Compression – The Beginners Guide!

Compression – The Beginner Producer’s Guide!

What’s up?!

One of the most confusing mixing concepts for producers is compression. It’s one of the most common questions I see being asked by beginners on forums, as well as to me personally. What exactly does compression do? And how can I use it in my tracks?

Today i’m going to try explain what exactly compression does, and how you can use it in your music and mixes.

Compression is basically used to ‘compress’ (as the name suggests) or squash the volume of the sound in a certain way. This can be used for different effects. For example on kicks I use it to compress the ‘trail’ of the kick, so the ‘punch’ stands out more. On vocals I use it to ‘flatten’ out the volume so it’s less dynamic and certain words don’t stick out as suddenly getting louder, if the singer got too close to the mic at a certain point or something like that.

You can use compression to ‘flatten‘ out the peaks of a certain sound overall, or you can use it to compress the volume of certain areas of the sound. There are many ways the compression plugin can be put to use, and I suggest you experiment a bit with the settings to find out more!

Anyways, the knobs.


So first of all, the “Threshold”.

Threshold is essentially the ‘level’ at which the compressor will start squashing the sound. So if you set it at 0 DB, everything higher than 0 db will get squashed. If you set it at -10db, everything higher than -10 will get squashed, and so forth. The lower the threshold, the more of the sound that will be compressed.

Secondly, the “ratio”.

The ratio determined by HOW much the sound will be compressed. 1:1 has no effect. It means that for every 1db the sound increases past the threshold, the sound will increase by 1db.

2:1 means that for every 2db the sound increases above the threshold, the sound will only increase by 1db.

So if the compressor is set to 10:1, it means the input has to pass the threshold by 10db for an increase of 1db.

Gain:

Gain you should know, it’s really just amplifying or increasing the volume of the sound. Compression can sometimes result in the overall sound levels dropping, so you might need to up the gain to compensate.

Attack:

This is how long after the threshold is hit the compression will kick in. So if the attack is set to 15ms, then 15ms after the sound goes above the threshold level, the compressor will start compressing the sound.

Release:

This sets how long it will take for the compression to ‘stop’ after the sound level goes back under the threshold level. So, the higher this is, the longer it will take.

So that’s basically a brief guide to how compression works, what each of the knobs do, and how it is used.
I personally mostly use compression on my drums (Kicks, Claps, Snares) and definitely on Vocal recordings.

Hope this helped some of you a little bit, and remember to comment below if you have any questions, comments, etc!

-Stuart B

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Posted on by Stuart B in Articles, Mixing

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