Vocal Compression And How To Use It

Behind only EQ, compression is one the most important, yet misunderstood, components of a good mix.  This is especially true of a vocal mix.  Compression tames erratic levels of a singer’s performance.  It also tames distortion causing transients.

The main thing to keep in mind when using compression is that you shouldn’t realize that it is there.  This can be a difficult concept to get the hang of.  You just want to catch extreme transients and tame them so that they don’t clip.  Good compression has a fast attack, a quick release, and a low ratio.  This smoothes the vocal track without coloring the sound of the singer’s voice.

Typical settings for a lead vocal track would look like this:

  • Ratio:  1.5:1 – 2:1
  • Attack: <1ms
  • Release: About 40ms
  • Gain: Adjust gain so that the output level matches the input.

Typical settings for backing vocal track would look like this:

  • Ratio: 2:1 –3:1
  • Attack: <1ms
  • Release: About 40ms
  • Gain: Adjust gain so that the output matches the input.

These are only guidelines and should not be used as fact for any given mix.  These settings are only to give you a good starting point when you begin the compression stage of the mix.

As always, just press record; you never know what may come out.

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