Ever felt like this approach might actually yield better mixes?
If you have, then chances are you’re not doing it right. It always seems that – no matter how much we tweak – there’s some magic flick of the wrist that would make our mixes sound amazing. So we continue to tweak. And then we tweak some more. After a stressful meal and frame-by-frame mental replay of each tweak we made, we start tweaking some more.
But have you ever considered that you might not need so much compression in the first place? Too many mixes are clearly identified as “amateur” due to over-compression. Especially in the vocals.
Compression can be a wonderful thing when used appropriately. But a 8:1 ratio and -20 dB gain reduction on a lead vocal almost never sounds good. So try backing off the compression and only using a little bit at a time. You’ll spend far less time “tweaking” and your mixes will sound much more natural and professional in the long run.
A few go-to numbers for me:
Lead vocal – about 4-6 dB of gain reduction on a rock or pop track, 2-3 dB on a country or ballad.
Bass – about 5 dB of gain reduction on almost any electric bass
Kick – about 3 dB of gain reduction with a slow attack (to leave the transient alone and get more of the front end)
Snare – about 4-5 dB of gain reduction with a slow attack and slow release (to fatten it up)
Have you stumbled upon any go-to numbers for your compressors? Let us know what they are!