Compression techniques and tricks

Discussion in 'Mixing' started by Kobb, Aug 13, 2001.

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  1. Kobb

    Kobb Guest

    How important are quality compressors to the mixdown process for rock n roll? I love the subtle ways that a compressor can fool the ear, but I'm far from an expert on some of the tricks of the trade.

    Which compression techniques do you find to be the most useful? Are there certain tricks you almost ALWAYS use?

    Some Examples of interesting methods I've read about or tried myself:

    1. Compress the Bass Guitar and feed the Kick drum to the sidechain.

    2. Subgroup guitars and then run through a stereo comp that is keyed by the lead vocal.

    2. Mult the Bass, run the first channel through the comp and feed the direct out of the second channel to the key input. Take the second channel out of the Stereo bus and Boost specific low frequencies that you want to compress more than others (basically works like a de-esser for low freqs).

    Any other ways that you like to use compressors? The more unorthodox the better.
     
  2. Mixerman

    Mixerman Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2001
    I learned to mix with 2 1176's. And some of my later mixes in that situation were pretty ^#$%ing good. yeah, I use allot of compressors now, but I don't usually like my mixes to sound compressed. Sometimes I do, and for that sound, you need compressors.

    The only compressor that I think is kind of important for contemporary rock or pop mixes, is a sereo bus compressor. Good ones are pricey, but you can handle allot of your compression needs with that. The reason that I reccomend that, is because if you don't compress, a matering engineer likely will, and that changes balances.

    Many genres don't really require very many compressors.

    Mixerman
     
  3. Tymish

    Tymish Guest

    I do mostly rock recordings. I've done more recording in digital than analog. The last two projects I've done were on an analog machine I picked up. I noticed that I use a lot less external compression with the analog deck since the is an inherent compression going on. I also find that in the past I've compressed things just thinking it needed compression. Take an overdriven guitar tone. By it's nature an overdriven amp is compressed, the tubes (transistors too) are clipping and compressed. So compressing it more is sometimes pointless.
    I use more compression on acoustic instruments and vocals to get them to compete with the drums and electric elements of the mix. OF course every tune is it's own animal.
     
  4. Kobb

    Kobb Guest

    Thanks for the reply MM.

    The subject of stereo bus compression has always confused me a bit. I've heard of top engineers who will completely slam their mixes through a pair of 1176s, while others leave it to the mastering engineer.

    A few questions on this topic:

    1. When using stereo bus compression, do you insert the compressor early in the mix session and mix with the compressor engaged, or do you get your mix happening and then add the stereo compression to taste?

    2. What specific things are you listening for when setting the compression parameters?

    3. What does the stereo compression do for your mixes that would otherwise be lacking?

    4. Do you ever place a quality stereo EQ after the compressor to compensate for some altered frequency response?

    Thanks.
     
  5. I too went thru a phase where I used compression just because I had all of these really nice compressors most of which are tube. As far as sidechaining to control levels I have never done that very much, I just like using fader and automation (if you don't have auto. it may be easier that way?)

    I agree about compression on rock guitars, if there's a good amp cranked it's already there!
    BTW we just today got a TopHat Club Royal that I'm dying to try out.

    Being lucky enough to get a 2" machine I have used a lot less compression than with digital and the other thing I am doing now is just running the signal thru a certain compressor with no reduction just to pick up the extra gain/sound of that piece especially with digital recording.

    I feel that digital is a lot harder to tie together because it seem so defined and the compressors help make things sit better in the mix,I only use outboard not plugins.

    I do have to admit going back to analog after many years away and using digital over the last 5/6 years has been an adjustment, but one that I welcome.

    On screaming vocals the MC 76 I have is the s*** especially with digital, it just works but I still like to ride fader on any vocal.

    One other thing that I here a lot from some of the home studio mixes is they just push up the faders get good levels and print it. Riding faders on vocals, guitars, shakers, etc.... can help create really good mixes.

    Having great players seem to make it ALL so much easier. I think Mixerman will agree that most of us small studio that work with average or below musicians and still get good mixes are really busting our behinds just to cover up and fix things instead of being creative with what has been given us like the big boys.
     
  6. j.hall

    j.hall Guest

    interesting topic.....one i love

    compression to me is an effect
    i try to forget the dynamics of the box and listen more to what is happening EQ-wise/effect-wise

    i don't know if i am adding much to the string of replies here but......i have always obtained my goal by thinking this way

    it seems easier to me to pay no mind to the gain reduction meter and pay more attention to the output sound
    which generally comes down to a lot of multing

    i will get a desired sound and blend it with the original or get two different sounds and blend those with the original

    some times i will get a few different things going on for different parts of the song
    compression setting for verse, one for the chorus and one for the outro

    to me the whole thing is about knowing what any given compressor you are using is capable of, what it sounds like, and how it reacts to certain instruments

    maybe another good point is:
    you have to know what you want going into the mix
    like a general outline in your head, obviously it will get strayed from......however, if you don't know what you're after all the compressors and settings in the world won't help you find it

    i think the hardest part of mixing is getting a vision of the whole thing in your head....instead of making sure each track sounds good.....they all have to sound and work good together
    no one but the guys in the room will ever hear any one thing solo-ed.....i try to remember that
    it doesn't always work but its a start

    hope that helped in some way,
    j.hall
     
  7. Mixerman

    Mixerman Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2001
    Originally posted by Kobb:
    Thanks for the reply MM.

    The subject of stereo bus compression has always confused me a bit. I've heard of top engineers who will completely slam their mixes through a pair of 1176s, while others leave it to the mastering engineer.

    A few questions on this topic:

    1. When using stereo bus compression, do you insert the compressor early in the mix session and mix with the compressor engaged, or do you get your mix happening and then add the stereo compression to taste?

    2. What specific things are you listening for when setting the compression parameters?

    3. What does the stereo compression do for your mixes that would otherwise be lacking?

    4. Do you ever place a quality stereo EQ after the compressor to compensate for some altered frequency response?

    Thanks.


    1. I like to put the mix compressor in pretty early. But this takes paractice. It's very easy to find you're overcompressing by the big chorus, and then you have to reset your threshold, which is a mjor drag as all you levels will change.

    2. I am listening for the mix to get wings. I want that sucker to take off. I usually start with a fast attack fast release, and put it on when I've got my drums and bass up. Then once I get all the instruments up, I'll play with the times to see if something works better for the mix.

    3. It holds together the bottom of the mix. It congeals the mix, and it allows you to print the mix hotter to tape.

    4. Not always, but currently I have on loan a great mastering EQ that I'm using on the mixes. It's great because I can adjust the top and bottom on the mix as I'm getting closer. Sometimes that little tweak solves every problem in the mix.

    A word of caution on this. You want to use highly precise mastering EQ's with detents. If you are using one without detents, then you better check with tones to even out the sides, or you might have a surprise later. It's generally not a good idea to pre master, unless you've been to a bunch of mastering sessions, and you know what typically gets added or subtracted from your mixes.

    Mixerman
     
  8. Kobb

    Kobb Guest

    Once again, thanks for the replies fellers.
     
  9. NEVE8068

    NEVE8068 Guest

    The main trick I like with limiters is the old sidechain the room mics to the kick drum routine . That gives you that odd pumping and breaathing sound.-Mark
     
  10. Teacher

    Teacher Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2001
    I"m just wondering are computer Plug in compressor comprable to its external hardware counter parts..I used Sonic Time Works CompressorX and Mastering Compressor(at least are these they costed a grip hehe)
     

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