6 ways to use compression in music production

Image Credit: Peter Palmer

Using a compressor will help fix mistakes in your mix. Learn more with our top 6 tips for using compression as a producer.

A compressor is one of the major tools available to music producers for fixing dynamic issues in a mix. It narrows the dynamic range of the sound being affected – limiting how loud a note can get and reducing the difference between the loudest and softest note in the track.

Compressors are used for many different purposes by music producers, beginner and professional. Curious to learn more? We’ve highlighted six of the most common ways to use compression below.

Evening out the levels of a track

An erratic sound performance will have unwanted dynamic variation, and loud peaks will stick out – some recorded passages are too loud, others are too quiet. As you produce you can fix this during either the mixing or tracking (recording) stage.

Changing the dynamic range of a sound

A compressor enables you to alter the difference between the softest and loudest sound of an instrument. You can make a track sit better in the mix by making the sounds more consistent.

Bringing out the tone of a sound or instrument

Compressors sharpen the details of the track, and give it more energy, by boosting individual instruments and sounds. You can create dynamics using a compressor, and tracks will cut better through the mix.

For ‘glueing’ instruments together

Use compression to shape multiple instruments collectively, for a unified result.

To control transients

Transients are the initial attack of an instrument, like the crack of a drumstick hitting the rim of a snare or a pick hitting a guitar string. They can create digital distortion during recording. Instruments that have a very fast initial signal, or attack, can easily overload the recorder. Use a compressor to control this.

During mastering, to raise the overall level of the music

Once a song is mixed, you can use a compressor to raise its whole overall level, to give it a punchy or smooth quality.

You don’t have to use a compressor simply because you think you should. Samples from packs for example are often heavily processed already. As a rule, only compress a sound if you can hear dynamic problems. Got a favourite compressor that you love to use when producing? Let us know in the comments!

I write about music for RouteNote, sharing fun stuff, news, and tips and tricks for musicians and producers. Also a saxophonist and hater of marmalade.

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