Why We Compress


Compression & Dynamics Master Class


Lesson Info

Why We Compress

Today I'm gonna be working in pro tools, but it doesn't matter if pro tools isn't your platform and really doesn't matter. I'm going to be if you are a pro tools user, this is cool for you because I'm using just the stock e q and compressor for just about everything, but I'm going to teach just cuban compression we're not going to teach pro tools specific things because you could apply this tow live sound you could apply this to anything it's, the concept that we're making the big deal today. So what I want to show you is how simple these moves are, but how they add up to a big big results so real quick, I'm going to show you wanna work on the same session, the entire, the entire class so that you get familiar with the audio. This is just a song that I did off of my record since I'm really familiar with it, so I can kind of give you the inside scoop of toe what? Maybe I didn't do very well in the recording aspect and what would maybe turned out ok, but let's like play a little bit of t...

he session and I've already got it basically scrapped the mix started from scratch and just used kun compression there's nothing else other than accusing compressors, ninety five percent of them are the stocky human compressor and so I kind of got like another mix going now with just those two settings and I'm just going to bypass all the compressors if you look up on the screen there's like two rows of plug in to the very top is always going to be the cues I made a really easy right below it you see like d three this is dynamics three this is pro tools stock compressors so um if I like do this you see all of them change colors that's bypassing all of the compressors so just visually you know what's happening so let's see if we get this going here he's a little bit of the mix here well in a press play and then on the flip to this screen to bypass all the compressors and I just want you to kind of hear what she changes when we get rid of all the compression on and then we'll impact what we're doing here I just want to kind of hear the big result of all these compressors together here you could hear all the volume changes a little bit but what do you guys hear when all this compressors go away when you hear change this is a little focus okay? I was a little focus it sounds more teen also like a thinner yeah it was the base that jumps up when you turn it on the base base gets bigger when the compressor comes in a lot of things happening and all we're doing is getting rid of little compressing moves, you know, here's the on the snare, the toms I'm going to show you all of really what's happening here and explain it the guitars have little compression vocals drums so these were all simple little compression moves that by themselves you man, I really hear much of a difference, but globally we take him all the way and it makes a big big difference. So the biggest reason why we got to talk about compression where we're going to spend an entire class on compressions because I think it's the most like misunderstood and maybe abused effect so a lot of people, when I talk to them about recording or mixing and we talk about compression, they feel like they're supposed to use compression but they know maura what it sounds like when you you overdo compression, I don't know eighteen years can identify with and even on the chat room is there any you had any abuse of compression? Have you felt like you've used a compressor and just you've ruined the mix a little bit? You're afraid events you backtracking, identify with anything like that, he fears of compression yeah, definitely I remember the first time they're still using my dear sister into aa okay attire were quick when I use a lot of compression you ever have, like, feel like you're supposed to you see people using compressors, maybe the big mixtures that you like and so you put a compressor on your mix somewhere and it doesn't actually make things bigger makes things smaller. Yeah, well, it flattens out the entire thatjust things don't jump out as much. Yeah, exactly. I mean, like, I I went to school and in school and in my greeting all the magazines and websites about compression everyone talks about, you know, I love this compressor I put this compressor on the vocals and it does this thing, and so I would I would drag a compressor in and my sessions and fiddle around with it, and I could never get it to do what I wanted to do. In fact, I think it made my mixes worse so I would try to avoid compression, which is never really a bad thing if you if you use something, you do understand it and makes things worse that's better than not use it then to use it, but I think there's a lot of fear of compression fear screwing things up on dh then maybe there's people that have over used compression so it gets painted in a negative light like, oh compressions bad you don't want over compress your mix or your we've heard maybe the negative uses of compression so people avoided altogether and I'm here to make it really, really simple, so I want to talk a little bit about a little bit of philosophy like how we how compressor came to be just so we can understand it it's the simplest tool ever and they want to talk about why we use it where we use it I'm going to break down in this session that controls the settings so that it's not really missed serious anymore if we get that like understood than the rest of the sessions or going to a lot of fun because then you're going to see how we can use it in musical way to make our mixes pop and once you get out of here once you finish this session, you're going to feel a lot more confident about how to use this tool, which is the whole point if you feel confident about it it's not scary anymore you can do this with any stock compressor than any style of music you're going to be empowered you could be able to get closer to the mix that you want so this is the crazy thing compressors compressors weren't just around just for fun just because someone wanted to make a weird thing there was a really simple reason why they came to be so I don't know if it was in the forties or the fifties but back when the recording was starting to just become in its glory days, it being widely used this is the problem guys were facing your recording, a vocalist, you're recording a trombone player recording a drummer and the signal would get really allowed for a second. Maybe the vocalist sings really loud and they would overload the audio equipment and it would blow things up and break things and it's the equipment is expensive and there wasn't a lot of it and so you would have engineers on the console riding fighters taking a volume fader and then they did what they did. Here comes the vocalist about to sing that loud, loud note or here comes the horn player, you know they're going to blast in and you had a pretty good volume for most of it and they would they would have to pull the volume down really quickly to protect the rest of the audience signal from getting overloaded because the signal is just too much on that's it's pretty simple process, right? Don't let the equipment get broken because it overloaded and somebody got smart. Somebody figured out can we do this automatically, right? This is like the fifties. This is like we want microwave ovens, we want everything to be automated. Can we make a device that takes care of this volume problem without us having to do it and so I don't I'm not this kind of person I'm not this kind of engineer but someone who's really smart invented a box that could basically see or hear signal coming in and no one it was a good level and then no one they got too loud and then automatically turn it down just turn it down so then it was a nice consistent level going on to the rest of the change that wouldn't blow up the consul or the cue or the taper went overload anything does that make sense? It's so somebody figured out a way to just automatically control the volume and that's in essence at its core it's simplest all the compressor is is an automated volume control so I try to picture in my mind compressors as like a little box with is a little invisible man inside that just rides the fate or for you and he's smart enough to know this is a really quiet signal leave it alone this is really loud for these moments on the turned those down by certain amount and it does it for you so that you know in our case we don't have a lot of analog equipment in the typical modern bedroom studio we have a digital audio work station like a piece of software but it protects you from clipping which doesn't sound good and digital recording it protects you from those kind of things but it also we've got a lot of uses out of it since then, but at its core wth all compressors doing you could think of it is the automatic volume writing box that makes sense, so it was born out of the need to do something that we were having to do by ourselves. And then honestly, from then on, you think the last fifty, sixty years of music is modern music, and any genre has changed, you know, you listen to records in the fifties or the forties, and you listen to records now and sort of that that modern sound, even if it's not like a heavy, heavy rock record, things sound more punchy, things sound more up front. They sound this khun sound louder, too, and that's another problem we're going to talk about, too, in this course, but they sound mohr in your face, and this because we realized comply press was a really, really helpful at containing volume, so we can safely bring things up in the mix or safely bring things closer visually to the listener, and it won't ever overload, and so has actually changed the way music sounds just because it's automatically controlling the volume so a simple necessity has led to a change in sort of the way we hear music, which is kind of cool does that make sense? So throughout this whole day when we're doing stuff and we're gonna get into the nitty gritty wouldn't get into the different ways with these compressors don't ever lose sight of how simple this tool is all it is is someone riding a fader in a in a box that's all it is at its corner we can use it for different things but it's nothing more, nothing less than just a simple volume control device and compression of maybe I don't know if it's the best name but it's compressing the wave forms imagine away form get it peaks it can compress those waves but it's all it's doing any questions on that? Any questions from the chat room? Stop me any point. Yeah, well we've got questions coming in we have people joining us from all around the globe right now. A huge international audience welcomed everybody who's joining so a few questions are coming in. I know some of the stuff you're going to get to later on, but I want to take one here from one of our viewers who wants to know if you e q or compress an individual track like guitar track and then you eat you or compressed the master with this double e q and compression be a bad thing that's a good question um no, I don't think so, but it just depends it depends on how much you're compressing we're going to talk we're going to show you a little bit about compressing on your master fader on what that can do and a lot of times if you do enough compression there, you may not need any compression on individual tracks so as you grow as a mix or you're gonna learn when you feel like you need something, you're not going to be doing moves blindly you know you're not going to say I guess I need to throw a compression on this track because you're supposed to do you're going to be able to know why you're compressing and if you don't need it you won't worry about not so it's never a bad thing less it sounds bad and the more you mix them or you can tell something sounds bad there's a great question I think we're okay tow continue on now and I'll jump in with many other questions they just interrupt me whenever you want data chris all right, so I've got compressors in this track all over the place, okay? But there was a reason for using compression on every single one of these these tracks these instruments and so I kind of want to talk about some of the reasons behind it so that way again we're not blindly throwing compressors on places, so let me ask you guys a question when it comes to recording mixing and mastering well kind of look at all three of those a little bit of course these sessions but why do you think you would use a compressor if a compresses the automated volume control or why would you use a compressor in recording what do you guys think and online ah because of the dynamics off the instrument or boko maybe like you already said that they're some some some some parts maybe the barclays maybe having like a peek um volume in his boys and you know maybe clip so so maybe the over your reason for compressing absolutely or record so yeah that's absolutely you've got vocalists you want to record you got to think a singer even when they change their valve sound the volume changes they could sing and do and then jump to an awe and just changing the way their mouth is it's naturally a louder signal and then that's just assuming that they stay the same volume you know if it's really we talk about working with really good musician steve you know when you're working with talented people and they're singing their song the very passionate so there's gonna be a moment where there's going toe engage louder have mohr dynamics in a section of a song and so a compressor in recording could help turned down a little bit there's really loud peaks so that what goes to pro tools or goes to your daughter goes to two tape is a more consistent volume so that the engineer doesn't have to got to turn that down on the way in which in essence think about this a lot of you all if you have like an audio interface at home in your recording just microphone into your to channel or more audio interface with the usb input or something into your recording software you don't have a compressor on the way in you know you're plugging right into the box and so what do you do to control those peaks? You grab the little gain control on your box when they get loud you turn it down a little bit while they're recording at least that's what I did for years and I mean that's I would hear a singer I know they're about to get loud I would just grab the the gain and turn it down that's that's what a compressor could do for you I mean that's the that's the whole concept so a compressor would make that easier if you had one but in essence that's all it is give us a nice contained volume into into the recording questions so when when you request a boco and you have ah good mic placement and it doesn't really um clipp under it maybe when you're testing it you doesn't really clip so it's really necessary to prep compression compression there no it's never it's not necessary so like if you don't have a compressor, you just want to make sure that it's not clipping and that you don't actually get even close to clipping a a common misunderstanding when recording these days is to get a really hot signal is hot as you can without clipping and it's just not really a good move actually it's kind of a holdover from the analog days when tape and consoles and all the analog circuitry that sound was running through added noise and so the noise floors was what they call pretty loud and so you try to get as loud of a signal over that so you wouldn't hear the tape issue wouldn't hear the other things and if you have a little interface and a computer very clean, very quiet annoys floor so that's not a problem you're fighting so you could just turn the game down, says nice and conservative and if it's if it's a really dynamic singer orp performing, you might have to just control it so that it's not this wide variety but that's just for ease of use later that's all that really matters but that's why? If you see in a big studio they have about racks of compressors and they're using them on the way and they're just trying to get a nice even signal they're turning down the volume ahead of time so that's easier to mix later thank you good questions okay something about mixing mixing what we're talking about mostly why would I use a compressor in nick's unless they were already recorded it or it was something somebody else recorded and they give it to you to mix why use a compressor if it's just an automatic volume control of what is that going to do for us and mixing what do you guys think kind of has an extra layer of I guess glued to your to your whole mix evens things out if you're like throwing it on the two bus or something or on ah on auxiliary group track or like a fierce throwing all your drums through a single channel like that okay, yeah absolutely we're going to do some of that but let me simplify at its core why would I use a compressor even simpler on any track control the output right? I mean it's a automatic volume controller and why would I want to control the output of the signal? I'd get a lot of stuff that's like super hot and sometimes I don't really want to compress it necessarily err sometimes I just wanted to give you a little kiss but mostly I just kind of want to bring the all you want it down just so it kind of sits in with everything else absolutely I mean you want to use a limiter and those closes this's instead if you want to just avoid if you just want to keep it from peking right well it's a great question that's why I'm trying to get to is what is it you're trying to do so one once one need we might have been mixing is just to keep it from clipping a channel and peeking um but another need might be even more so specific than that like okay maybe we've recorded them so nothing is actually going to peak even without a limiter maybe things that are nice level or it was recorded well for you and you have to worry about that why then still bring in a compressor if it's just going to turn down the volume of a track why do you think decreases the dynamics maybe that's an effect you're after tighten up the sound okay so you tighten up the sound so if all the compressor does is turn down the volume of individual channel it could turn down the volume of these vocals that could turn down the volume of my snare drum um just a little of the base what we get to mix things we can turn down the volume a little bit of tracks or contain them so that's not just a static volume change right because then every every element of that bass guitar would go down if you have a compressor it only turned down maybe the loud hits on the bass guitar and not turn down the the quieter hits so we actually have more even performance of the base and we're going to look at with the vocal little bit later is how we can then bring up the overall volume of that now more even bass guitar so it seems like a bigger base sound and nothing is going to jump out of the mix, okay? So compression it that there's a little a little bit more esoteric to try to figure out and philosophizing about what it's doing, but we'll show you what it sounds like, but in essence we can control all these individual tracks, turn him down a little bit where they need to be so we can put everything up and in front. So has this nice, modern, big, punchy sound as much or as little as you want and kind that's in essence, what we're doing in this this session question come in here now we have people in the chat room who are all different levels of ability have been doing this for different times, but laurel, I asked this question we have four other people voted up, but they want to know what's the difference between limiter and compressor that's a great question the technical answer is simply how how hard the ratio is and we'll get into ratio in a minute, which is that we'll make more sense if you're not familiar with ratio so the limiter has a fixed ratio that's usually really high, meaning it really compresses things pretty heavily and then also how fast it compresses it's very, very fast so all that it is like a specialized compressor it's going to do the same things when we look at the tools and the knobs on the compressor, in essence, it can do all those same things, but it's like especially designed compressor for specific type of, um, application, and we're going to use a limiter in on one of my five favorite compressor moves in later sessions. So what kind of show us you can hear? What that's doing that's a great question, and it really is just a compressors fancy it's, specific, specific type of compressor cool, thank you, great, great question, sir, like that. Uh, I've been a bit unclear about what an expander is exactly ok, a great question, so we're not. I'm not going to get into expanders and gates necessarily, but they're all within the dynamics section it's really? So do you know what a gate is? The gate is it takes like compression technology to read audio and it just does the opposite. It tries to close off the sound or make the sound muted unless it's a certain volume levels these air very helpful onlive settings to give a vocalist and then a drummer the vocalist isn't singing you want the microphone to mute itself that's not having the drum bleeding to the microphone unless the vocalist sings and then it opens up the gate and expander is just a gate that doesn't close all the way it just reduces the volume doesn't completely mute it so it's it may be more subtle waiting to gate that makes sense all right, good question um this the same process happens in mastering when we talk about using compressors, people, he's compressors and mastering and they wonder, why should I compress and mastering? What am I doing? It's the exact same basic philosophy it's just trying to control the volume of a track and the more you you record or mixture master, you're gonna understand why would I want to control the volume in mastering? What is it doing for me? And you have to experience it and hear it, but we'll talk a little bit later about some of the other nuances of maybe specific compressors that can affect the sound. But at its core, when you see compressors used in recording or mixing are mastering, we're just trying to control the volume, and I think when I was brand new at mixing, I would record tracks as best I could, and then I would pull them in and be ready to mix and I wouldn't really know what I'm supposed to do, although I knew they sounded okay, but I wanted it to sound like my favorite record on the radio, and they know compressors play a role, but on amateur mix, at least in my experience, with always all over the place, get loud apart to get quieted parts. The vocal would be hard to hear certain words, the vocal disappear certain times, the snare drum wouldn't be very consistent, and sometimes he would be allowed sometimes to be quiet, you know, it's all those little things that compression actually helps you have the nice, perfect volume of every instrument, every section of song, so, like if you're if you're mixing at home, here's a great clue to know when you need to compress her if you like to pull up all the favors when I mix and just start mixed just with volume haters like put everything at the ideal volume, look at the vocal should be here kick drum feels good here, the ocular percussion here, the guitar here and for maybe eighty percent of the song those volume levels work. But then, like in the bridge than office in the vocal, gets too loud or in that one chorus that get targets buried, so you move it around. But you realize there's, no one ideal spot for the volume. Fader toe live. Maybe for the entire song and that's, when you have an idea that maybe a compressor would be helpful, because it might allow you to set the fate or one place, volume wise. And then, if it gets loud, it'll contain and keep it where it needs to be. So that could be another clue. You might need a compressor in the mix.

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