Up and Running with Ableton Live 9
Illustration by John Hersey

Adding a compressor


From:

Up and Running with Ableton Live 9

with Yeuda Ben-Atar

Video: Adding a compressor

Modern music is heavily compressed, which means the levels are being push to the max because after all, louder sounds better. Compressors are very important to achieve a perceived louder signal and to glue the different elements of the song together. For example, if you have a vocalist that in the verse is whispering and in the chorus is shouting, using a compressor can make those two segments of the song the same volume. The compressor will compress the dynamic range of the audio signal.

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Watch the Online Video Course Up and Running with Ableton Live 9
2h 11m Beginner Mar 05, 2013

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Discover how to get started creating and recording music with Ableton Live 9 in just two hours. Author and musician Yeuda Ben-Atar starts this course by showing how to set up all audio, MIDI, and external plugins and prep an initial project for recording. Then he jumps into high gear: making beats with the Ableton drum kits, recording with the built-in virtual instruments, and capturing live performance like vocals and guitar. After your tracks are recorded, learn how to arrange song clips, layer in effects, create and record automation, and quickly mix the tracks with groups, busses, EQ, compression, and other techniques. The final chapter in the course shows you how to save, export, and master your finished song.

Topics include:
  • Setting up plugins and projects
  • Creating a drumbeat
  • Converting audio to MIDI
  • Recording vocals
  • Warping and editing clips
  • Adding effects
  • Using time commands
  • Working with the mixer
  • Using side chain compression
  • Adding reverb and delay
  • Mixing dynamically with automation
  • Mastering a song
Subject:
Audio + Music
Software:
Ableton Live
Author:
Yeuda Ben-Atar

Adding a compressor

Modern music is heavily compressed, which means the levels are being push to the max because after all, louder sounds better. Compressors are very important to achieve a perceived louder signal and to glue the different elements of the song together. For example, if you have a vocalist that in the verse is whispering and in the chorus is shouting, using a compressor can make those two segments of the song the same volume. The compressor will compress the dynamic range of the audio signal.

It will take the loudest and quietest sounds and make them closer to each other, and will give us an overall louder sound. Let's go to the Live browser, under Audio Effects, and drag a compressor to the guitar. I also went ahead and EQed each one of the tracks to boost any frequencies that can complement the sound and to cut any low end other than the bass and kick. In the compressor I'm first going to switch to the Show Activity view, so we can see what's going on, and if I play the guitar--let's solo it-- we'll see the activity going right here.

Right now the compressor won't do anything. (music playing) If we take the threshold down--and you can see it's that orange line--everything that will pass it will be compressed, and we can see how much it compressed by the top yellow line. (music playing) We can change the ratio of the compression, how much it's going to be compressed by the signal that it passes the threshold, using the Ratio knob.

Let's compress it more. (music playing) We can change the attack time, which will determine how fast the compressor is going to start compressing when the signal passes the threshold. So I am going to make it faster. (music playing) And Release Time, which will determine how fast the compressor is going to stop compressing once the signal drops below the threshold.

And I am going to turn on Automatic, because I don't want to worry about this right now. (music playing) So this is without. (music playing) And this is with. (music playing) In Ableton Live 9 we also have a new type of compressor, which is the Glue Compressor. Let's drop it on the bass. The Glue Compressor is similar to the regular compressor, but it has fewer knobs, and it has much more of a characteristic sound that will color the element.

Let's take the threshold down until we see activity here in the meter. (music playing) And if we go back to the guitar, we can see we have the Makeup turned on. Because we're compressing the audio, so we're turning down the volume, the Makeup will automatically return the volume to where it was. In the Glue Compressor we don't have an automatic makeup gain, so we'll just use the Makeup knob to turn it up after we compressing the audio.

I am going to turn it up. We can adjust the Attack, Release, and Ratio, just like in the compressor. Don't worry if you don't understand, what is a compressor? It is a more complex audio tool and a more complicated musical concept. I am sure it will become more and more clear over time. You can always use the presets that come built-in into Live. So let's go to the Glue Compressor preset, expand it, and I'm going to choose Punch. I'm going to delete the first one. Let's play it. (music playing) I'm just going to play with the threshold to fit to our bass not.

(music playing) Without. With. Nice. (music playing) Give that tiny extra punch. I am going to go ahead and compress the guitar, lead guitar, and vocals. And it's safe to say, when recording and editing vocals, you will always want to compress them.

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