Level at which the compressor starts to work.
Example -16db is peak level = <= set level at -18db => everything above -18db will be compressed
Amount of gain reduction to be applied to signal that exceeds threshold level – see above…
Measured usually in milliseconds or ms => time taken for the compressor to start working.
As with attack but this time = time taken for compression to stop working – tail off as level drops below threshold.
Make-up -o-> the amount of gain applied to ‘make up’ gain reduced by compressor.
Knee -o-> soft or hard – decides wether the response curve has a sharp or rounded edge.
–o–>Example of use
Let’s say we have a vocal track that has an average level of -16db
(note the use of minus, this is because we are -16db below 0db)
So again a vocal track at -16db
We set our threshold at -18db(minus 18db)
Which is ‘2‘ below our tracks peak volume of -16db
Everything above -18db will now be worked on by the compressor.
So now we set out compressors ratio to 2:1
This means a 2 to 1 reduction.
–~o-> Oh no maths time…
our peak is -16db
our threshold is -18db
we have 2db exceeding our threshold
ration 2:1 means that every db above threshold will be reduced/divided by 2
therefore that 2db will become 1db and our level will now show at -17db
Now if we wanted to get our volume back up to -16db we can do this by adjusting our make up gain.
Also by using the attack and release settings we can decide how quickly we want the the comprssor to start and finish working.
It’s a lot to take in really – and it’s best actually experimenting with a compressor to see what is what.
It took me quite a while to get my head around it but eventually it started to sing in.
Graphic EQ -
Basically as above picture shows the ‘graphic’ eq is a series of sliders.
These sliders are preset values/frequencies – the curve is created by moving the sliders up and down.
A cut would mean pulling a slider down and a boost would mean moving the slider up.
Other Graphic EQ’s include these free vst versions
Low Frequencies (Bass)
Lowest end of the spectrum – frequency range usually between 20 and 150hz.
High Pass Filter used on the low frequencies – removing all the frequency below it’s cutoff point, allowing those above it to ‘pass’ though.
Low Shelf – when applied all frequencies below the cutoff are increased or decreased by adjusting the amount of gain.
Mid Range Frequencies (Middle)
Usually where most instruments live – approximately between the range of 150hz to 4Khz or 4000hz
Band Pass Filter - removal of neighbouring frequencies allowing the desired frequency to pass through.
High Range Frequencies (Treble)
Top top end of the frequency range, usually where the higher pitched instruments live, ie cymbals. Usually the range between 4khz 0r 4000hz and 20khz or 20,000hz
Low Pass Filter – used on the high frequencies – removing all the frequency above it’s cutoff point, allowing those below it it to ‘pass’ though.
High Shelf – when applied all frequencies above the cutoff are increased or decreased by adjusting the amount of gain.
Gain – amount of cut or boost to be applied to frequency range.
Q – The EQ Adjustment value - ‘Q’ adjustments have an affect on the neighbouring frequencies – a broad ‘Q’ seeting will have more of an affect on a wider frequency range, a fine/narrower ‘Q’ setting will hone in on the frequency to be adjusted, with a smaller amout of neighbouring frequencies being affected…
So you’ve got your track mixed down but it’s just not loud enough compared to other songs on the market.
NEED TO TURN IT UP!!!
Well no, not really – see the above sentence?
IF I WROTE EVERYTHING IN CAPITAL LETTERS IT WOULD BECOME TIRING TO THE EYES…
Would it not – in some case the written word, ‘CAPS lock on’ is considered rude and lazy.
For me it also has another problem. CAPITALS don’t let the eyes rest enough to take in RELEVANT information.
Now look at the previous statement, which two words stick out most?
Take that idea forward to music – DYNAMICS – need to be there otherwise music just loses it’s bounce/vitality.
Dynamics are so important to a peice of music – listen to U2, Nirvana, The Pixies…
Bands like these thrive on the use of dynamics.
If you crush the dynamics out of a song you crush out it’s impact.
But loud music is often considered to be ‘better’.
Loud music for some means excitement, energy and emotion.
Remember you’re first stereo, cranking up the volume. The first time you went to a concert. Remember how thrilling it felt to see a band cranking the volume – or maybe the first time you plugged in a guitar and cranked you amp to eleven.
Loudness thrills us.
Apparently there’s a tiny organ in our ear called the sacculus – this organ is linked to a part of the brain that deals with responses to pleasure.
Unfortunately the big bad record industry latched onto the idea of loudness being better…
This lead to the so-called ‘Loudness War‘ – this was the process of mastering CD’s to have the highesst average level possible. And this in turn ends up being to the detriment of the music.
Mastering your music too loud is counter productive if you rely on dynamics – it kills it and it hurts the listener – ear fatigue means that a listener will only be able to bear it too loud for so long.
And there have been cases where the CD production has been damaged so much that listeners have sent there CD’s back complaining about it ‘clipping‘.
‘Loud music only sounds ‘better’ instantly, If it’s constantly loud it becomes fatiguing’ – Bob Katz author of ‘Mastering Audio – The Art and The science.
So how do you work with this idea – well I for one have started to master my music at -1db. But this depends on the dynamics of what I have in the first place – squashing the dynamics out of my music doesn’t appeal to me.
Forget about trying to compete with the major markets do your thing.
Get it loud enough to hear but let it breathe.
<—-Check out these links—->
Turn Me Up – is a non-profit music industry organization campaigning to give artists back the choice to release more dynamic records. To be clear, it’s not our goal to discourage loud records; they are, of course, a valid choice for many artists. We simply want to make the choice for a more dynamic record an option for artists.
Vocals – From a production and performance viewpoint it can be good idea to split the vocal recording monto seperate tracks
ie 1 track for verse and 1 track for chorus.
This will help in controlling volume differences and will also help with allow you set different levels and fx.
It can also help on the performance side – mistakes can take up so much time -vocal cords get fatigued.
—-> be aware though. Record verses first then chorus and make a note of all your settings.
If possible record on the same day. Differences will show…
Vocals 2 – Double up vocals -
- Record the vocal once then copy onto another track, leave one track alone and then compress the help out of the other track and mix together. Experiment with adding different eq’s.
Record perfrmances on two tracks of the same vocal and do as above.
As above using both techniques, auto tune/pitch correct one track only.
- Both of these ideas can help thicken a vocal track – be careful though it can have the effect of sounding cheap – it’s good to mess around and experiment…
Compression – Try to avoid overdoing the compression, compressing everything will as well as killing the dynamics of your track will bring up noise levels.
Reverb – Setup one reverb for whole production. Too many different reverbs can make it difficult to get each instrumentsit properly in the mix.
Guitars – Mushy guitars can be cleaned up by pulling back on the gain or by mixing in a clean channel of the same recording. Also don’t be scared of bringing the guitars down in a mix. If mixed too loud they will cloud everything.
- Record the same guitar part on 4 seperate tracks – mix full left and full right for a big stereo sound. Really useful on chorus’s if during the mix you have a simple arrangement of bass and drums.
- Get the distorted sound you want and half the gain – record the guitar part 4 times and mix together.
- Use different guitars. In the past I’ve used a cheap £30 nylon strung 3/4 guitar for palm muting. It’s not always the best guitar that is best for the job – experiment with sound. Acoustic guitars can sound as heavy as electric.
- Different strings, amps, settings – mixing these up through a song can bring a peice of music to life but too many effects can lessen the impact of good music. Less is more soemtimes.
- DI’d guitar in my opinion sucks – mic it if possible or mix the two sounds together.
- Always experiment try different sized amps – a battery powered practice amp with a 50% battery has a tone of it’s own so mic it up. A twenty quid steel strung guitar with the worst action can make a great slide guitar. It’s all how you approach things. Cheap karaoke mics can sound nasty as hell so use that – buying expensive toys is nice but sometimes buying cheap and messing about can bring it’s own reward.
Remember recording and production as a hobby is about experimenting not about reading and following manuals. All the truly great producers were innovators and whatifs people.