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Compression and limiting are very powerful tools. They have the ability to make tracks come alive, providing power, strength and control to the weak and taming the wild. But the same tools that can make a track standout can also bury it into the ground. Too much compression can take the life out of an otherwise lively brilliant track, making it sound weak and dull. So it's a fine line you need to balance. You want to consider the following things when using dynamics processors.
First of, watch your transients. Just as a compressor can exaggerate a signal's transient response, making it sharper or snappier, it can just as easily take this away. Remember, loud is only relative to quite and hard is only relative to soft. So if you push too hard, you can actually flatten out a track's transient response, making it sound flat and lacking punch. So if I wanted to listen to something like that, if I took and I placed a Limiter on these drums here, and I just decided to crush them.
(Music playing) Now not only is that Limiter distorting, it is making it louder, but the problem is because it's working so fast, the attack is working is so fast, squashing out all those transients.
So as I think about limiting or overcompressing things, you can actually make things sound weaker when they are too compressed, because you're taking away some of those dynamic differences, right, that give you sort of the sense of what loud is versus what soft is. There is nothing worse in a mix than when I hear it coming into a really, really big build-up out of a quite bridge, and that bridge was so compressed and loud that it's kind of anticlimactic when those guitars come in and you're kind of like, hmm, that didn't really go anywhere.
So remember to consider that loud is only relative to soft and everything can't just be completely loud. Another thing that you want to do, like I mentioned, is watch the frequencies. Now if you do choose to push a compressor to the extreme, which sometimes works really well, it's going to flatten the frequency response, especially in the low and high end. And lastly, you want to understand compression's aesthetic use versus its utility use.
So compression for blending into the mix versus sort of using extreme compression to blend in aesthetic quality to a vocal, make it really breathy and aggressive. So sort of these extreme compression uses can be amazing in the right context, but really sound kind of amateur when not. So sort of mind your tips and tricks when it comes to this. My best advice is to experiment a lot and find what line works for you and your style of music.
By listening and experimenting with your own tracks, you will be better able to sonically identify what the norms are in your favorite genre.
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