Saturday, April 25, 2009

Kick Compression

Once we finish the eqing of the kick drum, it is time to compress the kick. Now there is no set rule or set settings when it comes to compression so you will have to use your ears to get it right.
So once you send your kick or kicks to the kick group channel you want to put a compressor on the kick group channel.

The reason you want to compress your kicks may differ but one reason is, if you are layering samples together, you want the two sounds to mold together to sound like one sample.

Now listen carefully to your kicks and see what you need to do to get it sounding the way you want. Sometimes you may not need to compress the kicks as they already sound full and punchy. By compressing your kicks, it will reduce the dynamic range (quietest point to the loudest point) so keep that in mind.

Also another wee tip is to always put your compressor after the eq. You want to compress the eqed sound not the other way round.

OK, open up your compressor. There is five important features to a compressor.
  1. Attack
  2. Release
  3. Ratio
  4. Threshold
  5. Knee
The attack is how fast the compressor kicks in after the level has passed the threshold.
The release is how fast the compressor dies off after the level drops below the threshold.
The ratio is how much compression is being applied. So if it has a ratio of 2:1, it means that for every 2db that passes the threshold, the output will be 1db. So this means that the sound is being squashed. This also means that there will be some gain reduction so it will sound more quiet.
The threshold is the point where it all starts. So when the level passes this point the compressor will start working. It's like the on and off point.
Now the knee is a bit hard to explain but it just means how sharp the attack is. So it could be like a square wave where it turns on and off, or the attack can be smoother by the attack taking longer to apply.

Hope you understand my rant.......

I like to start by setting the ratio first. I don't go too heavy with this so I start around 2:1. Then reduce your threshold until the compressor just starts to work. You should now see some gain reduction going on. Now play around with the attack. You don't want this to be too long but you want it to let the punch of your kick through without compression but you want everything after that to be compressed. Now play around with the release. You want your compression to be off by the time your next kick drum hits.
OK, once this is done play around with the ratio and threshold again and see if you need a higher or lower setting. Just use your ears. You may not hear much when you first start doing this but the more you do it, the more you'll hear, so keep at it. Just be careful you don't compress too much or your kicks will sound dead and flat.

So now you should have a phat sounding kick.........hopefully.......
Lets say you do. Now send the output of your kick group channel to your drum group.

Just remember, you can't polish a turd. If your kick is not sounding right, then it may be that the sample itself is not right. So go pick another kick that sounds better. Trust me, it's alot easier doing this now than half way through your song.

Next is the snare drum!!!


  1. I love these tutorials. Great info! What compressor/DAW do you use? Right now I'm using FL Studio (Parametric EQ2 for my EQ and Audio Damage's free Rough Rider for my compressor). Any free programs you recommend?

  2. rough rider is good. Although I find it compresses really heavily. Good to really squash sounds but I normally use the c1 waves plugins for more subtle compression.
    I am using cubase sx 3 at the mo. Really good with working with audio, as well as midi.

  3. oh, and depends what you mean by free!!! haha.
    Although it's over used to buggerrie, the glitch is always a good free tool to have

  4. Thanks for the info...oh, by the way, you can polish a turd...just saw The Mythbusters do it!

  5. Thanks for share this all information about five important features to a compressor such as Attack, Release, Ratio, Threshold, Knee and many more. SO thanks for share this all information.