Here are some of the top compression mistakes that I’ve come across.
If you’re guilty of any (or all) of these, don’t worry. I am, too.
Here are five compression mistakes that keep even us “smart” folks stuck.
1. Waiting until the end of the mix to add compression to the mix bus.
This is the easiest way to unravel a great mix. If you want to compress the entire mix (which is totally fine to do), make sure you add the compressor to your mix bus EARLY in the process.
Then make all your mix decisions while listening to the mix THROUGH that compressor.
2. Using compression instead of automation to bring out quieter parts in a lead vocal.
Doing this WILL make everything the same volume, but it can sound super squashed.
3. Compressing each piece of the drum kit BEFORE adding compression to the drum bus.
This is similar to number 1. If your drums tend to sound too compressed, try compressing the drum bus FIRST, then decide if you need a little more compression on individual tracks.
Sometimes the bus compressor makes individual compressors unnecessary.
4. Not using an “aggressive” compression setting — even though it sounds good — because you think it’s “wrong.”
I oftentimes squash the crap out of bass tracks. Why? Because it sounds good in my mixes.
If it sounds good, you’re doing it right.
5. Using too much make-up gain, so the compressed signal is always louder than the uncompressed signal.
I like to be able to bypass the compressor and hear the track at the same volume. If the compressed signal is louder, it will sound “better” to me, even if it actually sounds worse.
Make ‘em the same level, and you’ll be able to tell if the compressor is helping or hurting.
Hey, compression is one of those things I couldn’t figure out on my own. I needed someone to teach it to me, THEN things got really fun (really fast).
I can teach you compression. It’s all right hither: www.UnderstandingCompression.com
Joe Gilder is a Nashville-based engineer, musician, and producer who also provides training and advice at the Home Studio Corner.Note that Joe also offers highly effective training courses, including Understanding Compression and Understanding EQ.