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Compression in mastering

Compression can play an important role in the mastering process. This blog will be about adding punch, fullness, and things compression won't do to your master. And on the top are some tips and tricks for compressing during the mastering process!


If you feel like you want some overall tips and an introduction to compression at first, you should check the blog here.



Table of Contents:

1 - What can a compressor do for your mix?

2 - How to use a compressor

3 - Adding color and warmth

4 - How should it sound?

5 - Do you really need compression?

Conclusion



 

1 - What can a compressor do for your mix?


To have a good master in the end, I should make clear what we actually want to achieve by adding a compressor while mastering. A compressor can add punch to a track and more importantly it can glue everything together. Some people think mastering is all about making things loud, and I mean yes it is but there is a lot more like giving your track that nice final touch by adding warmth and thickness.


But how can you do these things?




2 - How to use a compressor


For mastering, you mainly want to focus on attack and release time.


Let's talk about the attack time first!


Overall you should go for a mid-time attack. If you set the attack time too short, it will destroy the transients which the hard, loud elements like the kick for example. But you also need to make sure that you avoid using a too long attack time. The compressor won't react fast enough.

You're looking for a sweet spot to start? Try to start around 35ms and adjust it to your taste.


For the release time, I can give you the following instructions. Again, a extreme setting will be bad. If you use a too short release time, it will give you a weird pumping sound. A too-long release time will just end consistent gain reduction.

But how do you set it right? You can try to match attack and release time, or in other words, the release time should work well with the transient. You can use a simple trick to match things perfectly. Divide 60.000 by your BPM. If your BPM is 128, you should go for around 470ms on the release time.


You can use this number or just use it as a starting point.




3 - Adding color and warmth


At the beginning of this post, I talked about adding color and warmth. For adding this, you can add a second compressor. But not just a normal one. You look for a compressor VST that was analog-modeled. Using analog modeled plugins sometimes can help you to add this extra 10% on top of an already good-sounding song.




4 - How should it sound?


Keep in mind that the mastering compressor shouldn't be an FX tool. If your compressor sits right, you probably won't even hear a huge difference.




5 - Do you really need compression?


In the end, I want to mention that it's not necessary to use compression in mastering. It's optional. Why? Because nowadays you most of the time apply a lot of compression during the mixing process. If you don't do that or just feel like you want to add some extra compression you can do that of course!


A way to figure out if compression is needed is by looking at the waveform. Does the waveform have a lot of peaks? If not, you probably don't need more compression. You probably would just destroy the dynamic range.


Anyways, use your ears in the first place to figure things out!




Conclusion


Compression can be good and make improvements to your song. But, make sure you use it right and really listen closely to make sure if you really need the difference that the compressor creates. If you just want to add some final touch to your sound, you can use analog-modeled VSTs. Check the full guide for compression over HERE.



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