I love compression.
I think it’s is a fabulous tool.
Also, I hate over-compression. (Too much of a good thing and all.)
That said, compression is one of the most enjoyable tools I use during recording and mixing.
And here are some of my favorite uses:
I haven’t found a bass track that doesn’t love to be squashed. Compression helps even out the performance and create a big, thumpin’ bass track.
It’s hard to hear the lead vocal over a nice full mix, no matter how much you adjust the volume. Compression allows you to bring out the consonants in a vocal, so you can actually understand what he/she is singing.
#3 Electric Guitars
I love using compression to add sustain to my big electric guitar tracks. Big guitars have a lot of sustain to begin with, but compression can help ‘em ring out even longer (sounding even more huge than before).
The sound of kick and snare drum that you hear in modern recordings? It’s hard to get that sound without compression. You can literally change the tone of a snare drum dramatically by simply changing the compressor settings. It’s pretty wild.
I also love using compression on the drum bus. This usually allows me to use less compression on the individual tracks.
I’ve only started doing this recently, but in a big mix, sometimes it helps to compress the reverb track. It lets you hear the reverb without having to crank it up and wash out the entire mix.
So, those are five of my favorite uses for compression.
Of course, one of the reasons I really enjoy compression is because I understand how to use it.
And it really is a lot of fun. So much fun, in fact, that I want to add 11 more items to that list.
These are ALL things you can do with a SINGLE compressor.
—Take away punch
—“Fix” inconsistent performances
—Bring something to the front of the mix
—Push something to the back of the mix
—“Dirty up” a clean recording
—Take away snap
—“Glue” a mix together
As you can see, compression is an insanely versatile tool. And you can use the same, simple, stock compressor that came with your recording software to do all of the cool stuff listed above.
It’s all about how you tweak the settings.
To learn more, go here.
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.