Been busy the past few days. Went down to the school to track drums yesterday, and I've been at home working on that country song all day today. I'm having to do a crap ton of work on it. I wish they'd had more time to record, but whatever.
So now for some more basic stuff.
This is all personal taste, so I won't say too much. Plus, it all depends on what you're working with. Just make sure it isn't obvious that you are using compression. If you hear it, then tweak it until you don't hear it.
A good starting point is with your threshold all the way down, ratio all the way up, attack at 0, and release almost at 0. Then bring your threshold up until the softest parts (a soft note, the end of a sustained note, etc) aren't being effected (no gain reduction). Then bring your ratio back to whatever you like (you may have to readjust your threshold a little) and set your attack, release, and makeup gain accordingly. Makeup gain, obviously, should be set to "counteract" the gain reduction (+6dB if you have an average of 6dB reduction). What this does is put the loudest shit back where it was, and cause the lower parts to be boosted up. Now you have a (semi) even signal! :D
FYI, I set my attack and release before my threshold because it's easier to hear what's going on, but do whatever is easiest for you.
Also, for drums, make sure you set the attack long enough to let the attack of the drum through. If you set it too fast, you're killing the initial drum hit and mushing it in with the ringing of the drum.
When I mix, I use parallel compression a lot. I use it on kicks, snares, vocals, basses, and guitars (but usually only if they're really ballsy or if it's a solo). On kicks and snares, I've even went crazy and used parallel compression, then bounced it to a new track, then used more parallel compression.... and sometimes, I've even done it three times (and then compressed the final bounced signal)! Some might say that you shouldn't have to do it that much, but I wasn't exactly looking for a natural kick sound, and it sounded good, so whatever (I was working on some fucked up electronic music).
What is it? For those who've never head of it, it's basically having the same signal on two channels, and applying compression to just one of them, or using light compression on the first and heavy compression on the second. Then you mix in the more heavily compressed one pretty low (or however loud you want it), and it leaves you with a nice, thick signal. It gives you the dynamic range of an uncompressed signal, but you're assured that the level never drops too low. This is especially helpful on vocals, because you get a lively vocal with a solid foundation on the bottom. I love using it on kicks. On kicks, it'll just.... make you happy.
Master Buss Compression
A fucking lovely feature of the school's SSL is the master buss compressor. It takes your whole mix and compresses it. The concept is the same on any other board or in any DAW. Just add a compressor to your master fader. It'll even out your whole mix. But don't go crazy with it, just use it very lightly. I make sure I never go over 2dB of compression. There's no point in going further, because that's what mastering is for. Plus, you don't wanna do too much and end up with that weird sucking/pulsing shit.
When doing this, aim for a fast attack, a medium release (although it really depends on the song. I usually stick with a fast release regardless), and a 2:1 ratio. Set your makeup gain according to your gain reduction!
The main thing you have to remember is to APPLY THIS BEFORE YOU START MIXING! If you don't, you'll be mixing for hours, then apply the master compression, and well oh fuck, you're entire mix has changed... So yeah, apply it first, then keep adjusting it to make sure it's not going over 2dB (or whatever you want). And if you're going for a punchy kick, make sure it sticks through WITH the master buss compression applied, and make sure it sticks through just a little more than you'd actually want it to. The mastering process will suck a little bit of the punch out of it, so you should add a little to compensate.
So if you couldn't tell, I love compressing the fuck out of kick drums.
Just do what makes your ears happy.
OOOO OOOO OOOO!!!! I forgot! Some really cool you can do while tracking drums is setting up a trash mic. You just put a mic behind the drummer, a couple of feet above his head, and aim it down at the kit. You can use any kind of mic, but I usually use an SM58. I've also tried using my Nady SP1 a few times. It's this really crappy mic I got a couple of years ago. I really needed a new mic stand, and I saw a $25 package that included a mic, an XLR, and the stand, so I snagged it. It sounds bad, but that's why I like it.
But yeah, set up that mic, then apply 100:1 compression to it. Trash it up however you want. I always just do a fast attack, long release, and throw the threshold all the way down. Then you add this very low under the whole drum mix and it just sounds awesome.
It's pretty common. The idea comes from the SSL listen mic being used as a room mic. You just set up a mic and patch it into the listen mic input, and it gives you a super compressed signal so you'll hear the artist no matter where they are in the room, or how loud or soft they're talking. Well, it sounded pretty sick on drums, so people started using it as a drum mic.
SSL even has a plug-in for it: LMC-1 Plug-In
Ok, now I really need sleep. Buh bye