Besides equalization, compression is easily the most-often used effect while mixing. While properly deployed compression will really make your mixes pop, you can also do a lot of damage with the effect.
In this post, we’ll explore common compression mistakes and how you can avoid them.
#1 — NOT GETTING IT RIGHT AT THE SOURCE
When you compress a bad-sounding track, it accentuates its worst qualities. Subpar room acoustics will be made painfully obvious, background noises will be brought to the forefront, and unwanted squeaks, creaks, and buzzes will abound.
So, before you compress your track, solo it and give it a thorough audition. If it was recorded poorly, no amount of compression or processing is going to give it a pro-level sound.
Your best option is to re-record the offending track. If this isn’t possible (for example, you’re mixing somebody else’s project), you may want to investigate other options.
When dealing with a drum track, sample replacement is an excellent option. If you have access to a DI’d guitar or bass track, try cleaning up the track as best you can, then use amp simulation software to take it the rest of the way.
As for keyboard parts, there are loads of excellent audio-to-MIDI applications out there that would allow you to replace the parts with virtual instruments.
Once you achieve a solid sound, you’ll be able to apply compression without making the track sound worse.
#2 — COMPRESSING A MUDDY TRACK
Other things to be aware of before you deploy a compressor are low-frequency mud and unwanted resonances. Both issues — even if they’re largely inaudible — can cause unpredictable compressor behavior.
Your main line of defense against unwanted low end is a highpass filter. This type of filter is a standard feature on most parametric EQ plug-ins — including the stock one that come with most DAW software.
For bass-heavy instruments, you’ll want to start with your EQ’s minimum cutoff frequency and a gentle 6–12dB slope. Increase the cutoff frequency until the track starts sounding thin, then decrease the frequency until you get the sound you’re aiming for.
For instruments without a lot of low-frequency content, start with a cutoff frequency around 30Hz and follow the same steps as above.
Resonances are, in a nutshell, a buildup of frequencies within your mix. Not only do these frequencies rob your tracks of dynamics and headroom, but they can also make your compressor do all kinds of wacky things.
The RESO plug-in is an easy-to-use solution for getting rid of unwanted resonances — automatically.
Simply place it on a track, then click the Calculate Targets button. RESO will then create Target Node and provide you with helpful setting suggestions for achieving a resonance-free track.
#3 — COMPRESSING TOO MANY FREQUENCIES
If your compressor responds erratically, it may be reacting to the wrong frequency element. This is especially obvious when placing a compressor on a busy track, such as a full-frequency synth sequence, or a stereo bus.
That’s where sidechain EQ’ing comes in. Using a sidechain EQ will make your compressor more or less sensitive to certain frequencies or ranges of frequencies depending on if you boost or cut those frequencies, respectively.
To deploy this technique, simply split your track…………
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