How do you use compression in music production?

You must have heard that a compressor can do wonders for the overall mix of your track. But when and how to use a compressor plugin is a topic worth discovering.

A compressor can help you achieve a lot of things when doing the mixing and mastering of your song or sound effect.

Its purposes can be anywhere from leveling out the high and low dynamics of the track(mostly used in vocals), smoothing out certain sounds or instruments that their peak is too high, or changing the way a kick drum sounds.

Compressors are basically loudness manipulators, meaning all the effects that are added by compression tools, are done only by lowering or increasing the loudness of certain signals at given points and time.

When done correctly, this can improve the quality of the mix dramatically.

There's a good balance to be found of how much to use this effect, so try not to overuse it.

Different Types of Audio Compressors

There are more than one type of audio compressors, and they are each most suitable for different styles of production.

  • Variable Mu (Vari-Mu) - Provides good gain-reduction. It can enhance thin instruments. Well suited for guitars.
  • VCA - All around versatile, provides really good attack and release options, overall smoothness. Good for drums.
  • Optical (Opto) - Gives a smooth, clean compression. Fits well for bass.
  • FET - Adds a lot of character and tone. Great for guitars and vocals.

One of the most important things is to find a compressor plugin that fits your style of production. If you are new, it is perfectly fine to use presets, but it is a lot more beneficial to play around with the options and set up your compressor so it fits to the instruments and sounds of your own style.

Most often the presets are made and optimized for certain existing sounds and frequencies, but that does not mean those settings are going to fit well with your unique sound.

Updated: Aug 08, 2020

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