Compression (Final Major)

Although I’m getting happier with my productions, they still don’t sound quite right to me. It is definately something to do with the mixing/mastering stage of production. For a while I’ve been pretty much ignoring these things called ‘compressors’. Part of the reason for doing this is because I’m still not fully sure about what a compressor actually does. I’ve watched tutorials and read some articles and I think I’m finally understanding what a compressor is.

According to¬†tuts, an online music production magazine “Compression is the process of lessening the dynamic range between the loudest and quietest parts of an audio signal.” I quite like this definition because it’s one of the few that I’ve seen that is not filled with jargon that’s unknown to me. I would call it “balancing the loud bit and the quiet bits of a track to make it sound cleaner”… But that’s just me.

This is what the compressor looks like in my Maschine software.

This is what the compressor looks like in my Maschine software.

I think my problem with learing compression is partly because I struggle to hear any real difference in sound when one is applied unless the gain and threshold sliders are drastically changed. One thing I’ve picked up whilst producing is that it’s very easy to over-do effects.

When I have previously applied compressors to my sounds they have only been applied to an instrument each, mostly a kick drum or a clap. However today I watched this tutorial (below) which not only gave me some pointers on the general mixdown of my tracks, but also some compression techniques to try.

Buss Compression:

Like most terms in music production this is an overly confusing piece of jargon designed to slow the learning process and annoy many people. A ‘Buss’ refers to a group of sounds, for example the drums.

My own groups tend to follow the structure below.

DRUMS – Kicks, Snares, Hi Hats & everything else you hit with drums sticks

AMBIENCE – Spooky noises, white noises, just wierd noises in general

SYNTHS – Synthesised Pianos, Guitars, Brass instruments and loads of electronical sounds.

BASS – The lowest frequency sounds that I include in my tracks

So the ‘DRUMS‘ group would be refered to as a ‘Buss’. Buss compresssion is when you apply a compressor to this collection of sounds instead of just one sound. I am going to experiment with this form of compression during the next couple of days and see what effect this has on my mixdowns. Hopefully this will glue certain elements of my tracks together and result in a tighter sound overall.

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The Sushi EQ Spectrum & My Battle With Reverb . (Final Major Project)

EQ, short for ‘equalisation’ is present in every piece of music. It occurs naturally in any compositions. We may not realise this but it is an essential part of all music that helps our ears hear every aspect of a composition, for example it allows us to hear vocals on a piece of music and distinguish them from the other aspects of a track. This is because these vocal elements contain different frequencies from other instruments in a track’s final mixdown.

Here’s a nice chart that displays a spectrum of different instruments and their regular frequency value.

The-Frequency-Spectrum-Instrument-Ranges-And-EQ-Tips

If a vocal in a track had the exact same frequency value as another present instrument. We would not be able to hear both elements clearly. A Speaker struggles to play two sounds with the same or similar frequencies at the same time.

I Imagine it like this… If there was a plate with loads of pieces of sushi on it and two people both tried to take the same piece, their hands would clash and only one person would end up with a delicious, omega 3 packed treat.

All the different types of sushi are different frequencies, and our hands our speakers.

All the different types of sushi are different frequencies, and our hands the speakers.

Instead, if the two people choose to pick a different piece of sushi, then both would end up eating something tasty.

This is the same with speakers. They cannot output two matching frequencies at the same time, they will clash and a listener will not a true representation of how a track should sound.

This is a fairly simple factor to understand but is hard to implement whilst producing a track, this is where equalisation comes into play. Most audio editing software allows a user to tweak the frequncy values of sounds. This is often divided up into three sections.

1. The low range – Examples include Bass notes, kick drums and other low pitched instruments.

2. The mid range – Some strings, synthesiser notes and percussion instruments like snare drums.

3. The high range – Most vocals, high hats, and some wind instruments.

Maschine has four EQ bands to play with that are pictured below.

A Higher and lower mid range value are at my disposal.

A Higher and lower mid range value are at my disposal.

This can't be applied to all tyoes of kick drum, or string as every instrument has different characteristics. However it is a good starting point in understanding this frequency spectrum.

This can’t be applied to all tyoes of kick drum, or string as every instrument has different characteristics. However it is a good starting point in understanding this frequency spectrum.

I’ve been trying to implement this knowledge into my compostions for a while. I’ve realised that each instrument of a similar frequency value has to occupy its own, personal space in a track for it to be heard effectively. Until I understood this I would try and cram a section of a tune with as tiny little details as I could and would always be dissapointed with the outcome of the sound. Recently however, I have been simplifying my tracks. giving every element its own space to work with in the mix and the resulting productions are a lot more professional sounding and detailed.

There are other reason’s apart from EQ’ing why a tracks mixdown may not be bringing out certain details of the music to the listener. One of these which I’ve been fighting with is reverberation.

Reverberation (Reverb) can be an incredibly powerfull effect when used correctly in a track’s mixdown. Reverb generates a perception of space with in a track and can be applied to many dull sounding audio samples to make them sound more atmospheric and interesting. However when a sound has a high reverb value it takes up more space in the final mix. This means that occasionally some audio detail will be lost during playback because the speakers are still outputing and sounds reverb.

A good visual representation of the effect reverb has on a sound.

A good visual representation of the effect reverb has on a sound.

The blue curved line in the picture above represents the ammount of time that it takes for the applied reverb value to drop from 100% to 0%. If a very high reverb is applied the drop off will not be so severe and the ammount of time will be lengthened.

A convention of a lot of the music that inspires my productions is the use of reverbs on snare drums and claps. For some time these reverb values were too strong in my own productions and the tail end of a snare or clap was still fading away whilst another sound began. Sometimes this is not too much of a problem depending on the frequency of the sound following the reverbed instruement. However a few times the reverb’s frequency fought with a similar frequency of a newly triggered sound, resulting in the loss of audio detail.

To counter this, I’ve began to either reduce the reverb on these instruments to fall to a 0% value just before a new sound plays, or I have tweaked the EQ of the reverb so that both elements output clearly in the mixdown.

Tackling problems with Low Frequencies (Final Major)

For a while I thought my productions lacked the strong depth of bass weight that interests me so much. Naturally I’m drawn to music that you can feel as well as hear. believe listening to music should stimulate as many of your senses as possible. The first time I was truely staggered by the effect low frequencies could have on me was when I heard song below ‘Skeng’ through the RC1 Sound System.

Some of the speakers that are part of the RC1 Sound System.

Some of the speakers that are part of the RC1 Sound System.

The track, produced by The Bug is a naturally Bass heavy production with a lot of emphasis on low end frequencies. However hearing this through the RC1 was an incredibly memorable experience for me. When the 1st note of sub bass dropped. my legs, chest and what felt like every organ in my body vibrated like nothing I had experienced before. It gave me so much pleasure to listen to and feel.

It’s this feeling that I’m trying to push in my own productions. Obviously I don’t have a multi thousand pound sound system to test my tracks out with. However just through some good monitors I realised that the bass didn’t have enough punch or warmth to it. It was however incredibly powerfull through my headphones, this was confusing me and it wasn’t until I chatted to Phil that I found out why. My headphones emphasise low frequencies in a track. They are designed to favour the sounds of dance music, so when Listening to a track i produced through them on some regular speakers I was getting a much less powerfull bass response through them.

To counter this I started producing my music from the onset through Phil’s monitors. These give a much realler representation of how a piece of music should sound during the mixdown process. I was finally starting to get this bass heavy sound in my productions.

Above is a section of a recent track of mine while I feel has ticked the boxes I was working towards. I havn’t released it online yet, and what you’re hearing is only the percussion and bass tracks of the overall tune.

Below is an older track of mine, it dosn’t have enough emphasis on the low end frequencies. Personally I can’t feel it enough.