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Attack and release - Compression
Old 18th September 2012
  #1
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Attack and release - Compression

How do you determine the proper adjustments for attack and release on a compressor applied to vocals?
Thanks
Old 18th September 2012
  #2
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🎧 5 years
The first thing you have to determine is what are you trying to achieve...
Old 18th September 2012
  #3
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🎧 10 years
Cmon man. You listen!

If you don't understand what to listen for... then how do you know you need compression?

Not to be rude but at some point you have to study some stuff on your own and come to some common sense conclusions!
Old 18th September 2012
  #4
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🎧 5 years
Jeez why the negativity? Im new to this and doing my research NOW, that's why I'm asking. I thought these forums were meant to help each other out? Guess not
Old 18th September 2012
  #5
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🎧 10 years
Yeah, there is no end-all-be-all compressor settings. Gotta use them things on the side of yer head.

All music knowledge is gained through practice, practice, and more practice. About 5 years ago, I could tell you in theory what every knob on a compressor did. I could have aced an exam on compression. HOwever, in practice, I didn't have a clue what it did to the sound.

You gotta get out there, record a vocal line, and experiment with every knob on a compressor to find out what it does. And to take that one step further, every compressor is going to react differently. My API sounds different than my 1176. My buss comp sounds different than my 160. Etc...

Now, get to work.

JROD
Old 18th September 2012
  #6
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🎧 5 years
the best place to start though is knowing WHY you want to compress...I'll bet you will get a lot more help if you come back with a more specific question.
Old 18th September 2012 | Show parent
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by remusjacobs ➑️
Jeez why the negativity? Im new to this and doing my research NOW, that's why I'm asking. I thought these forums were meant to help each other out? Guess not
It's not negative. It's the truth. Do you want it sugar coated?


The best advise is the advise that makes you stop and check your own approach.

Again, why do you believe you need compression?
Old 18th September 2012
  #8
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Laurend's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by remusjacobs ➑️
How do you determine the proper adjustments for attack and release on a compressor applied to vocals?
Thanks
If you expect some millisecond values you have to know that there're three different ways to express these durations:
- Time for a 6 dB gain variation
- Time for half the full gain variation
- Time for the full gain variation
Note also that ratio and threshold parameters can't be ignored.
Old 18th September 2012
  #9
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🎧 5 years
Thanks Jrod.
Dan- I guess a more specific question would be in what situations would I need a fast/slow attack and fast/slow release. I understand it's all about timing but what am I listening for when I'm timing?
Thanks
Old 18th September 2012
  #10
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joe_04_04's Avatar
 
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🎧 10 years
I'll talk about attack. For vocals, there's generally two types of attack I use. The first one is just about at the compressors fastest attack setting (I'm not going to us MS cause not all compressors use them and because I don't know the actual numbers, I just feel around for what's right). This squashes everything and makes sure nothing goes uncompressed. The second attack style I use is moving back the attack time a little slower just until the initial transient slips thru and gives the word punch. It'll then compress the rest of the word or phrase and keep the rest of the vocal "in check.". You can also use parallel compression in this sense too. Take a copy of the vocal and compress the hell out of it with a fast attack. Then mix back the dry vocal back in to bring back a little of the punch, but not so much that it dominates the compressed vocal, bringing the dry one back in to far with reverse what your compressing little by little so be easy with it.
Old 18th September 2012
  #11
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Anyway, a good way to practice is to get a mic, arm a track in your DAW, insert all the compressors you have.

Sing, talk, yell, whisper, do the Donald Duck into the mic and play with the compressors parameters, until you have a feel for what it's doing.

Since it is your voice, you are very much connected to the sound and how it's altered. You can force silibance, you can scream dynamically and wildly, and repetively. This way you have a predictable and consistent source, and you have every parameter in front of you to test, and get a feel for how they respond to your input.

How much compression would it take to even out a whisper? Which comp does it best and why? Why do you like one more than the other, but in which circumstance? Which gain reduction is most transparent when applied to the screaming? How hard do you need to scream? ETC.

You can do all of this at home, and it is better than anything anyone here can tell you. I still do it when I get new plug-ins, compressors or not. I enjoy hearing how stuff works through the familiarity of my voice.
Old 18th September 2012 | Show parent
  #12
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by smoke ➑️
Anyway, a good way to practice is to get a mic, arm a track in your DAW, insert all the compressors you have.

Sing, talk, yell, whisper, do the Donald Duck into the mic and play with the compressors parameters, until you have a feel for what it's doing.

Since it is your voice, you are very much connected to the sound and how it's altered. You can force silibance, you can scream dynamically and wildly, and repetively. This way you have a predictable and consistent source, and you have every parameter in front of you to test, and get a feel for how they respond to your input.

How much compression would it take to even out a whisper? Which comp does it best and why? Why do you like one more than the other, but in which circumstance? Which gain reduction is most transparent when applied to the screaming? How hard do you need to scream? ETC.

You can do all of this at home, and it is better than anything anyone here can tell you. I still do it when I get new plug-ins, compressors or not. I enjoy hearing how stuff works through the familiarity of my voice.
This is very good advice imo.
Old 20th September 2012
  #13
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Alxi's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Seriously guys...

This fellow is asking for some guidance and all you can think of is
"use your ears"...
"are you even sure you need compression"...

When is the last time you mixed a rap record and used no compression on vocals ??

If we wanted PSM back we would ask for him and guess what, we don't.

@ Remusjacobs

One of the easiest ways to determine attack and release on a compressor when your ears aren't trained yet is to over compressed the signal. I mean like 15 db of compression. Set your ratio to 4:1 or 6:1, your attack very short, like 1 ms and your release very long like 600ms. Lower the threshold very low. Then play with the attack first 'till you ear the vocals opening up, getting a bit brighter, a bit more presence, and more transients ( but that may take you more practice ) Once you have settle on a value ( witch might range anywhere from 5 ms to 50ms ) start lowering the release value 'till the meter of the compressor bounces with the vocals ( for rap vocals i usually find that values around 100ms work very well but don't be affraid to try even lower like 50ms and higher like 200-300 ms ) then rise the threshold till you get around 3-6 db of compression. Then fine tweak attack and release if needed.

Don't forget to listen carefully while you do this and remember that mixers often use more then one compressor to get that modern overcompressed sound.
Old 20th September 2012
  #14
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offer a fishing pole / teach to fish/ or give a can of fish... you know.

People give and receive advice differently. I like to get people to think a bit more in depth, go to square one. Others paste formulae and tested methods. Either way is ok.

When I started, those numbers meant nothing to me. If I'm asking how to dial in an attack for a specific sound, surely understanding the concept of timing and threshold values was farfetched until I knew what effect these parameters had on a signal. By "knew" I mean I felt, what these things did. It was basic grounding that I needed to develop within myself. The whys, whens, not really the hows and the absolute answers.

I mean did you just say "don't forget to listen carefully?" Listening comes first! Not as a second thought... "take these number formulae and use them, but oh yeah don't forget to listen too!"
Old 20th September 2012
  #15
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Stackx's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
im pretty sure if he's doing music he knows to listen. while i can agree that some questions here can get annoying cause questions that get asked constantly should be searched instead of just making a new thread. but i also think people get way to technical with the answers that its really no help at all.

i do agree that half the time people think they need compression they really dont. a lot of times i use a compressor and just use the attack and release with no actual compression taking place. or if you have a envelope shaper or transient designer get used to those they will be your best friend for instruments that just need to be shaped instead of squashed.

when compressing think about the instrument first. put the ratio as high as it can go, set the release as fast as it can go and attack to medium. now push the threshold down to where your getting around -12 to -15db of compression. this will squash the signal so everything you hear will become a little more apparent. now play with the attack until you get it right, don't worry about the pumping from the release focus on the beginning of the phrases the start of the words. you dont want to kill the transients but you also don't want them out of control. after you have the attack right now work with the release. you want it to grove with the music, bounce back with the tempo. once its set right you will hear it easily. now place the ratio where it sounds good, the higher the ratio the harder it will compress. pushing the vocal a little more forward in the mix but at the same time making the vocal sound a little more thin. lowering the ratio will keep a nice body to the vocal and make it sound more natural. now that everything is done play with the threshold until you get the amount of deduction you want.
Old 20th September 2012
  #16
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🎧 5 years
Wow this thread should be interesting
Old 20th September 2012 | Show parent
  #17
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thunderdan ➑️
The first thing you have to determine is what are you trying to achieve...
you nailed it....


when I was noob I was too like "what setting on attack and release?" I expected some magic number that will make it sound good but I learned theres no magic number.......... only experience can help you OP,learn and experiment
Old 20th September 2012
  #18
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Logical Mind's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by remusjacobs ➑️
Jeez why the negativity?
I don't think he was being negative at all. U asked HOW to determine the proper settings. There's not really any other answer than listening and determining what ur trying to achieve. U have to understand what compression does to ur signal. Then u have to listen for what u want to change and dial it in. That was the best answer to ur very non-specific question.

OAN- welcome to gearslutz. U can learn alot here. We all kindly ask that you read the stickies 1st and search before posting. There aren't too many (general) topics that haven't been discussed at length. If one comes up, feel free to create a thread!

There is also a newbie forum and a master newbie thread here in the Hip Hop forum (What up JoRillo!) that contains mad links to other great threads covering most of the basics, compression included. I would start with these. Theres alot of great info there.

One
Old 20th September 2012
  #19
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It took me a long time to understand, really understand what "listen" means. Anyone else? I mean that was the huge step forward. Breakthough moment.

Just as person always, "sees". Well, sure. But does he/she "SEE" as an artist sees? No way.

A few people lurking probably get it, some others I'm sure it goes right past.
Old 20th September 2012
  #20
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Alxi's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I think we all understand what you said but simply telling someone to listen without him knowing what to listen for is pretty useless imho.
Old 20th September 2012
  #21
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^^Fair enough.

I kinda wanted to see his response to "why do you think you need compression" before getting into that. LOL I don't think that ever happened, but I was hoping that would lead to something more interesting and provoking (than comparing compression comprehension methods)
Old 20th September 2012
  #22
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🎧 10 years
Put ratio highest it can go 20:1, 50:1 whatever, fastest relese, and threshold to do few db of gain reduction. This is how you will here attack The start of signal!

Then crank threshold like stupid and you will here release (hopefully). You can sett it in tempo of song, there are this tables. like 8 notes on 120 bpm, and ****. (bpm calculators) Just watch, you are setting it to the groove of song, and not to tempo of song! Makes sense?

Good luck, If you have more questions just ask me
Old 20th September 2012
  #23
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🎧 10 years
or just buy f...ing R vox, and he will sett it automatically
Old 20th September 2012
  #24
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A Fak's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
I recommend reading this:

mixing-rap-vocals-part-3-compression

It was written by Matthew Weiss (a GS member btw) and goes into what you're trying to accomplish plus what to listen for. This is part3 which deals with compression but part 1&2 are worth a read also.
Old 20th September 2012 | Show parent
  #25
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Fak ➑️
I recommend reading this:

mixing-rap-vocals-part-3-compression

It was written by Matthew Weiss (a GS member btw) and goes into what you're trying to accomplish plus what to listen for. This is part3 which deals with compression but part 1&2 are worth a read also.
I recommend those too.

This is also a good read: Understanding Compression

"... Instead of thinking of a compressor that compresses - think of it as something that changes the shape of a sound. If you start listening for "shape" the mysteries of compression will reveal themselves to you, and fairly quickly. ..."

I like that .
Old 20th September 2012
  #26
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jeremycox's Avatar
I almost always use an 1176 for rap vocals. The waves ones, UA ones work fine too. I set my attack somewhere between 1-3, the release between 6-7 and the input/output to where i'm getting like 10db+ of gain reduction at a ratio of 4 or 8.
Old 20th September 2012
  #27
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
I like to compress vocals (as well as everything else for that matter) in stages.
It's good to gently nudge the dynamic range down rather than try and get it all at once. And by starting easy on the recording end, you're a lot less likely to shoot yourself in the foot with a great performance and a bad recording.
You really can't go wrong with a modest/medium approach to everything on the way in just to start taming the dynamic range. Medium attack and medium to short release on any compressor at about 3db to 6db with a 3~6 to 1 ratio will do.
If a track has whispering - recalibrate input and compressor to accommodate and cut that separately with the same modest approach.
If a track has screaming - same thing applies.
Get the track in clean at optimum level with a slightly reduced dynamic range.
Once the artist is tracked, you can dial in some more compression.
For heavy, biting vocals with pronounced consonants, nothing beats an 1176 deep into compression at high rations with a fast release. Warning - it will bring out EVERYTHING so you might have to edit some breaths. (I have to do this a lot but the results are amazing). The parallel compression technique will accomplish the same thing.
For chill vocals LA2A or a Fairchild or Waves Rcomp at another 3~6db should yield a great vocal that's easy to control but still has a perceived dynamic range.
None of this should be considered a short cut to learning the art of compression. I'm just saying the vocal is the most important part of most any track and the only thing more annoying than an unintelligible vocal that needs compression is an over compressed, pumping, breathing vocal crap track.
Good Luck
Old 21st September 2012
  #28
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Logical Mind's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Halma ➑️
I recommend those too.

This is also a good read: Understanding Compression

"... Instead of thinking of a compressor that compresses - think of it as something that changes the shape of a sound. If you start listening for "shape" the mysteries of compression will reveal themselves to you, and fairly quickly. ..."

I like that .
That's a great thread. That was one of them that I had in mind when I mentioned te newbie rap thread.
Old 21st September 2012 | Show parent
  #29
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atma's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
you just adjust it by ear until it sounds how you want it to sound. the trick isn't in the settings, it's in actually knowing how you want something to sound.
Old 21st September 2012 | Show parent
  #30
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Alxi's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by atma ➑️
you just adjust it by ear until it sounds how you want it to sound. the trick isn't in the settings, it's in actually knowing how you want something to sound.

I agree and that goes along the lines of what SMOKE said earlier but to know how you want something to sound like is to have experience.

When you don't, you have to start somewhere and gearsluts ain't a bad place to ask.
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