Compression – feel what you hear
If you are sick of all the overly technical descriptions and guides about compression, here’s one for you. It’s like a painter’s brush or palette knife. Once you learn what they are capable of, you no longer think of theories and miniscule details. You just use them to get the kind of result you’re after. In the case of compression, you want to control the level and dynamic range of certain tracks. But you also want a certain sound. It’s a lighter, flatter, blooming sound than the original. It’s like a slap in the face, instead of a hard hit.
Threshold: Forget all the crap you’ve read about it. Threshold is simply the level from where the compressor starts doing something. If you want the quieter parts to be unaffected, you don’t set the threshold too low. That way, there will remain some softer, uncompressed parts. Only the top part of your hair will be shaved. That’s it.
Ratio: This is where shit gets dirty and meaningful. With turning the nose of the ratio knob, you can determine how light and slappy-mappy the sound gets. You can also control how much otherwise inaudible detail will come to the surface. With a low ratio there’s really just a nuance less impact of an element, while a higher ratio truly takes the spikiness out of a track, while all the throatiness and hair come up in level. Which is awesome when you apply to vocals. Not so nice with monkey balls though. So if you want it more creamy and rubbery overall, just turn it higher.
Gain some weight back
Attack: With this thingy, you can inject back some of the impact of the original sound. If it had any. For that, you need to go with a longer attack setting. The resulting sound will have more meat at the front, with more weight and less of the chewing gum feel. If you want to take it all away, set up a shorter, faster attack, so the whole thing gets flat and 2D right from the start of each note.
Release: Once you’re happy with the above tweaks, you can dial in for how long the whole thing copulates with your music. With a longer release setting, the claws of the compressor daemon will hold your tracks longer, so whatever details surfaced will remain audible for a longer time. It comes handy for sounds that naturally have a percussive nature, because you can bring out the tail nicely. Don’t forget to set the final level where you want with the makeup gain.