Music Production: Learn the Compressor Effect | Mikael Baggström | Skillshare

Music Production: Learn the Compressor Effect

Mikael Baggström, Music Composer | Sound Designer | Video Producer

Music Production: Learn the Compressor Effect

Mikael Baggström, Music Composer | Sound Designer | Video Producer

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12 Lessons (34m)
    • 1. Welcome

    • 2. What, How, Why?

    • 3. The Digital Audio Scale

    • 4. Audio Clipping

    • 5. Dynamic Range

    • 6. Average Loudness Level

    • 7. How Compression Works

    • 8. Live Demo: Compressing a Single Channel

    • 9. Live Demo: Compressing a Group Channel

    • 10. Live Demo: Compressing the Full Mix

    • 11. Mike's Bonus Tips

    • 12. Final Video

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About This Class

Are you interested in Music Production?

Do you want to enhance the quality of your music, and get louder and more balanced mixes?

In this creative, inspiring and compact class I will show you how to use the Compressor Effect in your music productions, which will take the quality of your music to the next level.

You will learn: The What, Why, When and How on using Dynamic Range Compression in Music.

What you will get in this Course:

  • THE FUNDAMENTALS - Learn the Theory of Dynamic Range Compression
  • LIVE EXAMPLES - Watch Live Demonstrations of Practical Applications
  • ADVANCED TIPS - I will give you bonus tips from my personal experience

My name is Mikael Baggström, but you can call me Mike from Sweden. I am a professional Music Composer and Audio Producer with a true passion to Teach, Share and Inspire as many people as I can.

I have over 15 years of experience in Music and Audio Production, and I have tried to condense my knowledge and experience of using Dynamic Range Compression in Music Production so that you can get results without reading boring books and articles.

I am looking forward to seeing you in the class!

Your Friendly Instructor,
Mike from Sweden

Meet Your Teacher

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Mikael Baggström

Music Composer | Sound Designer | Video Producer


Hey Friends and Creative People!

My name is Mike, and I am a Music Composer, Sound Designer and Artist. I Share my Story, Journey, Experience and Knowledge, to Inspire and Empower Creative People like you. =)


I believe that learning should be fun. I love to bring my personality into my teaching style. I also try to make my courses dynamic, to be more interesting to you. =)

You are more than welcome to visit my website to learn more about who I am.

Friendly regards,
Mike from Sweden
Founder of

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1. Welcome: Hey, friends, I really want to welcome you to this course where you will learn how to use a compressor in various ways in your music productions so that you can take your music to the next level. You will learn how a compressor works, when and how you can use it, as well as get various real live examples of using compression in a music production. My name is Mike, and I am a music audio and video producer from Sweden. I have worked with music and audio production since around 1998 and round my own media production business since 2000 and four. Now I want to share with you some of the experience and knowledge I have gained during all these years. Why? Because I have a true passion to teach, share and inspire as many people as I can. I believe in education and sharing off knowledge, and I truly believe in you all. Let me show you an example of what you will be able to do after taking this course. All right, you have already taken the first step by watching this video. Now you just need to click the button to enroll in the course. Let's get started 2. What, How, Why?: Now let me introduce you to the concept, definition and purpose over compressor. A dynamic range compressor more commonly known as simply a compressor is, in my opinion, the single most important effect unit in music production. Compressors have been used on practically every record for several decades. Compressors are also used extensively on TV, movies, radio, etcetera, especially for dialogue and voice overs. So what is a compressor? Exactly? A compressor is an effect unit that reduces or compresses an audience signals level when it goes above a certain threshold that you have set. The end result is less difference between the louder parts and the soft reports often audio track. This is the same as less dynamic range, which also gives it its name dynamic range compressor. So why do you use a compressor? The main purpose of using a compressor is to reduce the level differences often order track . By doing so, you can increase the average loudness level of the track. Afterwards, let me give you a couple of examples off common use cases for compression Use Case number one is to use a compressor on a single audio track. You can, for example, use compression on the main vocal track to be able to bring out every word clearly on top of the mix. This is great for singing, rapping, reading or any other voiceover applications. Of course, you can also use compression on other single tracks, like the bass track or lead instrument. Track Use Case number two is to use compression on a group channel. If you, for example, send the individual drum tracks to an audio bus or group channel, you can apply compression to the whole Drum Group. This will make it more cohesive and full re sound on the drums as a whole. Use case number three is to add compression as a most ring to by adding a compressor on the master bus. This will increase the average loudness level off the full song. Now you know the definition of a dynamic range compressor, the main purpose of using compression and the most common applications for it. Awesome. Let's continue in the next lesson. My friends 3. The Digital Audio Scale: first, you need to learn about a couple of concepts in order to really understand how, what and why a compressor is used. And don't worry, these concepts are actually easy to understand when you get the full picture. Okay, so the first concept I want you to learn is the digital audio scale. So what do you need to know here is that the audio level in the digital domain is measured differently than riel physical audio level. When you measure how loud sounds are in the real world, you use a disability meter which looks like this. The average volume of speech is around 60. Sizable traffic noise is around 80 decibel and so on. The louder the sound, the higher the decibel number is, there is no actual limit to how loud sound can be in the physical real world. Here comes the important point you need to learn in digital form. You need another way to measure the loudness level of audio. That scale has a range, which means it also has a limit. The ceiling is the absolute loudness level, or you can be in digital form and these peak level is called C zero decibel. The scale goes from Ciro at a top to negative values below. So remember this. The digital audio scale is measured in negative values and peaks at minus zero decibel. Nothing goes above that. Think of the digital audience scale as a glass of water and the audio level as the amount of water you currently have in the glass. No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to have more water in the glass than it can hold. All right, Now that you know how the digital audio scale works, let's continue to the next lesson, my friends. 4. Audio Clipping: okay, This brings us to concept to order your clipping. Kaiping is often also called digital distortion. Considered what happened when I tried to pour more water into an already full glass, it ran over the edges and created a mess. It's the same with the audio level in the digital domain. If you try to push the level of audio too high, it will Onley clip the wave form and create a mess just like the water gloss and allergy clipped audio sounds really bad and should always and I mean always be avoided. All right, now we already to move onto the next lesson, my friends. 5. Dynamic Range: The next concept I want you to know about is called Dynamic Range. Think of this as the average variations in loudness level in your audio. Let's consider a real world example. If you whisper a word, it might be measured to, let's say, 20 decibel. Let's say you then shout the same word at 100 decibel. That difference is a dynamic range off 80 decibel. This is, of course, an extreme example, but you should learn the point. That dynamic range is very important to our perception of sound. More dynamic range means more room for expression and impact. An explosion, for example, sounds much bigger and louder after silence than after another explosion. This is one reason that you in movies will experience a very big dynamic range. Now, this is very important for you to learn. If you want a higher average loudness level, it comes at the impact off less dynamic range. On the opposite is also true. If you want more dynamic range, the track will have a list average loudness level. You have to decide what is best for your music. So what is average loudness? Little then? Well, I will tell you about that in the next lesson. My friends 6. Average Loudness Level: all right. Now we have come to the final concept. I want you to learn average loudness level. The recently standardized way of measuring average loudness level is in a unit called Bluffs or L U F s, which stands for lower on its units relative to full scale. In music. The average loudness level is very different, depending on the younger. But in general it has become higher and higher since around the early nineties. The reason for this is often called the loudness war. It is driven by the fact that human hearing is different than a peak volume decibel meter. Our ears pick up on what's cooled, the average love nous level. It means that we respond to the average, some pressure level over time, and if you decrease dynamic range, you will increase the average loudness level. And since we have an absolute peak value in the digital audience scale, the on leeway to sound louder than the track played previously on radio, for example, is to compress the dynamic range. Great work, my friends, you are now ready to move on to the next lesson. 7. How Compression Works: Hey, friends. So how does audio compression work exactly? Well, let me show you, and I will try to explain as simple as I can. Here I have a drone. Ah, the digital audio scale with a peek at minus zero decibel and the lowered ghost. The more than negative values are here, and I have also marked with a red line the absolute peak value. No audio goes above this. This is where audio is clipped in the digital audio scale, which is zero visible. All right, so let's say we drew away form here and let's do this simple version that it goes like this . It's thought slow go ups to like minds to 10 decibels go down to my knees. 30 was up again It's the ceiling here goes down that and Oh, right, so that's a very simplified version off an audio of a way for him. And now let's add compression on this audio here. So the first thing you do is set the threshold level. This is where the compression will start working. So let me draw a line here and put threshold on minus 20 decibel. This means that for every piece of audio here above minus 20 decibel. The compression will be applied. And as soon as the audio goes below this threshold, the compression compressor will do nothing. So basically, the compressor will compress the peaks that goes above this threshold that you set on your compressor unit, which was set at minus 20 decibel. Here, next is the ratio and the ratio is how much the compressor will compress these peaks. So if you set the compressor at 2 to 1, it means that it will basically compress the top value here to be half off the distance from minus 20 to minus 10. So basically, this will be peaking at minus 15 decibel and ah, then you have the attack and release. Those are a bit more complicated by, but basically the attack is how fast the compressor will start working. It's compression. Ah, after the audio has gone above this threshold level. So if you if you said a slower attack, the compressor will let these start off the audio, go through without compressing it. Um, let's say you said at 50 milliseconds, for example, then from this moment and 50 milliseconds offer from here, the compressor will start working and the release is the opposite. But at the end. So how soon after the body has past below the threshold level this blue line here will the compressors stop compressing the audio? All right, now let me show you visually what happens to the audio waveform. After you have applied compression, I will drew a yellow line to show how the Audie away form we look like after the compression have being applied below the threshold level. It will be exactly the same as it reaches minus 20 decibel. The attack time comes into play. So if we have, for example, 50 milliseconds off attack time, the compressor will do nothing for 50 milliseconds. Let's say that's here. After 50 milliseconds, the 2 to 1 ratio of compression will be applied. Which means that this peak here will be lower and will be minus 15 and then go down. Sorry, control here and then offer. It has gone below threshold. The release time comes into play. Let's say we have Avery Force released time. So it follows just along here the same here again, a bit off attack time. Then it will look something like this and I say it will look like that. Now here comes the important port. As you can see here now, the peak values are no longer at the top off the digital scale, which means that you have decreased the dynamic range from which is the difference between the lower parts and the loud reports off the audio and these means that you can now, after the compression, have bean applied increase by gaining the volume level so that these peaks are once again closer or at the top of the digital orders scale, which means that the average loudness level will be higher for this track off the worst. To make this a bit more clear for you. Let me just pull up the yellow line now. So the audio is peaking once again at the top of the digital scale. But as you can see now, the average volume of this yellow line, which was off their compression have been applied is higher than the white line, which was before the compression Awesome. Now you know how compression works. In theory, at least let's put this knowledge to practice, and I will show you a couple of real live examples of using compression in a music production 8. Live Demo: Compressing a Single Channel: Hey, friends. In this example, I will show you how to apply compression to a single track in your music production. Specifically, I am going to ply a compressor to this electric bass track here. But first, let's listen to the eight bore beat I have made. Okay, so now let's add a compressor on this electric bass track. The process is different, depending on the music production software use, but basically you are going to look for an insert effect in loaded pro X, which I use. It's over here in the Inspector and I will add a plug in, and here we have the compressor plugging. All right, so then for the sittings off the compressor. So what I would like to do is to bring out the plaque off the strings for the bass guitar. And I can do this by adding a beat off attack time to let the plucky get through and then compress the sustaining part of the sound. All right, so, to be honest, I have actually started by applying a preset for an electric bass guitar, and I actually strongly advise you to go through the presets that comes with your compressor because most often the priests are actually really great for what you're officer . So if you are looking for a voice compressor presets, you can go through those here for guitars, keyboards, drums, etcetera. But I have started with a present for electric bass, and I can see right away that the settings actually suit the kind of sound I am after. All right, so let's go through these settings. The threshold is set at almost minus 30 decibel, which is quite low, so the compressor will have much audio to work with. The ratio is at a well, a medium setting at almost 3 to 1. The attack this is important part is set at around 60 milliseconds and the release on about 300 milliseconds. So by having the attack at well, in this case 59 milliseconds, the plaque on the bass guitar will not be compressed. All of the sustaining port of the sound will be compressed, which means that you will increase the clicky pluckiness off the sounds. And this will make the electric bass to be heard in the track over all other instruments. Okay, so those were the settings old at least the most important settings. Now. Another thing to notice is this thing in the middle here, which is called the Gain Reduction Meter. Most compressors have a way to visually see how much in decibel the audio level is reduced after the compressor have compressed the audio level above the threshold. Now let's listen to how these electric bass track sounds. With the compression applied, I will play back the track without the compressor on and enduring the playback. I will turn on the compressors, so listen closely. What happens to the sound if you are listening to a pair of good headphones? I'm sure you heard a big difference here. The compressor brings out the attack off the strings and the pluck off the bass guitar much more after it has been applied than before. Awesome. Now let's move on to the next lesson. My friends 9. Live Demo: Compressing a Group Channel: all right. In this live example, I will put a compressor on a group track instead of a single track. A group track, also called an audio bus, is basically a bunch off single tracks stacked together and treated as a group. The most common example of this is a drum kit. So I have sold the drum kit a use which is a rock acoustic drum kit, and I have added a compressor. Let's start it up here. And I have actually used a preset cool type you tied kit. I really like the settings off these presets and how the sound turned out. But of course, you can check out what drum presets there are for your compressor and find one to work with . And most often you only need to adjust the settings slightly. Okay, so I have now. So load the drum kit and I have added this compressor and this precept. And now let's listen to how it sounds Without the compressor and with a compressor applied , I will first start the playback without the compressor on and then turn it on during the playback. So listen carefully for what The compressor dust to the sound of the drums. All right, so that is using compression on a group channel in the next. Listen, we are going to use a compressor on the master bus, so I'll see you in the next video, my friends. 10. Live Demo: Compressing the Full Mix: Hey, friends. In this live example, I will show you how to apply compression on the master bus. The master bus is essentially where all your tracks in your project or summed together. So basically it should be considered to belong to the mosque during stage of your music production. All right, let's get right into it. First, open up your mixer so that he can add a compressor plug in on the monster out. It's often also called stereo out, but basically it is the master bus where all your individual tracks or some together. So I have already added a compressor as an insert effect on this monster Boss channel. Ah, let's open it up. Remember, these compressor will affect the entire song, so you would have to be careful with the settings and not compress it too much because the track will sound squashed and lifeless. But in this example, I'm going to add quite a lot of compression just so you can hear the major differences does all right. I have actually already chosen a preset ear called platinum and low tape, and I will do as in the previous live examples, which is playback. The track without the compressor turned on. And then during the playback, I will turn on the compressor and you will hear a major difference in the sound. So listen now. Okay. So I want to make this even more clear for you and ah, I will do this by showing visually what happens to the average loudness level off the complete track when the compressor is applied. To do this, I will use what's called a loudness meter. And this is a plug in that comes with logic Pro X, and basically we will look at the value here which is called Integrated. This is in the scale that is called loves, which I told you about earlier in the course, and it measures the average loudness level and integrated means that it measures over a complete program. So for these entire eight bore beat, it will measure the average loudness level. All right, so what I will do is play back this entire beat without the compressor applied and ah, measure the integrated average loudness level on this loves loudness meter. So keep an eye on the number that will come up here on the integrated value, so as you can see here now. The integrated average loudness level was minus 14.4 decibel. And now, as I turn on the compressor and start measuring again, this value will increase because the dynamic range is compressed, which means that the average loudness level will increase. So as he can see after I have applied the compressor on the most of us, the average integrated loudness level went up to minus 11.2 decibel, which was in fact, around three decibel increase in the average loudness level. So now you have seen and heard the effect of using compression on the master bus. Wonderful. Let's continue to the next lesson, my friends. 11. Mike's Bonus Tips: all right now, I will share some bonus tips from my own personal workflow when it comes to using compression in my music productions. If and how you choose to use my advice is totally up to you, but I hope that I can inspire you and give you some nice ideas for your own music productions. All right, so tip number one I don't use compression on any tracks when I compose and arrange my music ir compression in the mixing and mastering stages. That way I can compose my music with a more open and dynamic sound, which is also easier for the ears. Tip number two. The more tracks effect, the less compression I tend to apply, so generally individual tracks can use the most compression group. Tracks can use less compression, and the master bus on Lee gets light compression. Tip number three. The amount of compression also relies heavily on what kind of audio track I put it on for vocals and strings. I most often used very light compression to keep the sound natural and organic for drums, percussion and bass. However, I usually add heavy compression to make them sound fuller and palms here. Tip number four on the master bus compressor. I don't want more than 2 to 3 decibel off gained reduction because I mostly wanted for the analog sound it makes. And I don't want to squash to the mix. If I want to increase the overall volume of the track, I rather used a maximize er plug in. All right, Now you have some insights into my own personal workflow. So how are you going to use compression in your music? The next video is the final one for this course. So let's dive right into it to get to 100%. I'm waiting for you in the final video, my friends. 12. Final Video: Hey, friends, I truly want to congratulate you for completing the entire course. Now we have learned the foundations of using compression in music production so that you can take your music even higher in production quality. So what's the next step for? You know, since you have this new knowledge fresh in your memory, I advise you to take some time to get to learn the compressor effect within your music production software. Add a compressor two different tracks such as individual tracks, group shells s well as the monster bus. Try out different presets in your compressor and, most importantly, released and carefully to how the compressor effects the sound. All right. If you would like to learn more about music production, composing, song writing and basically everything within music and audio, I would like to invite you to go to my website peak 11 dot com and sign up to my V i p email list, which is completely free. So what sin is for you then? Well, you will get early access and free tickets to new courses. You will get my latest updates use as well as bonus V I p content, and you will also get to follow my journey as a professional music composer, producer and artist. I hope this will inspire and motivate you to follow your dreams and reach your goals. The only thing you need to do is to go to my website, leave your email address and click the sign up bottom. I really hope to see you in my via email list. Once again. Congratulations. And until next time, take care and keep on making also music, my friends.