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Old 01-21-2021, 05:41 PM
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Doug Young Doug Young is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Mountain View, CA
Posts: 8,233

Originally Posted by SprintBob View Post
Given my application is solo instrumental fingerstyle acoustic, what has been frustrating in searching out advice on learning about applying compression (and understanding compression parameters) is that most of what I find is in the context of making the guitar sit properly in a mix with other instruments and/or a vocalist.
I know I've told this story here before: There was an article in one of the recording magazines a few years back, one of those "20 sure-fire techniques for recording acoustic guitar" things. I read it with great interest, all kinds of ideas I hadn't thought of. Got to the end and the "famous recording engineer" who was writing says "All these techniques are sure to work unless you're doing something totally crazy, out in left field, that no one ever, ever does, like recording solo instrumental guitar". Sigh... Tosses article... You do have to be careful about the context :-)

I view compression as something I'd do in a mastering step, and it needs to be done very carefully for the kind of music I play, or else it will be obvious. I don't use it to fix or balance out a recording. That's best done with mic placement and fingers. That said, I do find dynamic EQ useful, which is basically an EQ side-chained to a compressor. You can set it so that when a certain frequency triggers a threshold, you can cut (or boost) that frequency. You set it up like an EQ, but with that additional threshold feature. Very handy for occasional boomy notes, maybe a raspy high note that you only hit now and then. Even tho it's leveraging compressor technology, the idea is more "EQ that only kicks in when you need it".

In the mastering stage, I do typically use some simple compression/limiting. Ozone's been my go to limiter for a while, but lately I've been using Limitless. In either case, we're talking *very* little compression. I typically use it to bring the track up to release level and that's it. In other words, I'm trying to find the point just before compression starts, with perhaps an occasional overshoot. Ozone has a nice display that shows you when limiting is kicking in. Here's an example. That line is showing when compression is applied. So here, it basically isn't, except for that short little divot on one note a few seconds in.

Screen Shot 2021-01-21 at 3.28.01 PM.jpg

I also sometimes like the sound of an LA2 compressor on a track. Again, adjusted to where the meters don't move, so in theory, "no" compression. In reality there's maybe a 1/2 db or something happening, and the LA2 just seems to add a nice color and smoothness.

On your mics question - personally, I tend to use identical mics most of the time. I can see in theory that using different mics could be useful, LD vs SDC, or even condenser and ribbon. I've been able to play with those ideas easily lately, since I got the Townsend L22 modeling mic, which lets me record stereo and swap virtual mics around after the fact while listening. You can certainly get some different colors both by choosing different mics and by choosing different pairings. On the Christmas CD I recorded last year, I used a LD/Ribbon mic pairing on a few tracks, and liked the way that came out. But other times, I've thought the result seemed a bit odd and matching mics seemed more natural sounding.
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