Helpful ReplyWhen do you use Release on a compressor?

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pilutiful
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2017/02/21 05:18:49 (permalink)

When do you use Release on a compressor?

Hi,
When I use a compressor I usually get the job done by fiddling with the Threshold, Attach, Ratio and Gain. I never really have used Release (I usually just set it to medium). When do you use it, and Why?
The more you know :-)

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batsbrew
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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/02/21 10:17:54 (permalink)
there is SO much information on the web,
about properly setting up a compressor....
 
this is one of the better sources:
 
http://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/compression-made-easy
 

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stevesweat
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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/02/21 12:02:43 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby pilutiful 2017/02/21 12:06:48
I will say I use it most when side chaining to duck one track or bus when another track plays. Pretty common with a vocal track, for example, to send the vocal to the sidechain of a compressor on the guitar bus; then the guitars get a slight decrease in volume when the vocals come in. In this scenario fine tuning the release (and attack) is a crucial part of making the vocal and guitar sit comfortably together. The release should be slow enough to allow time for the vocal to rise above the guitars briefly, yet fast enough so when the vocal phrase ends the guitars get back to their original volume as seamlessly as possible. I just loop and listen try to find where it is obviously too slow, then where obviously too fast, then pretty close to halfway between those will be the sweet spot though shutting your eyes and using your ears should bring you to your final point.
Besides that, for fast transients like a bass drum I try to keep the release very fast so that the compressor is fully released before the next transient so that each transient is getting the same treatment from the compressor.
 

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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/02/21 14:18:59 (permalink)
batsbrew
there is SO much information on the web,
about properly setting up a compressor....
 
this is one of the better sources:
 
http://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/compression-made-easy
 




Another awesome read.  It's one thing to understand what attack and release means, but it's quite another for someone to explain the results.  I'm going to revisit the compressor tonight and work on that a little.  Very interesting.  Thanks for sharing.

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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/02/21 16:07:13 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby dcumpian 2017/02/22 08:16:53
Mike Senior always does a great job at explanations.  If you don't have his book, then buy it!!
My favorite column of his was "Mix Rescue" where he would take amateur recordings that were badly mixed and then remix them.  He got great results every time.  It was all the more impressive because he did much of it using either free or very inexpensive plugins.

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tlw
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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/02/21 19:04:04 (permalink)
The release setting can make a big difference to how a compressor reacts on a drum bus. Sometimes the "auto" setting, if the compressor has one, does the job but sometimes experimenting with the release setting really pays off.

Release can also be used to minimise the problem of the compressor "breathing" when you find it boosting the noise floor during gaps in the audio signal. Though digital recording and good modern interfaces mean that's less of a problem than it was in the days of portastudios it can still be an issue on guitar or bass tracks where there's an amount of hum/noise present from the instrument/effects/amps.

And as stevesweat says, release settings make all the difference when sidechaining, especially when ducking the bass for a split second when the kick hits.

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Jeff Evans
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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/02/22 00:31:12 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby pilutiful 2017/02/22 03:22:32
This is Jeff guide to setting up a compressor. I have updated this and added a few new things in. Check out the section on Release.
 
How to set up a compressor (properly)
 
 
I thought I would like to offer some tips on how I set compressors up here in the Techniques forum. I know many people have issues with them and do not fully understand them.

One of the big problems people have with compressors is you have to set the parameters of a compressor in the right order otherwise you will never get it right. You can certainly know what the parameters do and fiddle with them in any order but ever wondered why you are still in no better a place than before you started. This approach gives some direction in getting towards a better sounding compression setting if it has to be used.  If you do this you will get much better sounding compression on your tracks or mix busses. I got immediate results even with compressors that I thought were bad.  I was talking hardware but all this applies equally to software.
 
Think ARRT. Attack first, then release then ratio then threshold last. Here is how you do it. This works equally well on individual sources as well as busses and final mixes.

Lets set Attack first.

Start by setting the ratio very high, release as fast as it will go and fastest attack. (Usually anti clockwise)  Now feed audio in and lower the threshold until the compressor starts kicking in and you can hear it. Listen to the attack part of the music. The leading edge or attack transient. While the Attack setting is fast the compressor will jump all over the music and literally destroy the front edge of the sound. Slow the attack down slowly so the desired attack transient is achieved. Listen to how even as you start to apply small amounts of attack the music or the transients all come back and start to sound good again.

(Note: People often have the attack setting too fast and the compressor is destroying the attack part of the music. No matter what you do with other parameters I believe the music will always be screwed) Setting the attack is very important for final mixes as well. Too fast and once again the attack transients in the music is destroyed. The ultra fast release lets you hear far more individual attacks than a slower setting.

Now we set Release

Release controls the speed at which the sound glides back after you have punched it away. The idea is to get that speed to become a musical component of the sound. Think how slow can I get it while maintaining some control. The power in a groove is in a slower moving wave. Listen to Release and feel the way it bounces back at you and at some point it will be like a swing.  This time does not necessarily have to relate to quarter notes or the groove in the music so much but an overall release groove.


Next we set Ratio

The idea is to lower the threshold as much as you can without losing the effects you have created with Attack and Release. The higher the ratio, the smaller the sound is, although it is more controlled. The lower the ratio as in 2:1 it feels like a larger image. The idea is to find a ratio that sounds big but is controlled. Listen to the size and firmness of the sound. Lower ratios give a bigger sound and hence you can lower it in the mix now and it still will be heard. (eg maxiumum illusion, minimum voltage)

Last we set Threshold

It is desirable to set the threshold so that the compressor is not compressing all the time (Unless that is the effect you want of course) The correct setting will see the dynamic movement coming to rest at special moments. Too low a threshold creates a flat lifeless sound. Permitting the dynamic movement of the sound to come to rest in some quieter moments allows that moment to attain a momentary bigger 1:1 presence and prevents it from rushing towards the listener with unwanted noise. It is bad enough that quiet moments are small without being squashed smaller still due to higher compression ratios. Each time a sound comes up for air it attains a sense of reality a 1:1 ratio.

Makeup gain or output level

Compressors by their very nature are attenuating the signal so the output needs to be put back to where the input signal level was originally. Use the gain reduction indicator to give you some idea. ie if a compressor is providing mainly - 3db of gain reduction for half the time then set the Makeup gain to +3db to get the signal level back up to where it was.

Compressors are not black art or require rocket science. They are simply one of those processors you need to be careful with and have an approach to setting. Using this method above will give you great transparent sounding results. Even cheaper compressors will sound better after doing it this way. And even if you adjust them differently to this method, try it and see how it sounds after. You might be surprised.  One of the problems is that you cannot setup a compressor fast and move on like you can with other effects. The compressor takes time to get it sounding right. The moment you insert one you have to be prepared to put the time in to get it right. Don't rush it!

Presets are OUT. They do not factor anything in at all. When you think of the procedure I have proposed here how could a preset know what to do?

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Rob[at]Sound-Rehab
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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/02/22 01:48:43 (permalink)
jude77
Mike Senior always does a great job at explanations.  If you don't have his book, then buy it!!


Unfortunately I cannot agree here. I consider this book one of the worst I came across. It starts out ok and the EQ and compression sections are similar to other references ... but when all he could write about carving space and depth was literally only to browse presets without further attempts to explain it, I ditched the book ...

2 thumbs up for Jeff's explanation

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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/02/22 07:07:29 (permalink)
+1 to Jeff's response!  Excellent explanation of compressor settings and order!

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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/02/22 12:40:46 (permalink)
Jeff Evans

Presets are OUT. They do not factor anything in at all. When you think of the procedure I have proposed here how could a preset know what to do?




that also applies to EQ ... and IMHO at least to some extent to creating space and dimensions
 
not meaning to hijack the thread, but Jeff, do you have a similar to-the-point guideline when it comes to carving space?

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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/02/22 13:59:03 (permalink)
Rob[atSound-Rehab]
 
not meaning to hijack the thread, but Jeff, do you have a similar to-the-point guideline when it comes to carving space?




Yes, please!  

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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/02/22 14:15:18 (permalink)
Rob[atSound-Rehab]
Jeff Evans

Presets are OUT. They do not factor anything in at all. When you think of the procedure I have proposed here how could a preset know what to do?




that also applies to EQ ... and IMHO at least to some extent to creating space and dimensions
 
not meaning to hijack the thread, but Jeff, do you have a similar to-the-point guideline when it comes to carving space?




That would be perfect :)

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tlw
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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/02/22 20:06:40 (permalink)
That's one of the best introductions to setting up compressors I think I've ever seen Jeff. Short, clear and understandable. It's the sort of thing that ought to be stickied somewhere.

Only put the advice about not relying on presets in bold and using the biggest typeface available,

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Jeff Evans
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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/02/22 23:06:49 (permalink)
Presets are not the devil and I sure there are some quite useable ones.  But it is just they don't know how fast the transients might be for example and how much to slow down the Attack setting in order to let them through more.
If the music does not have a lot of attack transients then slightly faster Attacks can be set meaning the compressor is going to jump on things a little faster.  Then the threshold can be brought up too because you get more gain reduction as you speed up Attack settings.
 
As far as creating space and things that one is little complicated too.  I only have my own thoughts on that.  I do use reverbs and even early reflections to create a sense of space around certain things.  
 
I try to not get too may parts overlapping and playing at the same time.  When a lot of stuff is all going at once like 4 rhythm guitars for example then trying to separate them gets harder.  But if the 4 parts are intertwined in such a way rhythmically and they are not stepping on each other anywhere near as much then less carving out EQ is required too.  The EQ's can be fuller and more normal.  Individual levels of the 4 parts can be a little louder too.  But then maybe only one rhythm guitar is actually needed and sounds best with everything else in context.  Clarity in the rhythm gtrs say will create a sense of clarity everywhere else too. 
 
Another approach is get an EQ to alter its setting according the presence of a side chain signal e.g. vocals allowing the EQ to change on a lead guitar line going on behind vocals.  When the vocals are present the lead guitar can get an EQ change so that it carves out a little midrange for the vocals to cut through better.  When the vocal stops that same lead gtr EQ then then go back to normal and be flatter sounding.  Probably better not to have any lead gtr bits trying to compete with a vocal line in the long run.
 
I will think about some approaches and guides that I try to use for things like this.  Like I say I am into getting less going on in the congested areas of the music first. This most often sorts out many problems of things not being heard because of the presence of other things.  If there is a vocal present it can be the guide also in a congested part of the music.  Keep the all important vocal lines and remove other things until the vocal gets even clearer in those areas.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/02/23 07:11:22 (permalink)
In the case of a live band, maybe your band, it is perfectly fine to set your bus compressor similarly to how you did it when you mixed it in the studio and then reduce the threshold until the meters bounce how you like.

You can't always use extreme settings in a live environment to dial in each song. The songs might be over before you finish with the compressor.

I know with my hardware compressor that is mostly used to record vocals and acoustic stringed instruments, there are common spots for the dials.

In this case louder jams are compressed more than softer ones unless room volume is controlled before the input to the compressor.

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greg_moreira
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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/03/03 19:23:32 (permalink)
Awesome guides on compression.   Both of them really hit a lot of good points.
 
About carving space...  I think there is too much emphasis here.  Even a lot of pro mixers are on record saying that they dont pay it any mind.
 
I have a super minimalist approach to making space.  I high pass the guitars somewhere around 100 so they dont argue with the meat of the bass
 
I high pass the bass at around 35 or so, which actually makes it tighter in most cases, and allow the kick drum as the only instrument to extend into the low lows.  unless its a super boomy kick and also needs some sub lows cut to keep it tight.
 
I high pass the snare around 100-125 or so just to make sure it doesnt get down too low
 
almost everything else is accomplished with panning.  Just putting things in places in the stereo field where they dont sit directly on top of another voice/instrument with a similar eq curve.
 
I mono test for curiosity, but i certainly wouldnt alter a mix to make it sound better in mono if said change didnt sound good in stereo
 
the only other 'space' trick I employ is when I have double tracked guitars.  Assuming I have one panned left and the other right....  I take out 2 or 3 DB of some non essential frequency from the left channel, and boost that same non essential frequency by 2 or 3 db in the right channel.  it tends to add a smidge more separation to the sound
 
If I really had a problem getting a certain instrument or voice heard over another instrument or voice at any specific time, I am much more likely to sidechain a compressor to duck the piece that isnt being featured rather than try to use EQ to try to shape sounds around one another
 
 
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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/03/06 14:38:26 (permalink)
@Jeff
 
Thank you so much for taking the time to explain your technique. Pure gold!
 
 
 

 
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Re: When do you use Release on a compressor? 2017/03/15 11:38:11 (permalink)
Great compression explanation @Jeff.  Thats perfect!

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