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Compression & Dynamics Master Class

Lesson 2 of 13

Compressor Controls

 

Compression & Dynamics Master Class

Lesson 2 of 13

Compressor Controls

 

Lesson Info

Compressor Controls

I Let's get into the nitty gritty of what these controls look like. So we can kind of demystify these things. So I've got a compressor here, Um, and don't be thrown off if the compressors you use in your software or if you use them live, look different after we're through in this session, you're going to be able to see any compressor anywhere and identify what the controls are and know how to use it. You'll find your way around. They might look visually different, but they're all doing exact same things. So there's Onley, really three, maybe four really important settings. But I'm going to show you all of them. So you understand what all these knobs do, and then you will realize how simple this is. I think the most important setting on a compressor is the threshold. And this compressor compressor compressor is this orange? Not here. Um, it's also symbolized by this orange carrot here, Some one want to do is open up another one so we can mess around with it. We're not changed the settin...

gs, so ah, threshold. This is the most important thing, because if your threshold is all the way at zero db, which is the very, very top kind. So you can see a visually here, this carrots at the top and then on the knob Here it zero if you're ah, threshold is set at zero. It does not matter what other settings or said it doesn't matter what your attack release ratio is set at. No compression is happening because a threshold is just like you think the word is. It is the threshold, the point at which if audio goes above this point, then I want you to do something to it. So it is just literally a volume indicators saying If audio goes above minus three db, then please compress it according to my settings, If it's below this threshold, don't do anything to it. So if your threshold to set it at the top at zero db Aziz loud as you can go, that means everything's gonna follow under that cause zero db is gonna clipping. So that means if we go to say, Let's put this on the base and let's say we're here. I have no cure compression now in the base. I just bypassed what I have set up for the mix, and we have a blank slate of a compressor here. If I press play, you can see where the volume on this input meter this is in this plug in will tell you. Actually, it's the same volume of what's coming into the compressor. Take a look at where it is Williams Way, way down there, right like it minus 18. It's not anywhere close to the threshold, which is up here a zero. That means that it doesn't matter that I have a ratio of 3 to 1 or attack setting of 10 milliseconds or a knee of zero. I mean, none of these knobs matter because no compression is happening because that base level has not reached the threshold. Does that make sense? So I have literally mixed songs or tracks, and I've tweak the settings and felt like I'm doing something to the audio and then realize that the threshold is all the way at the top, and I'm just hearing things in my head. I'm not actually compressing, so I start with Threshold because it's the most important. This is actually kind of going back to the simplicity of a compressor. This is the audio engineer, saying, You know, in the boxing, when the vocalist or the bass guitar gets this loud or above this level, that's when I want you to start bringing him down with Fader. Okay, that makes sense. So this is the most important starting point. So the threshold is doing nothing. You know, if I bring the threshold down, though closer to where the base actually is now you see stuff happening right. We'll explain what that stuff is in a minute. But it's actually doing something for better or for worse, because some of the audio everything above that orange carrot or triangle it's all that is above the threshold. So it's saying, Okay, now do something to this audio, but the threshold does that make sense so very, very simple. But the threshold is gonna be probably one of your most important tools, because you're gonna be able to use that to dial in. How much of the signal actually gets compressed, so it's very, very helpful. Any questions on threshold? All right, so knowing that that's kind of where the compressors going to turn on, because again, that's the beauty of the compressors. You can say it have all these perfect settings on Lee. For some of the audio that crosses the threshold, it will leave the rest of it alone when people are afraid of over compressing. You don't have to really be afraid because you get to determine where the threshold is, And it might just be for a couple of loud peaks on a vocal or a kick drum. And most anything below that threshold will not be compressed, even though there's a compressor on the track. So it really doesn't do much damage to your audio unless you wanted to. That makes sense so you can feel safe knowing it's on Lee affecting what crosses this threshold. All right, so beyond threshold, the next most important knob would be ratio. Okay, and ratio is gonna determine between threshold and ratio. These two determined how much actual volume reduction and squashing or compressing whatever you wanna call it. These two knobs really determined how much is being turned down. OK, so ratio says something really simple. Um, anything about a 1 to 1 ratio. If this is set toe oneto one or 1.1 in this case, no compression is happening either even if something crosses the threshold. So let's take a look. Now. My threshold is really low. The base is crossing the threshold, but with the ratio set toe oneto one no compression is still happening. A wise that because the ratio tells the compressor when audio crosses the threshold. This is the ratio at which I want you to turn it down. 1 to 1 means there's no compression happening because for everything that goes above one unit, it could be they use ratios because it doesn't matter how much it is. It could be three D b above. If it goes three d b above the threshold, then I want you to keep that ratio at one toe. One meaning there's it's just stays where it is. Nothing happens the moment where to turn up the ratio. Let's say 2 to 1, it says. However much volume it goes above the threshold. Bring it down half to 1. So if it goes over the threshold by 60 be turn it down to three dp. It is now 2 to 11 being what it was. It's now half of that. I don't that makes sense. It's the way they want to use the numbers, but you could flip the numbers around 2 to 1. Means it's going to half a loud 3 to 1 ratio. Means is gonna be 1/3 of the volume above the threshold, so you can see how the ratio goes up. You could have Ah, the bass guitar goes up over the threshold by 10 db, Let's say and if it's a 2 to 1 ratio, any time it goes over, that threshold is gonna cut it down in half the volume. But if you had a 10 to 1 ratio is going to cut it down to just 10% of the volume. It waas Does that make sense that explain that? Well, so the ratio tells the compressor once it crosses this threshold to really want to slam it down. Like the question about a limiter, a limiter has a very high ratio. We're talking 10 to 1 up to maybe 100 to 1, which means if it goes over by 10 db, it's gonna be, you know, 1% of the volume that it waas, which is hardly any it really is gonna turn down the volume, whereas a nice 2 to 1 ratio is only gonna cut it down in half, or 1.5 to 1 is even less so. That's a knob that again you use to determine how much squashing do I want to do. So if you imagine the guy writing the fader inside the box, the bass guitar crosses the threshold. He knows when he's got, like tape on his like console. If the volume goes above this on the meter, I want you to turn the volume down. The ratio tells him how much to turn that volume down. It's like the producer saying, When the base crosses this line, I want you to really turn it down, okay? Or if the base cross this line, just turn it down a little bit. That's what you're controlling, and the two knobs play off of each other because you could have again a really high ratio. But the threshold could be really, really low, like not very low, and it's not gonna do much compression. It also lets here's an example. Let's take, um, here's the basis for the base was hit, peaking at around minus 18 way set the threshold above the base and set the ratio toe to toe one. Still, nothing's gonna happen, right? It's not a threshold. Let's turn the threshold down a little bit and see what happens. Way appearing right this meter and listen. This compressors labelled g r for a gain reduction will look at that a minute. That's telling us how much gain, how much volume it's actually reducing. So the big slide of the base, it turned it down a little bit more. We can now determine how much compression happens either by. If we want more compression on this base, we could crank up the ratio. 6 to 1 way, could keep it back to tow one where it was and then just turned the threshold down. So Mawr base gets compressed at lower volumes. That makes sense. So let's turn the special down way more compression happening there. But it's a lower ratio, so the point I'm trying to make is don't just think ratio is like really low ratio means gentle compression. It makes no difference. If you're thresholds really low, it doesn't mean gentle compression at all. It still means it's not turning it down a ton, but it's turning a lot of the base down a little. That makes sense of these two knobs play with each other. So the cool thing is, with your compressors, you're going to find like you could get more compression by bringing the threshold way down so more of the signal gets compressed. Or you could leave it up there and just crank the ratio, and they both can accomplish similar things, but they they work together. Any questions on those two? Let's see. We have a couple of questions in here. I do want to get to some of them that people are voting on, so by all means, let us know if we're going to get to this soon. But MJ wanted to know, and 14 other people also wanted to know this question. Could you go into a little bit about the difference between compression before and after e que? And also recommend the E Q. Comp order for subtracted and additive? E que question question? I mean, you can look at my session right here, everyone, and see that the top row I've got accuse and then following them with compressors, and that kind of indicates my preference 95% of the time, I and we'll talk more about the e que in in in the second class. I like to see eq you as the tone shaping, and then, once I've shaped the tone, sculpted the tone the way I want. I like to compress that if it needs it, Um, but there's no right answer to that question because you can flip the order and you'll get a different sound. And that's kind of the cool thing about experimenting with this is if you flip them around, you're then going to be compressing first and then sculpting what's been compressed, and you might get a different tone. And both are very, very valid. But I prefer, and mostly because I will explain some of this in the e que session, which you don't want to miss, because I'm gonna show you sort of my view on queuing as more of a subtracted tool in an additive tool. So I like to take out stuff that doesn't belong and then compress what's left over, which kind of leads me to this order. That's kind of why I prefer to work that way. Um, that answer the question with a two parter. It's a really good question, and it's gonna be touched on more, too, as we go, Um, but everyone, I mean, I have friends in the industry that prefer to work the other way around. There's no real right or wrong, and sometimes I'll flip it. But usually this is how on my mind works and operates, at least so if you can get if you can get threshold and ratio, you can forget everything else for a second. If you can understand that, I can turn down the volume of any track I want buy as much or as little as I want, just by playing with these two knobs. That gives you a lot of power because then you don't have to worry about over compressing. And look at this other meter. I mean, this is really, really important. We'll look at the meters in more depth, but the gain reduction meter is the one you're gonna wanna look at that's gonna tell you how much wrong compressor it's gonna tell you how much compression is happening, how much volume is being reduced so you can you're gonna be able to watch those meters, and we'll look at that in a second. But those are your two big ones threshold ratio or humongous. They they determine how much volume gets turned down, and that's probably the most important thing. The next to determined, sort of. The way that sounds shapes the sound of that. But none of that matters. If you're not turning down enough, or if you're turning down too much of the signal, that makes sense. So attack and release. These are the ones that maybe get people tripped up a little bit on, and this is also where you can really help help or hurt your your audio. But I like to view them as one control, even there to separate knobs because they, they both effect the same thing just on different ends. So attack is, I don't know who comes up with these names. But attack is like how quickly the compressor pounces on that audio, how quickly to tax the audience. So if you go back to the audio engineer riding the failures, we don't blow up our gear. The attack setting is how fast is that engineer Grab a fader. How quick is he to want start pulling down the audio. Is he a little slow? He hasn't had coffee in the morning, and he's like, Oh, it got loud, I gotta turn it down And you kind of missed The loud is a blast or C. Is he on top of it? And he grabbed that fader quickly the moment he senses the singer or the bass player, whatever jumping over the threshold, that's how fast it starts to turn down. The volume that makes sense and the release is the opposite. It's the counter control. It's how quickly or slowly does he let the volume go back up to where it waas. So how quickly he turned it down. And then he feels like it's safe, like the volume is back to a consistent level. Does he slide that volume Fader back up real quick, or does he slowly edge it back up to the volume that it was at? And these two controls make a massive difference to the way the compressor handles your audio, and when you get how they work, it's totally transformative because you'll be able Teoh, do whatever you want to do with the audio, like in the later sessions, We're going to talk about some of my favorite compressor moves. I'm gonna show you how a fast attack on one piece of audio can give you a very fat sound in some ways. And how a slow attack and give you a very punchy sound in other ways to it affects the transient. So if you think of an audio wave, if you think of let's look here in pro tools is look at one. Let's look at this track, Fat Mike Track. Look at these peaks, Right this moment here, getting slip mode the moment that this is a drum mic the moment that you see that the loudest point here. This is the trains yet, right? This is the first time that stick hit the drum. You know, we're gonna talk about this in a second when we compress the vocal. But a fast attack is going to start turning it down pretty early on in that audio wave where a slow attack might start compressing around here. It might miss the initial transient, and so you're gonna have discover reasons why you want to jump on it quickly and why you don't want to jump on it quickly, and both are valid for very different sounding results. In the same is true with release if you compress it, no matter how fast or slow. But the release is slow. It's gonna take a while for that volume to get back up. If the releases fast, it's gonna come up quickly, and that's going to change the way it sounds as well. So if you think about threshold and ratio as how much gets turned down, how much volume and the attack and release as to how quickly or fast it gets turned down and brought back up to the volume, that's pretty much all that's happening, How much and how fast and those are your biggest, biggest controls mixing. We'll show. We'll show you with those sound like in a minute, I'm gonna jump two knee real quick. I'm take like, three seconds because I hardly mess with me. Knee is another control again. We're name, but I think it's because if you some compressors have like a graph, it shows like it looks like a person's knee like the slope. If attack is how fast you jump on the compression, how quickly turn it down the knee is like, Is it a straight line down? Like I go from this volume to low volume, whether it's quickly or fast or is it is a gradually speed up or gradually slow down, it's it's sort of the ark it which he's pulling the fate or down on the volume. It seems like almost too much control in my mind because it's too many things to think about. But you can play with that and you'll get subtle changes in not just how fast he's jumping on the compression, but how. How fast or how slow does it take for him to get to that final volume where he wants it to be? So it plays along with attack and release. And so if you play with presets, any of your compressors like here's a vocal comp setting. They've got a 10 db knee, whereas maybe like a pumping setting as a really massive knee. And so you can sort of almost see the If you look at the this this line here, not all compressors have this graph. You can see this is sort of like a smooth, smooth drafted as I crank up the knee get smoother. If you crank it down, it's a little more like pointy. It's sort of the shape of the volume coming down. I rarely mess with me because I feel like it's not a drastic change in result, but it's something you need to know about that you can play with. But if I already a simplify compression for you, I wouldn't even worry about the knee is much. It's not nearly as important as threshold, ratio, attack and release. And then probably the most other important. One is makeup gain or gain because this is kind of where compressors get amazing, because all we're talking about so far is turning volume down, turning audio down. But really, when we think about compressors, whatever the things that you guys said, when you describe what we did with the mix. When I turned off all the compressors, what were some of the words you used to describe what happened to the mix when I brought in the compressor after I turned it off? You have more to volume one wrong. It was wider, um, wider. We use the word glue earlier that that's a good description of it. Just things kind of fitted together better. They didn't sound as canticle separated, focused, more focused You talked about. Remember you mentioned the bass guitar. It sounded Maybe said fatter. Louder. Um, I mean, I think when we think of compression, we think of things getting bigger, at least when we ideally gay, use a compressor to make that kick drum sound huge. Or that bass guitar sound fat. Or or that vocal, the lead vocal sounds she's like like massive voice like right up in your face like we don't usually think of compressors is Let's make our mics sound quiet, you know, because all we've been talking about so far is turning volume down. All these knobs air about like turning volume down, turning tracks down. So the important thing that's missing is this makeup gain. Not for the gay, not this is humongous because this is and we'll show you on a vocal. Here has been some time putting all this into practice, so we get the concept. This, I think, is the final piece of the puzzle. You could turn audio down all day long, but that's really not. What we're trying to do is mix. We wanted to sound big and upfront and in your face. And this knob, after all, that turning down is what brings it back up to the perfect level. So think about this for a second. If a compressor will, if we have the perfect threshold and ratio where some of the bass guitar or some of the vocal is turned down, but the rest isn't this makeup gain allows us to bring the volume of everything back up. So if you let the bass guitar is a great example, if you ever play bass, you got a human being plucking the string. If they're really good, they have a nice, consistent volume in every pluck. But every once in a while, they're gonna really, like, hit a string. And it's gonna just kind of blast a little bit too loud, right? But most of the other stuff is a good volume. But then maybe some of the plucks are a little too quiet. Maybe they didn't hit those hard enough. But what you want in the end is you want the listener to Here is the consistent fat base. That's all One nice, thick, nice volume. For the most part and so really, a compressor is gonna turn down the loud plucks. They're a little too loud so that we can turn all the all of it back up. So really, the quiet plucks actually get louder if that makes sense, you've got some plucks, hear some loud plucks, but they seem quiet plugs. But the loud ones get turned down so you can safely then bring everything up to a louder volume. So the result of a lot of compression is actually that quiet parts get louder, also, get a little bit louder. The game makeup or is it mostly right? Technically, yes. Technically they are because you're not compressing the pluck completely. You're just turning down initial transient of that pluck. But what what we hear is human beings is we hear if the loud plucks are OK level but the other ones air to quiet, the result of a good use of compressions going to be like the quiet ones got louder. That's what's gonna sound like that makes sense. And that's what's so cool about a compressors. You can have a bass guitar that now sounds fat and consistent. Nice volume. We just brought up the quiet parts or a vocal, which we're gonna do here in a minute. Vocalists are notorious for being passionate and dynamic, and in real life you have quiet words in a loud words. But that's not what we're used to hearing on the radio. We're used to hearing every single word note, all one nice volume, whether we like it or not. What we're used to it. And so a compressor is gonna help us do that when it's not really realistic. That's actually not how we sing. You know, if you sing in a room, some loud sometimes do get louder. Some news notes get quieter, but we don't want that in a mix. We actually want you to hear every word. So we're gonna use the compressor to bring up the quiet words that kind of fall off a little bit. The mix that makes sense so makeup gain is important for that, and it's also important for level matching, which we'll talk about a little bit too later on. Um, but it's a simple not that literally. This knob turns up the volume of everything coming out of this compressor, so we look at these meters in this compressor. We've got an input and output meters, so let's look at the bass guitar by default. I don't know why this compressor turns it up like 88 db maybe was the settings. Let's do factory default. Let's keep this at zero. So let's play around with a threshold and ratio setting here. So I press play and and look at these meters. You got the input meter, which is the actual volume of the bass guitar before compression. The output meter, which is now the actual value of the bass guitar. After compression, what do you see? The difference. Output meter is louder or quieter quieter because that's what a compressor does. It turns down the volume of stuff. Um, and you can see the gain reduction meter. You can see when it's hitting when it's turning down audio. But the output it you're actually turning the bass track down a little bit, but that's not ultimately what we want to do. We like the volume. It was that it was just that some notes were a little too quiet. Maybe some things were a little too loud, actually want the output to be louder, so that's where I gained not would come in. We're now. We can turn up the output to match kind of what the input is. So you can just make up the game that was lost. You can get back the volume that was lost. But now the signal is a different sounding signal because the dynamics are a little lower or a little more comparative to each other. That makes sense. It's the kind of the final stage of the compressor. You do the compression, you tweet the sound of the compression. That the end. You want to make sure you get the volume back up to where you want it to be in the way I like to think of it is get back toe kind of where it was going in. I'm using it to control and contain. I call it contained game. I mean, that's your containing the signal. So it's not gonna get all over the place. But now I want to bring that ball you back up to where it waas. And in essence, in theory, if I've done this right, all my compressors, they're doing stuff to the audio. But I'm not actually trying to make every track louder. It might seem louder, because now everything is more up front. But I'm trying to get the same output levels. What came in just now? A different type of audio. That makes sense, ignoring the side, chaining for now because we're not gonna get into that in this session because it doesn't really matter. You don't actually need to know about this T mix with a compressor. Well, that's something for another day. If you ignore that, does this seem any simpler than it did a few minutes ago before we got into it? These knobs, Yeah. Does it make sense that all these knobs air doing is controlling the way we turn down? Volume on a track? How much and how we turn it down? There's nothing. There's nothing else fancy happening here. There's no mystical, magical stuff with these tools. It's just on automatic guy writing the volume, and you're telling how hard? How fast? How slow? How much to ride that volume Now Here's one that's kind about terminology, and we have ah viewer who says, I've heard people talk about certain compressors being more transparent than others. What exactly do they mean? when they say transparent. That's a great question. So, um, we're gonna in the last session today, we're gonna compare a couple of different compressible what they sound like. So some compressors like this compressor here in pro tools and in most digital audio workstations, transparent meaning it doesn't really color the sound. It doesn't add any characteristics to this. Now it literally tries to be as as neutral as possible. It just wants to be a person riding the fader for you to control the dynamics where some compressors actually imparts, um, sonic characteristic to the sound. Actually make something sound a certain way, and that could be good or bad. So and we'll talk a little bit about that. A later session about how some engineers will reach for certain compressors because they like the sound that it adds. Even if they're not doing any compression, they could run audio through it, and it it imparts some sonic characteristic to the track that they like. That makes sense. It's a lot of times that gets confusing. People talk about I love this compressor, but they might love it because of the sound, it adds. They're not really using it as a tool, and what I want to teach you is at its core. What compression does those other things are? Cool nuances that could be nice, like different colors or paintbrushes or things like that. But it's not. The core was not doing any core work. So if this is a good example, the transparent compressor, it does what you wanted to do, and it doesn't color the sound at all. It's a great question.

Class Description

Use compression and dynamics to their fullest potential.

In the Compression & Dynamics Master Class with Graham Cochrane you’ll learn basic compression concepts and how to apply them. Graham will teach you all about threshold, attack, release, ratio, makeup gain, peak, and RMS and how to control them in your mix. You’ll also learn how to use compression to control levels or use it as an effect.

You already know that compression matters to your mix, learn how to manage it with precision.

Reviews

Bruno Motta
 

BIG FAN of Graham ... BIG FAN of The Recording Revolution ... Great classes of the most important studio effect of all times ... Tks to Graham, people like me (not a pro engineering, but extremely enthusiastic with recording, mixing and mastering) can work and deliver great materials !!! Seriously, i can't thank you enough !!!

a Creativelive Student
 

THIS IS PERFECT FOR SOMEONE LIKE ME .I STARTED LATE IN TAKING MY SINGING CAREER SERIOUS,SITTING BACK WAITING FOR OTHERS;I AM MORE OF A SINGER/SONGWRITER THAN A PRODUCER OF RIDDIMS;BUT I HAD TO LEARN,BECAUSE I WAS SERIOUS OTHERS WAS NOT,THERE PEOPLE WHO CAN HELP ME WITH ALL THIS STUFF BUT THEY ARE ALWAYS BUSY,THEY HAVE PREFERNCE(POPULAR/NOT POPULAR ARTIST....MUSIC POLITICS,AFTER AWHILE ALL THE WAITING AROUND ,TIME WASTING E.T.C,SO GRAHAM COCHRANE AND THE RECORD REVOLUTION, AND NOW CREATIVELIVE ARE HELPING ME GRAETLY AND I AM ADVANCING AT A GREAT SPEED THANKSSSSSSSSSSSS

Kevin Thomas
 

I don't usually write reviews, but these lessons are an amazing course for people who want to know more about compression. I feel that I have more confidence in my mixing abilities. Thank you very much Graham!