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Like guitars, compression on keyboards depends on how wild the dynamic swings are. Sampled acoustic or electric pianos don't have nearly the dynamic swing of a real acoustic instrument, but they still can have quite a lot of peaks, depending upon the way they're played. In this segment I'll show you how to add compression to any electric keyboard to keep it strong and steady in the mix. So we are going to look at this electric piano. It's in stereo, but it's panned a little bit to the right. There is no compression on it. Listen to how it varies in level. (music playing) There was quite a lot of variation there.
He is a very good piano player, and that's what piano players do. They play dynamically. But that doesn't always work in the context of making a record. So that's why we use the compression in order to smooth those dynamic variations out a little bit. So let's listen in context with the rest of instruments and hear how some of the notes fall away and you don't hear them, and other ones really dominate the mix. (music playing) So let's solo it. We've already added a compressor,, and again, it's the same generic Pro Tools Compressor/Limiter.
This can be anything you want. The setup is about the same, regardless of the compressor/limiter. So the first thing we are going to do is set the attack as long as it will go, and let's have a listen. (music playing) And what we are going to do is move this attack back. We are going to make it faster so it just catches the peaks without making it dull. (music playing) Now the more peaks that we have, the more dynamic range, the higher the ratio that we will need, and what that will do is that will smooth those peaks out.
So let's bring this up a little bit. (music playing) So now you can hear there is not much of a difference between the loudest he plays and the softest he plays, and that's exactly what we are looking for. Now let's listen to if the compressor actually attenuated the signal. It sounds like it did a little bit. So let's listen to what it sounded like before we add the compressor and after.
(music playing) Let's listen in the track now.
(music playing) Now in fact, we can make this sound even smoother with a different compressor.
This one is a little on the aggressive side, and you can hear it grabbing the transient, and there are other ones that sound smoother and that's probably what we would go for, but you get the idea of the setup. It's going to the same regardless of the compressor that you use. So that's how we add compression to an electric keyboard. You start with the attack and you release, so it breathes with the track. Then adjust the threshold and ratio controls for the right amount of compression. Even organ and string sounds which aren't very dynamic can benefit from a touch compression to make all the notes heard evenly, to pull them in front of the mix.
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