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Author Topic:  The Art of Compression
Rick Schacter


From:
Portland, Or.
Post Posted 18 Apr 2016 10:02 am     Reply with quote

For those who have a tough time understanding how and when to use compression (like me).

This seems like a bargain at $2.99:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Art-Compression-Thomas-Juth-ebook/dp/B01BIFXV88?ie=UTF8&keywords=the%20art%20of%20compression&qid=1461002494&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1
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Dale Rottacker


From:
Tacoma Washington, USA
Post Posted 19 Apr 2016 6:27 am     Reply with quote

I’m kinda with you on this Rick... hence why it’s rare that I use it...
I don’t use things I don’t understand, or at least don’t understand well.
If I do use it, I’ll usually use just the default settings on whatever
compressor plugin I use... the ONE thing I’ve always heard about
compression is to use it “Sparingly” Steel guitar is a “Dynamic” instrument,
and killing the dynamics of it, is NOT the goal... Laughing Laughing Laughing
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Rick Schacter


From:
Portland, Or.
Post Posted 19 Apr 2016 6:48 am     Reply with quote

Hi Dale,

Yep, like you, I've been using the presets when using compressors (if at all).
I haven't used a compressor on a steel guitar track though.

Mostly bass guitar, vocals and I recently learned how to use parallel compression for drums.
This book seems to be a pretty handy little reference to have. Smile
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Dale Rottacker


From:
Tacoma Washington, USA
Post Posted 19 Apr 2016 6:51 am     Reply with quote

And YouTube also has many, “Visual” examples on using Compression and about anything else you may want to use
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Dale Rottacker, Steelinatune

*2016 MSA Legend XL Signature 9x6
*1990 Jim Lindsey Special, Quad Original Bill Lawrence 705 PUP’s, 8x8 Gary Hogue Clone
*Black n Gray, Mullen D-10 8x7/ *Blue Sho-Bud Pro 3 Custom 8x6/ *Black Sho-Bud Pro 3 Custom 8x4
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post Posted 19 Apr 2016 9:59 am     Reply with quote

I don't profess to be an expert but I track with a compressor ahead of the DAW 100% of the time now. It's barely audible but I can see it doing it's thing in the meters.

I use a -15 threshold, 2:1 on the ratio and the half way points ( mid points) on the attack and release.

Starting points. I have found at least for me it begins to tame peaks from a V-Pedal..

I track with the compressor ON , meaning I print to the track. It has become my best friend while recording.

Starting points...I have found at least for me it begins to tame peaks . I use a dual channel DBX compressor on both outputs of a dual channel ART MPA-II preamp.

Then in the DAW I have several compressor patches I wrote which LIMIT, some mild, some severe...

experiment..turn the knobs, hear what they do ..

try it !
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Dale Rottacker


From:
Tacoma Washington, USA
Post Posted 19 Apr 2016 10:51 am     Reply with quote

Thanks Tony... those are things I’m gonna have to try.
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Dale Rottacker, Steelinatune

*2016 MSA Legend XL Signature 9x6
*1990 Jim Lindsey Special, Quad Original Bill Lawrence 705 PUP’s, 8x8 Gary Hogue Clone
*Black n Gray, Mullen D-10 8x7/ *Blue Sho-Bud Pro 3 Custom 8x6/ *Black Sho-Bud Pro 3 Custom 8x4
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Rick Schacter


From:
Portland, Or.
Post Posted 19 Apr 2016 12:25 pm     Reply with quote

Dale Rottacker wrote:
Thanks Tony... those are things I’m gonna have to try.


Ditto
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Rick Schacter


From:
Portland, Or.
Post Posted 19 Apr 2016 12:26 pm     Reply with quote

Dale Rottacker wrote:
And YouTube also has many, “Visual” examples on using Compression and about anything else you may want to use


True,
Be careful about whose advice you take on Youtube though. Oh Well
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post Posted 19 Apr 2016 1:36 pm     Reply with quote

There are many fine reads with regard to compressors, I had always OVER USED them until I read the Bobby Owsinkski Mastering book maybe a year or so back, I still keep it handy.

I literally wrote down ( as an exercise of memory) what the basic ingredients do then plugged the Steel into the DAW and played with the knobs while watching the meters and listening It's a fine balance between what adds value and an over compressed signal. I guess they call that taste !


I do record and print to the track but on top of that in Pro Tools I now Normalize in the RMS mode then use a Compressor /Limiter on the entire track. The Normalize brings up the low signal and kinda averages the entire signal, the Limiter controls the high peaks, but too much sounds squashy.

So of course, all in moderation. This is definitely a place where less is more.

But it is all based on the use of the compressors, on the front end and at the back end, at least for me.

Regarding advice , use your ears !

Compressors are for certain the easiest dynamic processor we can use incorrectly . I can attest to that first hand !

Smile

and..still learning...
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post Posted 19 Apr 2016 9:03 pm     Reply with quote

I have been tracking with an outboard compressor lately at home. I split the signal with a patch bay and print a lightly compressed track and a clean track. That way if I screw something up with the compressor I haven't lost the take. And likewise the compressor sometimes saves a take that has some errant peaks in it.

Compressors are tricky things but about as necessary and useful to recording as salt is to cooking.

Used well they have a very positive effect on dynamics. I'm slowly getting to know mine.
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Les Cargill


From:
Oklahoma City, Ok, USA
Post Posted 20 Apr 2016 9:54 am     Reply with quote

I'd track an uncompressed track just for safety's sake.
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post Posted 20 Apr 2016 10:42 am     Reply with quote

Bob Hoffnar wrote:
Compressors are tricky things but about as necessary and useful to recording as salt is to cooking.

Used well they have a very positive effect on dynamics.

Amen Very Happy
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Rick Schacter


From:
Portland, Or.
Post Posted 20 Apr 2016 12:45 pm     Reply with quote

Bob Hoffnar wrote:
I have been tracking with an outboard compressor lately at home. I split the signal with a patch bay and print a lightly compressed track and a clean track. That way if I screw something up with the compressor I haven't lost the take. And likewise the compressor sometimes saves a take that has some errant peaks in it.

Compressors are tricky things but about as necessary and useful to recording as salt is to cooking.

Used well they have a very positive effect on dynamics. I'm slowly getting to know mine.


I like this idea.
Thank you, Bob.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post Posted 20 Apr 2016 2:01 pm     Reply with quote

Les Cargill wrote:
I'd track an uncompressed track just for safety's sake.


Of course it's not a bad idea..but..theres always a but...

I know thats the modern day thinking but I have begun to ask myself...why ? If I play well and the sound of whats being recorded is to my liking then what is the purpose of the safety track ? The entire purpose of a mild compression ahead of the DAW on a track is to mellow the peaks while recording.

I'm a radical now, I set up what I want it to sound like and go , safety recordings are never my issue, it's always the playing on the main track Sad



PS..I didn't actually think of this by myself, over the last couple of years while doing demo's in studio's around this area the engineers fed me thru a nice outboard compressor ahead of the DAW.( no safety tracks) I also observed some Nashville studio cats doing the same thing..

I basically stole the process from them...

Be bold I say ! Exclamation Smile
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<b>Steel Guitar music here >>> http://www.tprior.com/five.htm</b>

Emmons Steels, Fender Telecasters
Pro Tools 8 and Pro Tools 12
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Rick Schacter


From:
Portland, Or.
Post Posted 21 Apr 2016 9:29 am     Reply with quote

Tony Prior wrote:


Of course it's not a bad idea..but..theres always a but...

I know thats the modern day thinking but I have begun to ask myself...why ? If I play well and the sound of whats being recorded is to my liking then what is the purpose of the safety track ? The entire purpose of a mild compression ahead of the DAW on a track is to mellow the peaks while recording.

I'm a radical now, I set up what I want it to sound like and go , safety recordings are never my issue, it's always the playing on the main track Sad



PS..I didn't actually think of this by myself, over the last couple of years while doing demo's in studio's around this area the engineers fed me thru a nice outboard compressor ahead of the DAW.( no safety tracks) I also observed some Nashville studio cats doing the same thing..

I basically stole the process from them...

Be bold I say ! Exclamation Smile


Tony,
You're braver than I am. Lol Smile
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mtulbert


From:
Plano, Texas 75023
Post Posted 21 Apr 2016 12:06 pm     Reply with quote

Tony

A seasoned pro like you would never need compression (which I would say is limiting). But I would hate to lose a really good performance from someone who on one phrase hit his pedal a little too hard and the track clipped.

Major compression...naaahhhh. Small amount can't hurt depending on the performer.

Mark
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Mark T


Rittenberry Prestige D10, Rittenberry Prestige SD10, Revelation Preamp,Revelation Octal Preamp,Lexicon PCM 92 Reverb, QSC Powered Monitors
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post Posted 21 Apr 2016 12:26 pm     Reply with quote

mtulbert wrote:
Tony

A seasoned pro like you would never need compression (which I would say is limiting). But I would hate to lose a really good performance from someone who on one phrase hit his pedal a little too hard and the track clipped.

Major compression...naaahhhh. Small amount can't hurt depending on the performer.

Mark


Well Mark thats a very nice thing to say and I can tell you this with certainty, I track 100% thru some mild compression now, every instrument. Like I said way at the top, it's probably negligible to the ear but you can see it on the meters, ever so slightly. Not Limiting, compression , a very mild squash, Limiters cut off the audio at the selected point.

I'm not sure I am in the category of seasoned PRO but I am seasoned at trying to make things better and improve...and I'll take all the help I can get ! Laughing

I also would never recommend to someone with zero or limited exposure with compressors to track with them ahead of the DAW or recorder, but I would say once you understand them and put them to use your recorded tracks will be that much more improved, sound wise . I can't speak to the playing as I have my own problems in that area ! Sad
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Emmons Steels, Fender Telecasters
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mtulbert


From:
Plano, Texas 75023
Post Posted 21 Apr 2016 4:02 pm     Reply with quote

I am wondering if we have different definitions of limiting. To me, limiting is just push the sound down when a certain threshold is hit. If I ran a 1000khz sine wave through the limiter and set the threshold at 0db for example, the limiter would not even kick in until the signal passed the 0db mark. The amound limiting is adjustable. For example 2 to 1 would mean that the limiter would try to get the sound back to 0db at that ratio.

Compression to me tries to get the entire signal to a specified point. For example the low amplitude is raised and the upper amplitude is pushed back. It is like squeezing a melon at both ends for lack of a better way to explain it.

The main thing to me no matter which method you go moderation is the key and as long as the dynamic range does not suffer why not?

Mark
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Mark T


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werner althaus


From:
lincoln, NE
Post Posted 21 Apr 2016 7:04 pm     Reply with quote

I see several issues here:
If you want to protect the track from clipping due to peaks you need a limiter (a compressor set to a high ratio , 20:1 or more) in front of the DAW, OR (the better option) you track at levels that give enough headroom to handle the occasional peak (-18 to -12 dBFS), there's almost no penalty for doing so if you set your recorder/ DAW to 24 bit recording.
This is a better option because most cheap outboard compressors/ limiters (as well as free/ cheap ITB limiters) sound bad in limiting mode, certainly not transparent, that would cost you real dollars both in front or within the box.
Setting your outboard comp to 2:1 or 4:1 with an average attack time will do nothing to protect your track because if the average level clips, the transients preceding it will already have caused distortion UNLESS your volume pedal technique is perfect and no picking spikes make it through. So if that's the case then a moderate amount of compression (low ratios) might do the trick but again, it's not necessary if you track conservatively.

If you want to even out the levels and make the performance more even with regards to level then a compressor is a good tool in front of the DAW as well as inside the DAW, just remember that once it's printed it can't be modified. I'd experiment ITB after recording to get a feel for it, then, after getting the concept, one can move to use an outboard device in front. Splitting the signal and recording with compressor and straight at the same time is also a fine idea.

Third: A compressor can be used to shape the tone and improve it a lot. It can add punch, sustain, musical distortion (ever heard of the distressor?) but it can also destroy the sound if the parameters are set incorrectly. This is the least understood part of the equation. Setting the attack and release times correctly to achieve a desired effect is something that takes some time to master and it's very instrument-and -player specific. Using presets is of little use here.

Gear selection is another one, certain comps are known for the sonic signature they impart on the signal. The classics are too expensive and buying one can be a daunting task but plenty of hard and software emulations are available. Some are better than others but the correct application of compression can really bring a recording to a higher level in terms of musicality and impact.
Hope this helps.
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werner althaus


From:
lincoln, NE
Post Posted 21 Apr 2016 7:22 pm     Reply with quote

mtulbert wrote:
I am wondering if we have different definitions of limiting. To me, limiting is just push the sound down when a certain threshold is hit. If I ran a 1000khz sine wave through the limiter and set the threshold at 0db for example, the limiter would not even kick in until the signal passed the 0db mark. The amound limiting is adjustable. For example 2 to 1 would mean that the limiter would try to get the sound back to 0db at that ratio.

Compression to me tries to get the entire signal to a specified point. For example the low amplitude is raised and the upper amplitude is pushed back. It is like squeezing a melon at both ends for lack of a better way to explain it.

The main thing to me no matter which method you go moderation is the key and as long as the dynamic range does not suffer why not?

Mark


2:1 is not limiting, it's compressing. your example describes brick-wall limiting where a set threshold practically defines the level ceiling, those are usually done with very high ratios. If you set your threshold to 0dB and use a 2:1 ratio the result will be that for every 2dB of level over the threshold at the input there will only be an increase of 1dB on the output. Again, that's not limiting, that's mild compression. The unit would not try to get the level down to 0dB.
Also if you set a threshold of say 4:1 you can , depending on the unit, set the knee so that the comp will actually start to compress the signal at a lower ratio below the threshold so the threshold is not necessarily the point at which the comp kicks in.
Regarding your description of compression, there's truth in that but it's a function of how and why we use compressors to begin with. The reason these devices exist (among other things) is to keep RF transmitters from going above 100% but pretty soon it was discovered that they can be used creatively as well. If I set a comp to 4:1 at -4dB it will not raise the lower signals automatically, that would be an AGC (automatic gain control) doing companding (compression and expanding) BUT if we contain the dynamic range at the top we can turn up the track safely and make it louder (using makeup gain, another parameter of comps) without risking it getting too loud since it's more contained dynamically. If we do that (everybody does) then we have also raised the low signal as you described.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post Posted 22 Apr 2016 1:50 am     Reply with quote

all of the above is excellent and accurate, but do remember,at the end of the day ,the final product, what it sounds like, is the goal. How we get there may be quite different for each of us. We use the tools we have and yes, quite true, some tools are better than others but still we use what we have to the best of our ability.

Regarding printing to a track, for me, it's a standard process. I have no intention of going back later once the track is recorded the best I can get it. I also have many tracks recorded with EQ printed. But you do need a reasonable preamp with parametric EQ to accomplish this. I just try my best to get things really CLOSE ahead of the DAW as you can still make changes POST tracking. You would be amazed at how close the music can be at the end mix by spending more time up front.


I also have a simple slogan here in my small studio that we live by...

"If we keep recording new takes, it probably wont get better, but it will be different"...

Then on top of all this is purpose...what exactly is the purpose of the recordings? Home fun, demo, net share, simple local CD ? All way different than a retail production.
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werner althaus


From:
lincoln, NE
Post Posted 22 Apr 2016 5:59 am     Reply with quote

Tony makes some great points (where is the like button?)
Committing to a sound early is a great way to work. I don't dispute that at all. I was merely trying to bring some clarity to the discussion regarding limiting, compression, etc. The beautiful thing about todays technology is that it allows the relatively inexperienced user to try things in a non-destructive way before moving to the next level of using the technology in a possibly destructive way but armed with the knowledge to get it right. I couldn't agree more about the idea that one should strive to print a sound as close to the final result as possible. It's just that the rationale for this approach has changed somewhat. In the old days you printed EQ and compression to get better signal-to-noise ( and because outboard compressors were limited in numbers)and the benefit was that you basically had a mix almost finished by merely balancing the faders. Those benefits still apply, nothing worse than spending more time mixing/ editing than tracking, but the signal to noise thing is no longer a concern (in theory, real life has a way of turning out differently but....)
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Scott Duckworth


From:
Etowah, TN Western Foothills of the Smokies
Post Posted 22 Apr 2016 7:15 am     Reply with quote

I usually run an overall effect on the mixing board at church called Ultramizer (Behringer's compressor / expander). Normally, it works really well. But, doing our spring drama with 12 earworn wireless mics, it was getting "confused" and making all the spoken parts and tracks sound terribly fuzzy, so I had to cut it off.

Sometimes stuff works, sometimes it don't...
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post Posted 22 Apr 2016 7:58 am     Reply with quote

I'm basically using a split signal to learn about compression. For a remote session I record a clean and compressed track then I listen to both and pick whatever sounds best and send it off.

I do have a pretty nice outboard compressor that is worth getting to know. A Neve 5043.
I was using the RNC really nice compressor before and that got me hearing what compression does.

If I ever feel like I actually understand compression on a barely functional level I'm going to look into eq. Right now if I have an eq issue while tracking it seems to be caused by mic placement. But that is a whole other thing.

I have enough problems trying to figure out what the attack/release and threshold knobs do !
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Last edited by Bob Hoffnar on 25 Apr 2016 10:18 am; edited 1 time in total
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Rick Schacter


From:
Portland, Or.
Post Posted 24 Apr 2016 3:38 pm     Reply with quote

This book mentions the different types of compressors such as vari-mu, j-fet, optical, etc.
and it discusses their different characteristics.

Just curious, for those of you who choose to use compression when recording pedal steel, which type of compressor do you choose and why?

Thanks,

Rick
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