Compression class with Mechanimal
There are hundreds of tutorials online for compression however I find that they can get quite technical in describing the mechanics rather than the sound. In this tutorial, I will try and explain compression using simple terms and emphasize on the sound.
Threshold: as you can see on the Pro.C it ranges from -36db to 0db: Think of this as a fader rather than a rotary knob. When you see a signal coming through your mixer some of it will peak higher and some lower. The threshold knob simply sets which peaks you want the compressor to work on. You can see in the audio diagram below that some peaks reach zero (Yellow) others around -3db (blue) and some -6db (green). If you wanted to compress the top peaks you would simply bring the threshold below 0 to start working. For the compressor to work on the whole loop you would need to bring past -6db. The peaks vary between different sources, in some cases you need to apply much lower threshold to get the compressor working.
Ratio: This is the strength of the compression once the peak passes the threshold. High ratio equally high compression and low ratio mean subtle compression.
Attack: I would think of this as a “punch” dial. The higher the attack times the more “punchy” the sound. Below I’ve illustrated the different tones you may expect.
Yellow: Use short attack times for “fat” or “rounded” sound.
This kills transients but good for warm pads as an example.
Green: use this for a “poppy” or “clicky” sound.
This only lets a small amount of the transient through.
Good for percussion loops.
Purple: Use this for a “punchy” sound. Big transients.
Good for Claps.
Release: This is the recovery speed of the compression. Use long release times for slow material such as strings and short release for quick sounds such as percussion. You will need to use your ears and see what sounds best.
Input & Output: this sets the level going in and coming out the compressor. Always make sure you have a healthy level going into the plug-in and that you’re not clipping on the output.
Knee: many compressors come with different knee settings: hard or soft. Sometimes they aren’t named and just have a different shape: straight or rounded. Use rounded knee for more natural smooth sources such as pads and the straight knee for more precise material such as a bongo loop or a synth stab.
Compression step by step:
- Input: adjust the input to get a strong signal without clipping.
- Choose the Knee: what type of material is it? Do you want precise results or more natural? Change the knee accordingly. Sometimes you can even change compressor type: experiment to see what sound you like.
- Set the threshold: Play the file you want to compress and look on your mixer as to where the lowest and highest peaks are. Decide which peaks you want to compress and adjust the threshold accordingly.
- Ratio: Set a fairly high ratio to get obvious results, this can be tamed later.
- Attack: Once the compressor is working set the attack time, did you want a punchy snare? Or did you want to kill some of the peaks from a vocal?
- Release: Now the compressor is starting to behave the way you want to set the release time to groove with the music.
- Ratio: Now you can adjust the ratio to a more suitable setting.
- Output: when applying compression your output level will change. Make sure you have a strong signal without clipping.
I hope this has been helpful! Thanks for reading! Nick, Mechanimal.
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