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> Fun With Compressors, Part 5 - 20 ways to use a compressor
tonymiro
post Jan 25 2012, 01:49 PM
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Last thread on compressors - at last for a while as I think people are a bit bored with them...

Most people believe that a compressor is used in mixing and mastering only to compress or reduce the level of an audio signal, i.e. make a loud sound quieter. There are however lots of other things you can use them for and so they are useful even on signals that are already heavily compressed including distorted lead guitars.

So apart from using a compressor to compress a signal you can use a compressor as:

A limiter - to set a maximum level that signals should not exceed.
As an upward expander - and so make loud signals even louder.
As a downward expander - and so make quiet sounds quieter.
As an upward compressor - and so make quiet sounds louder.
As a simple gate - and to therefor attenuate al signals that fall below a given level.
As a simple ducker - to attenuate singals that go above a given level.
As a de-esser.

So in addition to setting a point above which levels are compressed a compressor can also be used to help balance levels and so make quiet and loud parts more uniform or consistent in level and it can also be used to increase loudness.

On top of affecting levels though a compressor can also be used to change the quality of a signal and so affect things like punch and attack. It can add sustain to a sound. It can accent particular segments of a track or signal. It can be used to deliberately produce plosive and clicks that can then be mixed back under the original signal in parallel to add definition. It can be used as an effect to deliberately alter the timbre of a sound. It can add low frequency distortion and so colour a sound. It can be used to used to deliberately pump a track and so add rhythmic impetus or as an effect. It can add warmth to a track. It can affect the placement of an instrument in a mix and so move it forward or backward. It can make drum samples and other sampled sounds sound more natural. It can add both micro and macro dynamics to a mix.



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thefireball
post Jan 25 2012, 03:38 PM
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WOW! Bookmarked this one too. I added some pre-compression to my guitars last night for recording and it sounds better.


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tonymiro
post Jan 29 2012, 11:54 AM
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NP Brandon - and thanks for replying as well smile.gif .

Just a thought for evryone who is doing/interested in recording, mixing and mastering...

It's useful to have some way of gauging your experience and progress. So in the light of this the level that you might be at based on this thread:

Home/project semi-pro level
People in this group do their own mixes and perhaps do free work for friends. Likely to be reliant on software and ITB.

New to mixing

Just learning how to use a compress to reduce signal levels. Not too sure yet how to set the controls and what they do. Relies on presets

Some basic experience at mixing
Now understands what the main controls - threshold, ratio, gain reduction - do and can set these up. Starting to use the compress from scratch rather than relying on presets.

Advanced basic
Experimenting with the more advanced controls of attack and release and now using a compressor as a simple gate and limiter.

Basic intermediate mixing
Understands how attack and release and hold works and can use them appropriate to affect attcakc and punch. Can set up a compressor as a gate, ducker and limiter. Spends time experimenting to find the right compressor to use on a mix.

Basic mastering
Understands appropriately all the above and is starting to work on final mixes. Relies mainly on software vsts. Mainly uses presets as a starting point, just starting to set up a vst's controls from scratch.


Semi-pro level
People in this group are doing more mixes for friends and possibly some others. Rarely charges to mix and rates are low. Equpiment - mainly ITB but will now be buying some hardware and in the stages of setting up a dedicated studio.

Intermediate (semi-pro) mixing
Understands the controls and how to use them to use a compressor in the convential way. Knows how their own different compressors sound and what the differences in them are so can go to the appropriate one quickly. Understands how and why to sidechain a comp. and other techniques like parallel, serial and dynamic. Has an understanding of how a compressor can be used for expansion and upward compression and can set one up to do these.

Intermediate (semi-pro) mastering
As above but understands how this applies to a final mix and not just the individual tracks/groups. No longer relies on presets.

Professional level
Has a dedicated studio set up appropriately with professional equipment and sound treatment. Mixers will have a variety of hardware compressors, mastering engineers will have at least one specialist mastering comp. Very unlikely that anyone here will be relying on software instead of hardware. Makes all, or the majority, of their income from audio. Charges for their work.

Advanced mixing (professional)
Understands and is able to do everything in the OP quickly and appropriately. Can use a comp to both treat a mix and also creatively to colour and affect a track/group.

Advanced mastering
All the above but on a mix rather than on individual tracks/groups. Can quickly hear and identify compression issues in a mix and can determine how to correct them. Can use a comp to creatively colour a mix.


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dcz702
post Jun 7 2014, 04:44 AM
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Do you have any advice on using a compressor on your pedal board? I have. Keeley 4 knob and don't really know what the clipping and attack knobs do. I play with them and notice the clipping knob turned up will start to break up the sound. Really I just mess with settings till it sounds good to me. Was wondering if you had anything that you though I should know.
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Todd Simpson
post Jun 7 2014, 04:52 AM
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I really think these should be in our wiki in the recording section!! I'll email our wiki God!

Also, newer guitarists often skip using a compressor or expander in their guitar rig. I actually use two stomp expanders in all my TH2 patches and I always use a compressor on my 11 Rack. It's a great way to help even out the signal hitting the distortion/gain. E.G. The light top strings have to be struck harder typically to keep up with the heavy bottom strings. Using a compressor can allow you to maintain an even strike pattern and not lose your tone smile.gif




QUOTE (tonymiro @ Jan 25 2012, 08:49 AM) *
Last thread on compressors - at last for a while as I think people are a bit bored with them...

Most people believe that a compressor is used in mixing and mastering only to compress or reduce the level of an audio signal, i.e. make a loud sound quieter. There are however lots of other things you can use them for and so they are useful even on signals that are already heavily compressed including distorted lead guitars.

So apart from using a compressor to compress a signal you can use a compressor as:

A limiter - to set a maximum level that signals should not exceed.
As an upward expander - and so make loud signals even louder.
As a downward expander - and so make quiet sounds quieter.
As an upward compressor - and so make quiet sounds louder.
As a simple gate - and to therefor attenuate al signals that fall below a given level.
As a simple ducker - to attenuate singals that go above a given level.
As a de-esser.

So in addition to setting a point above which levels are compressed a compressor can also be used to help balance levels and so make quiet and loud parts more uniform or consistent in level and it can also be used to increase loudness.

On top of affecting levels though a compressor can also be used to change the quality of a signal and so affect things like punch and attack. It can add sustain to a sound. It can accent particular segments of a track or signal. It can be used to deliberately produce plosive and clicks that can then be mixed back under the original signal in parallel to add definition. It can be used as an effect to deliberately alter the timbre of a sound. It can add low frequency distortion and so colour a sound. It can be used to used to deliberately pump a track and so add rhythmic impetus or as an effect. It can add warmth to a track. It can affect the placement of an instrument in a mix and so move it forward or backward. It can make drum samples and other sampled sounds sound more natural. It can add both micro and macro dynamics to a mix.


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tonymiro
post Jun 7 2014, 02:26 PM
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QUOTE (dcz702 @ Jun 7 2014, 03:44 AM) *
Do you have any advice on using a compressor on your pedal board? I have. Keeley 4 knob and don't really know what the clipping and attack knobs do. I play with them and notice the clipping knob turned up will start to break up the sound. Really I just mess with settings till it sounds good to me. Was wondering if you had anything that you though I should know.


I don't have that Keely so can't be specific and will have to atke a bit of an educated guess...

The clipping control isn't something that you'd find on most studio rack comps, which is really what I talk about in this thread. However, it's almost certailny there to help prevent clipping the signal - i.e. to stop the signal going in to dsitortion. I assume that it has an LED and if so you should try setting it so that it just flickers when you strum hard and then back off the control so that the LED is off.

The attack is a time parameter for the compressor and controls how quickly the gain reduction rises. If you set the attack too short then you can lose some of the natural 'attack' of the guitar note, too long and the gain reduction may fail to catch the transient at all. I'm not sure ir the Keely also gives you a 'release' control but that also relates to the attack time and there is a relationship between the two. Some comps have a linear relationship and some an exponential one, liear ones tnd to colour the sound whilst expoential is usually more natural and musical. From memory Keely stomp comps are usually regarded as transparent so it's probably a VCA exponential type comp. and so the attack should be quite musical unless you push too hard.

Keely have probably set the range of the attack so that it's suitable for guitar. So the attack control should be fine for most of its range apart from at the extremes but experiement a bit with it. I'm guessing that the Keely doesn't have a scale marked out in miliseconds for the attack control so you'll need to find what positions work and then make a mark on the stomp box.

If you want to experiment btw one way to do it is to use quite extreme settings - set the ratio to a highish amount - say @ 8:1 (but not infiite as you're not limiting the signal) and with a low threshold and then adjust the attack to hear what happens at different attack times. Once you've got an idea and sense of what attack time works for you then change the ratio and threshold to somethingmore appropriate and fine tune the attack.

This post has been edited by tonymiro: Jun 7 2014, 02:29 PM


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Get your music professionally mastered by anl AES registered Mastering Engineer. Contact me for Audio Mastering Services and Advice and visit our website www.miromastering.com

Be friends on facebook with us here.

We use professional, mastering grade hardware in our mastering studo. Our hardware includes:
Cranesong Avocet II Monitor Controller, Dangerous Music Liasion Insert Hardware Router, ATC SCM Pro Monitors, Lavry Black DA11, Prism Orpheus ADC/DAC, Gyratec Gyraf XIV Parallel Passive Mastering EQ, Great River MAQ 2NV Mastering EQ, Kush Clariphonic Parallel EQ Shelf, Maselec MLA-2 Mastering Compressor, API 2500 Mastering Compressor, Eventide Eclipse Reverb/Echo.
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