• Compression.....It's Addictive!
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Compression.....It's Addictive!
on: February 13, 2018, 11:38:40
Hi. My name is Steve and I am addicted to compression.

Oh, it started innocently enough.......shave a few peaks here, add some body there.....but pretty soon I had one or two (yes....or THREE) compressors on every track and my make-up gains were getting destructive. I just could not get enough of those beautiful blooming notes and those incredibly intimate breathy vocals. I even found myself sneaking into the studio during the day to crank my thresholds down in private. But when I tried to patch in a compressor on my phone line at work I knew it was time to get help.

I'm ok now, though.....I only compress on weekends.  ;)

Seriously though.....compression is arguably the most powerful tool that we have at our disposal in our quest for more professional sounding recordings. So I have two questions for everybody:

1. Why do you compress?

or more importantly, for those of you who stare at that compressor plug-in and try to work up the courage...

2. Why don't you compress?

 8)
"The main thing is to have a gutsy approach....but use your head." Julia Child

 "In a world of robotic conformity, the only originality left in music is the imperfections" Eric Craptone

"Special thanks to Steve Gleason for making me who I am today." Leonard Scaper

Lenny's Tunes: http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_music.cfm?bandID=540680

https://soundcloud.com/vincentgleason


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Re: Compression.....It's Addictive!
Reply #1 on: February 13, 2018, 12:51:20
Well @Leonard Scaper , I was initially very dubious about compression when I started with all this madness.
Now it's a useful tool to tame transients and it does act as 'audi glue' although I must admit to getting into Maximizers and Limiters too.
I like dynamics not a sense of squashed music, be it on instruments or vocals, so I guess I'm a casual user ... lol
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Re: Compression.....It's Addictive!
Reply #2 on: February 13, 2018, 18:36:12
ha @Leonard Scaper ....i admire your openness about your constant struggle with your compression issues

you call it addiction even

but...i think... compression is great, and the way you use it...is great  ::thumb:: ::thumb:: ::thumb:: ::thumb:: no really

and....since i know you, i love, and use, compression more and more (and more  8) myself  ;D ;D ;D ;D ::) ::) ::) ::) ::) 8) 8) ::dj:: ::dj:: ::dj::

me, myself, and Pie


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Re: Compression.....It's Addictive!
Reply #3 on: February 13, 2018, 18:57:51
I juist checked this with my lawyer, and according to her, the following text is more or less OK:

The king of compression is Terry Melcher, Doris Dayís son. He built an empire on merciless compression in the 60ís.
The Byrds, The Beach Boys and the like.

I am a recreational user.
I use a firm compression on my bass. Iím sort of inspired by Jefferson Airplaneís and Grateful Deadís Bass players.
This is a process thatís next to uncontrollable.
 
And I use a mild compression on the singing. Thatís all. But yes, I plead guilty.

And since today I leaned how to glue some illustrations here, I might as well attach this one. Itís an isolated vocal track. The original Columbia release is on YouTube as well. Just a minute ago itís been watched 363 times.



But in short:
Serious compression on the bass.
Moderate compression on the vocals.

Kind regards, Gus


Re: Compression.....It's Addictive!
Reply #4 on: February 15, 2018, 01:52:42
Hey @Leonard Scaper

To answer question 1:
First, I work an extremely dynamic singer and second (I know it's hard to imagine this but..) I work with quite a dynamic drummer.
The other reason is that I'm working to create a certain modern pop/ alternative contemporary sound and that's what my reference tracks do. That's the sound I'm trying to get so I do that....simple enough I guess.  :-\
I try not to completely crush things so I do use multiple parallel techniques and I've kind of come up with a mix of a few compressors that I use on the vocals. Other tracks I try different things here and there ... but I have certain favorites.  :)
Bill
Songwriter, Keyboards, Arranger, Producer & Engineer for November Sound

November Sound is based on the Mother, Father & Son musical trio of Melissa, Bill & Will. I'm the father so anything I post will have my wife singing and/or my son playing percussion.


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Re: Compression.....It's Addictive!
Reply #5 on: February 16, 2018, 13:27:33
With the weekend approaching I am getting into a compressive frame of mind.  ;)

@MrBouzouki .......I definitely like a dynamic mix but using mostly real instruments as I do, especially acoustic guitars, I sometimes end up with serious transients. A lot of that has to do with my playing style I guess. One thing that has helped me with that is doing volume automation before compression. That way my compressors don't have to work as hard.

@Dutchbeat ....I'm glad to hear that you hear my compression as a good thing. You and I have had some excellent collaboration, right? Do you find yourself compressing my vocals more when you are working your magic on our Just Cookin' mixes?:) :) :)

@LePlongeur ....that is a fantastic vocal track to hear how folks who really know what they are doing compress vocals. I am with you on bass and vocal compression tactics. I compress my DI bass on the way in pretty hard with a fast attack and a carefully timed release. My hardware compressor lets me use a 10:1 ratio and the bass gets that every time. I also compress my vocals on the way in but much more gently. I like to dial in the compressor for the particular vocals on each song. I find that I can use the compressor almost like an instrument if I get it dialed in right.

Compressing on the way in means less plug-in compression can be used in the mix. It also is a life lesson in commitment. I have been told (mostly be ex-wives) that I have issues with that as well.

@Bill from November Sound .....I was hoping that you would chime in about your band mates, both of whom are pretty dynamic. Melissa has such a strong voice and I can see how it would be a challenge in the mix. You really get it right.....I am always impressed with your mixes. You bring up parallel compression. I have used that as an effect with 1176 style fast compression but for basic duties I stick to compression as an insert. Have you considered a hardware compressor on the way in for her voice?


Tomorrow is Saturday and the Compression Light will be ON! I have a bass track to squash and a piano track that needs to have more sustain. I'll be tracking vocals with compression and even some harmonica...which will get more aggressive compression on the way in.

 :) :) :) :) :)

 8)


Re: Compression.....It's Addictive!
Reply #6 on: February 17, 2018, 01:23:57
Quote
Have you considered a hardware compressor on the way in for her voice?
Yes @Leonard Scaper I have.... but that's a whole 'nother thing for me to worry about and learn how to use. I'm not really sure how to start.

I use compressor plug ins with wet/dry signal for voice tracks and for piano tracks (which counts as parallel compression I think).
I also do the parallel compression on the drums and I do a separate parallel compression on a mix of voice and instruments ( keeps it from pumping with the kick).


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Re: Compression.....It's Addictive!
Reply #7 on: February 17, 2018, 12:10:49
Quote
@MrBouzouki .......I definitely like a dynamic mix but using mostly real instruments as I do, especially acoustic guitars, I sometimes end up with serious transients. A lot of that has to do with my playing style I guess. One thing that has helped me with that is doing volume automation before compression. That way my compressors don't have to work as hard.

Aye I do the same @Leonard Scaper, my journey was really discovering not to record too hot with the real instruments, let the dynamics of the performance come out, use volume automation initially and only compress when you must. Record too hot and it's all out of the window and everything seems flat after it's been made to fit the reduced headroom. Unless that is the sound you are after. As regards electric I tend to cheat and use my electric straight into my DAW and use the Cubase VST Amp Rack. There is so much more control over the sound this way and you can change the sound as you are developing the track. Also the cabinet emulations and virtual mic positioning options can radically change the tone of the incoming signal and add more creative potential.

I'm tending to works around -14dBfs as a mixing level now to leave a 6dB headroom for transients. It seems to work fairly well. I have my channel meters set up to be green up to -14dBfs then a yellow band up to -10dBfs and finally a red band from -10dBfs to 0dBfs. Blue is digital clipping. These visual clues from the coloured bands help me see what is going on. Granted it won't catch the short transients but that's what the 6bB headroom is for. I try and keep in or around the green if I can. When I get to the mastering other factors might apply in terms of overall level.

So that's why the compression I use is sparse unless I really have to tame something.



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Re: Compression.....It's Addictive!
Reply #8 on: February 17, 2018, 12:28:45
Hey @Bill from November Sound ....I record into a Trident channel strip that lets me EQ and compress. It has a "sound" .....that Trident sound....kind of British. Been using it for many years and dialing it in has become second nature. Interesting about compressors with wet/dry.....I use the stock protools comp and it does not have that.

I love how you have your meters set up @MrBouzouki ....I must look into that. Recording at those levels is so important, right? I have to say that one thing that I have realized about compression....and equalization.....is that you can't be afraid to get bold sometimes and go hard. Of course, my councilor tells me that is my problem with compression....but it is the weekend and my councilor is not here now, is he?  ;D

*gleefully cranks threshold and make-up gain*


Re: Compression.....It's Addictive!
Reply #9 on: July 05, 2019, 20:04:40
« Last Edit: July 05, 2019, 20:08:26 by 1roomstudio »
I'm new here... so I believe it's my role to occasionally bump an old thread if it interests me.

"...One thing that has helped me with that is doing volume automation before compression. That way my compressors don't have to work as hard. "

"...Aye I do the same @Leonard Scaper, my journey was really discovering not to record too hot with the real instruments, let the dynamics of the performance come out, use volume automation initially and only compress when you must. Record too hot and it's all out of the window and everything seems flat after it's been made to fit the reduced headroom."

100% agree with @Leonard Scaperand @MrBouzouki  . My view is that one should attempt the best sound possible going in using all the techniques you know (microphone placement is my new exploration) and leave the compression for finishing touches and aiding separation in the mix.

There have been times when I was using volume automation on repeating phrases and I would cut and paste the same automation over and over... really tedious: and then it would occur to me "...isn't this what compression is for?" Sometimes yes... Sometimes no... it's an art, not a science.... but if you know some of the science behind compression it helps in knowing how and when to apply it artistically.

Kinda vague, I know... but then that's the nature  of the beast. I hope this helps!


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Re: Compression.....It's Addictive!
Reply #10 on: July 05, 2019, 20:58:21
it's an art, not a science.... but if you know some of the science behind compression it helps in knowing how and when to apply it artistically.

Very well  put, @1roomstudio . It's good to have you here.

There was a lot of joking around early on with me about the addictive nature of compression, but the fact is that compression and equalization are the two most important mixing skills to learn if you want your mixes to start sounding "like a record".

Quote
(microphone placement is my new exploration)

I try really hard to get things right on the way in with microphone positioning.....I also have movable diffusers that allow me to sculpt the sound of the room for my vocals......but I still pretty much always need some additional compression and EQ in the mix.


Re: Compression.....It's Addictive!
Reply #11 on: July 05, 2019, 21:04:52
it's an art, not a science.... but if you know some of the science behind compression it helps in knowing how and when to apply it artistically.

Very well  put, @1roomstudio . It's good to have you here.

There was a lot of joking around early on with me about the addictive nature of compression, but the fact is that compression and equalization are the two most important mixing skills to learn if you want your mixes to start sounding "like a record".

Quote
(microphone placement is my new exploration)

So true! and remember..."less is more!"

I try really hard to get things right on the way in with microphone positioning.....I also have movable diffusers that allow me to sculpt the sound of the room for my vocals......but I still pretty much always need some additional compression and EQ in the mix.


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Re: Compression.....It's Addictive!
Reply #12 on: July 06, 2019, 19:49:48
It's great to have you on here @1roomstudio and interesting you are looking at microphone positioning as another variable.

One thing I've started doing to tame things like 'plosives and hard consonants in general is sometimes to sing off axis. It depends upon the material and how you are singing.

I have a reasonable condenser mic in my Rode NT1 (the re-engineered one after the launch of the NT1-A) with a decent pop-shield and SMR shock mount. Despite that, and probably due to choral singing, I can move quite a bit of air at times.

To combat this I've sometimes found singing off-axis helps me get a decent vocal take. It's equivalent to the old pencil technique in a way, that splits the airflow, but I'm just not hitting the capsule head on.

Anyway, the result of all this is that LESS COMPRESSION is required to tame the transients. You have the natural control of 'working' or moving around the mic. OK, the  levels might be lower but with gain staging that isn'r really a problem. 

This is for vocals of course but it applies to any acoustic instrument I guess.

A nice piece of resurrection @1roomstudio. Feel free to report back on your investigations as we stumble towards  the nirvana of a perfect take.



Re: Compression.....It's Addictive!
Reply #13 on: July 07, 2019, 17:46:43
From @MrBouzouki ďA nice piece of resurrection @1roomstudio. Feel free to report back on your investigations as we stumble towards  the nirvana of a perfect take. ď

Iíve been experimenting with placing the microphones like a pair of ears 👂🎤 🎤👂 versus zeroing in on a source with each mic 🎤 🎸🎤😲.

Iíve found that with vocals , by using a pair of mics at the level of and distance apart of my ears and directing my voice between them (as though Iím singing to a person standing in front of me) I not only greatly reduce plosives (because Iím cross axis to both mics, as you pointed out) but the effect during playback is a very realistic sense of ďstanding in the room.Ē

In a recent recording test using this technique, there was some activity (people talking and moving some stuff around) in the background that I didnít pay any attention to during the recording. During playback with headphones I kept turning around to see the activity! I was convinced there was something happening behind me at that moment! Once I realized that with headphones on I canít actually hear whatís going on behind me... then I realized it was part of the recording.... regardless, I couldnít stop myself from looking behind me every time the noise happened... eerie 👻

Iíve also found that this a way to get a decent take of a jam session. Admittedly, you sacrifice the ability to go back to each instrument during a mix... but the sound of peaople playing in the room is very realistic.

I donít use this exclusively of course... but itís a good tool in the toolbox and has made me think a lot more carefully about microphone placement in general.


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Re: Compression.....It's Addictive!
Reply #14 on: July 07, 2019, 20:22:42
Iíve been experimenting with placing the microphones like a pair of ears 👂🎤 🎤👂 versus zeroing in on a source with each mic 🎤 🎸🎤😲.

I'd be worried about the phase relationship between the signals.

I read recently that back in the day the Grateful Dead taped two mics together for lead vocals and flipped the phase of one of them.......that little trick cancelled out a lot of the crowd noise and the bleed from that huge wall of amps they used back then.