How To Use An Audio Compressor - Breaking Down Components | Mike Wilson | Skillshare

How To Use An Audio Compressor - Breaking Down Components

Mike Wilson, Rapper/Producer/Engineer

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6 Lessons (23m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Lesson 1 - Ratio & Threshold

    • 3. Lesson 2 - Make Up Gain

    • 4. Lesson 3 - Attack

    • 5. Lesson 4 - Release

    • 6. Thank You


About This Class

How to use an audio compressor breaks down the components of a compressor. In this class, you will learn about the ratio, threshold, makeup gain, attack, and release I will discuss best practices to get the desired result. I'll be using the Red 3 Compressor from Focusrite in FL Studio 20. 


1. Intro : Hey, what's going on, guys is rapper, producer and engineer, the real mike wilson. So in this class we'll be talking about an audio compressor. So what is an audio compressor? No DO compressor is a plug-in which allows us to manipulate the dynamic range of an audio signal. When I say dynamic range, what I mean is the difference between the loudest and soft as parts of an audio signal. But why would we want to use a compressor to work with the dynamic range of your listener and someone's recorded a couple of instruments and some vocals that have wide dynamic ranges. So it's like feels really soft spots and then really, really loud S5 and any audio song or maybe podcast. And that's continuing the wild, whatever particular instruments or tracks are used on the song to go and have this really odd listening experience where something might sound close to 0 dB at issue all we downs like minus 24 db. It's not going to be really pleasing to the ear. It's as not going to be a well-mixed song. So using the compressor gives us the ability to control those dynamic ranges and literally make it easier listening experience for the listener. So in this class I'll be using the bread Dory compressor about focus, right? And I'll be using it inside of the dog FL Studio. So I'll be discussing the exact components and knobs that work with the compressor. And this is true for almost any compressor you use. These are the basic, you'll see on any compressor as well as compressors, not only that, our plug-ins or virtual instruments, or just virtue effects in general, but also the actual box, if you will, and the studio that you want to get a compressor and kind of plug it into your patch bay three and mixer and all that stuff. These would be the same as acknowledged that you would see on your compressor. So we'll be talking about the ratio and there I shall the makeup gain and the attack and release. So let's get started. 2. Lesson 1 - Ratio & Threshold: So less than when I'll be showing you how the ratio and threshold works. So the threshold tells the compressor exactly when to start working. Wow, the ratio tells the compressor how much it should work. And in other words, the threshold mindset, something like at minus 15 dB a can start actually compressing the song. But the ratio will say, for every two over the threshold, every two dB over threshold only returned back one dB. The ratio tells the compressor exactly how many dBs to return after the threshold has removed a certain amount. Now know that's not a number is and I'll Hadapt talking, you might be a little confusing. So let's go over to FL Studio now show exactly how that works. So before we look at the compressor, it's wanted to point out that I'm using a couple of drum sounds from spider language over lunch. He's an artist that I am currently collaborating with. And I took each track, I put them into their own channel than ideal buzz here with the red three compressor. So let's turn it off and just hear what their drum kit sounds like by itself. So that's what we have. We can hear some dynamics happening, especially with the kick snare and kind of the ads, which are, they're pretty much the makeup of the entire drum kit here. And we want to see what that sounds like now without changing anything that's done with the compressor as well inside out because I want you guys to hear what a compressor does these default settings at Dan do anything to them and then we're going to watch a ratio and the ISO. So if you're able to hear it, it's actually getting a little bit quieter. Not alive. There's just no compression economy ducking down by maybe minus 3db, it just, just a noticeable notch. And what we want to talk about in this lesson is the ratio of the threshold. And I can tell you now that, that dip in Notch has a lot to do with those two things. Note, I'd like to turn off the order release so that we can control our own release. So as, as they did in the intro, the ratio and there I showed have a co-dependent relationship. And that threshold tells the compressor went to start. And that's really important because if we go over here to minus 50 and we press play, the compressor is starting as soon as it goes past minus 50. So it's saying, well, we hit minus 51, so to speak. Start compressing. And then the ratio is saying how much the compression should work by. So we started at 1.5 to one, so that would be 1.5 decibels over the threshold of minus 50 will return one decimal. So if we go over here to tin and that would be ten decibels over the threshold of minus 50 would return one decibels. So let's listen to see what that sounds like. Now it's obviously very quiet to the point where I can talk over it and you're like here, no big difference but I'm just gonna sweep it's 11. Here's a slight difference. So by the time we got to 1.5 ratio to 1.5 to one ratio, a lot of the instruments came back while intend to one allow the instruments were kind of missing. And that's because the ratio is telling us how much to return. So it's really quieting the entire song. But then as we kind of say, okay, we're going to bring this back. We're not going to make it so, so aggressive. We're able to hear more of the music because we're not squashing it as much yet. Remember that a general compressors purpose is to make louder things quieter and quieter things louder. So it's kinda shapes out the song so that there's less dynamics. So now that I've mentioned that I'm going to set this to four to one. And I'm going to set this to about minus 20. And we're gonna give this a listen. And then I'm going to toggle in and out so you can hear the difference. I'm doing four to one because they are, this is a drum kit. So the dynamics are going to be a little bit more than a vocal, which might be more 221221. And incense of the vocal change for a performer may not be that exciting or that large. So I don't need to worry about a huge dynamics unless of course they argue is dynamics, but we're token vocals. There probably won't be, while a base or a drum kit. You're probably going to hear, wow, did dynamics because of the way a person might be playing. And so I wanted to be able to tame those by kinda bring it in those latter parts and quite apart, closer together. So let's see what this sounds like and we're going to toggle on and off and just so you hear the difference. So this is substantial difference between having the four to one ratio and a negative 20 threshold versus not having a compressor at all. I am definitely did change the dynamics of the track, but it also changed the fill on advanced energy away from it. So even know a guy, this sounds or the instruments of the drum kit closer together, it took away a lot of the energy that came from the value of the individual instruments. And the next lesson we're actually going to talk about how to bring that back with the makeup gain. 3. Lesson 2 - Make Up Gain: So in this lesson, I'm going to talk to you guys about the makeup gain or make-up gain is actually a very, very important component of the compressor. Because when we compress a song and we get to there, I showed as sorry number, we have the ratio going and it's not sending back the same amount of signal because we've removed a bunch of the signal that make up gain allows us to bring a little bit of that signal back, or a lot more of those had been back. It actually has a lot of options. So just as a note, if you studied sound engineer, you'll learn that we hear about three dB difference every time we are actually hearing a value. So you can imagine most of your devices are going up by a minimum of three dB. Most people can't hear a change in one or two D being. The reason why I'm mentioning that is just to give you a little bit of a note when you're using the makeup gain, you won't really hear a difference in the gain until you hit about three d b. And then you can start hearing that the song is actually going back up in value. So let's take a look at that. So now that we have a very quick and basic kind of compression thing going here, 401 ratio and a negative 20 threshold. We lost a little bit of energy on the compression. But I just want to show you guys what the makeup gain does. Now if you don't understand what gain is, gain and value are very similar, but they are not the same thing. A lot of audio engineers might be said about that, but for the sake of giving newer people are a better understanding. Vacuum is more like it's above unity, it's above the 0 and it's like adding more value. It's, it's making things louder. Gain is not making things louder. Again, the best way to be described is like having a force it right? And the more you turn the force it, the more water comes out. And naturally would gain is gain is telling the device how much of the signal you once a flow through your audio device. And this particular case, the compressors are really great because they have what we call Makeup Gain. That means that as we pull away kind of the dynamics of a song or a track way which have replaced those particular dynamics by using make-up gain. Instead of just turning the track up, we're able to kind of go to a separate false to the full civic goes after the compressor. So there's like the faucet for the mixer or for the track that kind of gives you the signal and general dinners to compressor right in the middle. But the compressor has another faucet that says, okay, we can give you a little bit more if you want a little more. And that's how the make up gain works. So let's give this a listen. I'm going to toggle on and off. And then I'm going to use them makeup gain when it's all in to try to get devaluing to match the same level when it's off, but keeping the same compression dynamics that we were able to achieve through compression. So yeah, we basically got the same level of valued. But let's listen again and I want you guys to notice the difference between the compressed when this is all in, in, in screen version of the song versus the uncompressed version of this song. So if you listen carefully, you'll notice that there is a bit of a difference in sonic value of the compressed version of the drum kit versus the uncompressed version. The uncompressed version is a lot more open and kind of just goes while the compressed version just seems a little bit more choppy and it's hits. And that's what we call transients. The way, way would to envelope or create the kind of sustain and attack and release of a particular instrument. But the makeup gain gives us the ability to bring back all of the energy from the uncompressed version of the track, but with the compression so that it matches the same level value and integrate tool. You definitely want to be mindful of that when you're using a compressor. 4. Lesson 3 - Attack: So in this lesson we'll be talking about the attack. Now why would the threshold tells us at what DB, the compression to start happening? The attack tells us how quickly it just start happening once this reach that particular dB. Again, if it's minus 15 dB where you tell the compressor you want to start working. If you have the attack at a later time is going to take a while for the attack to actually start kicking in. So this is really important because there's something called transients in music. And you can think of drums specifically assemble. You hit dissemble when he kinda rings out, has a bit of noise to it that's very natural to the instrument. And using a compressor, you are able to either kinda close that in or you can actually kind of opening up a bit and that's very dependent on the attack and release. But in this particular lesson, we're gonna talk about the attack and just how quickly or how slowly we can get a signal to start being compressed and based off the attack alone. So now that we have it at a comparable volume, that would be, it would be given some gain back to the drum kit. And we have a starting for our ratio and threshold. Let us see what we can do with the attack, and let's see how that changes the song. So just like the last lesson, I'm going to toggle on and off and I'm going to sweep the attack from fast to slow, kind of a quick recap. That threshold says, when it's going to start, the ratio says how much decibels are going to be returned to the actual song wants the decibels had been taken away from the song. That Makeup Gain says that we're going to give it more gain so that it can sound louder, so that we can give it more volumes so to speak. And then the attack says, well, we're going to decide how quickly all of this happens. So let's give this a listen again. So you notice that when the attack was on fast, it was really kind of cutting off all the dynamics of the drum kit entirely. It was telling the drum kit that it wanted to kind of really just like grab from the instrument and really kind of bring it down. Then that's because compression is working at a faster pace and that's what the attack does when it was an MOU is kind of a moderate thing. That was the way we're hearing it and this lesson and the lessons previously. So you can hear an interesting kind of control of transients. Allow the fast attack kind of ate up all the transients entirely. And then when we went slow, you could seal here the compression work in pretty well. But it wasn't really, you might say, completely taming the different transients or the envelope of the actual instrument that was kind of just like it was taking his time to kind of work. And if you, again, let's listen back to slow just to kinda really hear that difference. So the impression is working when it's on slow. But it's just not doing anything. Very interesting. It just feels like it's kinda ducking down, yeah, instruments a little bit. But that's the great thing about compression because we can look at as something that just makes louder veins quieter and quieter things louder. But it also allows us again to shape the envelope of the actual issue, hits of the different instruments. So when the signal comes in, if it's set to somewhere in the middle, we're able to kind of see where the instrument trails off or if it doesn't trail off. And that's why we got a little bit more of a poppy sound when there was more in the middle, because it was pretty much cutting off the ending a portion of the snare and the kick a bit. So let's listen to that again. So that's the attack for you. You guys want to be really mindful that when you're using the Etag, something a lot of us do when we first started off is we use fast for everything and I was doing up until recent point actually. And one of the issues with that is that you, as I'm talking about dynamics, you really do slightly dynamics out of your instrument, of your vocals. Take your time and really hear the difference. Try to really listen for the difference. Compression can be difficult to hear at first, because what we're listening to is not necessarily if the entire thing got quieter, what we're listening to as each signal, each word, each hit of whatever instrument it's happening, whether or not it's being morphed. And by the compressor, whether we can hear the tail end of a sound better or if it's being cut off, or if it's being quieted, that's what you wanted to pay. It's Institute, the feeling and the energy of every signal that's going through the compressor notches if it's louder or quieter. But how it fails in if you're either improving the energy or if you're doing harm by, by pulling some dynamics away from the energy. 5. Lesson 4 - Release: So in this lesson we'll be talking about the release. So while the attack is how quickly the compression begins and kind of happens and how long that lasts for the release is how long it takes for the compression of the stop working. So again, the attack is like, okay, when do we want the star and then it releases, when do we want it to end? I just gives us a lot of different opportunities in compression. So let's take a look at that. So much like the attack, let's listen to the actual song and then kinda toggle on and off and sweep through the release. We go down into the left. We get a faster release and we go over to the right, we get a slower release. So let's see what that sounds like. Okay. So yeah, we can see that when we go to the left that the the compression, the compression is stopping too soon, it's releasing too soon, right? So the attack is telling the compression, hey, we want to start here and then release the same will last for this long will as 0.10 seconds. So we'll ask as much as four seconds in regards to this compression compressor. So what we want to do is find the sweet spots, find the spot that is allowing the compressed shared compressor to work. But at the same time is not completely squashing the song and an unnatural kind of filtering kind of way. So let's listen again and let's just pick a place and kinda go from there. I like it just around 1 second. I feel like it's giving you enough time to work, but it's not completely squashing the entire drum kit. And that's the thing about the release. You want to remember that you're controlling. You know, it's all about dynamics, but it's also all about transients. You're controlling how quickly this sound kind of comes in or goes out, at least what to release, how much, how quickly it ends or how slowly it ends with the compressor. And with short sounding kind of instruments like a drum kit or guitar or bass, you wanted to make sure you're giving the sound a chance to come through with some kind of transient, so kind of field and vibe. And then you can start to bring it back based on how long you want the release to those. So, you know, do you want the attack to give it some time to bring in that strength and that power that the instrument naturally brings to the song. And then you want to release to kind of, you want to give it some time to tame it, but not just squash it down. 6. Thank You: So I really appreciate you guys taking the time to check out this class. I really hope you learned a little bit about compression really helped the different components that make sense to you. Again, you don't have to have the red three compressor from focus, right? This is standard compressor are kind of like knobs and components and it's pretty universal almost in any compressor you ever use. I will note that some compressors have something called a knee and just to kind of give you guys a little heads up on it, the knee is just how aggressive you might say the compressor might be. Definitely check it out if you're as does have a need to listen for how smooth compression is versus how aggressive compression is if you use the knee. And again, I just really appreciate you guys taking on this class. There's a couple other courses if you guys want checkout, more about music theory or just FL Studio type of stuff. There's different things there including how to sample. So I'll see you guys in next class.