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In order for the rhythm section to sound powerful, the drums and bass have to have an even level. Sometimes the drummer doesn't hit every beat of the kick and the snare with the same intensity, which makes the pulse of the song erratic. Sometimes the tom fills have different volumes across the drums. In this video I am going to show you how to use compression on the drums to make them punchy and steady in the mix. So let's listen to the mix without any compression at all. (music playing) We hear a little bit of leakage there in the background, but that's okay.
The first thing we are going to do is go to the snare drum and have a listen. There are two snare drums. There is a top and bottom. We only want one. Take notice, since they are in a group, if we solo one, both of them solo up, and the way to get around that is to hit Ctrl and just solo whatever channel that you want the solo and just that one will solo up. So now let's listen to the snare top by itself. (music playing) I already we have a compressor/ limiter installed in the snare channel.
Let's bring that up. This is just the stock Pro Tools compressor/limiter, and we are going to use this just to show you that it doesn't matter which one use; you can make it sound really good if you know how to set it up. Let's insert it and hear what it sounds like. (music playing) The first thing we are going to do is take the Attack time and turn it all the way up; in other words I want the Attack time as long as it can be. (music playing) Now we are going to back off on it.
(music playing) The whole secret here is that if you turn it too fast, it sounds some pretty bad. (music playing) The reason why it sounds bad is you have cut the transient of the front end of the sound, and you want to keep that. So the whole trick is to back off the attack until just about you hear a dull, and at that point that's when you either stop or even back off a little bit. Let's try it again.
(music playing) Somewhere in there is really good. Now the next thing we are going to do is set the release time, and on the drums the best thing to do is set the release so it makes it seem as if the snare drum is elongated until the very next snare hits. (music playing) Something like that. (music playing) Now this may be a lot.
It's about 6 dB of compression. We want to start with only a couple, and we will actually increase it as we go along if we need, but we will start with a couple, and that will even out the inconsistencies between the hits, first of all. Back off the Threshold. (music playing) Now the Ratio control is important because the more erratic the peaks are, the higher the Ratio control should be. So in other words, if we have a big difference between a lot of the hits then we want a higher ratio, and what that will do is it will even things out a bit more. So we will bring this up a little bit.
(music playing) The last thing we are going to do is we are going to set the Gain control. When we initially insert a compressor, whenever the compressor exceeds its threshold, it attenuates the signal. And in order to bring that signal back up to about where it was before, we use the Gain control in conjunction with the Bypass. Let's listen. (music playing) So there is without compression.
(music playing) With compression. It's about the same level, but you can hear that it's a little more punchy. Now that we did that one, let's go over and listen to the kick drum. We will do the same thing. Now what we are going to do is hit Ctrl and we are going to hit the Solo, listen to the kick. (music playing) Once again we have the generic compressor/ limiter from Pro Tools, and we will do the same thing.
(music playing) Bring our Threshold down. (music playing) Now if we bring the attack so it's really, really fast-- when I say fast that means it works very quickly on transients-- you can hear how it gets cut off and the sound of the kick actually changes. (music playing) So if we bypass, you can hear the difference. (music playing) So once again what we are going to do is we are going to back it off until it's at its slowest attack.
And we are going to bring it back until we can just about hear the transient dull. (music playing) Now once again, we use the release exactly the same way. We lengthen the release until it makes the kick sound like it's lasting a lot longer. We want the kick envelope to fill up between the first kick and the next time it hits.
(music playing) And once again, the more erratic that the sound is in terms of its dynamics, the higher the ratio. So we are going to increase the ratio so it pretty much stays within the same range. It doesn't matter if it goes a little bit higher and a little bit lower, but we don't want it to go a lot higher or a lot lower in level. (music playing) And then finally we will use the gain control to give us about the same level as when the compressor was bypassed.
So let's listen to it without any compression. (music playing) Now let's listen to it with compression. (music playing) And you can hear how much punchier it is with the compressor. Now let's listen to just the one kick and the one snare compressed. (music playing) So you can hear how much punchier it is, and you can feel the pulse of the song a lot better.
Now we can actually go and we put the same compressor on the outside kick, which says kick out right now, in the bottom of the snare, which is Snare bottom. And we might even put it on the toms as well, if the playing on the toms is erratic enough that each fill hit is at a different level. So to sum it up, we use compression on the drums to even out beats that aren't same intensity and to make them some punchier. Once set the Attack and Release controls so the drum breathes with the track, and Threshold and Ratio controls determine how forward they are in the mix.
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