Questions & Answers

Opinions on compression?

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asked Feb 22 in Studio One 5 by mollyjanetmollyjanet (140 points)
Hello everyone, I come to realize that in professional studios the vocals go through a lot of hardware before even touching a track on pro tools. I realized that my EQ’ing is pretty **** good, but could never get my vocals to sit in the mix perfectly. I hear compression as the vocal “tightening up” and not being so all over the place. I level EQ then compress, doing this multiple times. I was just wondering how much gain reduction should each compressor be doing? I recently had a mix where I had about 4-5 compressors with each doing 3-6 DB’s of gain reduction. The vocal sounded so clean and going back since it is already released, I think it could of used a bit more. But at the same time I am wondering why not just level it better, or does my vocal truly need that much control w dynamics since I am recording in a room with just a Scarlett solo interface? Any help is greatly appreciated.

1 Answer

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answered Feb 27 by aka_busker (25,350 points)
Hi Molly.  The simple answer to your question is Yes, regarding mix level.  However, there is no hard and fast rule as to how much to compress by. ALL EFFECTS are taste based more than rule based.  Any "rules" are either based on teacher's taste/experience when they mix or what they learned for their genre.  Effects should be looked at like seasoning in a recipe.  Does it need to be added and what do you want to achieve?  A good place to start is level mixing first.  Set your maximum vocal level on the fader first, as that is likely to be your focus.  Then bring all other levels up to taste to reinforce your vocal performance.  Then add effects to sculpt and shape your sound.  I personally eq first, then compress.  You mention five compressors doing a total of 30dB gain reduction.  That's huge.  The question is could that work by the compressor have been done with an automated fader ride on the vocal?  Yes. Or an e.q., compressor, limiter chain?  Yes.  Or an expander, e.q., compressor chain? Yes.  All can do the same thing to a vocal, depending on how you approach it and what you want.  For example, an expander can bring up the quiet parts, e.q. can sculpt out unwanted frequencies and the compressor came tame the louder parts.  ###### A multiband compressor could be used to tame the sibillance ("s" sounds sitting in the higher frequency bands) while not affecting the mids and high mids.  Or compressing them by a different ratio.  ##### I know I haven't given you a definitive answer.   I hope I given you some other options to look at though.  Just always think two things "Star" first, "backing" second and always in context of the whole mix.  Also - worth pointing out that then inputs part of the mixer panel also accepts insert effects.  So you can tame/adjust dynamics as they come in.  Lastly, check out some mic technique videos, so you can start to deal with your dynamics at the source.