Music production

6 ways to use compression in music production

Image Credit: Peter Palmer

Using a compressor will help correct errors in your mix. Learn more with our top 6 tips for using squeeze as a producer.

A compressor is one of the main tools available to music producers for solving dynamic problems in a mix. It narrows the dynamic range of the affected sound – limiting the volume of a note and reducing the difference between the loudest and softest note on the track.

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

Evening the levels of a track

Erratic sound performance will have unwanted dynamic variation and strong peaks will come out – some recorded passages are too loud, others are too quiet. As you produce, you can resolve this problem during the mixing or monitoring (recording) phase.

Changing the dynamic range of a sound

A compressor allows you to change the difference between the softest and loudest sound of an instrument. You can improve a track’s place in the mix by making sounds more consistent.

Bring out the sonority of a sound or instrument

Compressors refine the detail of the track and give it more energy, reinforcing individual instruments and sounds. You can to create dynamic using a compressor, and the tracks will be better cut in the mix.

To “glue” 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 crackle of a drumstick hitting the edge of a snare drum or an opening 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 increase its overall level, to give it a punchy or smooth quality.

You don’t have to use a compressor just because you think you should. Pack samples, for example, are often already heavily processed. As a rule of thumb, only compress a sound if you hear dynamic issues. Do you have a favorite compressor that you like to use in production? Let us know in the comments!

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