I talked last week about how it’s so easy to overdo things in the studio.

‘Tis human nature, after all.

But today I’ve got a quick and easy tip that’ll help you avoid over-compressing your tracks.

If you try this, you’ll find that you can still get your “compression fix” without squashing the living daylights out of your tracks.

(Because remember, compression isn’t bad. It’s awesome…if you don’t overdo it.)

Okay here’s today’s tip:


Most people have a particular order they use for compression.

Let’s use drums as an example.

First they’ll use compression on the individual tracks. Kick, snare, maybe toms. They’ll probably squash the room mic, too.

Next, they’ll compress the drum bus. (Route all the the drums to a stereo bus or aux and add a compressor plugin to that bus.)

Then they’ll compress their entire mix by putting a compressor on the master bus.

So let’s follow our friend, Mr. Snare Drum, on his journey, shall we?

First he runs through his individual compressor and gets squashed pretty heavily. Next he goes through the drum bus compressor, where more squashing happens. Then, if he’s got any strength left, he runs through the mix bus compressor.

Poor little guy. He never had a chance.

If I feel like I’ve over-compressed a track, it’s usually because I haven’t worked backwards.

Rather than starting with the track, start with the mix bus. If you’re going to compress the mix anyway, do it at the beginning.

Next, compress the drum bus.

You may find that simply compressing the drum bus gives you the EXACT snare drum sound you want.

You’d never know that if you compressed the snare track first.

So there you have it. Work backwards.

This works for anything, not just drums. Sometimes I find the lead vocal gets compressed quite a bit at the mix bus compressor, which causes me to use less compression on the vocal itself.

And that, my friend, keeps me from over-compressing things.

Of course, knowing the right order to use compression is helpful, but only if you know how to set up the compressor.

To get a handle on that ever-so-important piece of the puzzle, go here:


Joe Gilder

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  • Eric Jean

    Agreed.  Great post! So many people over compress.  This is one of the best posts I’ve seen in months.  We have to remind ourselves that compression is multiplicative as Sambatesmusic mentioned.

    • Absolutely. Multiplicative. Say that five times fast….GO! 🙂

  • Sambatesmusic

    Great post. Worth remembering that compression ratios are multiplied, not additive! So a snare at 3:1 into drum bus at 4:1 into mix buss at 2:1 is 24:1!! Times that by the amount of compression at mastering….. You get the picture.

    • That’s fast math. 🙂

    • jonrohland

      I actually hadn’t heard that before and it just blew my mind.  LOL.  (after tracing a hypothetical signal through 2 compressors in my mind and doing the math)