Mixing into Compressor Technique

Discussion in 'Mixing and Mastering' started by Retrolize77, Feb 7, 2019.

  1. Retrolize77

    Retrolize77 Audiosexual

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    I guess this is no secret , many guys in here may do it, especially in more modern genres of music , like EDM for example.
    I heard of it, never tried it, now i‘m in the process of learning how it is to be done properly.
    I started due to a Guide i stumbled upon in the allmighty web, maybe its helpful for other „Beginners“ like me:




    Right then, a simple guide here to compressing your 2bus/master bus.

    Part 1:

    1stly why would you want to compress your master bus? Don`t mastering engineers tell you not to?

    Well, for dance music in general, and especially techno, master compression really is a part of the sound for dynamic drum based music, and you are missing something if you don`t do it *properly*. Mastering engineers tell you (if they know what they are doing and not just repeating shit they have been told or read online) to take off stuff from your master bus generally if it is effecting the dynamics where loudness is the consideration. A good mastering engineer should have no problem with compression done for colour and for creating dynamic movement. I have no problem with it as mastering engineer, providing it has been done properly.

    What mix bus (master channel, or whatever you want to call it) compression can do for you is a number of things. It will glue the mix together, but also it can provide a cohesive glue to the groove of the mix, adding more movement to the overall sound that works sympathetically with the whole groove. It can add punch and that "secret special sauce" that makes the mix work.

    To do so you will need a "musical" compressor, which I will explain later.

    Do not be afraid of doing this, it actually is fairly simple a process.


    So to begin with you want to "mix in" to your mix bus compression. That is, when you start making your tune, the compressor is sitting over the mix bus right from the beginning. That way your mix is always tuned to that compression. Adding compression later can change tonal balance and dynamic balance in ways you might not want.

    So pick your compressor. For this example I will be using the Klanghelm MJUC Variable Tube Compressor. It`s pretty awesome and at 28 euros, crazy not to own it.
    I also am attaching to this tutorial an example Ableton project (tough shit if you don`t use it) that you can download and look at. You will need the MJUC, but everything is with stock ableton plugins (latest full version, sorry crackheads) and stock ableton samples.

    So, throw your compressor on to your mix bus.

    1stly, once you have the basics of a groove down, some drums and bass and synth or whatever, we can start tuning the comp.

    Take your bass channel and mute it for the time being.
    Set your compressor attack to it`s fastest setting, set the release to it`s slowest setting. Dial the ratio to around mid way (roughly between 2 and 4 to 1).
    Now with the music running, pull down the threshold until you get compression, we are going extreme first off, so keep lowering the threshold until you get around 6-8 db gain reduction.
    Now slowly dial back the compression release until you get some pumping going on, continue doing so until the sound is pleasingly rhythmic and works with your groove (albeit in an extreme way).
    Now slowly dial back the attack, you will hear the body of your kick drum returning, dial it back until your kick is comfortably back to the thump that it had pre-compression.
    Now unmute your bass, this will probably throw everything out, so firstly you`ll probably want to reduce the bass channel volume a little to let the kick through and also to reduce the size increase the compression will have given it.
    Next you want to find the sidechain control on your compressor, it might be called sidechain, hi pass, EQ, or sidechain EQ. But you want to hi pass/low cut out the low lows so your kick is the thing the compressor responds too rather than your deep bass. Normally 60hz or higher will do the job.

    Ok, now dial back the threshold until you have between 1 and 3 db of gain reduction.

    You may then want to retune the other elements in the mix just to re-address your overall mix balance, and possibly bring up the make-up gain on the compressor to return your tune to a decent listening level (or higher if you want).

    That`s about it for the basics.
    Now as you add elements to your tune and EQ them they will be done inside the compression and so will be made to fit.
    Periodically check your levels going in to the compressor, you may need to pull down all your channel levels as you add tracks (always helps to have a meter before your comp on the mix bus, satson users will already be doing this (or other console emulation people), and/or adjust your compressor threshold to make sure the gain reduction isn`t rising above 1-3db (but never entirely returning to zero. You always want the compressor to be "working").

    And that`s your deal.

    Now some compressors are better than others, I use the MJUC as it mimics the characteristics of variable mu compressors, which respond in a program dependent way, so your attack and release settings work alongside to the way the compressor reacts, on it`s own, to the input. This would be called a "musical" compressor.

    I`ll make a list of other great soft-compressors on another post in this thread, as they all exhibit different audio response and have different curves to the attack and release portion.

    With the MJUC I recommend you start with the Mk2 setting as it is a good middle ground between the mk1 (very program dependent, fairchild like) and the mk3 (less program dependent, much more reliant on your attack and release control, a very modern comp), as it is a great place to start. And the example ableton project I include is using this comp on the mk2 mode.

    Try just running the loop and switching the compressor in and out (I have gain corrected so the level stays the same, allowing you to hear the difference).
    Without compression the groove kinda falls apart a bit, loses it`s swing, and the elements disconnect a little. Switch it back in and things start moving and swinging as the comp pushed and pulls the sound, and sticks it together a little.

    Any further questions, stick em in the thread. Maybe someone can sticky this as well, as I still don`t think I can.

    Part 2:

    In part 1. I explained how to apply compression to your mix for musical effect (we aren't limiting peaks here, we are creating movement). Hopefully the way I have explained it means that as you go through each stage of the guide, you are hearing the changes and understanding what is going on.

    What I haven`t done is explained what is actually going on, so here is the nerdy technical explanation of what is happening. Hopefully in laymans terms. My goal is that with part 1 reinforced by part 2, you will more fully understand the process, and it will help you adjust to all your different tunes, and also give you a clearer understanding of compression. Some of these techniques can be applied for track or group compression also, but we`ll cover that later.


    Ok, firstly I was very careful not to give you any dial settings (apart from with ratio) so that you aren`t just applying presets I tell you to apply, and you are using your ears to tune the compression, which is always the best way (although having accurate VU ballistics can also help, as reading the VU of a compressor is something you learn to do, providing you understand the VU ballistics).

    So, what is happening, and what you are doing is this.

    The compressor is acting as soon as any signal crosses the threshold which you set, therefore compression is dependent on input level (which is why I can`t tell you what to set your threshold at).
    Once the threshold is crossed, the compressor begins to act.
    The attack controls the amount of time it takes the compressor to reach maximum gain reduction (which is dependent on the compression ratio).
    The release controls the amount of time it takes for the compressor to reach zero gain reduction once the level has gone below the threshold.
    This is a very misunderstood part of compression.

    *A compressor is only ever attacking, or releasing. People misunderstand attack as being the amount of time a compressor takes to act, but the compressor is always acting when a signal crosses the threshold, you merely control how long it takes to get to maximum compression, and how long it takes to get to no compression*

    So, your stereo signal crosses the threshold and the compressor starts to act,
    lets assume we have the attack at it`s fastest setting as in the beginning the tutorial,
    so the compressor is reaching it`s maximum gain reduction instantly (not exactly true, but for the sake of the discussion let us say it is so), the ratio is controlling this. Ratio of 2 to one means for every 2db over threshold, one is allowed past.
    Lets say the part of the stereo signal driving the highest gain is the kick drum, so the kick drum is triggering the compressor, once the kick drum is gone, the signal is now no longer above the threshold, so the compressor now wants to release to zero again reduction. The release is controlling the speed of this process, so as you reduce the release speed, the compression is returning to zero more quickly. Timing this release to act with the groove means the gain reduction is causing level pumping in time with the groove, adding a pleasing movement and enhancement to the groove.

    Now currently the attack is so fast, the compressor is compressing straight away, this means the attack portion of your kick, and all your other sounds depending on the transient to define them (transients are important and contain a lot of audio information in a very short time duration) have been reduced to the same level as everything else.
    So you have reduced all the dynamic interest, and even though the tune is now pumping, there is no vitality and punch to the sounds.
    So this is why we dial back the attack, as we slow down the reaction speed in the race to reach maximum gain reduction, we are allowing the attack portion of our drums and synths to pop through the mix. So really you just slowly dial the attack back until the mix sounds comfortably punchy again, switch the compressor in and out to check against the uncompressed signal. And then we have the best of both worlds, dynamic movements from the pumping, and all the transient punch still intact.

    So this is why more programme dependant compressors are better for this purpose.
    Stuff like variable mu compressors - which is compression where the ratio increases with gain reduction, and is thus signal dependent, so the louder the transient the harder it is compressed - are great because they are reacting more closely with the state of the signal, giving more interesting movement.

    Then you have compressors where the attack and release curves are non linear, again giving more interesting movement. Some even have attack and release phases that again, are signal dependent, and so they react more quickly to a loud signal than a quiet one, even if you also have control over this, like the MJUC, they are still also reacting to the programme material.

    These quirks are why compressors such as the infamous Fairchild, are so well revered in mastering. Being a variable mu that actually uses tubes to apply the gain reduction makes the Fairchild very musical. It`s as noisy as all shit, but it is very musical in its action.

    And this is why I recommend the MJUC, being a vari-mu based compressor (if you use the MK1 setting, this mode more closely models the type of behaviour exhibited by a Fairchild or Manley, which is great, but really more appropriate for mastering than creating mix movement) that also has reactive attack and release that you can also control to varying levels of strictness (Mk3 mode being the most strict in the level of control you get given against the program dependence).

    In my next post in this thread I will list some other compressors that have more interesting non-linear behaviours that are great for the mix bus.


    Also, additionally, if we apply the techniques from part 1 of this tutorial to a drum bus, with a few adjustments we can dial in New York/Parallel compression to drums.

    So firstly what you are doing with NY compression is a specific technique developed in hip hop, for really adding serious mojo to a drum bus.
    You basically employ exactly the same technique as I have already written, but you keep the gain reduction at a high level, you aren`t dialing back for subtlety, you are going for crazy extreme, in your face movement, think 5, 6, 7 or 8 db of gain reduction, you can even keep the attack fairly fast so the drums get more size (but lose punch).
    Then all you do is dial back some of the original signal (generally a good bit of it) so you get really big, swinging drums, but all the snap and tightness of the original signal is present.

    Don`t do this on your master bus though, it`s too much, it will mash your whole mix in a way that will cause all sorts of level and eq problems and you will spend another tunes worth of production time trying to get all the elements to balance, as everything will be fighting everything for space, and even then you will end up with weird transient smearing and peak conflicts......„

    Original Source: https://www.subsekt.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=8418&sid=d18f3215b6dc4c1dd303aea44cf6f009
     
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  3. Lieglein

    Lieglein Platinum Record

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    Everything is correct. But I wouldnt make those generalizations because most people do not have the equipment to hear this compression while they're mixing.

    And this is the reason. They do have the equipment. What people will end up doing and you can see it in the answers of the original post is they end up doing something they have no clue about. This is not good.

    Copying the behaviors of professionals won't make you being an professional.
     
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  4. Retrolize77

    Retrolize77 Audiosexual

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    True, but its for coloring , not peak limiting, in the some electronic fields i would consider coloring part of the signiture sound of an artist. Some hours ago, i read some notes, the guy quoted another guy called Mixerman, who had this to say about the issue:



    "So why not leave compression up to the mastering engineer? Simple: your balances will change far too drastically for this to be a reasonable option. Balance is your main weapon for manipulating the listener’s emotions and focus. If you’re going to spend hours upon hours getting those balance relationships just right, why would you find it acceptable for them to completely change come mastering time? If you don’t compress the stereo bus while you mix, you’re not delivering a mix. You’re delivering some weird approximation of a mix, and it’s not even that, since you can’t predict precisely how the mix is going to change—and it will change."

    and

    "I'll never understand why anyone would recommend NOT using 2-bus compression on anything other than Classical records and perhaps some straight ahead jazz.

    If a mixer delivers a mix that is in need of compression AFTER it's completed, then what has he delivered? An approximation of what the mix will end up like after mastering. I make this statement based on the following fact: 2-BUS COMPRESSION CHANGES INTERNAL BALANCES IN YOUR MIX.

    So, if this mixer spent any time at all on his incomplete and uncompressed mix, he's basically wasted everyone's time because compression after-the-fact is going to change your balances. Which begs the obvious question. What did he do? He certainly didn't MIX it.

    Use 2-bus compression. It's a rule. And if you aren't happy with your 2-bus compressor, nut up and buy one that does the job properly."

    Source: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-...to-compressors-what-kind-sound-does-give.html
     
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  5. jojofun

    jojofun Ultrasonic

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    So in a nutshell, mix into a 2-bus compressor [for glue w/ internal balance], with decent dynamic range, and leave some headroom for mastering. Right?
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
  6. Marsupilami

    Marsupilami Guest

    Good pick up and in terms of using glue to energize, vitalize in a rythmic context
    is not a special voodoo thing for pros only, everybody is able to hear that.

    I will add, different master buss compression for different tasks
    and to find out which compression technique for which tracks
    is an art that takes a while.

    But to start with a rythmic approach is the most obvious
    and works very well for everyone and every genre.

    To expand it a little:
    after you found a proper setting, place the compressor 2x
    into a dual mono master bus setup (in whatever way a daw provides it).
    Do you hear what it does?

    Same counts for anything you`d like to have there, 2x eq, 2x tape etc ...

    We are talking about master bus compression in a mix, not mastering.

    Have fun and don`t be afraid, if used
    it is an integral component of a mix, for example in top down mixing.
     
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  7. Retrolize77

    Retrolize77 Audiosexual

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    Sums it up i guess! As far as i understand it!
    Nice you like it, exciting new possibility at least.
     
  8. Retrolize77

    Retrolize77 Audiosexual

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    Have to try this dual mono thing, cant imagine actually what the difference may be instead of placing the comp on a stereo mixbus, but i try to check it out!!

    And yes, its an artform itself, compression!
    Vari Mu as the OP of the first script used it may be the most interesting thing to try for me , but eager to try out other compression styles.
    Klanghelm Mjuc is great, the fuse vcl 25 seems to be a good new vari mu emulation as well!

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
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  9. korte1975

    korte1975 Guest

    good points here. slowish release is used during mastering , not on the main out, that will give you transparent compression , but hard to hear/feel.
    also fast attack ??? that will suck out all the energy and punch from the music. do you understand compression ? if you have question about compression, ask , pasting wrong info won't help others.

    cheers
     
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  10. Retrolize77

    Retrolize77 Audiosexual

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    Not sure if i understood your point, but as many opinions as possible come together, best outcome for everybody.

    Edit:if i understand it correctly, the attack is fast in the beginning to get the movement/pumping of the comp going and to sync with the movement of percussive parts, plus the ratio is low , and the attack afterwards should be increased so the transients can come thru!
    Again, ratio is low, and the overall db reduction low as well , 1-3 db. So, whats the point? And you may be right, i‘m actually trying to understand compression, and i like a good debate & am eager to learn, i posted this info just to have the honorable people in here pass their opinion, so thx for taking the time to share yours.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
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  11. wasgedn

    wasgedn Banned

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    what would be cool is complete chart of which ratio which threshold which comp etc for what purpose...
    all this tons of tuts and not 1 such chart...only rick beato have it a little covered with his flipchart

    i kno why cause its like the 100year lasting glow bulb cant make money..
    so maybe we get such a thread without comments before its finished...
    is that utopic ?
     
  12. jojofun

    jojofun Ultrasonic

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    Honestly, I think the Release and Attack when adjusting a Mixing Comp is all about rhythmic movement.
    Consider this... For example... how will the dynamics be affected by the hardest / loudest sounds (e.g. a kick).
    How quickly (microseconds vs tempo divisions) will the compressor bring the volume of everything down (attack),
    and how quickly will it "swell" back up everything (release).
    If you can't hear/feel that movement, then adjustments need to be made (to attack and release, volume and dynamic range changes, possible extra parallel comps to exaggerate the sonics [Schep style], etc). Also, that's why it may be good to start with high ratios, just to hear the compressor do its thing and to be able to hear this difference. I once read in another thread, that some folks use more extreme compressors, just to clearly hear the compression, then they dial things back and then take those speeds (attack and release) to something like the MJUC, for its character.

    That's one of the reasons mixing into the compressor is useful: you can calibrate it based on the the featured transients.

    Otherwise, you're just gluing the peaks and maybe adding harmonics (based on the comp), in which case the attack and release might not have much noticeable affect.
     
  13. korte1975

    korte1975 Guest

    you wrote :

    Set your compressor attack to it`s fastest setting, set the release to it`s slowest setting.

    where did you get that ? thats totally wrong info man !!! that way you get lifeless , transient free music. but of course as with everything, its your choice. buthere on this forum, i can confidently say, that's wrong info. sorry.

    ---
    this is how it's done :

    Setting The Compressor
    In most modern music, compressors are used to make the sound “punchy” and in your face. The trick to getting the punch out of a compressor is to let the attacks through and play with the release to elongate the sound.

    Fast attack times are going to reduce the punchiness of a signal, while slow release times are going to make the compressor pump out of time with the music.

    Since the timing of the attack and release is so important, here are a few steps to help set it up. Assuming you have some kind of constant meter in the song, you can use the snare drum to set up the attack and release parameters. This method will work the same for individual instruments as well.

    1) Start with the slowest attack and fastest release settings on the compressor.

    2) Turn the attack faster until the instrument (snare) begins to dull. Stop at that point.

    3) Adjust the release time so that after the snare hit, the volume is back to 90-100% normal by the next snare beat.

    4) Add the rest of the mix back in and listen. Make any slight adjustments to the attack and release times as needed.

    The Idea Is To Make The Compressor “Breath” In Time With The Song.

    source : https://www.prosoundweb.com/topics/studio/properly_setting_the_mix_buss_compressor/
     
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  14. jojofun

    jojofun Ultrasonic

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    Start extreme to hear what it is doing, then make adjustments to taste (rhythmic speed and dynamic flow).

    Once that is set, then the mixing can take place...
    prioritizing the volumes of the tracks going into it, and not have to worry about having to re-do it all later.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
  15. Lieglein

    Lieglein Platinum Record

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    There are big misunderstandings in case of how signal processors work. Some people use strange terms like "warmth" or "depth" but these "vintage warm depth voodoo" components are in fact very clear and with very low harmonic enhancements. You can test it by just taking a simple synth signal and putting on one of those "warm" (sorry but I really can't hear these undefined terms anymore) components on this signal. There is pretty much nothing going on. If you take out an straight out of the amp-cab combination distorted guitar and going to make a cut at 1-2k with ANY "vintage" eq it sounds (oh my god whats happening???) "deeper" and/or "warmer". Or you maybe just made a good decision who knows? :woot:
     
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  16. Lois Lane

    Lois Lane Audiosexual

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    To add to your informative post, if one can side chain the bass frequencies out of the input of the compressor so that it doesn't "steal" all the attack and clamp down on every time it sounds, so much the better, at least with kick front music such as EDM.
     
  17. Retrolize77

    Retrolize77 Audiosexual

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    @korte1975 @Lieglein
    I understood your criticism, i’ll try to enhance myself in terms of sharing first hand - or fully verified information instead of using vague terms like „warm“, which is an emotional perception and not a good base for a technological discussion maybe. Thx for your participation!
     
  18. Lieglein

    Lieglein Platinum Record

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    This is really the thing with those techniques. I have no problem if people are going to share their methods. But they have to be in mind that there are people who are going to take everything they're reading or hearing really serious. And I know that there are many of them in this forum or at least reading those "super interesting" threads all the time :winker:. Technical principals are the way they have to go in the first place and then they can decide if they use the Slate tape emulation or like a German mastering engineer said "ooohhhh if I wanna have some tape emulation I'm going to use some Sugar from the Ploytec Aroma hahahahaha".
     
  19. Retrolize77

    Retrolize77 Audiosexual

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    please keep the negativity aside, ok? Not constructive at all
     
  20. Lieglein

    Lieglein Platinum Record

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    This wasn't meant to be offensive at all. Everything is ok. :) :mates:
     
  21. Slaking_97

    Slaking_97 Kapellmeister

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    I appreciate the share but I wouldn't use any compressor so hard on a mix bus, and above all on a master bus. Compressors on the mix and master bus are to tame peaks and to slighty control the dynamics, and not because some "mastering guru" said that but because if you have to use them like this it means you didn't mix well enough, it's clear.
    It doesn't matter that many do it like this because they're too lazy to mix the single tracks properly and they come up with something good because if you do a wrong thing it can sometimes turn into something good because you had luck, but it will not always work like this.
    Instead if you mix your tracks separately and they work together without anything on the mix or master bus then you can only do better, adding some small improvements like taming peaks or glueing everything together a bit more, but again just a bit, nothing drastic.
    Adding things on mix and master bus heavily is like putting some duct tape on a broken valve, it may work but it's not the thing to do.
     
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