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Mixing – Using Compression – The Seedier Way

If like me you have trouble with your mixing and mastering stage then the following article sent to me by the scottish reprobate Seedy Dave should help,

OK so forgive the obvious but a quick once over basic compression first, lets say you’ve got a track recorded on acoustic geetar and it peaks at 0dB, but there are sections where the volume is only about -12dB……….when ya listen to it it sounds fine but the quiet sections are getting lost……
If you set the threshold of a compressor to say -4dB and the compression ratio to 4:1
what’ll happen is that when the track is above this level (-4dB) it will be affected by the compressor,
and the effect on the track will be this, for every 4dB the track is above the threshold  of  (-4dB) the compressor will reduce its volume to a quarter of what it was (4:1 = 1/4),
so  instead of having your geetar peaking at 0dB it’ll now be peaking at -3dB
(Try to think of the compression ratio 4:1 as 4dBs over the threshold will become 1dB over the threshold after compression………………..ditto 2:1 and 10:1 etc)
So now yer loud bits are quieter, and the quiet bits have not changed……….
so then you add your compressor make up gain which in effect brings the whole track back up to the 0dB mark again,
so the loud bits are back where they were and the quiet bits have been lifted by 4dB from -12dB to -8dB………..so basically what you’ve done is increase the average volume, so the track sounds louder and punchier at the same volume as before…..and there is less variance in the volume of the playing……..take the process to extremes and you’ve got the sound of the adverts.
The only other bits to get yer hied round are the attack and release times, so attack time first……..
Basically all you are doing with the attack time is deciding how long after the threshold is exceeded before the compressor kicks in…………..you’d think right away, but it ain’t that straight forward…………if yer acoustic track is a strummy thing, then the track will be getting driven along by yer playing,
so if you have a very quick attack time what’ll happen is that since the initial part of the strum is the loudest part (and therefore over yer threshold) the compressor will quieten that part and kill the groove by dimminishing the rhythmic impact of yer geetar………….so the trick is to set the attack time long enough to let the initial part of the strum through and then compressor can control the rest of the sound……..it’s the same for all instruments, you let the nose of the note through the compressor before you start squeezin’……..f** around with a snappy snare sample and it’ll make more sense.
Fortunately most Mix Bus compressors have automatic attack and release knobs that do it all for ya and they work fine.
The release time does what it says…….it sets how long after the sound drops below the threshold before it switches the compressor off………do it too quick and you can hear it cutting out, set it too long and the depending on the tempo of the track the next strum could take it back up over the threshold again. Basically you’re looking for a release time that is unobtrusive to the music and releases the compressor quickly enough for the next sound (strum) that comes along and exceeds the threshold.
So the Mix Bus thingy.
Why & How, from the SOS guide to Mix Bus Compression – taken from (Sound on Sound)
The whole idea behind this technique is that you are mixing through the compressor from the beginning of the mix process, you are carving your mix, dynamically speaking, through the compressor, and monitoring the compressor’s output.
The point is that the same set of fader settings will actually produce a different mix balance depending on whether you apply compression, and how much. Applying compression after the mix is complete will change the balance you have carefully set up, so unless you mixed into a compressor from the start, compressing the mix once the track is finnished is gonna upset all yer hard work.
When you mix without compression, the relative level of each element within the mix is entirely determined by the position of the faders. When you add a compressor over the mix bus, you’re adding another layer of dynamic management, one over which you have less control. It can feel as though your fader moves are ‘fighting’ the actions of the compressor.
Typically, the compressor will tend to react to the instruments that are already the loudest parts of your mix, such as lead vocals and drums, because these are the first and loudest signals to cross the compressor’s threshold.
Different compressor settings may tend to bring out different elements in the mix but, in general, you will find that the harder you hit the compressor, the less difference your fader movements seem to make to the predominant parts of the mix. Consider a lead vocal that was compressed during tracking and is also being compressed in real time during mixdown. If you are mixing this lead vocal, among other sounds,
through a bus compressor, the lead vocal itself will become even more compressed if it is the loudest part of the mix. So in absolute terms, mix compression will tend to make the lead vocal quieter, and you may need to compensate a bit more with positive fader values to achieve the loudness that you want from the lead vocal — but also consider that the louder you push the faders, the more you will compress the output! And,
of course, the gain reduction that is triggered by the lead vocal crossing the mix compressor’s threshold is applied to all elements of the mix at once, so the lead vocal’s apparent level relative to the other instruments may actually be increased by mix compression.
Typically, a stereo compressor setup with a low ratio such as 1.5:1 or 2:1, and a medium attack and medium release, is a great starting point for mix-bus compression. Begin by setting the threshold to give a minimal amount of gain reduction, perhaps -1 to -3 dB (Dats below yer loudest part of yer mix).
When you’re experimenting with bus compression for your mixes, set the make-up gain so that the level of the processed signal matches the level of the unprocessed signal as closely as possible. This way, when you are in the middle of a mix you can bypass the compressor and hear what the compression is doing to your mix.
Although having the right compressor settings for mix-bus compression is important, you don’t want to be adjusting the settings in the later parts of the mix. The best thing to do is to get a feel for what the mix is going to be about early on, set the bus compressor then, and leave it be. Any changes that you make to the compressor settings later will change the internal mix balances. – (taken from Sound on Sound)
Any decent sterio compressor can be used for the job…….set the attack, release and make up to automatic and drop the threshold down to 3dBs below yer loudest bit.
Most upmarket ***** use outboard gear but f** it enough is enough…………if ya gots any questions please read it again.
– Seedz.
Note to reader, please never feed the Seedy one after midnight, don;t ask why, just don’t.

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