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In Logic Pro 9 Essential Training, Scott Hirsch explains how to harness the power and flexibility of Logic Pro, Apple’s popular songwriting software, to record, edit, and mix music. The course includes instruction on how to compose in Logic Pro, and spend more time being creative and less time dealing with technical uncertainties. Scott focuses on setting up a workspace, recording with both live performers and digital instruments, editing and arranging, and mixing and mastering a composition. Exercise files accompany the course.
Compression is one of the toughest mixing tools to master. When done correctly, the result of good compression is that you don't notice it. Compression can help even out the loud passages of a recording and bring up the softer parts of it, resulting in audio that is better able to sit in the mix without getting lost or poking out too much. Let's see how we can use compressors in this mix. We have a Cycle Mode made for the verse going into the chorus. In the verse, the singer's words get a little lost. In the chorus, they're little too loud. Let's take a listen to that. (Music playing.) Okay, you heard in the verse, it was little lost and the level was down here in the track.
In the chorus it jumped up here, he is maybe a little too loud. There is a lot of dynamic difference between the two parts. Let's insert a compressor as a plug-in to help fix that. We'll insert it after the Channel EQ. Compressors are under the Dynamics heading. There is our compressor, go and insert it. This is what the Compressor plug-in window looks like. Let's go over some common controls you'll see on most compressors. The Threshold, any sound that's louder than the threshold will be compressed or lowered in volume. Sound that just not reach the Threshold is left alone.
The Ratio controls how much sound will be lowered if it reaches the threshold. A ratio of 2:1 means every 2 dB will be lowered to one, or in half, once the sound reaches the Threshold. A ratio of 10:1 means audio will be 10 times lower if it crosses the Threshold. Then we have our Attack and Release controls. These are the two time-based parameters of a compressor, how fast the compressor turns down once the sound hits the Threshold and how quickly it comes back to normal state with the Release.
The Attack controls how fast the compressor will turn down once the sound reaches the Threshold and the Release controls how quickly it comes back to a normal state. These controls are really where you can craft the compressor to grab on to what you need to compress. Ask yourself is it grabbing the onset of the sound or is it a little bit after the initial attack of the sound that you want to lower? Then we have the Gain. The Gain is used to put back lost gain or volume after you've compressed the sound. Turning this up will make the sounds that were too quiet end up louder and since we compressed the loud sounds already, everything should, in theory, be more even, dynamically speaking.
I'd like to note that Logic a lot of times sets the Auto Gain to on by default. I like to leave this control off and make up the gain myself with the Gain slider. For vocals, I recommend a relatively low ratio. Let's try around 3:1, or 3.1:1 in this case. Attack and Release also should be somewhat low but not all the way down. The Threshold for this recording can be downed around -20 since the vocals weren't originally recorded too loud. Make sure Auto Gain is set to off and let's adjust the Gain to about 1 dB. Let's listen to this.
Let's see if it's working. It'll be subtle, but you'll able to see the gain reduction in the chorus in this area here. This tells us how much we're compressing. (Music playing.) As you can see, during the loud chorus, we were compressing about 4 dB.
That helped to even out the chorus between the verse. Let's try one more compression on the guitars. This one will be more obvious and the settings more drastic. We're going to compress this track, N_EGuit1. Let's insert the compressor on the track. Again, it's under Dynamics. Here we're going to use a Preset. In the Preset menu, we have one for guitar called Platinum Guitar Emphasis. I'm going to make a couple of adjustments to this as we play, but I'll also bypass it on and off so we can hear what it's doing. First of all, let's solo it.
(Music playing.) As you can tell, it's making the track a lot louder, but it's also taking the somewhat lackluster muddiness and giving it some sparkle. It's matching the quieter sounds of the guitar that were getting lost to the louder sounds of the guitar.
It sounds like good compression. Let's hear it in the mix. (Music playing.) When I first played it, it was a little too loud, but now I'm able to pull down the track volume and we can still hear the guitar better than the we would before. Compression is useful for this. It will help us adjust our track faders but still be able to hear the song. Compression is one of those tools that can take a lifetime to master and as long as you understand the basic mechanics of how they work, you can experiment.
Remember when you use these plug-ins not to get caught up in the graphics of them. Mix with your ears not your eyes.
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