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Working with multi-band compression

From: Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools

Video: Working with multi-band compression

Remember how I said a De-Esser was like a frequency specific compressor working only on the sibilant sounds within a track or a mix? Well, a multiband compressor follows the same idea but works across the entire frequency range. By splitting up the compression into multiple parts or bands, an engineer can focus dynamic control within a specified frequency range, leaving other frequencies untouched. So, let me give you a little bit of an example. Pro Tools doesn't come with any multiband compressors.

Working with multi-band compression

Remember how I said a De-Esser was like a frequency specific compressor working only on the sibilant sounds within a track or a mix? Well, a multiband compressor follows the same idea but works across the entire frequency range. By splitting up the compression into multiple parts or bands, an engineer can focus dynamic control within a specified frequency range, leaving other frequencies untouched. So, let me give you a little bit of an example. Pro Tools doesn't come with any multiband compressors.

So, I'm going to bring up the Wave C4 and what I have here is basically four compressors split up into four different bands I can see the graphic shows me the low-band, the mid-band and two high- bands here, and I can adjust the those. And then I have settings, my typical compressor settings for each one of those bands. So, I have a threshold for the low band, I have an Attack and Release and I also have a Range controller.

It sort of defines the maximum amount of gain reduction that's going to take place. Now, each compressor has it's own set of controls plus I have a set of linked controls to move them all up or down. Now, a lot of times, I don't use multiband compression across the whole mix bus, I think people tend to use it because it kind of gives the mix that FM radio sound. A lot of times that's because FM radio uses a specific kind of multiband compressor to sort of optimize the bandwidth of a tune to go across the airwaves but it can kind of flattened out a mix especially if it's already a good mix that has solid dynamics, I tend to avoid any kind of multiband compression on the mix bus but an example of where a master engineer might opt to use a multiband compressor would be let's say it's a two track stereo mix, it can't get remixed and there are problems in the low end with the dynamic.

Let's say the bass guitar or the kick drum was never compressed at the mix stage. What the master engineer can do is just focus only on the low end. So, he could take and solo up the low end. (Low machine-like humming.) (Music playing) (Male singing: And I'll never...) And do dynamics control just on that specific band, without damaging the other bands dynamics, right? So, you could still keep the mix open and brighter without sort of squashing the lead vocal or the snare drum, while being able to control that low end.

Now, generally like I said, I use multiband compression more on individual instruments rather than on entire mixes. And the really cool thing that you can do with multiband compressors on individual instruments as well as sub mixes and the whole mix is that because you have separate attack and release settings for each band. You can actually optimize them for the specific kind of frequencies that are running through that band. So, for example, we know that low frequencies are physically longer.

So, they oscillate much slower. So, physically, low frequencies are much longer and they oscillate much slower. So, what we need to do is actually have slower attack and release to avoid the distortion that can come up in a compressor or a limiter if you are using too fast of an attack or release setting, right. Because the compressor would actually try to trace the waveform. If you think about a really low frequency waveform, its oscillation speed can be 5 milliseconds per oscillation.

And so if you are using releases or attacks that are faster than that, that can actually compromise the waveform in a way that you don't necessarily want to do but as I move up into the higher frequency bands, I can get away with faster attack and releases. And so a cool thing that you can do is let's say you want to have the kick drum and you want to have a little snap on the high end. You can kind of work with your attack and release to gain that snap and you want the low end to be a little smoother not as much snapped or a byte to it.

And so a multiband compression is going to allow you to do that. Same thing with the vocal. You might want more control in the mid range here but in the top end, you want to kind of leave it a little bit loose, little bit sparkly. You can also use these as De-Essers too. All right, I could just bypass some of these other bands and then just dedicate one band a sort of a high frequency De -Esser for the entire mix which would allow me to add more high end EQ.

So, that's something a master engineer might do, is add multiple stages of high frequency De-Essing so that they can continue to add high shelf EQ to a mix to kind of make it brighter without being too harsh. Now, if you do want to use a multiband compressor on your home mix, my best recommendation is to understand really what it does. And if you wanted to just kind of play with one, what I would do is load up one of the presets, whichever one you have. They are going to have a preset for mastering. Load up one of the presets, let's say mastering.

Raise a threshold all the way up and then kind of bring it down until you start getting some action in the low, mid, and maybe the high mid-bands, but you are not looking to crush it. So, just like this. (Music playing) (Male singing: We hit the town.) (Male singing: And I'll never forget that sound.) (Male singing: Tonight I fell asleep at the...) So, not too much,. I'm not looking for tons of movement in here.

Now, I can also use the makeup gain on each specific band and this is actually something you want to be really careful of, because you can really screw up the balance of your mix. But the makeup gain can act, as a sort of a dynamic EQ. So, if I just boost the makeup gain in the mids, it's actually acting as an equalizer. So, something that you can do with your multiband compressor is you can compress as well as boost or cut certain bands of frequencies and again.

It's going to be sort of more painting in broad strokes, because we are dealing with pretty wide frequency bands. But you do want to be careful with your makeup gain in a multiband compressor, not to totally shift out the frequencies of your mix. So, again multiband compression is just another tool. It's not an automatic solution for mixing or mastering. Many engineers, like I said, only pull them out to treat specific problems in the mixed stage and during the mastering stage, they are getting pulled out only when a remix is not possible.

So, think about addressing things inside the mix before you do a lot of aggressive mastering if you can.

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This video is part of

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Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools

77 video lessons · 9076 viewers

Brian Lee White
Author

 
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  1. 14m 50s
    1. Welcome
      1m 12s
    2. The past, present, and future of mixing
      6m 20s
    3. Strategies for mixing and mastering
      5m 38s
    4. Using the exercise files
      1m 40s
  2. 40m 24s
    1. Mixing "in the box"
      5m 9s
    2. Setting up the studio: Speakers and acoustics
      13m 12s
    3. Staying organized: Effectively prepping the mix
      10m 50s
    4. Managing system resources during mixdown
      11m 13s
  3. 41m 39s
    1. Introducing the Pro Tools Mixer
      2m 24s
    2. Understanding mixer signal flow
      3m 42s
    3. Using inserts and plug-ins
      7m 4s
    4. Working with plug-in settings
      5m 1s
    5. Using sends and creating FX returns
      6m 55s
    6. Submixing with aux tracks
      4m 30s
    7. Using groups while mixing
      3m 46s
    8. Using master faders effectively
      8m 17s
  4. 21m 11s
    1. Conceptualizing the mix and making a plan
      7m 45s
    2. Using volume and pan to balance the mix
      11m 18s
    3. Knowing when to process: Mix problems vs. mix solutions
      2m 8s
  5. 1h 3m
    1. Understanding the mechanics of sound
      3m 53s
    2. Learning the basics of EQ: Frequency-specific level control
      4m 29s
    3. Using DigiRack EQ III
      16m 3s
    4. EQ strategies in mixing: Corrective vs. creative
      7m 18s
    5. EQ workflow example 1: Kick drum
      5m 39s
    6. EQ workflow example 2: Filtering loops
      5m 10s
    7. EQ workflow example 3: The "telephone" effect
      3m 7s
    8. Mixing tips and tricks for EQ
      17m 36s
  6. 1h 15m
    1. Understanding dynamics and dynamic range
      2m 1s
    2. Working with dynamics processors
      2m 57s
    3. Using the DigiRack Dyn III compressor/limiter
      10m 6s
    4. Balancing and shaping track dynamics
      3m 19s
    5. Using gates and expanders
      9m 22s
    6. Using de-essers to eliminate sibilance
      5m 47s
    7. Dynamics workflow example 1: Vocals
      10m 0s
    8. Dynamics workflow example 2: Drums
      9m 29s
    9. Mixing tips and tricks: Dynamics
      11m 37s
    10. Building parallel or "upward" compression
      7m 53s
    11. Reviewing dynamics concerns: How much is too much?
      3m 28s
  7. 47m 48s
    1. Using time-based effects to add depth and width
      3m 22s
    2. Using DigiRack D-Verb
      14m 27s
    3. Using the DigiRack delays
      9m 18s
    4. Mixing with reverb
      7m 59s
    5. Mixing with delays
      6m 19s
    6. Mixing tips and tricks: Creating mix depth
      6m 23s
  8. 18m 8s
    1. Working with the Creative Collection
      9m 8s
    2. Building distortion and saturation
      9m 0s
  9. 37m 33s
    1. Understanding automation
      4m 10s
    2. Recording real-time automation moves
      7m 6s
    3. Viewing and editing automation
      10m 17s
    4. Automating plug-ins
      7m 36s
    5. Automation strategies for mixing
      8m 24s
  10. 29m 31s
    1. Understanding the characteristics of a great mix
      7m 2s
    2. Working to reference tracks
      4m 35s
    3. Avoiding some common pitfalls
      7m 50s
    4. Building healthy mixing habits
      3m 36s
    5. Crafting your mix from start to finish
      6m 28s
  11. 1h 5m
    1. Understanding mastering
      4m 15s
    2. Bouncing the mix
      7m 9s
    3. Working with general mastering strategies
      8m 50s
    4. Using limiting and compression to maximize track level
      10m 57s
    5. Working with multi-band compression
      7m 9s
    6. Understanding sample rate, bit depth, file formats, and dither
      7m 30s
    7. Using Pro Tools for CD track sequencing
      10m 11s
    8. Compressing audio for the web
      9m 41s
  12. 44m 51s
    1. Tips for evaluating plug-in processors
      6m 51s
    2. Using EQ plug-ins
      5m 35s
    3. Using dynamic compression plug-ins
      11m 3s
    4. Using reverb and delay plug-ins
      10m 46s
    5. Reviewing additional plug-ins
      10m 36s
  13. 57m 18s
    1. Effectively using saturation/analog style effects
      13m 40s
    2. Setting up side chains
      7m 5s
    3. Master buss processing
      5m 34s
    4. Creating and using mix templates
      6m 54s
    5. Surround mixing
      6m 22s
    6. Dealing with plug-in delay and latency
      6m 26s
    7. Drum sample replacing
      11m 17s
  14. 32s
    1. Goodbye
      32s

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