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Sound Engineering Tips
author pictureRobert Published: 3 months ago

Let’s talk a bit about Audio Compression. This process is used in every track or live performance to ensure that your track will be balanced by controlling the volume variations, ensuring that loud peaks are tamed and softer sections are brought forward. Simply said, you modulate the dynamic of a vocal track.

Vocal recording by its nature, contains a wide dynamic range that should be tamed to ensure a smooth flow of the vocal and a balanced sound. Before you start adding effects, clean the vocals using EQ and Compression

Your aim should be to achieve a professional sound vocal that will blend with the final mix.

 

What are the benefits of compression?

1. Control the Dynamics: Maintain consistent volume peaks by preventing them to stand up through the rest of the performance

2. Shape the tone of the vocal: Compression can subtly shape the tone of vocals by adding warmth or brightness, depending on the settings.

3. Enhance the vocal clarity: Compression ensures every word is intelligible and clear

4. Add emotion: Well applied compression can emphasize the performance, making it more engaging.

 

How to Apply Compression on Vocals

A compressor can look intimidating at first. It is made up of few controls: threshold, ratio, attack, release and gain

 

Threshold determines the level at which the compressor starts working. When the audio signal passes the level, the compressor starts to reduce the volume of the track.

Ratio sets the amount of compression applied to the vocals. Higher ratios means more aggressive compression (e.g. 4:1, 8:1) while lower ratios help to preserve more dynamics.

 

Attack & Release

 

Attack will adjust how quickly the compression happens. Use fast attack to preserve the transients and slow attack to smooth out the vocals.

-> Setting the attack time too fast may suck the life out of a performance or push an instrument back in the mix, making it sound farther away from the listener and leading to an unnatural or overly compressed sound.

-> A slower attack means the compressor responds more gradually to the signal, allowing some transients to pass through uncompressed before the gain reduction sets in. This can keep the natural dynamic of the vocals but might not control all peaks entirely.

 

Release knob refers to the time it takes for the compressor to stop reducing the gain after the input signal drops below the threshold set for compression. It’s essentially how quickly the compressor lets go or stops applying once the signal falls below the specified level. It keeps the natural flow and dynamics of the audio without abrupt changes.

-> Short release time means the compressor stops compressing more quickly after the signal drops below the threshold. This can result in a more aggressive or noticeable effect on the vocal, causing pumping or unnatural quality.

-> A longer release time means the compressor takes more time to stop compressing after the signal falls below the threshold. This can result in a smoother, more natural sound but might not control peaks or dynamics as effectively in fast-paced songs or vocals.

 

 

Gain refers to the increase in the overall level of the compressed signal after it has been reduced by the compressor. When a compressor reduces the dynamic range by attenuating the louder parts, it can result in the overall signal quieter. The make-up gain control allows you to boost the signal level back to match the desired level.

 

It is important to use your ears when you are mixing. Overdoing things can result in unwanted noise or distortion in your final mix. Pay attention to how compression affects the vocal performance and remember that every vocal track is unique. Experiment with different things to find the perfect balance for each performance.

Doing this, you’ll achieve consistency, clarity and brightness and you’ll stay on top with a professional vocal sound. 

 

References:

1. https://mastering.com/vocal-compression-how-to-compress-vocals/

2. https://www.izotope.com/en/learn/using-compression-to-help-vocals-sit-in-a-mix.html

3. https://musicmixpro.co.uk/vocal-compression-settings-how-to-compress-vocals-like-a-pro/

4. https://emastered.com/blog/vocal-compression

 

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