Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Little Compression Never Hurt Anyone...

Here's a continuation of the compression lectures!


First, we recorded bass through the millenia into protools and mixed the signal back through the millenia to experiment with compression!

Compression is program dependent meaning that the settings of compression are dependent on factors specific to each piece. For example, tempo and time. Two major factors of things that are program dependent.

Fast releases on low frequencies create distortion because the release is happening on every peak! This is bad for low frequencies.

Pumping and breathing is also an affect that compression can have. Its bad to have too fast an attack or release. The idea is to make compression sound natural and musical, not falsified.

Fast attack is good for snare and bass drum because the attack can get through.

Everything generally has a quick attack so too long an attack causes the signal to already be at the decay stage when the compression attack happens.

If the release is too long, the following transient is being cut off because the first one overlaps it. This ends up being a compression war. And this can also result from too low of a threshold.

Through the distressor, we can change one variable at a time to hear the differences. Use extremes of each variable to hear the differences. Once you know what is being changed, you will understand compression better.

The input affects the threshold as well and the higher the input, the more is being crushed.

Sunday, April 15, 2012



A compressor is an automated volume knob and it enables you to make a soft sound louder and a loud sound softer!

They process the dynamic range of the audio by varying the gain or the volume of that sound.

Dynamic range is the difference between the highest and lowest volumes of an audio.

Compressors can be used on everything. The variables are the input, threshold, ratio, attack, release, output level or makeup gain, and the VU meter.

The input level is the amount of input going into the compressor. When set at zero, the level leaving the computer is the same as the level going into the compressor.

The threshold is the user set level where any audio above the threshold is compressed and anything below the threshold is unaffected.

Next, is the ratio which is the ratio of decibels above the threshold to the decibels that will be heard after compression. So a 4:1 ratio means that for every 4 decibels above the threshold, 1 will be heard. If 16 decibels are above the threshold, 4 will be heard.

Limiting happens after a certain point (100:1 ratio), and you don't hear too much of a difference anymore.

Attack is the speed at which the device affects the signal. The difference between the thuck and crack sounds.

The release is the rate at which the device lets the signal decay. The time the compressor takes to return the signal to below the threshold.

The output level controls the audio level after the compression happens.

Why compress? It can make your tracks sound smooth and more consistent, it can change the tone and quality of the source, and it can change the room sound!

Compressors are dangerous and can kill an entire mix. Don't abuse them!

Compression is distortion! They are the same thing!


I love my group. We have our ups and downs, but we all have learned how to work collaboratively and effectively together to make the best recordings we can.

Compression is awesome. How did I not know this before?

Out of the Box!


In order to mix out of the box, which means using the board to mix down a session, start with assigning the Audio Path Selector to Protools.

From the Gray patch panel ProTools Outputs to the Line One Inputs. This tells the board that the signal is at line level.

To make the reach to the faders closer and more convenient, use the faders 25 through 40.

Set the faders to unity gain and set the line 1 button on, the line 1 pot set to 0, and the mix button at the top of the fader strip to on.

Also, set the auxiliary master fader up and the controls all up! Press down the dim button to bring the signal down and set the monitor speakers to about 10 o'clock. Just don't forget that the dim button is on because turning it off will blow up the room!

Side Note: Keypad 4 is the key stroke to loop playback!

Also, pan the Toms hard left and right not only on the protools channel, but also on the board.

Create a stereo audio track at the bottom and always mute it. Assign the input to B9-10 and the output to B1-2.

Patch Bay 17/18  =  IN B 9-10  =  OUT B 1-2

The whole mix goes to the Remix L/R Output into Protools 17/18 and back out (B9-10) to the 2 track monitors.

The MIX button at the top of each channel strip sends the signal to the remix output (L/R).

Ready to record? Mute, Input Monitor, Record. Then the other direction on the way back!

Friday, April 13, 2012

It Might Get Loud

"It Might Get Loud" 4.9.12

        The documentary, It Might Get Loud, features the varied playing and recording styles of the famous guitarists, Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin, Jack White from The White Stripes, and The Edge from U2. The documentary was filmed on January 23, 2008 and premiered at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival as well as both the Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival in 2009. 
In order to understand the overall dynamic of the documentary, one must understand that each guitarist is from a certain generation. Jimmy Page was born in 1944 making him 68, Edge was born in 1961 making him 50, and Jack White was born in 1975 making him 36. This difference in age, experience, and background created an overlapping and extensive blanket of individualism and creativity. "It reveals how each developed his unique sound and style of playing favorite instruments, guitars both found and invented. Concentrating on the artists musical rebellion, traveling with him to influential locations, provoking rare discussion as to how and why he writes and plays, this film lets you witness intimate moments and hear new music from each artist" (IMDb, 2008). 
Throughout the documentary, Edge and Jack White demonstrate admiration and ultra respect for Jimmy Page's stories, tricks, and music. This  is no surprise given that Jimmy Page is the oldest of the three and the guitarist for one of the most famous and well-known bands of the time. Jimmy Page started his guitar career as a session guitarist and member of the English band, The Yardbirds, before he founded the rock band, Led Zeppelin. It is an understatement to say that Jimmy Page was simply the guitarist for Led Zeppelin. In fact, he is considered to be one of the most influential guitarists and songwriters in rock music. Jimmy's introduction in the documentary is subtle as he plays a very dynamic piece on the guitar explaining the technique as "the shade whisper to the thunder" (Might Get Load, 2008). When Jimmy played or spoke, Edge and Jack listened with full attention and respect. Jimmy's early taste in music was "anything with guitar in it" and explained the revelation he experienced when he first heard the guitar "rumble". In the 60's, Jimmy was featured as a session guitarist on songs by Marianne Faithful, The Nashville Teens, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison & Them, Dave Berry, Donovan Leitch, Al Stewart, Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, and Chris Farlowe. Something very interesting about Jimmy is that he had an early interest in art other than music. Jimmy tells the cameras about his early interest and fascination with design, painting, and drawing. He talks about some of Led Zeppelin's famous songs such as "Whole Lotta Love" and, of course, "Stairway to Heaven". 
David Evans, more commonly known as The Edge, is the guitarist for the Irish band, U2. Edge is not only known for his involvement in the widely known band, but also for his distinguishable guitar delay techniques and other effects he uses. Edge met his band mates that would later form U2 at Mount Temple School in Dublin, Ireland. He mentions that "[they] could barely play" when they first started in the fall of 1976. Edge's background and career as a technical guitarist comes from his aspirations to become an engineer in his early years before U2. When he was young, he and his brother Dick built a guitar from scratch together which also contributes to his fascination with them. Something that Edge did not appreciate in his rise to fame, were famous musicians'  tendency of self-indulgence and carelessness towards their fans. He considers his fans to be the reason he and his band mates are where they are. "He has often been called an "anti-guitar hero" because of his aversion to the indulgent, showy style based on intense soloing of many contemporaries, preferring instead to play in often a technically undemanding and low-key, yet original, way. He is renowned for being a guitarist who is more concerned with sounds, texture and innovation rather than flashy technique" (@U2, 2012). Edge even tells the camera that growing up, he never wanted to play the guitar because everyone played the guitar. One of his techniques he uses that differs from the other two guitarist is his tendency to simplify the chords he plays by omitting the filler tones within the chords. 
Jack White is the youngest of the three guitarists. Before the three sat down and started, Jack mentions that he is going to "trick them into teaching [him] all their tricks" (Might Get Load, 2008). Jack's playing resembles a more country, southern blues style when he is shown playing piano with his son out in the country. Jack is an American singer-songwriter and is best known as the lead vocalist and guitarist for the band, The White Stripes. He was also a member of the bands The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. Jack White is listed as #70 on Rolling Stones' list of top 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. During the documentary, the difference in age and years of experience was definitely pronounced when featuring the three guitarists together. Politely and humbly, Jack seemed to listen and learn more than project the knowledge he has and came across as self deprecating to a degree. Jack's style of guitar was also the most different. His early inspiration was the sounds of Son House saying that it spoke to him in a thousand different ways with the simplicity of singing and clapping. He recalled that the use of stripes on his and Meg's outfits were actually used to distract the audience from the fact that they were "trying to play Son House" (Might Get Loud, 2008). Jack's history as a musician comes from where most angry, punk rock guitar players come from--getting picked on in school. He grew up in a town where rock and roll was uncool to listen to and playing any instrument was even worse. One of the interesting techniques of Jack White's playing is his use of the Harmonica Microphone installed in his guitar. 
As for the interpersonal relationships between the three guitarists, I gathered Jack as being far more strange and eccentric than the other two, Edge being more concerned with the math and technology behind his playing, and Jimmy being the musical virtuoso who considers dynamics and collaborative playing to be key. They were all extremely honest and respectful of each other during the documentary and actively listened to each others' experiences, background, and opinions. The honesty level came in when Edge admitted to playing a wrong chord for a good amount of the time they were all jamming on one song and when Jimmy blurted that he can't sing. Jack and Edge started harmonizing very well during another song and it was obvious that an extra step of bonding happened. The three guitarists are all talented and influential in their own way, contributing to the history and list of incredible and important guitarists. By the end of the documentary, each of the three exchanged hugs and handshakes with clear signs of appreciation and respect. 

  • IMDb "It Might Get Loud"
  • Rolling Stone Music
  • Jack White III
  • @U2 "The Edge Biography"
  • It Might Get Loud, and the Documentary itself