Saturday, November 9, 2013

SERIAL COMPRESSION (a guide for dummies)

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to talk about a common problem during mixing, specifically when mixing instruments with a very high dynamic range, like the Bass guitar and some drum parts.
The idea behind the Compression, as we have seen on the dedicated articles, is to make the sound "stable", to avoid it to move around in the mix balance: this is particularly important for the Bass, since its low-oriented sound generates a lot of energy, therefore it needs to be "tamed" with a particular strenght.
Compression, when set with a high ratio (e.g. 10:1) works almost like a Limiter: it attenuates the peaks that surpass a set threshold with a very strong reduction (in our example every db over the threshold is reduced to 0,1db).
A Strong Attenuation generates obviously a pretty drastic cut on the compressed wave, and it may damage the Transient (click here for a dedicated article) in a very bad way, for example if a Snare track is overcompressed, we will notice that the sound will lose its "snap" and will become very unpleasant.

So How do we tame an highly dynamic sound preserving the transient from being excessively cut?

We can try using a serie of two Compressors, one after the other (thus the term "Serial Compression"): the first one will just tame part of the peaks, moving the whole sound towards a narrower range, the second one will peel off the remaining peaks, and if we set both compressors for example at a ratio of 5:1 we will notice a perceivably better transient preservation rather than using a single, 10:1 ratio instance.
The result will be a Bass sound that will never move from where we set it, and this will allow us to raise its volume without worring.

About the Drumset, the whole situation is a bit trickier: every drum part needs a different compression, but what is important it's that usually all the drum tracks are routed to a drum bus, in which is often set a buss Compression (click here for a dedicated article), therefore it's important to balance the single track compressions with the buss one, in oder to not squeeze the sound too much.

Sometimes the tracks are even compressed on a global mix buss and then compressed again in the Mastering Phase, before getting Limited.
It's EXTREMELY important to have clear in mind all the stages of compression that will be applied to the single tracks, and lower the single compressor settings accordingly, or the final result will be very unpleasant.

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