Compression For Mixing 101: Add Life to your tracks

What the compressor effects: the volume.

Once the compression is correctly applied, it instantaneously adds life to the track from vocals, drums to synths.

What you should know about compression:
Compressors actually LOWER the volume of the sound. How much the sound is lowered is determined by the compressors “threshold” setting. If the sound exceeds the threshold number, the compressor kicks in and goes wait a minute, this snare going over the threshold limit, let’s lower this bad boy down.

At what rate and amount is that sound being reduced is determined by few more settings you might have noticed called: ratio, attack and release.

There are many other parameters that are often found on hardware and software compressors such as RMS, Knee, Sidechain etc. but we will focus on the basic settings of the compressor: Attack, Ratio, Threshold, Release.

We will be using a term quite often through the compression tutorial called SOUND: Sound is defined as a drum track, snare track, synth etc. Anything you apply your compressor vst to is called the “sound”.

The threshold setting tells the compressor when it needs to kick into effect. Basically, when the threshold setting is exceeded, the volume of the sound gets lowered by the compressor.

The ratio setting tells the compressor how much “volume” needs to be lowered.

Example: If your compressor ratio setting was set to 2:1, for any sound (sound defined as a drum, snare, synth etc.) that comes through the compressor and exceeds 2 decibals, the compressor only allows 1 decibal to come through the mix. Thus, lowering the volume of your sound.

The attack ratio tells the compressor how quickly it should lower the sound once the threshold is exceeded.

Example: If your compressor setting was set to 2:1, and you set the attack at 1; the sound gets lowered immediatly. If you dont want your sound to be lowered so fast, you can increase the attack time to a desirable level.

The release setting tells the compressor when to stop the above effects (ratio, attack, threshold) and let the sound go back to its normal state.

Think of the release as your girlfriend. If you know things aren’t working out, you determine how long (the release) it will take to let her go back to singlehood 😉

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