9: Use of Dynamics on Vocals – Research and listening

After searching for some time, it has astounded me how much bad advice there is regarding compression. It seems that many people don’t quite grasp the basics of its implementation. Given that I feel that I have a good theoretical understanding of compressors and their uses, I feel confident in being able to sort good advice from bad. Expanding on this, it seems difficult to find straightforward advice on the matter, perhaps due to the fact that good compression is more down to your ears than your brain.

The best research I could undertake was into more “quirky” techniques, and listening tests.

A good example is this SOS article: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr09/articles/cubasetech_0409.htm

This covers Michael Brauer’s technique of compressing a vocal 5 times in parallel, and then blending these with the original signal. Listening to his work with James Morrison and Coldplay, it seems that his technique works very well if done correctly, giving vocals a very “up-front” sound without removing the sense of dynamic. This is something that I will experiment with during my mix sessions upon my return to LIPA after Easter.


The link above also shares some interesting thoughts on compression, albeit in a much more simple manner.
The video in the link compares the use of 3 digital compressors, an SSL channel, waves’ LA-2A replica, and the standard pro tools compressor. This ties in quite nicely with the SOS article, as it seems to concentrate on the “tone” imparted by various compressors (an important consideration when picking compressors for Brauer’s technique). It seems the LA-2A gives a warmer, LF/LMF presence to the vocal used, whereas the SSL gives it a nasal quality, and the PT compressor adds HF ‘air’ to the source material. These are considerations that I will check in my upcoming mix sessions.

Aside from this, I feel that good vocal compressions is something that comes with experimentation rather than theory. I shall return to this at a later date, and test my thoughts on a mix.


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