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Compressor Settings Guidelines Requested

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Anonymous
July 23, 2005 3:38:35 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

I'm wondering if some of you could get me a guideline on how to set
attack and release times on a compressor to get the best sounds out of
different instruments when recording.

I know I could experiment to get this information, but I figure it's
faster to stand on the shoulders of giants.

What are the best ways to configure these compression settings for the
following instruments?

Bass
Guitar
Drum Kit
Vocals
Piano

Or perhaps someone could give me a more general rule like a fast attack
is better for sustaining instruments but not for percussive instruments
unless you want more sustain out of them......

Etc....yada...yada...
Anonymous
July 23, 2005 4:14:18 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

which compressor are you using? you say "when recording"... does that
mean an analog compressor on the input before the conversion to
digital?

better compressors allow you to dial in stronger compression before it
sounds bad.

in any event, it is context dependant. try "medium" settings and work
from there. put the attack and release controls on medium. then what
you do is lower the threshold and raise the ratio a bit at at a time
until you see the compression lights go on.

as a basic idea, 25% of the notes should not light up any of the
compression lights, 50% should light up 1-3 lights, and the strongest
25% of the notes should light up 4-6 gain reduction lights on the
compressor. that's a good basic way to get started.

once you have that happening, take a look at the gain-makeup control.
keep increasing that control until the signal going into your digital
recorder comes in just under clipping (0 db digital full scale). the
idea is to get a hot signal into the converters for better resolution.
some people will dispute this. don't listen to them. so what you do
is have the drummer or whatever hit the loudest signal you anticipate
in the recording, and make sure it doesn't clip the converter. make
sure the person demoing the sound doesn't wimp out during this. make
them play as loud as they actually will on the recording.

you can get into all sorts of nitty-gritty stuff, but that's the basics
to get you going.
July 23, 2005 9:38:12 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

On 23 Jul 2005 11:38:35 -0700, "Ludwig77" <gregrjones@yahoo.com>
wrote:

>I'm wondering if some of you could get me a guideline on how to set
>attack and release times on a compressor to get the best sounds out of
>different instruments when recording.

Compressors have many ways they can be used. With 4 variables,
attack, release, threshold and ratio, many different effects can be
gotten for just as many purposes and reasons. Specifically if you are
asking about attack and release, I can add some of my opinions.

Obviously for a peak limiter, too slow and attack and the device is
useless. However for many uses I tend to prefer slower attacks rather
than fast. For example on electric bass, it is sometimes useful to
use a slow attack to let all transients and string sound, etc get
through un-attenuated but with a fast release so the bass notes don't
sustain forever. This can help get a nice tight bass sound. For some
purposes it is helpful to use a slow release too. I've seen mastering
engineers use a very slow attack like 1/4 seconds and even a slower
release like 2 seconds. That's about the most extreme setting I have
ever used. For most uses you'll do best to start with moderate
settings for attack and release and experiment from there. With
different compressors different settings are possible and can sound
quite a bit different.

Julian
Related resources
Anonymous
July 24, 2005 1:22:21 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

<<once you have that happening, take a look at the gain-makeup control.

keep increasing that control until the signal going into your digital
recorder comes in just under clipping (0 db digital full scale). the
idea is to get a hot signal into the converters for better resolution.
some people will dispute this. don't listen to them. so what you do

is have the drummer or whatever hit the loudest signal you anticipate
in the recording, and make sure it doesn't clip the converter. make
sure the person demoing the sound doesn't wimp out during this. make
them play as loud as they actually will on the recording.
>>

I respectfully disagree with this, even tho he's right, you want as
much signal as you're comfortable with. Problem is, when you record
hot, you're always risking digital overs (distortion), which can ruin
the take. Much better to leave some headroom, just to anticipate for
the unexpected.

The same post recommends 25% of a recording should be compressed 4-6db
of gain reduction. It's one thing to look for peaks to get 4-6 db
reduction in a mix, but if you make this a rule while recording, you're
likely going to end up with a bunch of overly compressed tracks.

I would look for some light compression while tracking some vocalists
or instrumentalists if you think it's important, but leave the heavy
stuff for the mix.
Anonymous
July 24, 2005 5:40:04 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

><<once you have that happening, take a look at the gain-makeup control.
>keep increasing that control until the signal going into your digital
>recorder comes in just under clipping (0 db digital full scale). the
>idea is to get a hot signal into the converters for better resolution.
>some people will dispute this. don't listen to them. so what you do

This isn't 1975 any more.
We don't have to worry about that stuff any longer.
--scott
--
"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
Anonymous
July 26, 2005 2:05:46 AM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

On 7/23/05 2:38 PM, in article
1122143915.274642.185690@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com, "Ludwig77"
<gregrjones@yahoo.com> wrote:

> I'm wondering if some of you could get me a guideline on how to set
> attack and release times on a compressor to get the best sounds out of
> different instruments when recording.
>
> I know I could experiment to get this information, but I figure it's
> faster to stand on the shoulders of giants.
>
> What are the best ways to configure these compression settings for the
> following instruments?
>
> Bass
> Guitar
> Drum Kit
> Vocals
> Piano
>
> Or perhaps someone could give me a more general rule like a fast attack
> is better for sustaining instruments but not for percussive instruments
> unless you want more sustain out of them......
>
> Etc....yada...yada...

Tuen the compressor settings to MORE for more
Turn them to LESS for less

Just remember, Less is More
Anonymous
July 26, 2005 10:29:19 AM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

I'm simply looking for guidelines on attack and release times, not
thresholds and ratios.

I figure there are guidelines for different instruments.

Or at least there are guidelines for the effect desired. For instance,
if I want to add the illusion of sustain to an instrument, I would
guess that you would want to set up a long release time. I'm not sure
if attack speed would play into this.

If you wanted to control dynamics to create a hotter signal without
giving the illusion of increased sustain, I would imagine a slower
attack (especially on percussive instruments where you want to let the
transient through). I'm not sure on release time....
Anonymous
July 26, 2005 2:28:01 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

Ludwig77 <gregrjones@yahoo.com> wrote:
>I'm simply looking for guidelines on attack and release times, not
>thresholds and ratios.
>
>I figure there are guidelines for different instruments.

Adjust the attack until the top end sounds right to you. Adjust the decay
until the reverb tail on the note sounds right to you. Stop worrying.
Spend an afternoon with a compressor and some raw tracks and get a sense
of what it does.
--scott
--
"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
Anonymous
July 26, 2005 9:05:10 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

well first of all, this is a rather loaded question... because there are way
too many variables. Any knowledgeable audio engineer can tell you that...
it depends on so many factors that it can't be summed up in a simple answer.
first of all what kind of compressor? (vca, opto, vari- mu, discrete) each
kind of compressor responds differently according to how you set it... and
some compressors are better on different sound sources... like I happen to
like opto and vari-mu compression on drums because of the way they preserve
transients better but hate most vca compressors on drums because they make
drums sound more plastic and dead. However I don't really mind some vca
compressors on vocals.

that being said. I think it is more appropriate to give some principals of
use. if you are just trying to keep things more level then you can set the
attack times fairly fast and release times slower...however that pretty much
anihilates all transients and gives very little impact and punch to the
sound. the threshold setting is equally important as attack and release
times...basically set this so that the compressor kicks in only when you
want it to...and generally stick to low ratios say like 1:2 or 1:4.... So if
you are trying to preserve transients and articulations then you have to set
both the threshold and the attack time so that it lets part of the transient
sound through but doesn't spike on the remaining part of the sound. you also
want the decay to sound natural enough too... my guidline is that if I can
hear the compressor pumping and breathing then it is set wrong. As far as I
am concerned just enough to do it's job but not enough to anounce that it is
working... let it be like a waitor in a high class restaurant... takes care
of things and never gets in your way.

it really also depends on the instrument also.. drums are tricky, you really
have to listen to the attack of the drum to make sure you aren't taking too
much percussiveness out of the drum... so a slower attack and fairly fast
release. and threshold so that it compresses only the loudest part of the
sound. you just want it to work on the decay of the drum rather than the
attack. the compression slope has a lot to do with this and this is
different for each different compressor.

for bass use a quicker attack and longer release for sustain. vacals you
can usually set set an even quicker attack and a long release but that
really depends on the style of the vocals. you must above all use your
ears!... one of my biggest pet peves of audio engineering is too much
compression... once you compress a track to your recorder it can't be
undone! so use compression sparingly.

in general hotter levels are forgiven better by analog tape than digital...
however you need to optomize your levels for digital... in other words
record it hot enough to avoid clipping but not too much so you can avoid the
ungraceful nature of clipping in digital. recording too low of a level will
add noise in the final product due to the need to boost the level on that
track... to put it simply, if you clip in digital it sounds bad... and
within reason, if you clip to analog tape it just adds grit and warmth...
my advice is just use enough compression to fatten and keep levels in their
place but don't use too much... it is like adding salt or pepper... just
enough to enhance the flavor but not enough to over power the food. most
often compression is merely a tool to enhance. let it enhance. be
conservative. it is better to use too little than too much.
Anonymous
July 26, 2005 9:17:01 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

On 7/26/05 9:29 AM, in article
1122384559.874464.270920@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com, "Ludwig77"
<gregrjones@yahoo.com> wrote:

> I'm simply looking for guidelines on attack and release times, not
> thresholds and ratios.
>
> I figure there are guidelines for different instruments.
>
> Or at least there are guidelines for the effect desired. For instance,
> if I want to add the illusion of sustain to an instrument, I would
> guess that you would want to set up a long release time.

Opposite.

> I'm not sure
> if attack speed would play into this.

Depends on what you want the start of the note to sound like.
Anonymous
July 26, 2005 9:25:59 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

I replied to a different message but here is the answer the original
question.

Here is simple rule of tasteful compression use: use enough compression to
enhance but not enough to hear it's artifacts.


bass needs slower attack to make it more punchy and faster attack for more
smoothness... depends on your requirement. the release time is generally
longer.

guitar.. well if it is guitar with distortion then generally don't use a
compressor on it... it is already compressed. clean guitar use a slower
attack to preserve the pick attack and shorter release so it gets out of the
way faster.

drums: for toms and bass drum use a slower attack and higher threshold. and
quick releases... be very sparing on compressors on the overhead mics... and
don't compress other cymbals. snare drum be careful. set a slower attack and
higher threshold and faster release times... it is easy to destroy a snare
sound with compression... I hear it all the time on the radio...

vocals: use quicker attack and longer release times. vocals can stand to be
squashed to take out all the spikes and plosive sounds.

piano: slower attack to preserve the articulation and medium release time to
sustain longer.

short attack times cut off more of the initial sound and longer attack times
preserve more of the transient and articulation... if you have a sound
source that is percussive in nature or dependant on it's articulations to
define it's character then use a slower attack time... if you have a sound
source that needs to be smoothed out and or have spikes taken out then
faster attack times are recomended. release time is dependant on the length
of the actual sound... a sound source that can sustain it's sound( like
bowed stringed instruments or voice or some synth patches) can use a longer
release time whereas a sound source that doesn't sustain (like drums, piano
or other percussion) should have shorter release times... the release time
should align more with the actual release time of the sound source.


hope that helps

Kristian Svennevig
Producer/ Engineer
Mobius Productions/ Evolution Recording Studios




in article 1122143915.274642.185690@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com, Ludwig77
at gregrjones@yahoo.com wrote on 7/23/05 13:38:

> I'm wondering if some of you could get me a guideline on how to set
> attack and release times on a compressor to get the best sounds out of
> different instruments when recording.
>
> I know I could experiment to get this information, but I figure it's
> faster to stand on the shoulders of giants.
>
> What are the best ways to configure these compression settings for the
> following instruments?
>
> Bass
> Guitar
> Drum Kit
> Vocals
> Piano
>
> Or perhaps someone could give me a more general rule like a fast attack
> is better for sustaining instruments but not for percussive instruments
> unless you want more sustain out of them......
>
> Etc....yada...yada...
>
!