Once you develop a good understanding of how to use compression, the next logical step is to ask, “How much compression should I use on specific tracks?

The vague, non-helpful answer is “It depends.”

And that’s true. Every song, every mix, is different. But there tend to be some tracks I compress more heavily than others most of the time.

Here are my three favorite tracks to compress (and why):

#1 – Vocals

On most mixes I do, there’s a moderate amount of compression on the lead vocal. This gives it that “tightness” you want, and keeps it from disappearing in the mix from one phrase to the next.

While too much compression can sound awful on a vocal (very harsh and “strained” sounding), the right amount of compression sounds amazing.

I’m usually knocking off around 6 dB with compression as a good starting point for vocals.

#2 – Bass

If you’re ever in the mood to just squash the daylights out of something, use the bass track.

I’ve found that bass can handle any amount of compression I throw its way.

Sometimes I’ll be clocking in at 10 – 15 dB of gain reduction. No problemo.

Just make sure you don’t set your attack too fast, or you’ll lose all the punch.

#3 – Drum Bus

Kissing the drum bus with some compression can really give it a nice “thick” sound.

I tend to go for something like 6 – 10 dB of gain reduction to start, then dial it back if it’s too much.

Long attack time here as well.

For step-by-step training on mixing tracks like vocals and drums, check out the video archives inside the VIP members area.

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Joe Gilder
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