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Thread: Hey @Nola ....some ideas

  1. #1
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    Hey @Nola ....some ideas

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    I have the opposite problem and don't use any compression (I'll automate and manually de-ess, etc), so the mix never glues entirely. I'm trying to fix it and using just enough to tame spikes and get the glue, but I just don't like compression. The sound of old jazz records where everything is so open is just great. Does anyone write articles about under-compressing your tracks??? I need one of those.
    Old Jazz records often had compression going on in the signal chain even if it was a stereo pair of analog limiters on the 2 bus. Also, keep in mind the tape reels were imparting a quasi-compression effect as well, though the line between tape saturation and compression starts to get blurred. Basically because we're manipulating and shaving transients but using an entirely different device to do it.

    When I want a mix to gel, but not to superglue it together, what helped me a lot was learning what compressors do what. A basic understanding of the five major families of compressors circuits can help you get a better idea of what compressors NOT to use in certain situations. And if you're like me, and you like to compartmentalize things conceptually, it'll help you mentally organize the characteristics of the sounds that are unique to each compressor. That way you go into your mix with a better starting point. Like if you want a super relaxed and transparent compressor, the key is getting the right compressor in the chain, and THEN really learning how to control how hard it digs.

    There are a lot of things you use a compressor for, but in general, its to draw out detail and to add tightness, punch, and clarity. They are also a great tool for achieving control. I can't tell why you say you don't like it, but what I would look for is other alternatives to using compressors, or what you can replace them with in a mix. However, as much as I hate to say it, no competent engineer is ever going to get away from compression or move beyond it until they truly understand it. If you want to get really really good at audio, compression is something you simply can not avoid learning how to work with. This is NOT like a chef that refuses to cook with cilantro. This is about the equivalent a chef that refuses to cook without heat.

    There's nothing inherently wrong with saying 'I don't like compression'. Where you will run into trouble is that everyone else expects to hear it. Even if you're simply doing music for fun, we eventually share music with other people. If you build houses and you say 'I don't like using wood', then my first question would be 'how much have you really worked with it'?. What I'm trying to say is that in order to really grasp how to build a house out of something not wood, it seems that you'd have to have worked with wood enough to clearly articulate why and how an alternative building material is better. The person you are building the house FOR doesn't have to know this, but you as the builder should. Because it has to do with truly understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the technique or material.

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    Hey thanks for writing all that out.

    I think I over-exaggerated (hyperbole?) in saying I don't use any compression. I do use it, but just a little to even out levels. But for something like vocals I usually just use automation instead, though if I can't get it to sit right I try compression sometimes. For bass and drum I use a little compression. Like on bass I use an optical and knock off like -3db. So it's really mild stuff. What I was getting at more so was when you can hear the sound of bad/over-compression. To me, at that point, it makes a mix collapse and get small.

    But yeah, I never feel my mixes are totally glued, though they are getting better. I always thought it was the mastering engineer's job to glue them. I've been using the FabFilter demos the past week to actually see how the compression is working. That helps a lot in hearing what it's doing, too. I'm a visual learner so FF is super helpful.

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    Do you have anything that emulates Vari-Mu circuits or a Neve 33699 emulator available?

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    I have to agree that lines are blurred. There's plenty of compression application that can be used between using no compression and slamming the crap out of every track.

    My comments in the other thread were mainly about the stepping back from "slamming the crap out of every track" that I'm hearing with some current indie music....but that's not to say they don't use it at all, and I certainly use compression fairly regularly, so I don't to give the impression that I'm against it or that it's not being used at all in some current productions.

    I also agree that you really have to become very familiar with the different flavors of compression, and how they sound in both light and heavier use, and from one source to another.

    I'll still grab one comp for a track...get a setting I like...and then bypass it, but leave it on the track (I'm talking software at the moment)...and then go pull out 2-3 other flavors and dial them in too, one at time...and then I can sit there and try each one in turn, and compare to the others before I really hear which one is the best for a given track. I get surprised often when the one I was thinking would be good, ends up getting beaten out by a different one.

    Nola...go to Plugin Alliance, create an account, and then download some of their hardware emulations of classic comps, and you have 2 weeks to demo them, full use, no limitations.
    Heck...you might find something you like and even have the opportunity to actually use it in your mixing before the 2-week demo period runs out.
    There's other great software there too...but start with the comps.
    Then if you find stuff you like...and you have an account with them, you'll get emails when they have sales. Thanksgiving through the month of December is when Plugin Alliance always has big sales on everything...but they do sales each month on a couple/three plugs at a time.
    Plus...as you buy stuff from them...they start sending you monthly vouchers...$25, $50, $75...depending how many plugs you've already bought.
    I've gotten a good number of plugs from then...for free...because there will be a sale, plus I have my monthly voucher...total cost = $0...or maybe $15-$20.
    Great plugins at PA!

    All Plugins & Products - Plugin Alliance

    Another place to grab some freebies and some good but inexpensive plugs. They have the MJUC comp, which is a Vari-Mu style comp, like jkuhelin is talking about.

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    Quote Originally Posted by miroslav View Post
    ...

    Another place to grab some freebies and some good but inexpensive plugs. They have the MJUC comp, which is a Vari-Mu style comp, like jkuhelin is talking about.

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    I got their MJUC jr. and am very pleased. I really like the minimal-knob stuff. Just give me one or two big knobs and keep all the settings inside. This works great on my bass.
    Failure - - the path of least persistence
    And, uh, oh - hire a decorator to come in here quick, 'cause... DAMN.

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    Hey guys. Since we're discussing compression on my songs I figured I should post one. This is the latest mix I finished. So it has a little compression on the bass to tame any peaks (like -3db) and then some on the drums to just bring out detail and life, though I didn't compress the cymbals. The vocal has a little compression, too. Probably around the same as bass but with a faster compressor. So that's it. I was going for an "open" and natural type of sound. I'm not sure it's "glued" great because of that, but it sounds pretty natural to me. I'm not trying to be on the radio or anything...just enjoy making songs. Let me know if you think I need more compression or anything on topic now that you've heard a recent mix. Thanks! PS. I record and mix on headphones so it could be way off. :/

    edit: removed, new mix with brighter vocal up.
    Last edited by Nola; 08-04-2018 at 12:01.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nola View Post
    Hey guys. Since we're discussing compression on my songs I figured I should post one. This is the latest mix I finished. So it has a little compression on the bass to tame any peaks (like -3db) and then some on the drums to just bring out detail and life, though I didn't compress the cymbals. The vocal has a little compression, too. Probably around the same as bass but with a faster compressor. So that's it. I was going for an "open" and natural type of sound. I'm not sure it's "glued" great because of that, but it sounds pretty natural to me. I'm not trying to be on the radio or anything...just enjoy making songs. Let me know if you think I need more compression or anything on topic now that you've heard a recent mix. Thanks! PS. I record and mix on headphones so it could be way off. :/

    Nice! I listened through that a few times. I got a real 70's british vibe from that drum set. Real raw and organic - but suited toward the song. I kind of like the way the toms are tuned. What is the drum signal chain? If I had recorded that I definitely would have compressed it more, but I would have handled the majority of the compression from the room mics. I can't tell if you have any set up. ...that would probably have been my go-to for getting them bigger without making them loose their organicness and choking them.

    I think the vocal needs a multi-band compression in the 250 - 400 range. The vocal gets a little heavy in the 800-1.3K range. I can't tell if that was an artistic choice or a monitoring discrepancy. They key is to get the attack and release parameters set correctly.

    If you wanted to add a little grime to get that old school record player / retro vibe, an EQ can do this, but I would also consider a lo-fi technique such as using a reel-to-reel plugin or a something like the Waves Oxide or Waves Vinyl. Both of those add compression as well. The key to making these work is to set proper gain staging on the particular plugin...as the simulated input/output buffer and transformer simulators are paramount in affecting the sound. You could also use a SoundToys Radiator and other retro-sim devices. If you have the Fab Filter library on hand, the Saturn has a nice tape sim algorithm included.

    I'd run an amp sim on that bass. I'd probably reach for an old fender, an then do something like this Amp Sim -> Neve 1083 (adding harmonics) -> Neve 1073 (mid range boost) -> 1176 Leveler -> Waves Maxx bass -> touch of room reverb set super fast with an emphasis on early reflections. And then blend this with a parallel direct signal something like DI -> Universal audio 610 -> Neve 33699 -> Tape sim ->

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    Thanks for all that, man! I agree the bass needs something to cut through the mix. There are flats on it, and I feel like the volume is right for the song, but I can't get it to cut through. I'll try adding harmonics. The bass is a Fender. I have the Waves CLA-2A on it and EQ. I tried boosting the EQ but it still didn't cut. Maybe harmonics is what it needs. I have the Waves 1073, so I can try that.
    The drum chain is just all overhead mics with a little compression (1176) on them, other than the cymbals. There are no close mics just overheads.
    I agree the vocal is a little muddy. I boosted slightly around 3k to try to fix that. I'll try an EQ cut in that range you mention. I've experimented with MB compression and honestly fear it. Any time I use it things begin to sound like crap very fast. So, maybe it's a me problem. I'd rather try cutting with some EQ. The vocal was through a 1930s mic so it might just have a weird EQ curve. You can hear there's a bit of an old radio vibe to that mic, and I think that's because the range is 50hz to only 5k or so.

    Thanks for all the suggestions - I can try those today.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nola View Post
    I agree the vocal is a little muddy. I boosted slightly around 3k to try to fix that.
    You know better, to cut before boosting. Try the cuts in what you don't need first, before adding in additional content. I did notice the vocal was rather muddy. On another note, I can absolutely see hard compression of room mics being a good thing for this mix.
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    Quote Originally Posted by andrushkiwt View Post
    You know better, to cut before boosting.
    Yeah, I did experiment with cutting, but it got thin so fast. I think it's that old mic (there's just not a lot of high frequency content, so I wanted to boost what is there).
    There's a HP filter at 125hz, so I figured that "cut" along with a small boost higher up would work. It must need a little more work taking out some body from it. Some of it could be build up of other instruments. I cut other ones in that 2-4k range where I boosted the vocal. I'll try to fine tune that vocal EQ. Thanks, man.

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