Compressors and EQ?

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Compressors and EQ?

Postby Makkon » 29 Jun 2011 14:52

Musically I feel capable, but on a technical scale I'm a complete noob.

I honestly fail at balancing and EQ, it's the most frustration I've ever had composing. But I know how important it is.
I hear that compressors are a simple solution to prevent audio clipping, but I don't know how to use them correctly. When I use one, it often flattens the song and makes everything sound about the same volume. I'm not sure if I'm doing this stuff right. Perhaps it's not wise to use a compressor in the master channel?

Any tips or feedback you could offer would be great!
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby Supersaw Hoover » 29 Jun 2011 19:35

Yeah uh...that's what compressors do. Flatten. You just have to find the compromise point between flattening and clipping. That said, I suck at using them, too, so perhaps I'm not the best pony to talk to about this ^^;
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby Whitetail » 29 Jun 2011 19:59

Basically compressors have 2 basic uses (of course they're useful for other things too though, like side-chaining, etc.):
-Limiting - these is the simplest use of the compressor, and goes for what you're looking for. It keeps the sound at a specific level, if it goes above it it'll reduce it to said level.
-Compression - for more technical things, this is basically just playing with the settings to get a different sonal effect. You have to know how a compressor works to really use this well.

Depending on your compressor it may have different options, but at it's most basic level it works like this:
You set a level on your compressor, whenever the input goes above that level, it reduces the level of the input - you can adjust exactly how it does this. For example, you can increase the attack so more of the sound comes through before it reduces it. EX 2, you can adjust how quickly it removes the "lowering" of the sound, so it returns to it's normal volume fairly quickly. There's really a lot of possibilities there, it's quite useful for getting drums to sound exactly how you want them, like emphasizing their attack or that sort of thing.

Really, putting a compressor as a limiter on the master channel is fairly lazy mixing, but honestly I and many other composers I know do it all the time. It can be helpful, just be sure to adjust the levels of the tracks individually to reduce the would be clipping as much as possible because if it's getting too loud anyways you'll begin to notice it in the sound due to various things like the sound "pumping" so to speak or it suddenly reducing the overall volume when a new layer comes in.
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby Makkon » 29 Jun 2011 20:07

Derpy Hooves: Wow, that was super helpful! Thank you!

So really putting it on the master channel isn't a bad thing, then? From the sounds of it though, it's probably better to use them on individual channels that might be prone to clipping the audio. My first experience with a compressor had that awful "pumping" effect, so I took it off. Luckily I've been meticulous enough about the mixer that I suppose it's not nearly as needed as it has been in past songs (my song Call of the Hero is an audio-clipping disaster).

So the best method sounds like watching the channels, use a compressor when you want better control of the sound, and use a very light compressor in the master channel to prevent serious audio clipping.
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby Chain_Algorithm » 29 Jun 2011 21:29

I think the hardest part for me is getting the sound of the complete mix right. I try not to amp each channel so much that it clips, and instead maximize to fit the spectrum if necessary. I personally like to use sounds with a very wide frequency range *but this* ends up creating an aura of toneless noise and the whole thing seems to have low quality. I have been using FL as a mastering program and it is working ok, but I tend to not be so good at bringing out crisp sounds. I guess need to re-evaluate what I do from the production standpoint and be careful of clashing instruments. Either that or find a mastering engineer.
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby penguindf12 » 30 Jun 2011 00:54

Chain_Algorithm wrote:I personally like to use sounds with a very wide frequency range which ends up to create an aura of toneless noise, making the whole thing seem to have low quality.


*shudder* You are my worst enemy :D

But seriously, thing's like Dan Deacon's Bromst & much modern pop music are downright unlistenable to me because of the very thing you describe - although to your credit, it seems to be for artistic lo-fi reasons, which is cool if you're into that :D

I think I'm actually pretty OK at mastering. I've had two year-long classes in it...

I usually use EQ and Compression for creative effect. I'll throw a light limiter/compressor on the master, just to keep clipping away. Then I'll put compressors & EQ on each track. Here's what I usually do:

SYNTHS
I use EQ to shape the sound A LOT. You can get totally new sounds just by cutting off the highs or lows, or increasing random bits. Compression after medium-ish reverb can result in some really excellent "punch" textures that remind me of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Vol. 1.

DRUMS
EQ and compression are GODS for this. I'll usually use EQ on snares, toms, and the bass drum to cut out ringing frequencies (by making a very thin Q, listening for the shitty zone, then cutting it to zero), then EQ the metals to remove annoying middle frequencies or boost the "shinyness" in the upper frequencies. Then I'll bus all the drums to one channel and apply compression - usually more "pumping" (high ratio, quick attack & release, middle-range threshold) settings for electropop, and more conservative settings for rock. This can really be cool.

VOCALS
I'll cut ALL frequencies below about 90 Hz, then amplify various bits to create different sounds. F'rsinstance, I'll increase the uppers for a J-Pop sound, cut the bottom and top for a Video Killed the Radio Star effect, or drop a bit of the middle if it's too brassy. Compression is key, basically to make sure the vocal line is at a normalized volume.

Etc etc
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby Makkon » 30 Jun 2011 01:02

Fantastic resource, penguindf12! Thank you! I think I've been going about EQ and compressors all wrong in the first place, I've just been thinking about them in terms of eliminating clipping, but I had no idea that they could be used to shape sound to such a degree.

I'll be referring to this thread, I want to implement all of this.
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby Spirit » 30 Jun 2011 01:37

i always split my drum racks into kicks snares and hats, then i add effects and EQs to each part of this group, so i can have an EQ that increases the lows on my kicks, giving them more "thump" while i can have EQs working on my Snares and hats, cutting off the lows and bringing out the "snap". also it means that i can have reverbs and ping pongs effecting each group in different amounts i like a decent amount of ping pong on my snares but i dont use any on drums.
then again, i also find that some of the sounds i make come from just trial and error of EQs, effects and envelope amounts. EXPERIMENTING FTW.
i really need to work on my mastering though, right now i just add a limiter/ compressor to my master track and sidechain my kicks to my lead synths. looking into frequency splitting right now so i can get more control over it all
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby Chain_Algorithm » 30 Jun 2011 09:56

penguindf12 wrote: *shudder* You are my worst enemy :D


oh nononono... i don't want that horrible staticy low quality sound, it's an unfortunate byproduct of my wide metallic synts. I want things to be as crisp and clean as possible. It's a real bitch to get the sound i want without over-saturating the frequencies into a wobbly, grainy, mess. I think i left out a ",but"
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby penguindf12 » 30 Jun 2011 10:14

Chain_Algorithm wrote:
penguindf12 wrote: *shudder* You are my worst enemy :D


oh nononono... i don't want that horrible staticy low quality sound, it's an unfortunate byproduct of my wide metallic synts. I want things to be as crisp and clean as possible. It's a real bitch to get the sound i want without over-saturating the frequencies into a wobbly, grainy, mess. I think i left out a ",but"


Ahhhhh. Yes, that is a big problem. I'm sure you probably know this, but I'll say it just in case: You can get rid of the mess by cutting out certain unneeded frequencies in quasi-specific places without affecting your tone too much, while allowing the mix some breathing room. A mid-Q cut in the mids or low-mids can work wonders. You do have to be kind of ruthless, which is tough, but ultimately rewarding. A synth may sound great solo'd but be awful in the mix, so you have to EQ while listening to its context in the mix. A good rule of thumb is to have "slots" in your EQs - for instance, if you have one synth that takes up the full frequency spectrum and one low bass synth, you should cut the lower frequencies of the first synth. This insures that there will be no masking in the lower frequencies. Basically things sound A LOT better if you cut "crowded" frequencies to avoid masking & waxy buildup. Usually the muddiest frequencies are low-mids - it's REALLY tempting to boost those too much, especially when mixing on headphones. But too much of them can really be physically exhausting for listeners.

You can even keep the rich sound of metallic synths - just cut a less essential frequency. It may -slightly- effect the tone, but the benefit to the overall mix will be great. If you hadn't cut it, that frequency wouldn't be audible anyway because of masking - you'd only really notice it listening to the instrument solo'd. You just have to experiment with it.

Every class I took in EQ told me to ALWAYS cut frequencies before boosting them. Pretty sage advice.

Also, it's really only possible to have about 5 or so TOTALLY equal instruments in a mix - perhaps a low one, a low mid, a mid, a hi-mid, and a high. Beyond this, you need to make creating decisions about which instrument is going to "stand out" in a particular frequency range, and which is going to act as "harmony". Again, it's tempting to make EVERY instrument "equal", but in the end this hurts the harmony of the mix. Think BRUTAL SOCIALISM and THE NEEDS OF THE MANY OUTWEIGH THE NEEDS OF THE FEW or something. 8-)

Ugh. You probably didn't need that, I typed too much. But there you (or anyone!) go...
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby ArtAttack » 30 Jun 2011 15:40

I mostly use compression on drums to, for lack of a better term, make them louder, and sometimes on bass when it gets too nuts.
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby General Mumble » 01 Jul 2011 09:29

I'm also pretty new to using compressors and EQ. So I don't have much to say about tips, although I can say, if I put a compressor on the master channel (which I pretty much always do now), I'll do it before any music is made. That way I don't create a decent sound and ruin it with a master compressor just because one sound is clipping.

It seems to work so far, lazy or not.

I'm definitely going to start using EQ a little more creatively now though, and even compression, too.
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby TheSunAndTheRainfall » 05 Jul 2011 17:06

Oh wow, this thread is incredibly helpful. Thanks to you guys I now understand a little more about EQing and how some frequencies can potentially ruin your mix. So that's why so many thing I do end up sounding cluttered and muddy...
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby Bagpipe Brony » 05 Jul 2011 17:23

Dear God this is so much information to take in at once, but thanks all the same. You synth guys have like a whole mess of things to use the EQ for lol, I wonder how long it takes to learn all that.
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby Xiper » 18 Jun 2012 09:04

Well compressors actually takes years of experience to master, or so my soundtech lecturer says at least.
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby Xiper » 18 Jun 2012 09:04

Well compressors actually takes years of experience to master, or so my soundtech lecturer says at least.
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby Xiper » 18 Jun 2012 09:17

Oh, and not sure if anypony said this before, but it's apparently dangerous to EQ more than 6db on anything. That could really ruin it.
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby bartekko » 18 Jun 2012 14:40

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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby Cherax » 26 Jun 2012 06:58

Xiper wrote:Well compressors actually takes years of experience to master, or so my soundtech lecturer says at least.

It's been a year. Are you a Compressor Master yet, Makkon?
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby Navron » 26 Jun 2012 15:12

Lulz, I was about to reply and then noticed bartekko's post.

For the benefit of some of the members here who may be giving this topic a first read:

The argument of using a compressor and/or limiter on the master track is still an ongoing one, but here's something I've learned about mastering in general:

- Mastering is nothing but subtle changes.

I personally use a compressor on my mastering chain. It helps eliminate some of those overly loud parts, while simultaneously bringing out more of my softer parts.

If other words, if used correctly, a compressor can help emphasize the dynamic contrast in your song. If used incorrectly, you'll end up with a song that has little to no dynamic contrast.

Look at a compressor as a way to subtly smooth out your track, and you'll probably have some good results.

Look at a compressor as a way to make your levels as even as possible in order to make your song as loud as possible, you're probably not going to have good results.
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby Versilaryan » 26 Jun 2012 15:25

Going off of what NavyBrony said, if you find you have peaks here and there that you want to smooth out, instead of compressing the master, you can easily just go into your track, figure out what's causing those peaks, and then smooth them out in the mixing stage. I think it was HMage that said that mastering exists only to fix mistakes made in the mixing stage, so perfect your mixes and you'll hardly need any mastering at all.
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby Raddons » 27 Jun 2012 22:37

While this thread is still here... :P

I am almost done with a project right now, and I compressed each drum before the mastering stage (to clarify, it's just a hi hat, bass, and snare). After I did that and got rid of the limiter, I exported as a .WAV and I mastered it in a new session. Is it necessary to compress the drums and then compress the whole track later in the mastering process? Or rather, is it a bad practice?
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Re: Compressors and EQ?

Postby CommandSpry » 28 Jun 2012 07:59

I just use the doctor
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