How compression works
If you are a bit confused about the true purpose of a compressor,
this should open your eyes a bit.
There is more to compression than simple volume control.
Compression also plays a dynamic and rhythmatic role.
Lets say the E’s below represents a sound over a period of time
with no compression.
Depending on your compression settings, this sound can be affected differently.
Let’s say we want to catch the snap of the kick drum but don’t want
too much boominess, you may want to use a fast attack and a longer
decay. The results might look something like this.
Notice the size of the letter representing volume changes.
Now if you wanted to just do a quick compression to control part
of the sound & then let the volume bounce back up, you would have a
shorter decay which would look a bit like this:
A good way of using these compression settings would be on guitar
to keep it under control in a mix, while also creating a subtle rhythm
with how that compression pushes the volume down & then releases it.
You might be asking “why is the sound getting quieter when the
compressor is on?” That’s because it IS pushing the sound volume
down but when you adjust the output volume gain, the sound has
Think of it like this:
If i have a sheet of paper and tried to throw it at you, it wouldnt have
much effect, but if i crumple that paper more tightly (compress) and
throw it at you it will have more impact.
If you want to learn more on the subject, Mastering Engineer
Bob Katz wrote a great book called “Mastering audio” that goes
into compression really well. I would highly recommend it. Even
though some of the information might seem fairly technical, it’s
definitely a good read.
Hope this helps a little. Cheers,
Happy music making!