Do you ever feel surprised at the things compression is doing to your tracks?
Maybe surprised isn’t the right word for it.
With a few compressors as my go-tos, I often apply them to unusual sources just because I know my way around the plug-in. Compressor A on drums instead of vocals. Sometimes just chucking on different presets for the hell of it. Randomly rifling through different settings… And then sometimes I just reach for the tried and trusted settings that get reliable results.
But compression is a fickle and complex creature and things often sound a little different than I expect. It’s taken time to learn how to dial compression in, but I still like experimenting with it.
And I still find value in reviewing the mechanics of compression and relearning the ways it can serve me best. Which is why I decided to share this beginners guide to compression from Bristol Music Tech. It’s a good primer for those who don’t understand compression and those of us who need a refresher. And it gives you some easy techniques for learning to hear compression, which is the hardest part:
You can be forgiven for finding this all a bit difficult to understand, but that’s ok: There’s a practical method for you to use when compressing sounds. It’s very simple and helps you to train your ear to hear what each parameter on the compressor does and the best bit is it will work on any sound.
So, you’ll put these ideas of threshold and attack into practice right away. Hopefully, it makes the process of compressing a little easier.
And here is another tip: A/B your compression regularly. It’s frightening how fast our ears adjust to sounds and you’ll soon think your compressed signals are perfect. But you won’t know unless you compare. I can’t recall how many times I couldn’t figure out why things sounded dull and squashed, only to discover that I used too much compression.
If it takes a while to feel like you’re in charge, rather than the compressor, be patient. You’ll get there.