10 Compression Errors That Will Destroy Your Mixes

[Editors Note: This article was written by Rob Mayzes.]

Over years of educating others find out how to combine, I’ve observed 10 compression errors come up time and time once more. These frequent errors can damage your combine in the event you don’t know find out how to keep away from them.

On this information you’ll study what these frequent compression errors are and how one can keep away from them to get clear, skilled sounding mixes.

Mistake #1: Ignoring the Acquire Discount Meter

Any compressor you utilize can have some type of meter that reveals you the way a lot acquire is being lowered. Ensure you aren’t ignoring it – particularly when making use of sidechain compression.

Typically it’s troublesome to inform how a lot you’re compressing the sound simply by ear. For those who aren’t listening to your meter, you might be making use of approach an excessive amount of compression, or no compression in any respect.

You don’t want to easily pay attention and guess. This meter will inform you precisely how a lot you’re compressing the sound.

Open your compressor of alternative and watch how the acquire discount will increase as you flip down the brink. For those who decrease the brink or flip up the ratio, you’re compressing the sign more durable.

For those who’re on the lookout for compression that sound easy and clear, shoot for someplace between 2 and Four dBs of acquire discount. For those who’re working in a heavier style the place apparent compression is okay, you might have considered trying 6 to 10 dBs of compression.

Totally different sounds have completely different wants, so use your ears whereas watching the meter to find out how a lot compression sound good in your wants.

By listening to your acquire discount, you’ll know precisely how exhausting your compressor is working and may keep away from over or under-compressing.

Mistake #2: Utilizing Extraordinarily Quick Assault Occasions

When your assault time is just too quick, it grabs the preliminary “hit” (additionally referred to as the transient) of the notice and turns it down.

If you compress too exhausting with quick assault instances, the dynamic vary of your combine is squashed. You’ll find yourself with one thing that feels like this:

A track with no room to breathe; as flat as a pancake.

The start of notes are sometimes the thrilling half that cuts by way of the combination and wows your listeners. In case your compressor works too quick, you’ll lose a few of that impact.

There are some conditions that decision for a quick assault time, significantly drums. With regards to drums, in case your assault time is just too gradual, you’ll solely be compressing the the tail finish of every drum hit. Not normally what you’re going for when honing your drum’s dynamics.

However in virtually another occasion (particularly when mixing vocals), you don’t desire a quick assault time capturing down the start of your sound.

With a slower assault time, the preliminary transient shall be intact since you’re principally compressing the tail finish of the sound. It will make no matter instrument you’re compressing sound extra thrilling, because the onset of the sound feels louder.

With gradual assaults you’ll even have a better time avoiding over-compression. For those who’re actually compressing a sound with 10 dB of discount, a gradual assault will roll that compression in regularly.

This gradual compression will sound extra pure, whereas a quick assault that can crush your transient, making it sound extraordinarily compressed.

However what quantity do you have to decide in your assault time?

As you would possibly anticipate, there’s no tried and true “proper quantity.” Your finest guess is to pay attention intently whereas adjusting the assault.

Flip the brink actually excessive so the compression is apparent. Then regularly lower the assault time till the instrument begins to sound boring and lifeless. It will assist you to get a really feel for how briskly of an assault time is just too quick.

Now that it sounds a little bit lifeless, convey the vitality again by growing the assault time a bit. Don’t neglect to show the brink again down! Apparent compression is useful for locating a very good assault time, however you don’t wish to go away it like that on accident.

Mistake #3: At all times Utilizing Quick Launch Occasions

That is one other surefire technique to make your combine sound over-compressed.

In case your launch time is just too quick, you aren’t letting the notice ring out naturally. Your compressor begins lowering the acquire after which instantly lets go.

The tail finish of the sound immediately will get louder than it was earlier than, and your track sounds prefer it’s pumping.

By slowing the discharge time you’ll get subtler, far more pure sounding compression. It tames the dynamics with out calling consideration to itself.

As all the time, there are exceptions. If you wish to protect the latter a part of a snare hit, you might wish to use a quick launch. It’s also possible to make vocals sound louder by shortening the discharge time.

However in the event you don’t have a selected purpose to make use of a quick launch, stick to one which’s average or gradual.

To dial in your launch, flip your threshold down once more and begin with a extremely quick launch time. Flip the discharge time up slowly whereas listening to the observe. As soon as it sounds just like the compressor is respiration naturally with the combination, you’ve discovered the discharge time you’re on the lookout for.

Mistake #4: Solely Utilizing One Compressor

Have a guitar take that’s dynamically in all places? Or possibly a vocal that isn’t fairly reducing by way of the combination?

Compression can undoubtedly tame a sound that’s inconsistent or increase one which’s underwhelming. However making enormous cuts with one compressor is the mistaken technique to go.

Say you’re compressing a bass guitar with 9 dB of acquire discount. You might be getting the quantity you need from the bass, but it surely’s going to sound fairly processed.

Through the use of a couple of compressor, you may get the identical quantity of acquire discount in a approach that sounds extra musical. It is a method referred to as serial compression.

Serial compression is whenever you put a number of compressors on the identical sound. A single compressor that’s working tremendous exhausting will stick out like a sore thumb in your combine. However a number of compressors working collectively may give you better acquire discount whereas sounding far more pure.

Serial compression is all about small cuts. Every compressor in your observe ought to solely be lowering the acquire by 1-Three dB’s.

So as an alternative of utilizing 1 compressor on the bass to show it down 9dB, attempt utilizing Three compressors which might be lowering Three dB every. Although it’s technically the identical quantity of discount, your bass goes to sound extra dynamic and fewer compressed.

At first of your serial compression chain, attempt utilizing a compressor with a sooner assault time. However not tremendous quick! You’re simply attempting to subdue significantly robust peaks right here, watch out to not squash your sound.

Observe this sooner compressor with one which has a gradual assault time. This slower compressor goes to concentrate on management of the sound total, permitting you to regularly cut back acquire.

Mistake #5: Solely Relying On Compression

An excessive amount of compression could make your tracks distort. This distortion can sound cool on a rock combine, however more often than not you gained’t need your combine to sound tremendous compressed.

To keep away from over-compression however nonetheless preserve your ranges in test, automate the quantity of your tracks.

If in case you have a guitar half that will get actually quiet through the verses, don’t compress the life out of the entire observe simply to show the loud components down. Use automation to show it up through the verses.

Automate the quantity of your vocals and devices. You’ll keep away from distortion from over-compression and preserve your ranges in test.

Mistake #6: Ignoring Genres

Totally different types of music have completely different wants with regards to mixing. The way in which you’d combine a storage rock tune gained’t work for a recording of a hip-hop cypher.

That is very true with regards to compression. Genres that are supposed to be tremendous dynamic, equivalent to classical and jazz, aren’t going to want a lot compression within the combine. You may not use any!

However extra abrasive, in your face music like rock goes to want a ton of compression to focus on the vitality.

Pop is someplace in-between. Dynamic consistency and a strong vocal is essential for pop, so there are going to be quite a lot of compressors in a pop combine.

However these compressors gained’t be working tremendous exhausting. Pop isn’t normally meant to sound distorted and tough, so exhausting compression gained’t be significantly useful.

No matter style you’re working in, contemplate the quantity of compression the fashion requires.

When listening to different songs in your style, is the quantity constant or does it change over the course of the track? Do different songs within the style really feel punchy and sharp or are they easy?

Utilizing a reference observe whereas mixing will assist you determine how a lot compression you need to use. Choose a track you’d like your combine to sound like and evaluate your combine to it whilst you work.

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Pay attention for the way a lot compression is being utilized in your reference observe and attempt to emulate it in your personal track.

Mistake #7: Not Having Intention

It may be simple to get within the behavior of throwing a compressor on each observe as a result of we assume we should always. However not each sound must be compressed. You aren’t doing your self any favors throwing compression on tracks that already sound superb.

The intention ought to come first. Earlier than you attain for a compressor, you need to know why you’re utilizing it.

The primary causes you’ll find your self utilizing compression are for vitality and dynamic management. If you wish to spotlight the aggressive components of a sound’s transients or to tame its dynamics, compression is smart.

For those who aren’t undertaking considered one of these two duties, you may not have to compress the sound.

Say you could have a vocal that’s dynamically constant however feels fairly lifeless. Though the quantity is underneath management, you would possibly use a compressor so as to add some convey out some pleasure and vitality within the vocal.

If the bass isn’t sitting proper within the combine as a result of it’s too quiet at some components and too loud at others, turning to a compressor is smart. You aren’t compressing the bass merely since you assume you need to. You could management the bass dynamics and have a selected purpose to make use of compression.

Mistake #8: Ignoring Inventory Plugins

A particularly frequent mistake is assuming the inventory compressors that include your DAW aren’t pretty much as good as premium ones.

Premium compression plugins normally mannequin older {hardware} compressors. These older compressors sound nice and may add fantastic shade to a observe.

However quite a lot of musicians who flip to premium plugins discover themselves stockpiling completely different compressors with very particular makes use of.

You might find yourself with 10 completely different compressors to select from. As an alternative of specializing in mixing, you sink a ton of time into attempting out completely different ones to see which one is “good.”

However the inventory compressor in your DAW will in all probability be capable of do quite a lot of the identical issues whereas saving you money and time. Inventory compressors normally include a variety of assault instances, launch instances, and even completely different modeling settings.

Take Logic’s inventory compressor for instance. It has 7 completely different fashions to select from that each one shade the observe in a different way. The default setting focuses on a clear, digital sound. However the different settings mannequin well-known compressors such because the LA-2A, 1176, and the Pink 3.

Though I personal premium compressor plugins, I nonetheless flip to my inventory one repeatedly. It’s actually that good!

Whereas the inventory compressors in DAWs are all completely different, they normally have quite a bit to supply. Analysis the compressor that got here along with your DAW. You’ll be able to in all probability get much more mileage out of it than you anticipate.

Mistake #9: Having Too Many Plugins

That is one other key purpose to study the ins and outs of your inventory compressor earlier than shopping for a premium one.

It’s simple to really feel such as you don’t have sufficient mixing plugins in your toolbox. You purchase an increasing number of till immediately you could have tons of compressors to select from.

This would possibly sound good at first, however there’s such factor as having too many choices. The variety of plugins to select from can turn out to be overwhelming. As an alternative of focusing in your combine, you find yourself in gridlock, not sure which compressor to decide on.

Save your self a headache and a few cash by having one go-to compressor. Whether or not it’s your inventory compressor or a flexible premium one, decide a compressor and actually get to comprehend it.

Totally different compressors can definitely add their very own distinctive shade to a observe. However you may get a ton of various tones out of a compressor if you understand how to make use of it.

Save time and vitality whereas mixing by selecting a compressor you want and studying all its ins and outs.

Mistake #10 Sticking to Analog Compressors

Analog compressors and plugins that mannequin them are undoubtedly engaging. The lengthy listing of hit information the well-known {hardware} compressors have been used on is sufficient to make any musician really feel like they should have one.

However there are a ton of unbelievable compressors on the market that don’t simply concentrate on recreating previous classics.

Don’t get me mistaken, I don’t have some sworn vendetta in opposition to LA2A’s. However when selecting a single go-to compressor, you’ll get extra mileage out of a plugin that provides you loads of tonal choices.

The FabFilter Professional-C 2 is a good instance of a flexible plugin that provides you with loads to work with.


And there you could have it! 10 frequent compression errors to be careful for.

Let’s recap.

Mistake #1.Ignoring the Acquire Discount Meter

Mistake #2: Utilizing Extraordinarily Quick Assault Occasions

Mistake #3: At all times Utilizing Quick Launch Occasions

Mistake #4: Solely Utilizing One Compressor

Mistake #5: Solely Counting on Compression

Mistake #6: Ignoring Genres

Mistake #7: Not Having Intention

Mistake #8: Ignoring Inventory Plugins

Mistake #9: Having Too Many Plugins

Mistake #10: Sticking to Analog Compressors.

Avoiding these errors will go a great distance in ensuring you could have knowledgeable sounding combine each time.

Rob Mayzes is a producer, combine engineer and founding father of House Studio Heart, a website devoted to offering precious suggestions round recording from residence studios.


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