How To Mix A Song From Scratch – Compression

how to mix a band

How To Mix A Song From Scratch – Compression

Part 4 of 6 – Why do songs on the radio have so much punch, power, and energy when a lot of home studio mixes sound flat? The answer is well executed compression. It can be the difference maker between a mix that is lifeless and one that jumps out of the speakers. Today I want to show you how to use a compressor when mixing – whether on a vocal or a synth, compression can give you that upfront sound you’re looking for!

Video text:

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a friend Graham here from recording revolution calm and welcome to part 4 of our how to mix a song from scratch miniseries I’m showing you how to take the raw recordings that you’ve done in your software of choice in your home studio and how to step-by-step treat those pieces of audio and turn them into a more radio ready mix in this series I’m using a free piece of software right here called Pro Tools first you can use any da W or recording or mixing software you like I’m just teaching you the concepts they applied it really any software so it really doesn’t matter so far we’ve done a lot of really fun and important things we’ve done a volume balance in a static mix we have done mix buss processing we’ve used EQ on our tracks and we’re already making a big difference so far on the mix today however we’re going to talk about compression and compression is so so helpful as a mixer and it’s yet a mysterious tool that a lot of people

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either ruin their mixes with or they just avoid entirely because they don’t know how to use it or they use it and don’t know if it’s doing anything but you hear people talk about compressors a lot and there’s a reason for that but I want to demystify a compressor for you today and show you how you can use it to make a track like let’s say a vocal cut through the mix nicely and be upfront and in-your-face and it’s a really really simple tool once you understand what’s going on today I’m in Pro Tools first like I said I’m going to flip over here on the window menu to the mix window so I can actually see all the inserts with my plugins these are the same tracks again going from left to right that we’re going top to bottom and if you look at this row here this all says eq e q eq these are all the EQs i’ve used so far to mix the song and the only compressor i have here was on the mix bus or the master fader and that was on our second video today though I’m going to show you

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how to really process compression a little bit more and let’s grab the lead vocal so let’s see where we are in the song [Music] that’s right at least in so if you listen to the lead vocal there you notice that some words I can hear fine some words then to quiet and you want to turn it up and then if you were to move let’s say to next chorus even with the double vocal and the background vocals muted you would still hear the vocals a little more fine now because louder [Music] well even they’re part of that vocal you

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can hear fine but then the last line holding on to what I’ve done that we’re done seems to get too quiet this is a problem with a lot of audio it’s very dynamic it’s loud and quiet it’s hard to hear it perfectly at all times how do we hear music perfectly at all times on our favorite songs especially when it comes to things like vocals well the answer my friend is compression compression is the thing that contains the vocal and makes it one more consistent volume the whole way through it is a super helpful tool and it’s the secret to making your vocal sound more radio-ready so what I’m going to do is up here on my vocal tract you see I already have an EQ I already did a little bit of EQ on this vocal and what I want to do now is take that track that’s a little more cleaned up and I want to insert a compressor right after it to help with this volume problem so I’m going to grab under the dynamics tab the stock compressor here

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in Pro Tools and with this right here to the side bunch of knobs graphs meters off might be overwhelming don’t be overwhelmed let me show you how simple this is what we’re going to do is contain this vocal 1 solo the vocal here most important thing you need to understand is the default settings will probably not be good for you no matter what it is so I want you to understand how to use a compressor and really all a compressor is is an automatic volume knob it’s one really helpful way to think about it so let’s automate the volume of something using something like a compressor I’m going to take the threshold knob and dial it up to the top little tip if the threshold is all the way at zero means the top of the meter that means you’re telling the compressor only compress what crosses this threshold which will be nothing because this is as high as audio can go so would this threshold at zero doesn’t matter how fast or slow the attack or release

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is or what the ratio is or the knee or any of that that gibberish what matters is the fact that actually there’s no compression happening – look I’m not spinning the red the lies holding on to what I’ve done it’s not really doing anything well we need to do to get this to work is pull the threshold down until it starts to touch where the actual audio is and then you will see some gain reduction gr here gain reduction happening that’s actually then the compressor turning down audio so if you see it the vid meter come down to minus three that means that the compressor is turning my vocal down by 3 dB at the loudest point or by 6 DB or 12 or whatever it would be so for ratio let’s leave it at 3 to 1 I think anything from 2 to 1 to 4 to 1 is great for something to start out with very neutral these attack and release settings are pretty neutral I might go a little bit faster here on a

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vocal and maybe keep the release for it is and then let’s just start pulling the threshold down see what happens I’m not spinning the rest in the lies holding on to what I’ve done I won’t carry the weight of my crimes a year I just bury it a wall put out the fire tonight I light it up and let it burn a wall style is the truth beaten is ah so you can see the loudest points the most this compressor is turning down my vocal is 5 dB maybe it touched 6 dB ok so I like to look for let’s say vocals to compress it 3 to 6 DB which stands for decibels at the loudest point so I like to go to the chorus of the

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song or the hook wherever the vocal is really getting after it the most and find where can I turn down those loud Peaks 3 to 6 dB now what have I done all I’ve done is made my vocal quieter you can look at it here’s the input knob here’s the output knob and you can see how much quieter the output is I’m not spinning the rest and the lies holding on to what I’ve done I won’t carry the weight of the crime’s a year now that’s not what we want to do we don’t want to make our vocal quieter we want to actually make it louder or make really the quiet parts ladder and this is the second part of why a compressor is helpful what we’ve done is told the compressor please turn down the vocal anytime it gets really loud but if you notice it’s not always turning down the vocal on the quiet lines it’s not doing any compression watch the gain reduction meter you’ll notice which words it does not compress I’m not spinning the rest of the lines holding on to what I’ve

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done I won’t carry the weight of the crime’s yeah I’ve just bury it so the quiet words like done and very it it doesn’t turn down at all it keeps them right where they are but it’s only turning down the loud parts so what we’ve done is basically taking this vocal that’s way up and then way down and we’ve reduced it so it’s all at a more consistent volume albeit quieter than we’d like and that’s where this final knob gain or make up gain it might be called in your compressor is helpful because now we can turn back up the whole vocal track to match the volume it was going into the compressor so now the loud parts are just as loud as they were but the quiet parts are now equal with those let’s turn up the gain knob and I’ll watch the output meter here to make sure I’m now matching the input here I’m not spinning the rest and

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the lies holding on to what I’ve done I won’t carry the weight of the crimes a year I’ve just bury it I won’t put up a fire tonight I light it up and let it burn a wall silence the truth they deny yeah come on barian try again not spinning the rest in the lies holding on to what I’ve done I won’t carry the weight of my crimes a year I just bury a wall part of the fire and I all right so now we have a more consistent volume on the vocal let’s pull this into context on the verse let’s go back to where we were

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originally bring it in with a mix and let’s see if we can hear all the words of this vocal a little bit better [Music] we stood up for what’s right at least in our own I never stopped now little eyes it feels not rely on to water or carry the weight of the crime yes I just bury it won’t put up a fire tonight

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I light it up and let it burn a wall pilots through the night don’t walk marriage [Applause] so there we have it much more contained much more up front let’s compare let’s go back and we’ll then bypass the compressor on and off again here where it came from again certain words will sound about the same volume but other words would have gotten lost that’s right at least in now but is wise would feel [Music]

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the red line Oh carry the weight and the crime is just there yes mom put up a fire tonight I light it up and let it go no wall silence there you go compression is so so helpful the key here is to understand why why are you using it and for vocals this is how I like to approach it you can do the same thing on an acoustic guitar that might strum nice and loud for a moment and then it gets buried and inconsistent so I use it for inconsistencies on a bass guitar on a vocal on a keyboard on a piano anything that’s not loud enough or then too loud one moment and it varies compressors kind of rein that in and

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then present everything at a more consistent volume it also helps create energy and punch because now everything is really a little bit more up front and like presented better than it was before and that is the power of a compressor now there are a lot of other things I could teach you about compression and I’ve put together something that might really help you as you’re working on your mix I have seven steps that I walk through when it comes to compression understanding all the knobs understanding how to use it on different circumstances and I’ve taught that in other places before but what I’ve done for you is put it all together into one simple PDF that you can download it’s a checklist it’s a compression checklist for you and it’s absolutely free to download it just go to compression seven dot-com compression seven comma put the link here in the video and then the description box for you and what this will literally walk you through is things we talked about today understanding the threshold and the

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ratio and the gain reduction but how to use a compressor to enhance every track in your mix and again these subtle moves really add up once we get some compression on all the rest of the tracks you’re going to notice everything pop a little bit more especially if we were to take away all the compression in the end you’ll notice that wow this mix fell flat and we’ll look at that as we progress in this series so go download the free compression checklist at compression seven calm is my gift to you I think it will help you as we move forward in this video series the next video I’m going to walk you through things like reverb and delay how to create a sense of space and ambience and that studio polished to your tracks that probably sound dry and small because they were recorded in a home studio like mine so make sure you’re subscribed to this channel so you don’t miss the next video other than that my friend have fun experimenting with compression in your mixes in your software and I will see you on the next video