Why Use a Compressor During Mixing?


I see a lot of people saying just how great compression is but the truth is that it’s also ruined a lot of mixes too.  The Pros use it on every mix and they understand it so let’s see if we can figure out a way to better learn it.

A crucial component to mixing our songs is compression so I’m going to break down some truths about it.

Compression Is An Auto Fader

Originally compression was created so that audio signals would go over a certain level.  More importantly, to stop it from overloading the equipment it was going into. Musically is inherently dynamic and therefore can go from very quiet to very loud at a moments notice.  Compression helps to control that.

Way before compression was invented, I’m talking the dinasour days, engineers had to manually ride the faders – Ouch!  That sucks.

Eventually humans wised up and created a device that could read the singal coming into it and determine if it was acceptable to pass through (below threshold) or if it was too  loud (above threshold) and would then turn it down automatically.  Good by Bob the Engineer!!

This is a wonderful thing to have in your toolbelt.  The ability to control the sudio in your sessions to make sure that the peaks aren’t erradically bouncing all over the place.  It can give your mixes a shine that never existed before.  I prefer this method of compression the best.

Energize Your Mixes

Funny enough, compression is a way to add some energy to your track.  It’s funny because we think of it as taming peaks and turning things down but by using a slow attack, you can actually turn the quieter parts up without damaging the transients, thus giving your tracks a bit more OOMPH!!!!  This can work wonders on your drums.

I like to do this with vocals and guitars.  It just adds a nice touch to the sound that wouldn’t otherwise be there.

Add Some Tone or Sustain!

A couple more cool things you can do with your compressor is add some tone and sustain.  Hence why they are called instant tone machines.  Guitar needs a little more pop? No problem bust out the compressor and give it a little more energy. DONE AND DONE!!!

It’s also great to use a compressor for adding sustain to a track.  By knocking down some of the transients, and using the makeup gain knob to effectively bring up the leftovers (the tail of the sound.  You create some voodo magic that makes us think we have more sustain than is actually there. This works well for snares and bass guitars.

Use Only As Needed

As with anything else, don’t just go slapping a compressor all over the place because more often than not, less is more.  But sometimes a lot of compression is need, which is totally fine, just use your best judgement.

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