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Mixing Tips- Compression

When starting out in the mixing world, I would say the misuse of compressors is second only to the misuse of EQ. When gain matched, a before and after quick listen to a moderate to heavily compressed tracks (especially drums) can sound very flattering in the first instance and is often left in place without any after thought at final mixdown. While benefits can be gained from compression as an effect there can also be a downside. The famous engineer Bruce Swedien' once said that 'compression was for babies', while a fairly controversial statement it is none the less an expression that it can be a crux for easy level control without considering the implications of induced tonal differences and dynamic 'realness'. Subtle compression is nearly always a great way of keeping things in check and raining in rogue peaks allowing us to maintain a good consistency for the signal but even better than that is riding faders or even cutting and controlling individual phrase of say an overly dynamic vocal take. Heavy compression should be treated as an effect much like any other such as Reverb etc as essentially you are altering the nature of the sound. This is no bad thing at all, think of a fantastic drum room mic smashed to bits on the 1176 to give us a great vibey sound for live drums. Or another great example of this is the application of parallel processing as in the article below. Combing the compressed signal with the original can give us a best of both worlds approach. With everything in mixing, it is wise to plan ahead. Your use of compression should match your intended initial vision for the overall picture not just as a straight tool to tame dynamics.

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