I started this blog because I needed some place to discuss music and the process of doing so. Not much more to say than that I guess. Actually, what made me start was a post that I saw on this other website about how to use compression and limiters when mixing. Basically the writer told people that you should never use limiters at the mixing stage which kind of upset me. Let me explain.

You have a wave file that is full of transients. Those transients are noise. Whether it be musical noise or just plain white noise. If you see a transient, something is happening in the audio spectrum. Now, what a compressor does is that it feeds the audio into the compressor and then by reducing the threshold of the compressor you are limiting the sound from coming through at the point. Important to remember here is that the whole “feeding” part also increase the all over volume of the sound by squishing the transients in to the compressor. This way you will raise the volume of the track and therefore you have “normalized” the tracks audio output. Well what you have done is that you have taken the lower hits of the track and pressed the transients to make them all in all louder while limiting the higher peaks by compressing them. This is a GREAT tool to use with moderation. I can not stress this enough. Moderation people. Donut become a compressorholic.

Next up is a limiter. You have two kinds of limiters that basically work like this. 1. feed the audio in to the limiter with a threshold and then use the output control to increase or decrease the output. This limiter is used a lot and often while mastering. Now, people tend to say that you should not use a limiter at the mixing stage. While this is true for the master bus, it is an irrelevant statement about individual tracks. The other limiter which you really can use from time to time is one where you start to only compress the higher transients. You see the difference here? Limiter #1 will compress and limit the dynamic range drastically for loudness while limiter #2 will only limit loud peaks! Perfect for those tracks with a lot of automation and midi where you cannot exactly cut out the higher transients with a pair of scissors.

Electronic music for example benefits a lot from compression and limiting. But when you try to apply this compression concept on to a jazzy sample that you have come across to make a hip hop beat with then you will end up taking the dynamic range out of the sample and it might sound very different. Now this might be something that you are going for, but the goal for a lot of people seems to be keeping the dynamic range rather then squeezing it apart. Lets say that you have jazz drum kit. The kick drum is very loose and low at some stages but at this one point it is just too loud. Then you decide on compression to deal with this error in recording. You compress the kick, great now the low is louder and matched with the loudest point… What you also hear is a lot of noise.. crap!… I didn’t want the noise! Well, then use the limiter instead. Put a roof or a ceiling on the limiter and keep the incoming DB at 0. Slide the ceiling down and you will only compress the higher transients so they become softer. There we have it.. Now raise the volume of the over all track instead and you won’t have the noise you got when compressing it with a normal compressor. This is VERY useful when mixing and trying to limit peaks. Which the limiter in my opinion was designed for. It is compression but only on the higher harder hits rather than compressing all the low noise you’ve just limited the hard hitting peaks.

The concept here is that you should know when to use the different techniques with compression and limiting as there is no such thing as “only use at mastering stage” or “never use limiting of kick drums”. Yeah sure personally I have a rule that I do not limit/compress kick drums.. But then again I have that rule because that is how I like my own mixes to sound. I’m not telling anyone else to do things this way. When and if you are a producer that is trying to develop a sound then listen to your ears and trust your ears, now if it sounds good with a compressed and squashed kick.. then it does and go for that. There are no rules when mixing, only rules that you have are more like guidelines. Guidelines that you can break and go against if it sounds right. Then again most of the time the guidelines are right, but every now and then you can really surprise someone with an awesome sound when you know what rule to break.

Use compression and limiting on separate tracks when mixing but make sure you know what you are doing and not just adding it on there because someone told you what to do. My rule is less compression is more in the end but like I said before I tend to break that rule more often then I follow it.

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment below.

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