Skip to main content

Segment 24 - Compressors and EQs

Lesson 24 from: Pro Tools Essentials

Zach Varnell

Segment 24 - Compressors and EQs

Lesson 24 from: Pro Tools Essentials

Zach Varnell

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

24. Segment 24 - Compressors and EQs


Class Trailer

Day 1


Segment 1 - Creating a Loop with Elastic Audio


FreePreview: Editing Piano with Elastic Pitch


Segment 3 - Editing Acoustic Guitar with Elastic Audio


Segment 4 - Editing Drums with Elastic Audio


Segment 5 - Edit Window Overview


Segment 6 - Recording and Editing MIDI


Segment 7 - Composing with Pro Tools


Lesson Info

Segment 24 - Compressors and EQs

This next segment we're going to talk about compressors every engineer I know loves compressors it's like the coolest thing in mixing to be able to use compressed was effectively to get the tones that you want, and I think the reason for that is that they have such an impact on the sound of the of the recording that you end up using compressors not only affect the dynamic range, but they also end up controlling the transients and sort of shaping the transience of the sound, especially in really punchy things like vocals and snare drums and kick drums. And they also change the actual tone of the track as well. So you'll have compressors make a pretty big impact on things like frequency response and even the way the frequency response is sort of like spread out throughout the actual envelope in the note you can often times use a compressor and sort of change the tone between the transient in the actual body of the note like when a snare drum when you hit a snare drum you consort of shape...

, the change in frequency response of the attack all the way through the actual ring of the note. Some things like that make compressors really useful and what's really cool about pro tools is that they have so many different plug ins that you can use from the built in stuff like the channel strip all the way to like emulation of classic analog millions like that led to a in the eleven, seventy six and then they'd even recently come out with a lot of different types of sort of like crazy off the wall compression plug ins that emulate a lot of the bigger work flows on dh stands signal flows that some of the bigger mixing engineers used so we're going to dive into some of this stuff and kind of see how we can use them and use them on a couple different examples the first thing we're gonna pull up is we're going to talk about limiters well actually well we'll talk about just like using a channel strips so you have the channel strip plug in that you use just with pro tools and like I said, it usually has the cue the filters like the high pass in low pass the dynamic controls gates and compressors and limiters and then it also has the section all in one plug in but there's also ones that emulate different classic consoles and those the ones that I usually like to use so we're going to show a lot of waves plug ins which are a lot of ones that I used I'm gonna go and pull up the ssl channel strip and if you look at this you can sort of see what it would look like on an actual counsel you have your high pass in low pass and what you activate just by turning on we're going to pull this up on um let's see it's a tom mike let's go ahead and pull up a snare and we'll just kind of start messing around with a snare with the channel strip so before we start let's go and just listen to the snare by itself and like I said, if I was mixing a lot of times what I'll do is strip the silence out gate this narrow manually instead of using a gate that way you can really make sure that every hit is exactly how you want it or a lot of times I'll end up actually sampling the snare if I want the tone and then using a sound replace or we're making a mini map to be ableto replay that snare by itself without any bleed so it creates a little more transparency in the mixing process but we'll go and soul of this so we will also bring in the snare bottom of here that's pretty muffled because there's also a snare bottom like that's going to bring in a lot of the high end or the sort of the rattle this snare so we'll play those two together here there's a couple different theories on how you mix snare drums if you compress them if you want to mix compress the two together compress them separately what I usually do and like I said, this is totally to taste in preference thing is I used to stair bottom just to bring more presence back in after I'm done getting the tone of this near from the top mike, we're gonna go ahead and pull start with just the top mike and bring up a channel strip plug in bring up the ssl channel strip first thing I'm gonna do is high pass it it like one hundred hertz we'll start there and just kind of get make sure there's no bleed or anything coming off the kicker some of the floor tom, the next thing I'm going to do is bring up the ratio on the threshold are bring up the ratio on the compressor sorry and I'll go toe like probably for between four and five and what I'm what I want to do with this compressor and like I talked about this before it's using small changes in multiple plug ins is I'm not really going to try to shape the transient too much with the compressor on the channel strip pool again, I'm going to use a different plug in for that I just want to sort of like even out some of the transient so that it's this first past of compression passive compression is just sort of like shaving off some of the peaks, making sure that they're sort of like ready to be compressed that none of the peaks would end up overloading the next compressor I put in the chain and making it a certain hit kind of fall off so you could see him only hitting like three d b of gain reduction. Maybe I'll just do a little more. I want to make sure the release is pretty fast and keep in mind the you that I'm doing right now, but it is going to be before the next compressor, and so any changes that I have are going to be sort of minimized by the compression I'm doing in the next compression because it's before it in the signal change. So I'm going to be thinking about that I usually do e q, before and after for different reasons. So this first snared e q, I'm gonna want to bring out I'm gonna take out some of the low mids, so I'm gonna go to, like six hundred hertz let's see like six and a half and take out just like forty. And I'm also going to go to three hundred hertz. Make sure it's a pretty narrow q on both of those and already I like the sound a whole lot better. It's cleaned up a lot of those low meds. I'm still not really compressing it much but I'm getting some of that signal something also I want to point out about waves plug ins and this is just my own little personal thing but you might agree if you've used these before a lot of the analog analog simulations of plug ins have this analog thing on each of the but button on each of the plug ins I talked to a bunch of engineers and I've never met anyone that actually thinks this does anything all it does is add noise into the track which drives me crazy so the first thing I always do with waste plug ins is just turn that off on every plug in um as it starts to build up it builds up a noise floor and if you have a bunch of plug ins you end up opening a session you don't even hit play yet and you could just hear this hiss and it's from all the waves plug ins that drives me insane um I'm gonna go ahead and turn that off and then maybe next in line I'm going to bring up a nebulae shin oven l a three a eso again here you see this analog thing turn that off I'm gonna go ahead and bring up the peak production and so now this compressor you can hear is really shaping the transient I'm not using it so much to clean up I'm actually changing the tone by using this compressor, the other thing I'm going to talk about when we talk about compression and parallel compression is that this is also going to go to a bus compressor when I finally get the drum set up. And so I want to make sure that I'm not actually compressing too hard, because I'm still going to be hitting a couple more layers of compression before it finally gets to the master and also it's going to be kind of limited with the master in the snare, especially kicking snare for me punch the remix more than anything, usually in rock music. So when I get to the master limited that I'm gonna put that I put on the first section on the master bus, I'm going to see that this is actually even with the full mix, the snare is actually going to drive some of these transients more than anything. So if you think about the layers of compression, the snare is going through, I've got the channel strip. I've got the tone shaping compartment the channel strip, the tone shaping compressor. I've got the parallel bus compression and then the master compression so it's hitting like four layers of compressors, and I want to be thinking about each one of those layers of some compressing, so I'm not hitting any one of those too hard. You want to think about that that's all gain staging is like running it through a series of tone shaping and gain staging and knowing how and being intentional about how you're hitting each of those stages. Um ok, so that's basically just a channel strip plug and I'm not going to spend a ton of time talking about it. I do want to really quick show you also how to do a side chain and for those you guys that don't know what aside chain is an analog equipment on analog compressors, you have sort of two paths through a compressor you have what's called the read circuit and you have what's called the gain reduction circuit, so if I'm compressing something there's one circuit that sort of looking at the audio coming in the voltage and saying, what are the levels? That and then there's another circuit that's actually changing the levels of the circuit in passing audio through it? Most of the time you have the read circuit looking at the same signal as what's it's compressing it, saying, here it comes the snare drum I'm going to compress that snare drum sometimes with a side chain you khun feed a different signal into the read path of the compressor so that the compression is not compressing that track based on that track it's compressing it based on another track and you might think like why in the world would you want to do that? Probably the most common trick that you'll see people talk about is ducking the bass guitar with the kick drum it's done in a lot of r and d stuff and that way you can have a really intense low end but you still have the kick punch through a little bit every time the kick it's it compresses the bass drum so we'll show you how to do that really quick so if you remember when we set up our io yesterday in bus, we set up key inputs and we're going to need those key and put buses to do ah aside chain something over here to the but the bass guitar find a spot where the base is playing and I want to play this at the same time is the kick drums so I'm going to pull up one of these kick drums I'll just use the kick in now all I want to do is send a read circuit or senator reid signal tio sorry said the signal from the kick trump to the reid circuit of the compressor so first thing I'm gonna do is go to the kick drum and pull up a bus and pull up key and put and I'm just going to go and hold on option and put that unity so that failure is just sending at zero d b f s r zero d b u to the to the key input next thing to do is bring up a compressor on the bass guitar let's go ahead and bring up a c one this is the waves plug in so the c one compressor is a very transparent compressor it's not doesn't color the sound at all. This is what I want to use, probably after a tone shaping compressor like for bass guitar. I I really like to use either the eleven seventy six, which is also a way of plug in or sometimes I also actually like to use what's really interesting with a lot of heavy rock stuff. The renaissance vocal compressor actually sounds really good on base to me I've used that quite a bit um, so we're gonna bring that up right now just for tone shaping real quick. A lot of theory, I think, why the renaissance vocal compressor sounds good on base is from what I've heard, and I'm not sure this is true, but from what I've heard from several friends that are engineers is that the renaissance of local compressor is sort of like a stripped down version of the two a and and sort of a reconfigured version onda lot of people really like you to weigh on bases well, so I feel like maybe that's why it might work well so if I have enough low and you hear the kick drum kind of starts to get lost a little bit again, this isn't something I would typically do on a song like this. But just to show you is an example, somebody going to reactivate this compressor plug in and that's what I'm gonna do, um, gonna pull of a key input here. Actually, you know what? I'm going to use a different compressor. We're going to use just the stand aled standard channel, strip plugin on over here. Inside chain. I can set the side chained to either be internal or key and put on dh. What the internal side side jane does is allows me to shape the incoming signal to be different. So that it's not affected by certain parts the frequency range, for example. So if I wanted to side chain the base and not have it be affected by the low end, I could put a filter frequency. It like one hundred hertz, maybe in, like, you know, like, maybe even up to, like, one hundred fifty hertz on dh. Then what's gonna happen. Is it's not going to change compression based on anything below that filter, so it sort of helps if you have a really bass heavy sound that you want to keep but you don't want that basically sound to drive the compressor you can use the internal side chain to do that for this example we're actually going to use the key and put and I'm gonna go up here to, um see was this is a different plugging because the resolution of the screen blocks off the settings for the compressor um let's see, we'll try to do just the standard compressor there we go, we're going key and put this side chain and then I'm gonna go up here to where it has the key in the plug in and I'm going to choose key and put one which is what I believe we used on the kick drum yet can put one so now as I play this kick drum, you can see that the reid circuit is responding to the kick trump it's not responding to the bass guitar. So even though the bass guitar compressors on the base guitar channel it's not being it's not reading the bass guitar signal toe compress it's just reading the input from the kids so you can see what's happening every time the kick trump hits you can kind of hear the bass guitar duck a little bit like I said I wouldn't do it something style of music but that's what that's how you would set that up using a key and put some of the other kind of crazy compressors that people use let's see if we can walk through some of that sometimes they use it on buses really quick before we set up well what we'll do is I'll go ahead and just set up a bus compressor really quick so you can see on the drums here so we have all the drugs I'm gonna go and hide this again what's going solo just the drums and I remember I had set up with cold peril compression where I'd set all of the tracks to both a clean bus and a drums crush bus and the reason I did that is there's techniques that a lot of people use go parallel compression we're going to go out and bring up a bus compressor so this is a we're going to bring up an ssl channel strip or ssl bus compressor that's on their g syria's councils and I'm gonna go ahead and just really compressed the crap out of it just to get a specific tone make sure we're actually following that so obviously a compressor is really over compressing but I'm just trying to get a specific sound so the next thing I'm going to do and then bring that down and slowly blend in that sound with the dry drums until you get sort of a punchier effect parallel compression technique is super common I know one hundred engineers they use it to sort of like keep that punching a sound from the from the over compression of the bus, but also keep the natural sound of the drums by themselves so you can start to hear you could build something really big and cool interesting things with some of those compressors, along with bus compressors, and we'll use the drug drums is an example. Waves also makes a lot of emulation of entire signal flows for certain engineers, these air really crazy to me and I I try to stay away from him because I don't actually know what's happening, the controls totally unfamiliar to me, and you can hear that there's so much going on that I have no idea what's actually happening, but I'm just going to show it to you anyway is a good example is so in the other, they listed under other there's, like the chris lord alves drums or the eddie kramer drums or the jack joseph week drums, or that maserati drums there's all different types of engineers that have created plug ins sort of emulate their entire signal flow, not just one piece of gear. I'm gonna go and pull up some of these just seeking kind of see some of these, so this is the chris lord out drums, and they have all these, um we're going to go to room, they have all these controls I don't even really know what they do but they're like this one's has sub lower and upper bite top and roof push spank and wall studio club and hall and softer heart so well kind of mess around with some of these and you kind of hear what turns into so you noticed there's e q compression reverb all happening in here this is kind of controlling reverb this is sort of kind of controlling gate we've got low and high meds and then compression and you know, some people use those I would recommend just like spending some time that I've been seeing if you can find a tone that you like or using it on something like I said it's hard to control cause you don't actually know what's happening those controls aren't really specific you're sort of just like guessing there's often times a lot of these plug ins will come with specific presets that you can use and a lot of people talk about pre sets a lot of people hate on three sets and I totally understand that for example here you have all of these you know famous different settings for different tracks especially the eleven, seventy six I know has a bunch of them I'm gonna go and pull those up so if you look and you go to load you can load presets and pro tools on dh they have sort of different settings based on different types of guitars or different types of vocals. I think with presets, the general rule for me is that it's always a great place to start, especially as you're learning, like, is your is your starting out using compression or using different plug ins? It's a great starting point? Like pull it up, see what it sounds like? Mess around with it for a little bit and then kind of tweak it is you go and see oh, I see what they did here that makes sense. Um, as you start to get better, you probably won't need presets because you'll start to just know what they're in eight we going to do anyways and how to get those sounds, but it's a great place to start in a great place to learn, so, like, if I wanted to pull up, I guess this is an in your face vocal you can see that while they didn't have a really short release, um with, um four to one ratio that's, kind of the in your face vocal sound I mean, you just learned that having a really short, really seven eleven, seventy six creates that kind of, like, heavy pumping and breathing in your face vocal sound. Ok, so I mean that's kind of like the range of compressors you have sort of channel strips you've got some of the emulation cz you've got some of the newer stuff there's side chaining, and then the last thing is using limiters, which are usually more used on bus compression or on master busses to be able to sort of just control level, you're basically just sort of controlling gain on d l two is probably really famous example of that that a lot of people uses as just a way to get transparent level out of the master bus. Next we'll talk about the q e q was super useful a lot of things you could do with the q I'm actually gonna show kind of a cool trick you could do with automating e q there's also different types of multi band compressors that are really kind of like accuse but to start with we're just gonna go ahead again and pull up let's get let's pull up something different this time let's try a uh um let's try a vocal take yeah that'll be a good idea. What were you singing here? Terms of fire that's god's job something going pull up again that ssl channel strip and will start with start with the channel strip one thing I want to point out and I think this is super important if you notice some plug in some q plug ins have all the controls for a q and they have a little window that shows you the change that's happening visually across the frequency spectrum and some of them don't I would actually recommend to try and if you can stay away from seeing the visual representations especially the ones where you could just click on the visual representations and dragging around here I'll show you an example like if you pull up just even just like the well use the q six so here's a visual representation the controls air down here but really I'm just going to appear and to start messing around and pulling and changing um and I could make make make it pretty or make it sound good or make it look different I think there's sort of like a crazy psychological thing that happens when you could see what what's changing the other problem is that it's really important to know when you look at that window you're not seeing what's what your change or what it's changed to you're just seeing the effect that you're applying so sometimes if you have a really based on the track and you end up dropping the low end, it may seem like you're really cutting the lohan but in actuality it's actually pretty flat you were just getting rid of the extreme based response so sometimes that can be psychologically it can mess with your ears. I like pulling a plug in and using the controls because I'm not actually seeing it I'm having to force myself to listen to what I'm actually changing and not looking at it it's just a whole lot easier and then it trains your ears to really know the difference between what three hundred hertz or six hundred sounds like the difference between, like three and four k on a vocal track, you actually learn what those are and know the numbers instead of associating with a picture on the screen. And then the third reason why I think those air sometimes misleading is because the range of frequencies and the weight of frequencies across the scale is different in almost every plug in let me show you examples so if I pulled up again that queue for the q four um it's kind of a small window versus the q six and this has one k almost it like sixty percent across the spectrum and this whole first half is from sixteen to sixty, one hundred hertz isn't tell like one fourth if you notice that's that scale in that range in the top end of sixteen hurt right here, sixteen kilohertz that sixteen to twenty is just this tiny little space if I were to pull out the plug in that approaches has just the standard seven band it's similar but it's not the same it's spread out just slightly differently the difference between here's ten k instead of sixteen k so that high end looks like it's in a different spot. The sixteen hurts down here to one hundred hertz is where sixteen to sixty hertz wass on the previous plug in so it's just they're always a little different and if you don't know specifically the rains that you're looking at, you can visually think, oh, that's one hundred hertz and you look down and realize it's actually sixty hertz. So it's, I try to stay away from the visual representations and focus on the numbers basically so we're going to pull up that channel strip um and start listen tongues of fire that lick up straw. So it's already a pretty decent sounding vocal take. We don't have to do a lot typically there's a lot of like low maids that I try to pull out, but they're really not in this I'm instead just going maybe put a little bit of eight hundred hertz and maybe a little bit of three hundred kind of see where that takes me. Terms of fire there lookups job. There's already kind of a lot of presence in the high end which I think is great you can tell they tracked with compression um I'm going maybe high pass it at one hundred hurts just to be safe or maybe eighty hurts tongues of fire that god's job here just a little bit of that low into new york all the way up to one hundred ten in terms of fire that the cops job that's a little better on maybe I want to just like have it poked through a little bit of three cases we all just going on the three k and just like add like a d b and a half terms of fire that cop's job so I'm really forced myself to listen out of no idea what that looks like. I remember one time I was working with a live engineer and I was looking at his like q curve and it looks crazy to me and I went home and tried to recreate it and then I I caught myself thinking like I have no idea why it looked that way and why he chose to make it look that way I needed instead of listening to what the actual sound was and not focusing on look like so you could fall into that trap I would really recommend trying to do that with everything you could do to is we're actually gonna do this let's pull up a multibillion compressor I actually really like to make dsp stuff their m o four thousand is really great. I'm also going to try, but for this, I'm going to try to see four, which is the multi band compressor for, um, that wave's makes and what made this basically does it's a compressor, it's basically four compressors and one and each compressor is dedicated to a certain frequency range, so I'm gonna go through and just kind of find each of these ranges here, and the cool thing is you can solo them and compress them differently. So let's, listen, just to the low mids between, like, you know, one hundred five hundred, so I don't want to make this put like a fast release on it and make this just kind of a little more compressed. You know, I just kind of creates that sense when I start to add in some behind terms of fire that which I think is a little too much on the high end of the movie for the really high, and I want to use kind of a dsr effect, so it's really fast attack and release the tongues of fire that got straw terms of fire, that cop's job, and then again, this low in here, I'm just going to totally try to get rid of terms of fire that got so instead of having to just eke your filter out certain vacancies you consort of change the dynamics of each frequency range and that's really helpful using multi band compression azaz he q basically his tone shaping um and then the last time of u q isn't used a ton but I'm going to pull up on the master bus there's also a lot of times you can use graphic use instead of parametric accuse on graphic accuse for engineers out there that have used them before instead of having controls like a four bandy cue that you could set to whatever frequency you want this has a very specific fader for every single frequency or a certain range of frequencies on this can be used to make slight changes on individual on like the whole bus or maybe a knicks bus or just on a certain like just the drums for example, if you wanted to like bring in a little ten k just add in some air to the mix or make it breathe a little more tongues of files. You could do that a lot of times too if you're compensating for the room that you're mixing in if you're in another unconventional space you can use graphic accused to sort of make up for the sound of the room that you're hearing so those could be useful for a lot of different reasons beyond those are great

Class Materials

Free Downloads