4 Killer Compression Techniques For Pro Sounding Mixes

by | Sep 28, 2014 | mixing

Compression for many is like a mythical creature that they can’t quite understand, but once you get the grasp of working with compressors your tracks will surely start to shine more. Having a couple effective techniques up your sleeve can help you make it in that direction sooner.

Multiband Compression

Multiband compression just may be one of the most misunderstood compression techniques there is. Though mostly used by many for mastering, it can do wonders during the mixing stage on groups of tracks as well as on individual tracks. Multiband compressors divide the audio signal into different frequency bands and allow each band to be compress independently with its own settings. This allows for more transparent manipulation of the signal as well as tweaking your sounds in ways that are not possible with a single band compressor.  By using a multiband compressor, it is possible to closely tailor the compression to the different elements in a mix and compress the recording more transparently than with a standard single-band compressor.  Some recommended multiband compressors to try are:

Ableton Multiband Dynamics

UAD Precision Multiband

Waves C6

Using Multiple Compressors in Series

With the ongoing loudness war and more music being created exclusively in the box it is very easy to get sucked into the habit of compressing your tracks to the point that all of the lively dynamics have been lost. One way to get your tracks loud and “in your face” while preserving your dynamics is using multiple compressors in series. The simple concept is rather than using a single compressor get 6 db of gain reduction, you use 2 compressors that are each taking 3 db of gain reduction. This approach results and a more transparent sound and helps maintain some of your dynamic range. This works especially well with vocals. Some times I may actually use 3 or 4 compressors with slightly different characters and each taking no more than 2 db in gain reduction to give me some interesting tones. Another trick I have been digging is using a compressor set in peak mode followed by a compressor in RMS mode that is barely touching the signal.

Parallel Compression

Parallel compression is a great way to add some weight to your source material without losing the original dynamics of your recording.  There are several applications that can benefit from this but one of the common uses of parallel compression is on drums. To acheive this sound you must compress the signal heavily by 8 db or more and blend the compressed signal with the uncompressed signal. Over there years there have been several compressors released that feature parallel processing built in. These compressors simply the process by letting you control the blend of the compressed and uncompressed signal with a wet/dry knob. A couple great compressors that have wet/dry knobs are:

Ableton Glue Compressor

Waves H-Comp Hybrid Compressor

Fabfilter Pro-C

Side Chain Compression

Side chain compression has been popular for many years in dance music to get that famous pumping sound that you hear in all of your favorite House songs. Side chain compression reduces the level of its sound source relative to the peaks of a separate sound source. The classic pumping sound I referred to is created by feeding a “four to the floor” kick pattern to a compressor controlling the bass and synth sounds of the arrangement. The usefulness of side chain compression goes way beyond house style pumping effects. Other uses include de-essing, removing pops, and help the kick and bass work together within the same frequency range. Some great compressors for side chain compression are:

Ableton Compressor

Waves C1 Compressor

Native Instruments Supercharger

This brief overview should provide a starting point to further explore the world of compression.