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Topic: OT: Compressors - who's using them and how?

  1. #1

    OT: Compressors - who\'s using them and how?

    Since there has been so much discussion going around lately about compressors I thought it would be good to hear about who is using them and how.

    Are you using compressors in orchestral music for example?

    In the Meet the Artist Interview here on NS, Jeremy Soule states that he usually uses a soft knee compressor on Cello\'s and Basses to \"focus the sound a bit\"

    Does anyone have any other tricks they wouldn\'t mind sharing?

    Also, if people wouldnt mind posting some approximate settings for different situations; attack times, release, etc - I know these vary but it might give a good starting point for the newbies (and even some of the not so newbies). [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img]

  2. #2

    Re: OT: Compressors - who\'s using them and how?

    Hi Scott,

    Hope it is OK to add that if anybody has examples of a sample-based track before & after compression. Probably way too much to ask....


  3. #3

    Re: OT: Compressors - who\'s using them and how?

    sometimes compression is cool for connecting parts or different samples.

    for instance:
    if you have a choir and you want to connect vowels with consonants, it sometimes helps to give the vocals kind of a flow. it seems more connected..

    the same experiment on a trumpet. try to take a legato trumpet and put also staccato notes on it. then you compress it and it sounds that the staccato and legato note sounds more melted together. you can do some nice effects with it.

    on orchestral stuff i mostly use compressor when its an ingame track and its played very soft in the background, then i try to pull up the very calm parts a litte and push down the loud parts

    hmmm, hope this helps

  4. #4
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: OT: Compressors - who\'s using them and how?

    I use the Waves compressors almost exclusively.

    In addition to the uses already described, you generally need to use some compression on a track if you get into a cycle of turning up to hear it in the mix, then having other parts totally take over. The difference between soft and loud playing is much less at a distance than up close, so if you\'re using a closer-mic\'ed sound, and trying to push it back in the mix, you can use a bit of compression to take off some of that range and get a more characteristic sound.

    Multi-band compressors are an excellent tool for orchestral work, too, because they are really tantamount to amplitude-tracking EQ. Say you want your brass section to have more sizzle at fortissimo--you set up some gentle compression in the low/mid ranges, and leave the highs wide open. Now, when the dynamics hit the threshold point, the highs will cut through more.

    Don\'t forget compressors work both directions, and can actually increase dynamic range.

    One of my favorite tools is Waves TransX, which I blab about continually in here. It\'s essentially a C4 multiband, but it only acts on transients. You can use it to spike up attacks, or to shave some of the transients away, without affecting the sustaining portion of the sound. Great for making something that\'s a little buried pop out, or something that\'s attacking too harshly recede. Another use for it is to get more aggressive bow noise (or less, for that matter).

    Of course, almost any pop vocal will have lots of compression, so that the part sits on top of the mix without fluctuating wildly. The usual formula is to compress, and get those consonants really crunchy, then to use a de-esser (essentially a specialized multiband compressor operating in the 3.5-5khz range) to knock the objectionable sibilance back down. Around 10k or so there\'s also this magic \"air\" frequency that gives a vocal the finished sheen you hear in great mixes. If you\'re looking for that sound, you definitely put a de-esser in the chain to compensate for the sibilance it will create. Good singers also know how to work consonants so that their sound is smooth. The better the singer, and the more experienced they are with studio work, the less you have to do--but you still need compression on almost any vocal just to get \"the sound.\"

    Multiband compression is also used in mastering mixes, because it can very subtly eliminate problems with bass control, tubbiness at certain frequency/amplitude juxtapositions, and to an extent, alter the general character of the sound. That\'s not the ideal way to do this--if you find yourself using a lot of EQ or multiband on finished mixes, it usually means you need to get back into the tracks and get some things polished up more at their source.

    Compression is not a dirty word. It has a bad rap, because people tend to really suck at using compression when they first start. Like any process used on acoustic music, the idea is not to hear the process, but to simply do enough to solve impediments to great sound.

  5. #5

    Re: OT: Compressors - who\'s using them and how?

    I just finished a mix of a wind quartet - and I used compression successfully (I think) on two of the four tracks.

    The one that needed it the most was the flute. I had used the top velocity to add an emphasis to certain notes. It sounded musical and reasonably balanced at the time.

    After finishing the sequence, I turned off the reverb and rendered the raw tracks. Then I opened them in Vegas after normalizing. The clarinet and bassoon waveforms looked pretty good. The flute and oboe had some big transients though. That made for a low average SPL (sound pressure level), unless I mixed them up, and then they were too agressive during the attacks. A bit of compression on those tracks did the trick - without me having to redraw the expression controls to compensate. And I didn\'t need any compression after mixdown. It\'s not like this is a pop song :-)

    I\'ll post the mix later in a separate thread.

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