When to add compression?

It’s often abused (I’ve done it myself), but compression is an important part of the link to getting a nice sound.

Add compression (and EQ) at mixing. Each track you’ve recorded might get a little to help shape, gel and tame the sound. I even like to add more compression as “glue” and consistency on the master bus.

Remember that certain genres get more compression than others:  You don’t mix a Beatles track like a Bobby Timmons track.

Try and resist the urge to make everything LOUD. You can get a nice full mix without pushing every track up to that 0db line. Your master track should be at 0db, but pull the other track faders back to around -6 or -9 and give yourself some headroom. You won’t get ear fatigue as fast, and you’ll make more accurate mixing choices. Besides, you can make a sound seem louder just by making it brighter with some eq. Take some high’s away, and it sinks back into the mix… Remember that the end result of the effects you add on your master bus is not the same thing as sending your track to be properly mastered! You will be very hard pressed to get your tracks the same volume as something that is offered up for commercial consumption.

In the end, it’s all about trial and error- you’ll figure out what works best for your music.

Good luck.

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