Vocal Compression


Compression & Dynamics Master Class


Lesson Info

Vocal Compression

Let's compress a vocal let's let's do it so I love vocals because everyone is familiar with the vocal performance and they're very dynamic and that he display how you can use a compressor. Well, so let's get to vocal here and unfortunately, you guys get to listen to me all day every day so I was fined weii formed you see let's, get a verse here is a lead vocal let's go ahead and get rid of any processing um a shell the man who once lived so this is just raw. This is just a vocal and let's look, a look at the audio way this is the most important thing that we're looking at today's you could just that's what's cool about digital recordings you can see what we're trying to take care of. Look at these first couple phrases you can see the peak humboldt and beat down that you know, that's the loudest peak there, but look it over here in the chorus look at that peak it gets you go from, you know, whatever this deby is toe way up here is a massive change. So you've got this vibe here in the ve...

rsace tha man who wants the chorus sticks and stones on tearing meat, the tearing me that they've become a blast of air is a little bit louder um, you see over here too, in the bridge or in the course here stick and filmy spirit, sword and shield and nama stay and stone at the end of that stone, you could see how quiet that isthe, right? The vocals are all over the place, and as a mixer, you don't want that you wanted to sound musical, you don't want to sound like squashed or robotic, but you'd be surprised even the really dynamic vocal performances that you love, especially vocal heavy albums. I mean, I think of lycan adele record where she is the records, her voice it's it's so massive and passionate, and she has this massive range and dynamic range, but even her her vocals are compressed pretty well because they have to contain how massive her voices, but it still sounds musical they've just done a really good job of containing it a little bit so that they can push it out to the listener and it be the centerpiece in that case of the song. So what we're going to do is I in and by itself you can hear everything, but in a mix you might lose some of the lead vocal, so let me if I'm going to meet all the other vocals, so you're not getting confused, meet the doubles and just have the band and my vocal and listen to how even if it's a great recording and it seems fine and so low you might lose some of the value too quiet so you might think let's just turn up the volume so we could do that we could turn it up better I can hear it now but like some words trail a little bit in some words are a little too loud like right here start until you start it's too much it's sze you don't want the vocal the jump all over the place and you will get an averse to stand to life exposed it's a fried way all right, but here this side to our right compared to this phrase I know I know that the song is building a little bit, but what we want to do with the compressor is just fix all of that is contained that performance a little bit so that we don't have to worry about one no jumping out or one note falling off and visually it's going to be if we took those peaks that are allowed like here and what we want to do is turn those peaks down a little bit so they're closer to maybe this volume visually and then we can bring all of them back up if that makes sense so let's look at I don't see what the good example where we can do some of this thiss my side telling me right let's, use this phrase, this first part is definitely louder, then this phrase and then within this phrase thiss last word me such a small vow that it's it's not a whole lot of volume, so we're going to use is that we're gonna grab a compressor, so grab the stock compressor here and what we want to do is way over here sort of see where the volume of the local is coming in on the input meter somewhere bring up the threshold, so we're not affecting it right now. Thiss side so it's it's peaking just above minus twelve this is this track is so you know, people ask me what's a good setting for a vocal compressor like what? It's a good vocal compressor ratio and and we're gonna talk about presets a little bit there's some rules of thumb, but it really doesn't matter because, like we showed, you could have a really high ratio, but if the thresholds not very low, it won't do much compression, so it really just I don't really care about the numbers, and I really don't even pay attention to the numbers. I just sort of watch the meters, so I'm going to watch mohr of this gain reduction meter this gr meter to see what am I actually doing to this vocal that's what's going to tell me that's and wherever the numbers land is where it lands doesn't really matter. So let's, we'll start, I'm gonna bring the threshold down so that it's starting to touch some of the latter part of the vocal and you'll see that happening and we'll leave the ratio of three to one that's where it was by default we'll see what happens thiss thiss star side see what's happening here in the game reduction thiss it looks like some of those words is turning down to minus three minus for but let's see if it's turning anything down over here and me like it's telling it only turned that down about minus one and a half, maybe minus two d b because not as loud it's me and then on me, me it's not turning it down hardly at all. Okay, now what we can do is we can play with the attack and the release if we want because you can see the attack it's set, I would say this is a slow it tech. You know, some people might call it a medium attack but it's ten minutes to the to the left of me really fast, right, tim, like microseconds and then you're going to go slow into, like hundreds of milliseconds. So a faster attack let's, crank this up super fast! Remember this is going to tell them the audio engineer to grab my fate and turn me down real quick, turning down minus sixty b let's, take a look at this me we saw him or compression happening because we turn the attack setting super fast so it's going to jump on to attack the audio quicker, which means it's going to have more signal to compress it have a really slow attack it's going to be like a lazy audio engineer who he's missing it every time like the audio coming to go. I'm turning to down and he missed it thiss star size telling me guys missed it and like this, you know, we think we're compressing but it's not doing anything because by the time it waits three hundred milliseconds to try to clamp down on that peak, the peak is already gone and moved on to the next peak. It's what's released and reset and he's just he's always behind so you can see how we can start to figure these knobs to get more or less compression. And it doesn't matter what the settings are what matters is just can you fiddle with those settings and watch the gain reduction neater and see how much you're actually turning down and on what words are you turning it down and so all I want to do conceptually here is maybe turned down this phrase a little bit and not really turned down this phrase very much maybe turned down the first part of this phrase a little bit so that all these audio waves will be closer and volume maybe to this last word me so really it's like whatever the quietest part of the track is that kind of gets to be left alone and I'm bringing all the louder parts to be a little closer that quieter part that's me my first goal so let's do that let's play with this attack setting I want to be fast enough to catch the peaks but not so fast that it's cutting off my my words so we'll leave it back you know a medium attack medium release anything up the middle like this is going to be pretty neutral um and let's try to play with this this side and when I want to do honestly is bring the volume of this track back down to where it was so it this thaler on my side so watch the game reduction meter and see what it's turning down this thaler in my side it's telling me that looks nice. It looks like this first phrase is going to turn a lot of that down by almost sixty b then this phrase since it's not quite as loud, is going to turn it down about half of that boeing about maybe minus three, and then the word me it's not going to turn down at all that seems to be about conceptually what we're trying to do, um, if I bypass it, you know, it's not doing any compression, this thaler, this thaler and masa little quieter, so in essence, we've squashed on lee the loud parts, and then you can see look at the output meter versus the input meter this thaler on my side, it's a little quieter, right? That that makes sense? We've turned down most everything, except for when he gets to me, it looks like it's going to probably be similar it's telling me may may so that in putting the output of the same on the word me, because there's, no way we're not turn anything down, so now you can sort of see where we're going with this, we've visually reduced the will waves of those loud parts and less word me alone, and now we can come to our final step of the puzzle, which is the makeup gain because I didn't want a quiet vocal that was the problem, the vocal is too quiet, so when I turned the volume of it, but it was too loud on certain phrase this we've brought it back down to where it was now I wanted take this contained gain, we've squashed a little bit it's a little more consistent from word to word, and then I want to bring up the overall output of everything so that these loud parts will be kind of back to where they were and maybe even a little louder and the word me, which wasn't compressed, it all is going to really come up in a parent volume to match those louder parts. So what I like to do is watched the input and output meter, and as I turn up the gain knob, I like to match the output to with the input was and if that's that's a good starting point and then if everything is feeling good there, then I can bring up the overall volume of the track if I still need more volume cause it'll be nice and contained so let's just bring it up the match, this thaler on my side and you could see in the game reduction if it's turning down minus three minus forty b, that might be a good starting point for the game. The makeup game maybe turn up everything by three or four d b to match those loud parts this faller on my side yeah it's tellin me will back down a three this following in my side about two and a half this follow on my side yeah it's tellin me so I'm still giving a little bit more volume that comes in so just back it down about two this thaler and in my side it's tellin me so pretty close to the input you know close enough not to be perfect so at this point we've got him or consistent volume vocal it's only gonna turn on the loud parts it's going to keep the word me this could turn that up in essence is going to appear like that was turned up so what we have is a mork contained vocal the weak and then play with if we want to get the volume back up in the mix let's bring it back in the mix so we could hear everything nicely like it was bypassed the compressed rensi it happens so that was what it was before maybe the first phrase sounds fine this thorn in my side that sounds fine but then when it it's telling that starts to get a little quieter and then the word me you can tell it falls off so remember before do you hear that we're not doing anything major to it but in essence we're bringing up the phrase is so they're more consistent volume, and this is huge, because now we can make sure we don't lose any words that fall off, or any phrases that go down that you can just see visually what's about to happen like the end of this phrase is found. If you take off the compressor a little too quiet and the compressor brings it back up, or will you say this is better to went when compressing? Because right now you're focusing in thiss are you in this part of the body where there's ah, high peak and there's a lower peak and drew basing duke compression and thiss part so what about the west and and so it's? Better to style in again in apartment audio, there is similar to tease or house a great questions. So what I like to do is when I'm doing a lot of my mixing in general with the u n compression, I kind of looped the session around, probably the biggest part of the song, the section of the song where there's the most instruments in where maybe it's the biggest moment sonically so it could be a final chorus, it could be a bridge where there's most stuff in, and I'll spend a lot of my time mixing there because that's going to be the loudest things get and then it's easy to mix the rest of it is opposed if you mix the first verse sensual, quiet and you get to the other parts and you have to undo everything you're doing so I would maybe go to you know, this part of the song where everything's in, um, you know, we bring in all the vocals probably hang out here for this section and that's where I would start to do a lot of my compression moves and see where we're at, you know? And I would compare I mean, you could even just look, this is this quiet chorus studio star, vastly different dynamics are there, right? I mean, it's obviously that's the point of that section, the song, but I would hang out where it's really peaking and know this probably allowed us this vocal is going to get and start to set my compressor there and know that I probably to back that down a little bit so it's not getting too crazy loud and get a good setting there so they want to get to the quieter parts of the song prior I will have brought up the volume and those will seem a little closer I don't that answers your question, but it for the most part work where there's the most most volume happening and contain that a little bit and you'll probably be eighty ninety percent of the way there for the rest of the song, and you might have to find two in your compressor a little bit, but I like to do the whole band, the whole mix and one major section of the song I've spent a lot of my time there and then fix anywhere else that needs to be done is a great question a woman through the side on ah bingley like a middle level attack as opposed to, like, really lower zero attack because the transients occurred the very beginning of each phrase um, because you know you'll know experiment and you'll start to get some experience into what you think sounds good so like a faster attack would give us more compression of my vocal and what we can do is just hear what that does to it and see if we like it so that's what we had taking me down to my bones faster attack, taking me down to my boom and fill me with spirit soared sheila merced a x and stuff it just clamps down fast and you could just play with they hear what it's doing and you might find that you like it faster, but then a little too fast of attack is too much and you back it off a little bit if it's a really aggressive vocal you might need a faster attack. It is a very heavy rock are very aggressive vocal stuff. It it might sound perfect to crank up that attack on it and squash it a little bit. So it's just mohr contains otherwise it's just going toe ruin the mix, so I typically with a vocal I'll leave it both attack and release in the middle because it's it's kind of transparent it's going to do enough compression, but I don't like to kill the the trains into the vocal because I don't want to sound squashed, but that's, just from what I've experienced and I've liked on most vocals, we'll look at it in the next couple sessions, maybe two sessions from now, let me talk about one of my favorite compressor moves on to show you the difference of a really a fast attack and really slow attack on two different types of audio and kind of what different results happen. Vocals are very interesting they usually try to keep it neutral, transparent signing so we don't kill the vocal, but it still contains it a little bit. Steve, your question, too, so I know there's a couple of schools of thought on this what's your opinion on adjusting the level on ah particular tracks just done going through edits. Manually adjusting the game yeah, they're great question so I have a friend who likes to use a clip based game where you can actually select a section increase, the volume or whatever it's a feel cia vocal performance, he'll do that, so you actually have a more consistent volume? Um throughout the song I'm I wouldn't say I'm a lazy person, but I like automation and so I I would rather stay been no time doing that and just throw on a compressor and get eighty five percent of the way there with the vocals in particular and this is, you know, not for this discussion necessarily, but I will usually find a compression setting that gets the compressor contained pretty consistent, nice and up front and I will still probably the very into the mix do some automating of the actual volume, fader because there still may be a phrase or sometimes it's like the k like the end of a word like if they were fussing about cook cooking something cook or you know, on I hit the tee at the end are k at the end of a p a fiend, though sometimes get lost in the mix and so I will literally be some automation to bring up the volume of just that little piece of audio that you hear it in the mix in a compressor can't be that precise it really meant for that so sometimes I will do automation on a lead vocal for sure and in this mix in particular and the actual album version of this next you can look at this part of the quiet course where the whole band comes down it's too quiet there even with even if the compressor was right so I will literally go into the volume and and ride that volume up a little bit for that part of the song so that every moment of the song you hear everything the way you wanted to hear that's what people expect for record um here's another sort of terminology question from the I r b who says hey graham what is a side chain in the compressor so great great question I hardly ever use side chains but just so you asked and you want to know if someone got really smart realized we can sew a compressor without any side chaining is going to look at the audio coming through it to determine how much compression it should do. Nothing makes sense it's it's a very basic thing so that if this is a vote lead vocal the vocals going tell the compressor when to turn on and off because it's looking at the vocal the compressor is looking at the track you put it on a side chain can have the compressor compressed that track but look a different track to tell it when to compress you might think why why would I want to do that and that's a great question you mostly have you don't need to do that um but there are really clever things that can be done for instance, you can have let's say you've got a kick drum and bass guitar and they sound cool by themselves but in the mix every time they're hitting at the same time one seems to get lost. One trick you can do is have a compressor on the bass guitar set to turn the bass guitar down a little bit, but it has a side chain meaning it's it's going to look at some other track in this case it could look at the kick drum and the kick drum every time it hits will send a signal to this compressor to turn the base down so that compresses not actually gonna look at the base, it could be tell told when he turned down going to look at another track of the kick trump so every time the drummer hits the kick trump the base turns down for a second in volume so what we hear in the mix and you hear you don't lose the kick trump you still hear the base but it's like the kick drum wins out is very complex because you're telling one track to tell another tracks compressor to turn on or off in essence that's what aside chain khun do on you there are various things you can use that for but nine times out of ten, ninety nine times out of one hundred you won't you won't need it and I wouldn't worry about it just now I feel like most mixes I do I rarely use side change it's a pretty red that I feel like I need to use it personally but he's exactly is pretty often the more because there's so much you can do with them but at its use it wrong a lot of times too but you step wrong some of these I've used it wrong on purpose but you know it's okay but that's all aside chain does is one track tells another tracks compressor or whatever to kick on great all right here's another one here we have a viewer who wants to know instead of using a compressor why is it bad to just use volume automation apart from it being a lot of work it's not it's not bad at all um it can be you have to have more control if you just use volume automation a compressor um again if you're I like to mix quickly I like to mix um musically so not to over think I'm not very technical so some of you might be more technical and you mix I'm lean more to the musician side so I I don't like to spend time fiddling with things if I don't have to, so for me, a compressor is faster and it's it does a certain thing it's meant to do what it does so it's faster than volume riding. It also does change the tone of things a little bit because it's it's not this precise thing, it actually it's starting to slowly turned down or gently turned down a vocal it's not up, down, up, down it's, a little more musical at times, but the same could be true of volume, right? Because you can be as precise as you want to be. You could ride it is that it is a musical sounding as you want. In reality, I would say it's a combination for a lead vocal let's say in this example, the combination will get you there like, mostly I'm a compressor guy, I'm gonna show you ah, move in a couple of sessions that I I used multiple compressors, tio eliminate even more volume rides, but a volume rider to in the end can give you that perfect vocal there's no right or wrong. I mean, I have friends that try to avoid compression they prefer just writing everything, but, um, I say you have a tool that'll do it for you. You think all right, now we have another one here and this one's been voted on by five people in the chat room? Does it make sense to set the release by calculating the length of a beat with the b p m of the song on drums? Yes, it does I'm not that smart that you're absolutely right. Most of you know chapman probably know more about this than I do you're technically absolutely right you can and in theory should set the release to be musical. So if it's a drum hitting, you could set the release to literally release in time with when the drummers resetting about to hit something with a base? I'm not that technical when I do release settings I I play with it till it sounds musical to me some compressors and I'll show you one later on have an auto release function and I love automation you press a button and it tries to hear the audio itself coming in and see kind of the tempo of the speed at which it's moving and set the release to that release you'll you'll notice like if you set a really slow release let's look at this vocal here breaking me down to my bones and fill me with spirit look how long it took for that gain reduction to go back up to the top it's set to four seconds, breaking me the it's not resetting fast enough for my next word to come in something breaking me by the time I get to me it's still trying to come back to the original volume it's too slow so it's going to swallow a lot of my my continent's I just do that by year ago. How it's way too slow I'm losing the energy of the vocal saw I'll make it a faster release breaking me down to my book but technically, yes, you can set it up three perfectly set to the tempo the v p m of the track. But if you're like me, you just kind of said it musically where it feels right, it doesn't destroy from what you're trying to do. All right, let's, get a few more in here. We have one from a viewer on here. Four people voted for this one. Is there a sonic difference to recording with compression in the chain versus compressing afterwards in the mix instead? Do you use both techniques? Why, in theory, if you're using the same compressor let's, say you have an outboard version of this compressor and then a plug in version, this compressor, in theory, they wouldn't sound any different would make no difference. It's just compressing now or later obviously and we're in the real life if you have a specific compressor that you're recording through, it might have its own sound and if you like that man it'll will impart that sound to the track on the way in um I'm a big fan of if you have a compressor or any q on the way in like a nice little channel strip you can record through it you might as well compress the sound on the way and if you're going to do it later anyway I was taught the opposite in school I was taught to do as little as possible to audio so you don't back yourself into a corner you could always process it later I think that's actually really bad advice from my experience because now we have a generation of audio engineers that can't commit to a sound so you get to mixing and mixing the nightmare because you have, you know, a million vocal takes you haven't decided what's the best one you have no processing on the bass guitar so it's really life listening you like? Well, I got to do all these things too in the mix when if you have a compressor and helps the sound or helps the vocal in away and just do it on the way in and it'll be fine so for me it's more of a now or later thing. Or, if you have a nice piece of audio, the like the sound of my voice when you use it when you record. But there's no, real right or wrong, I'm gonna compress on the way in. Probably like this vocal was compressed a little bit on the way in, but it is. You can tell it's still very dynamics, compressed after the fact, also cited both.

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.


a Creativelive Student