, so the signal is a little more consistant before it hits your software compressor.

    I hope you stick around, people who have good thoughtful questions are pretty well recieved here (it's only the people who try to give answers who get slapped down occasionally!)

    Good Luck
     
  4. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    What's wrong with having the quieter parts quieter than the loud parts. I think that's just a feature. I remember buying LPs and cranking them on first listen then when the loud parts hit, my mother would start yelling.
     
  5. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    Thanks, MarkG, I figured out through trial and error (also known as "why is my mix pumping so much?") that using multiple stages of compression is a must for anything more than taming the peaks, but the real problem I have is that I'm not a vocalist; you might equate this post to a beginning guitarist who goes and buys a decent guitar rig, then goes on a forum and asks how to get _____ sound. Sure, he can follow all the suggestions, but chances are he'll still get it wrong. Now, if my concepts of compression and limiting are accurate, a compressor reduces the level of the audio signal to the degree you set, while a limiter says, "you aren't getting any louder than ____ amount." Is this correct? My pea brain seems to think that since I'm not going for beautiful vocals, that limiting before compressing will let me take digital compression stages out, not to mention using lower compression levels. Now, if it's the other way around (compress -> limiting), I have a dilemma because my analog unit is only two channels of compression or limiting (I can adjust the ratio to get a limiter). So, would going: analog compression -> analog limiting -> digital compression ___ times present a problem? Or am I just thinking too hard here? Thanks.

    hueseph, there isn't anything wrong with the quiet parts being quieter, but the bass drum is pretty much slammed against the wall (on purpose), and I want a mix where every instrument is clearly audible, and so that means lower vocal volumes than you'll hear on most mainstream recordings. I guess this is exclusive to punk bands, as we seem to keep the vocals a lot lower than most other styles of music. So, keeping whispers and talking loud enough can be tough.
     
  6. MarkG

    MarkG Guest

    I think your undestanding of compression vs limiting is right on. If you want to use a combination of compression and limiting, I would use the limiter first to "tame" the signal, then use a compressor to get the "sound".
    You will be hard pressed to get specific settings from people here, not because they don't want to give them to you, but because the settings will change based on the input signal, you will just have to use your ear for the most part.
    I'm not real sure how to get the sound you want because my idea of punk is the Ramones and Sex Pistols, I'm assuming things have changed in the last 25 years!
     
  7. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    Thanks again MarkG, it's good to know that at least one person thinks that limiting -> compression is a good idea. It's not specific settings I'm after so much, but general ballparks. I've always hit the analog unit hard, and then applied digital compression and limiting sparingly, because who's gonna argue that a good plugin is superior to a good analog unit? Although, I'm sure the plugins in Audition 3.0 are of excellent quality. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna have to apply more limiting and compression than is becoming of a professional vocalist, but then again, it's underground punk we're talking about here :roll: . I've noticed the Maxcom has a tendency to filter out around 12,000 Hz and up when I use harder settings, but that's what EQ's are for, right?

    Now I'm wondering just how hard of a limiter I should run. -10? -20? -40? And then there's the one channel of analog compression I'd have left; is it typical for screeching vocals to have a high threshold, high ratio, or both? High threshhold would be like -30 and high ratio would be like 7 (at least in my mind this is high) (this is referring to the analog unit, as I can load like 13 digital compressor plugins on the vocal track if I wanted to 8) ). So, I will appreciate anyone with any input :D .
     
  8. MarkG

    MarkG Guest

    I am not familiar with the maxcom, but as a general rule I would not hit the limiter too hard at the beginning because you can't "undo" hardware compression.
     
  9. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    OK, now that compression and limiting has been covered, I'd like to get some tips on screaming vocals. It seems that 99% of the advice for recording vox is for people using condenser mics.... My first question is: do any of you engineers use those foam windscreens you put over the mic.? They seem help a lot with pops and all that stuff, but am I losing anything important? Also, just how far should I keep the mic. away from me avoid boominess? Since my vocals tend to cover everything from whispers to screeching, I have been putting my mouth on the mic for whispers and pulling away as I got louder, maybe up to 5" away; is this good technique, or should I try to stay even farther away from the mic.? Also, I can get a much better performance from myself when I hold the mic., but would I be that much better off using a stand? Feel free to add any other suggestions, as I need all the help I can get. Thanks.
     
  10. MarkG

    MarkG Guest

    For your style of vocal, I would say a dynamic mic with a foam windscreen would be just fine. I would not limit myself to using only condensers for vocals. The usual example is Tom Petty using a 57 on recordings (as well as live).

    Seems like you really have a handle on your mic technique, I wouldn't change anything, except that you could probably pull away even further than 5", even a foot wouldn't hurt.
    You just might want to keep in mind that as you pull the mic away you will lose a little low end (not necessarily a bad thing).
     
  11. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    Yeah, my vox have been a bit boomy, and I think that maybe I was too close to the mic., so thanks for confirming that. Thanks for the kind words also :D .
     
  12. natural

    natural Active Member

    Compression-
    First set the level that you want for the soft vox.
    Set the threshold so that the softest bits barely trigger the compressor. (there's no need to compress the soft bits)
    Next - Set the ratio so that the loud vox are at the correct level.
    Ride the fader if needed in mixdown.

    Performance-
    A bit of a placebo, but you can hold a dummy mic and sing to that while the real mic is a few inches more away. This sometimes helps with performance.

    MICs-
    A condenser mic in OMNI mode will give you less bass bump. For cardiod mics your technique should be in the ballpark.
     
  13. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Or Sennheiser 441s on "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" with Stevie Nicks. Personally, I think condensers and screamo are a bad combination. It's a recipe for distortion and a blown capsule.
     
  14. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    When I was looking for a vocal mic. everyone and their grandma was telling me to get a condenser, but I never saw any of the bands that influenced me use a condenser, so I went with the OM5 dynamic mic.; it was either that or an SM58, and since I always thought SM58's sounded bassy, I decided on the OM5. It's really a nice mic., and it's quite bright considering the extremely high gain before feedback it has.
     
  15. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Use the compressor in your DAW as a learning tool. Pick a very short selection - (<30 sec if possible) with a quite and screamo passage. Loop it and play with the compressor as it repeats. Set your attack and release fairly short. Now work with the threshold and makeup gain. Adjust the threshold so that are getting 3dB, 6dB, etc. of the peaks. Adjsut the makeup gain so that the peak volume is constant. (An SPL meter would be agood investment here. The cheapo units from Radio Shack are OK.

    Now work with the release. Adjust it so that you can hear pumping. Then adjust to get rid of it.

    Lots more to learn and this doesn't address your final question, but it's a good place to start.
     
  16. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    I know how to adjust the compressor, I just don't know which order things should go in and what general settings engineers typically use with screeching vocalists.
     
  17. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Second sentence contradicts the first. If you think there are "general settings engineers typically use with screeching vocalists" then you don't know how to adjust the compressor.
     
  18. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    How does it contradict itself? There are general rules to compressing and limiting all styles of music, I just don't know the "thous shalt's" and "thou shalt not's" for compressing and limiting extreme vocals. Call them tips and tricks if you want...
     
  19. Greener

    Greener Guest

    Here's a tip. Try all the settings, the trick is knowing what sounds good.
     
  20. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    When it comes to a screeching vocalist, try opening up everything...including studio's back door and kickin' 'em to the curb!!!
     

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