Monday, 17 September 2018

Tech Review: The 3 Truths About Compression

In the beginning, God created the earth, people, global warming and then music. After listening to music he quickly created the volume fader.

One of God’s non-deterministic children became an audio engineer and through intense industry and research created the dynamic range ‘compressor.’

The things we create when we’re looking for answers to meaningful questions are beautiful. As an Audio Engineer I want to show you how to create more beautiful music by using an automatic volume fader.

So let’s begin with the 3 truths about compression also known as automatic volume fading.

Truth #1 A compressor is just an automatic volume fader.

You’ve already heard this, but lets go a little deeper into what I mean. A volume fader controls how loud or quiet something is. The way it becomes automatic is when you give it a way of increasing or decreasing the volume of something without the need for your finger on it.

What allows a compressor to function automatically are the controls which give you a way to set it and forget it so it does exactly what you want. The parameters that allow for this automatic functioning in particular are Threshold, Ratio, Attack and Release. These are like the cruise control on a car that allows it to automatically adjust and stay at the right speed.

Truth #2 Anything a compressor can do, volume automation can do.

You probably already know how you can literally shape a sound by volume automating it. If you don’t then you certainly know how you can make a long decay hi-hat sound like a closed hi-hat just by shortening the length of its volume tail.

This is volume automation. Since compression is just doing what your finger can do on a fader, but automatically, then it’s the same thing as volume automation. They’re both fingerless activities in the end and that’s good because for the most part we’ve only got 10 and we’ll need all 10 fingers to turn our mixes up to 11.

Truth #3 Compressors make loud sounds quieter

I’m not the biggest fan of this definition, because I think it gets misrepresented so let me reword that. When a sound is too loud, our automatic volume fader moves downward to make the sound quieter.

In the same way you’d move a fader down with your finger if a lead/ vocal was too loud in a mix, this is what a compressor does, only again it does it automatically. But our automatic volume fader also does something else! Using our vocal/ lead example above, if you’ve pulled down the fader because the sound is too loud, then when it gets quiet again you’ll move the fader back up so the volume of the sound stays level in the mix.

What this means is that when sounds become quiet again our automatic volume fader will simply return back to its original position. So now that you've got some simple redefinitions of a regular compressor I'm going to redefine a multi-band compressor, because it’s really just a Dynamic EQ.

Thanks Guys and always remember to keep the creativity perfected. ... Steve Aluko

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