In this article, I am going to show you the 10 tips for using compression when mastering your music, and I hope you know too well that compression is a very important process during music mastering.

Alongside equalization and limiting, Compression will help you to add punch to your mastered song to give it a more in-your-face type of sound.

If you use compression correctly, it will give more energy to your overall sound as well as make all the various sections of your song flow well together.

It is believed by producers that compression helps you to assemble all the elements of the song together into a cohesive whole.

But as is usual with every process of music mastering, it has its pits and falls, and that is why I wrote this article to help you understand how to use this process well.

How do you use compression when mastering?

Below are the 10 ways you can use compression when mastering your music.

  1. Reduce the overall dynamic range.
  2. Don’t use mixing compressors for mastering.
  3. You can skip using compression during mastering.
  4. Be subtle.
  5. Concentrate on the attack and release.
  6. Use multiband compressor.
  7. Use more than one compressor if it’s necessary.
  8. Use bypass buttons to listen to how the compressor affects your song.
  9. Compare your final compressed song with other mastered tracks.
  10. Listen, listen, and listen.

1. Reduce the overall dynamic range.

During compression, you need to bring down the level of the parts of your mix that are louder. Your waveform will enable you to see and do that.

You can make them softer by gaining a reduction

Every compressor you use will have the following set of controls.

Threshold/Ratio: The threshold is the time when compression begins, while the ratio is the amount of gain reduction that is applied.

If you use a low threshold with a high ratio, you will end up with a sound that is squeezed and lifeless, while using a high threshold and low ratio will give you a transparent kind of sound when you are done with the mastering.

Attack/Release: Attack is when the compressor will begin working once a signal is above the threshold setting, while the release is the time it stops working after the signal drops below the threshold.

Soft/Hard Knee: A knee setting determines the smoothness that occurs when the sound transits from no compression to full compression after the threshold is passed.

A “Hard” knee means that the compressor stops the signal immediately, while a “soft” knee means the compression continues as the signal goes over the threshold. 

In this case, soft knee settings are used more for mastering because it is less aggressive.

Make-Up Gain: This parameter is used for boosting the compressed signal.

It helps you to return your track to its starting level and in the end, it makes everything sound punchier; no matter how loud it may seem.

2. Don’t use mixing compressors for mastering.

Most of the compression plugins are unable to affect all the sounds that have now been mixed to form a whole song.

And these are the ones designed to be used on a single instrument or group of instruments, and if you attempt to use them during the mastering process, they may bring out undesirable distortion when it is driven hard.

For mastering, therefore, you should use compressors that are made to work well on stereo busses, as opposed to mono channels.

3. You can skip using compression during mastering.

There is no denying the fact that there are songs that are mixed so well that, there is no need of adding compression again during the mastering process.

So, therefore, if you listen to your final mix and it sounds ok, you can skip adding any compression during mastering and concentrate on other processes.

4. Be subtle.

As you did during equalization, the less compression you apply will bring out a better result for you.

In fact, over-compressing your master can even make it sound like a demo.

There are engineers who hardly use compression during mastering, and even if they do, they try to keep everything as subtle as it can be.

5. Concentrate on the attack and release.

The attack and release controls on a compressor are extremely important during music mastering.

If you use an attack time that is too short, it can damage your entire music, because it will cause the compressor to eliminate the transients, that is the sounds that contain the punch; such as the beat of the kick drum or the attack of a bass note.

On the other hand, if you use an attack time that is too long, it will make too much audio escape before the compressor has time to react.

And for that reason, make sure you start with an attack time between the 30–40 ms range and then dial in some more at 100 ms.

6. Use multiband compressor.

A multiband compression will help you to work effectively on the three main areas of the track; that is the high, the mids, and the lowers.

This works well if you are mastering a song that is already mixed down.

7. Use more than one compressor if it’s necessary.

There will always be times when the best mastering compressor alone will be unable to accomplish the kind of sound you want.

And that’s when adding another compressor plugin is necessary instead of trying to increase the intensity of one you added already.

 You can use the same compressor but in series; that is to say, one after the other. And this will help to cut the workload on a particular compressor.

8. Use bypass buttons to listen to how the compressor affects your song.

When using compression during mastering, the bypass button should be your best companion. So that every time you turn a parameter up or down, you bypass them to listen to how the effect sounds so far.

Therefore you must use the bypass buttons on compressors frequently, to avoid listening back to a horrible sound when you think you are done applying it.

9. Compare your final compressed song with other mastered tracks.

At this point, you need to make a comparison with other mastered tracks. I mean the ones you succeeded in mastering.

Trying to compare songs you download online is never a good idea as their qualities have been compensated during converting from one form to another.

10. Listen, listen, and listen.

Finally, you need to keep at least a day or more to listen again and again to your final master before exporting it.

You can do a trial exporting and listening on other playback devices to hear how the sound interprets on them.

From thence you will know the adjustments you will need to have a balanced ground for your final mastering before you export it.

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Last modified: November 5, 2022



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