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124: When And How To Use Multiband Compression

Multiband compression is very powerful, but also pretty dangerous. 

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Most of the time you don’t need it and you definitely shouldn’t be using it on everything. But once you understand it, you have a great tool at your disposal that does things, other tools just can’t do.

Multiband compression is also one of the most popular topics people ask us about. For some reason a lot of beginner engineers and mixers think it’s a magic bullet or the secret to pro mixes. That is not true. In fact, every pro mixer we know uses it only on a few things (if at all) and only in very intentional, specific ways.

So let’s talk about when and how we like to use it and what some typical use cases look like for many mixers.

Watch the free in-depth session template video walkthrough:

Book a free feedback call with Benedikt:

Multiband compressor plugins we use (and mention on the episode):

  • Fabfilter Pro-MB
  • Waves C6
  • Waves Lin MB
  • Any stock multiband compressor

This episode was edited by Thomas Krottenthaler.

Benedikt's voice on this episode has been recorded with the Antelope Axino Synergy Core.


Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy (click for full transcript)

TSRB Podcast 124 - Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy

Malcom: what we're really talking about is, is practical use cases that we actually do use it for in the hopes that you can understand why we use it and how it works and what its purposes are, and just kind of demystify the whole thing. So it doesn't seem like this magic bullet 

Benedikt: Hello, and welcome to the self recording band podcast. I am your host Benedictine, and I'm here with my friend and co-host Malcolm Owen flood. How are you, Malcolm?

Malcom: Hello, Benny. I am great, man. I mixed a pop punk song the other week, or maybe that was last week. Yeah, last week. And I had so much fun pop punk's so much fun. I'm just so glad that music exists again.

Benedikt: Yes, it is. Yes, totally. It's a lot of fun. What was it like? Can you say the band?

Malcom: Uh, yep. Her name is Dian Gerard. And, uh, actually I shared the mix with you now that I think about it,

Benedikt: Oh yeah. Is, is it that one? Yeah. Cool. 

Malcom: some good feedback on that. And I think that, that those notes really helped actually get it to exactly where we wanted it. Um, and yeah. Yeah, just high energy. Music and like, you know, pop punk's so magical because like the arrangements just like lend themselves to good sounding mixes, you know, like, like everything just has its little place and is all high energy. And the drum beats are catchy. Like it's just all, all a win to me. I know some people despise that music, but I love it.

Benedikt: I had to learn to love it, or actually, honestly, I think deep inside me, I always loved it,

Malcom: yeah. I think people just gotta admit they love it.

Benedikt: Yeah, totally. Like I was like, there was no way I would've admitted that, like, I don't know, 15, 20 years ago, uh, when we listened to real quote unquote real punk bands, you know, but then at some point I didn't care anymore at all. And now I'm proudly telling everybody that I love those bands and I always did, but I just wouldn't willing to admit, you know, I can listen to even like, I can listen to ever Levine or something even, 

Malcom: Honestly just threw on her new album cuz she's, she's making a comeback right now. And I was like, okay, I gotta check this out. There's some banger songs on there. Well done Admiral a Canadian treasure yet again,

Benedikt: yes, definitely. And, and also like totally unrelated to everything now. But, but what I found interesting is is like, it's been like, I don't know, 20 years, 25 years almost since she first released something and her voice sounds just like, it sounded back then. And she looks just like, she looked back then it's almost like time has there's no, you know, there was like,

it's 

Malcom: went to do a capsule. 

Benedikt: Yeah, really honestly, it's like the same thing. 

Malcom: Have you heard, this is such a stupid thing to talk about on the podcast. I'm sorry, everyone, but have you heard of the, the Levine is dead conspiracy?

Benedikt: I definitely heard of that. 

It's been a while, but I definitely heard that and I thought it was hilarious. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Totally. Totally. Just look that up. People, you will find it. Just Google that if you're

Malcom: we won't go down 

that road. 

Benedikt: No, no, but you have definitely heard it. I was yeah, I forgot about it, but

Malcom: People are crazy, man.

Benedikt: People are really crazy. Yeah. And they go down these rabbit holes and do all the research to prove their point and they it's so crazy.

Malcom: yeah, I think they overestimate the, the power of the music industry in that case, but

Benedikt: Yeah. I think so too. I think so, too. Yeah. Yeah. Anyway, well get a love, pop punk. So pop so, and I, I love that mix by the way I, as you said, I gave you a little bit of feedback. It wasn't much because it didn't need much. So, at least I thought so, and I really enjoyed it and, uh, yeah, it's fun to mix. Definitely. I love to do those things.

Malcom: Yeah, Darien signed off on the mix were finished and, uh, more songs on the

Benedikt: Awesome. Really, really, really, really cool. So to sort of, yeah, get to today's topic of, of, of the episode. Did you use any multi-band compression in there?

Malcom: You know what I did. Uh I think, I think on one thing, uh, uh, which, which is my most common use of it, but yeah, listeners, we are talking about when and how to use multi band compression. That is, uh, our, our topic for this it's so heavily requested and we've like begrudgingly avoided it, I think, because we don't think it's that important. And, and but it is finally like we just have to address it and explain why it's not that important. Maybe. I don't know. I, I feel like education will, will get people to stop thinking about it so much. And what I mean by, by that is that it's, for some reason, multi band compression just sounds magical or something. And people seem to think that it's this little. Like magic, fix everything tool and is the, or maybe not fix everything tool, but is the, is the secret to things sounding professional, um, and, and having pro mixes. And, and that's just, just not the case at all. It that's like having saying, having a lighter is, is, is the, the secret to having a bonfire or something. It's like, well, it'll help you start a fire, but like, you know, there's other things involved. I don't know. That's the weirdest analogy I could have chosen, but, uh, , I don't know if bonfires are popular in Germany, but

I, I have 

Benedikt: they, are, they are, for sure. I just don't think that a multi band compression typically starts a fire when it comes to mixes, but

Malcom: I can set your mix on fire in a bad way. 

Benedikt: that, yeah, that's true. That's for sure. That's true. Yeah. But I, I get, I know, I totally get what you're saying. So, uh, it seems for, I, and I actually would love to know where that came from. Why do people think that it's sort of the secret sauce and the, and yeah. The secret ingredient and, and what the thing you have to do, maybe it's because. It's rather complicated and they think, because they don't understand it, it must be something that the pros can do that they cannot do. Maybe that's part of the reason. 

Malcom: I think that's part of it. Um, and I do wanna say that I'm like, despite all of what I just said, neither Benny or I are anti multi bank compression. It's a great tool. Fantastic. I'm so 

glad it exists. Um, but, uh, but it's just, it's just not anything different than any other tool, really, at the end of the day, it's just, just a tool that does multi band compression. So when do we use it when we want multi band compression um, right. It it's really that simple. But I guess you have to understand what multiply on compression is to, to for that, any of this, to make sense. So yeah, where, where do we start Benny?

Benedikt: Yeah, I love what you just said. When do we use it? When, uh, we use it when we want multi compression, because that means we don't use it because we think we have to use compression. We use it when we already know that we want this for specific reasons. And that's as always being intentional is, is key here. Uh, and. Yeah, I think we, we should, I think the best way to, to explain that is to just give you examples of, of things that we use multiple compression on and, and the specific use cases. And, um, and once again, It's really a fact that, and, and it might be depending on the genre. So, but in our world, in the rock world, sort of, it's very, if you watch, uh, tutorials or mixed walkthroughs, it's, it's actually pretty rare to see people use multi band compression. And if they, I mean, you see it, but they use it for very specific things like we do, but it's not that they use it all the time or they use it on every, on the mix bus or on, on, you know, on every single mix or master that they do. In maybe in the electronic world that it's a little different. But, but in our world, it's definitely not something you have to do and not something you'd have to do on every single source. Definitely not. So let's talk about some specific examples and by the way, if you wanna see what an example of. A mixing session could look like in my case, for example, um, then you can go to the self recording band.com/template, and you see, you get a free walkthrough video where you see my entire sort of workflow, my template, how I set up things, some of the go-to plugins that I use, um, the routing that I use and you'll notice that there's probably multi band in there. I, I can't remember when exactly I made the video. It's not too long ago, so it's still relevant, but there might be multi band in there, but definitely not on every track. Definitely not on every bus. And it's probably off by default. So, uh, if you wanna see that and if you wanna, if you wanna see the tools that I actually actually use a lot in, almost in every mix, then you can go to the surf recording, band.com/template and watch that free video now onto the specific things. So you wanna start that Malcolm, like it's things you is. Are there any things you always do with multi-band compression or is it often that you don't use any at. Okay.

Malcom: It is very common for me to side chain, the low end out of my bass guitar. So, so side chain from a kick drum to the low band of my bass guitar. Um, so on a multi band compressor, let's quickly describe what a multi began, multi band compressor. Is and looks like it is like a compressor, but you can set individual frequency bands that that compression is happening to. and, and depending on the, the tool you're using that might be anywhere from two bands to like up to six or something is I think the, the most I've ever seen on something, but who knows, maybe you can do more than that on some But like in the case of this use case, so, which I think will help you understand it. I'm ducking the low end on the base guitar whenever the kick drum plays. Um, so I've created a frequency band in the multi band compressor that is only highlighting selecting My my, my low end. And that could be anywhere from, you know, zero to, to a hundred Hertz or maybe I'm going up to 200 Hertz or, you know, like whatever, whatever you want and, and alternatively, you could select anywhere else as well. And then you're. I'm feeding the kick drum signal into that. And whenever it detects that kick drum signal, I'm telling it to reduce the gain, like compress that, that frequency signal of that low end by whatever amount. And I can mess with the attack and release and ratio just like a normal compressor, but I'm only doing it to this one frequency. So that's kinda interesting. So really I'm using it as kind of volume automation. I'm like ducking the low end, uh, in the, in the use case of ducking, the bass guitar outta the way of the kick, rather than shaping it, um, like a, a compressor might be normally used to do, like when you just grab an 1176 to throw in something you're, you're more so shaping something. This is more, this isn't really that this is like volume control. More than anything. But that's, that's something that's cool about it, because if I did that with a normal compressor, I, that it wasn't multi band. I would be ducking the entire signal. Right. My entire base track would be going down in this case. I'm only ducking the low end, just, just a little bit. And, and it's, it's so little that when I solo it, sometimes I can't even tell that it's happen. I'm just like, okay, I know it's happening but I can't tell. And that's kind of actually the goal, it's like a little loudness trick. It's gonna, let me squeeze it a little harder down the, down the line. Um, sometimes you want pump and to audibly be able to hear it, but, but in this case, and it, it is something, like I said, this is something that I do quite a bit. Um, and, and to varying degrees, like, like I said, often, I can't even really hear it.

Benedikt: It's also this piece of mind thing that, you know, you're just avoiding buildups and it's just keeping things under control. And for the most part, it's not doing a lot, but for the occasional. Spike, you know, it just keeps things in check it's

Malcom: Yeah, it's preemptive really. It's, it's like a preemptive thing that I know I'm gonna need to deal with later. And I should say that it's something I like to do right now, but I, I didn't do it for years and years. It's pretty recent into my workflow, honestly. Um, and you know, it's not like I wasn't getting work then, so I guess it's, again, it's not crucial at all. It's just something I kind of am enjoying right now. And it solves that problem that way, opposed to do solving it some other way down the down the chain.

Benedikt: okay.

Malcom: So, so yeah, side chaining my, my base low end control. That's that's my, my main thing. What about you, Ben? Do you have any common things that you

Benedikt: I almost, I, I know in the mix bus, um, episode, I didn't really mention it, but like recently I came back to using it on the mix bus a little bit, but similar to. Like, it's almost not worth mentioning it because it's doing so little, it's like half a DB introduction per band, or so it's almost like a piece of mind thing where I know that in case there is a buildup in, in some part that, um, that I don't really want, uh, it just keeps things in check a little bit. It makes it more consistent. And, um, I don't know. It's it's it's it's I'm gonna explain. That what I actually do there, uh, when, when we go through the, through the list of how to set, set things up and stuff, but I I'd say mix bus. Yeah. I'd say mix bus control is probably one that I do almost on every mix right now, but I could as well just turn it off and wouldn't be much of a difference. It's

really a subtle, a subtle thing that I play around with.

Malcom: Now that you mention it. I, I totally have Lynn MB, which is a waves, multi band. Um, and I, I treat it like a color thing almost as hilarious. I turn it on and if I've gained stage, like I normally do the meters. Barely Twitch. And, and if it, I, if I like it more, if it seems a little more locked in, I leave it on. I don't tweak it at all.

Benedikt: yeah, yeah, yeah,

Malcom: and then, yeah, that, that's pretty often on my, on my mix bus as well. Same thing. It's just really looking for things that build up and, and jump out a little more that I want 'em to it's kind of levels things off a little bit for me.

Benedikt: Yeah. The one thing I always do, I, I really almost always do is for me, is base low end control, which means I compress the low end of the base separately from the rest of the base, because I often want to preserve a little more of the dynamics in the pick attack and the, the finger noise and whatever. And, and like those, those types of things. But I really want the comp the, the low end to be super consistent and. There's multiple stages, actually, that, that the base goes through in order for, to, to achieve that. But one of them is using a multi band where I only use the lowest band to just compress the low end of the base or multiple base instruments. I do that on my base bus. So if I have a bass synth and a bass guitar playing together or something, um, everything there, and that goes into that sort of base bus will get compressed, but just the low end so that I have the solid foundation. That's something that I really almost always do. And, uh, there's different ways of doing that. You could split the signal up and use a, a normal compressor, but just, it only affect the low end. If you like duplicate the track and split it in too low and high, you can do a multi-band where it only affects the low end of the signal. Yeah. In my case, I do both most of the time, but on my base bus, this is the one thing on my base bus. I have the multi-bank compressor with the low end band. And most of the time I use that for a more consistent, fundamental notes thing.

Malcom: right. 

Benedikt: I, I wanna say one thing real quick. I, I have to, after we've talked about the mixed bus thing, there is, to me two different ways of using a multi there's a tons of ways to, to using a multi bank compress, uh, compressor But, or as Brian who my, my, my, my business coach likes to say, there is a, like, what did he say? Like, there is a thousand ways to mutilate a cat. that? Yeah. Yeah. I would say that was my reaction. Exactly. But that's what he is. He, he kinda started saying now and on our coaching calls and I'm like, yeah. but, 

Malcom: that gets your attention.

Benedikt: exactly. There's a thousand ways to use a multi compressor, but What I wanted to say is that there's basically two approaches, two main approaches to me. The one is to use it, to change the signal, like to, to, to, you know, change the balance, change the frequency balance and, and to, uh, almost like using it like an EQ or a color thing. That's one approach. And then the other approach is use it like, like you would use a compressor, but just with the separation between the bands, so that one band doesn't affect the other. That that's the difference to me. And what I do on the mix bus is I don't try to, to change the mix. I don't try to boost lows boost, highs, or change the midrange. What I'm trying to do is I basically, actually what I do is I set the bands. Sometimes I set them exactly the same. Like I would set a mix bus compressor. So I would have a typical mix bus compression setting on each of the four bands, for example, Um, the only difference to mix bus Noone mix bus compressor is that a loud kick drum will then only trigger the low band and allowed SNA Drumm will trigger the low mids and the vocal, the upper mids. And, but, but it, it doesn't really change the song a lot. It just prevents. Things from pumping. So the loud kick doesn't move the symbols anymore, or the loud SNAT drum doesn't duck the vocal as much anymore. So I use it as a very conservative, very standard sort of compressor thing. But with in a, in a more transparent way, it's actually a more transparent, mixed bus compressor in a way, the 

Malcom: Yeah, yeah. Use like that is, is very clever. Um, and, and very clean, like you said, 

Benedikt: Yeah, a very great starting point. So you can't do you, you can't do as much harm as you start with that. Just set all the bands to exactly the same thing, like a mix bus compressor, and, and, or like any compressor and then watch and listen to what it does. And then. You can start tweaking things based on the content of each band. But, but if you just start by treating it as a standard compressor and you stop you stop thinking about it as these four different things that you have to set differently. If you just think about it as a compressor and set it in the same, and then what you get is a more transparent way of compressing things. And you're not gonna cause a ton of harm. I think i. 

Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. Now. Okay. Here's the misconception though. People just heard that. And what they heard is, oh, it's like a mixed bus compressor, but better.

Benedikt: No, no, no, it's not.

Malcom: Right. And it's yeah, that, that, it's not, it's just not, um, like that, you know, a mixed bus compressor, like he said, allow, kick's gonna make everything react to the, the whole frequency. Ring's gonna react on a normal mixed bus com opposed to a multi band, but that can be good. And is 

something that is what we're very used to hearing and often want. So just because it is more powerful sounding doesn't mean more better. not more better.

Benedikt: no. I actually use both in, in my chain. So I use the mix bus compressor for the glue, for the pump, for the character and, and for the, the. The reason I like it is precisely that it affects the whole thing and that it makes things pump and react. So that's why I use a mix bus compressor. And sometimes in addition to that, I might use the multi-band just for some extra level control in a very transparent way, but that is not what I use a mix bus compressor for. You know, so you're totally right. You're totally right. So, yeah. And, and I, I just wanna, I just wanted to say that because it's helpful for the whole episode. I think that people understand that it's not as complicated a mix, but like a multi-bank compressor. It's just a compressor. It's like four compressors basically, but it works just like a compressor and. You can start by setting it like one and then start tweaking. And we can get into some, some, some settings or some reasons to tweak individual bands. But overall it's, it's just another compressor, you know, nothing, nothing magic about it. And if I say more transparent, there's also a cost to using it. It's not overall, it's not more transparent than not using anything because there's filters involved between those bands and those crossover filters and all that. All of it creates like artifacts or affects the sound in a way. So if you want the most transparent, most clean results, um, not using anything is always the best choice. So you know, everything comes at a cost, so that's why you have to be so careful with multi-band,

Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. There's there's this little face coherency cost to just having it living on the chain. So again, only, only grab it. If you have a reason to be grabbing it. If, if you want multi band compression that. Again, why we use it. You know, because you said you, you set it up to kind of transparently deal with like overages of like a frequency buildup. I think guitars would be another cool place to talk about next and, and using them on, on guitars. Most common place that I would consider using multi band compression on guitars is when it drops into like a Palm muted. Chuggy part dun dun dun dun, cause there's usually this bloom of kind of low mids, low end at those parts that just muddies up the whole mix. And a multi-bank compressor can kind of just push that frequency range down a little bit to compensate for that and used how I like it. It just makes it sound like it didn't happen. Like it makes it sound like it didn't get loud and, and weirdly. Basey, there just seems more even. So again, using it to just make something seem transparent and, and hiding the problem rather than really doing anything crazy. Like I never use a multi band compressor for anything aggressive now that I think about it.

Benedikt: no, no. Yeah, totally. Right. No, actually not. I mean, there is, there are, um, ways of using it, like, like that. So there's the famous, um, what's the Ableton preset called the OTT. That's like just built a whole plug in around the famous multi band preset that makes things incredibly. It changes everything. It's very drastic and very didn't, you know, didn't you hear about

that? There's this legendary multi band preset in, I think Ableton that electronic music people have been using for a while. It's that it's like, yeah. One of those, you know, secrets, I don't know. And, uh, slate just built a, a whole plugin based on that. It's a multi band compressor. That's uh, doing that, able to preset on steroids, basically with a couple of options that you can tweak. And it's actually pretty cool. I tried it and it's really, it does something that no, other of my, the tools does. So, so there is ways to use multi band compression, creatively or radically, but I don't typically do that. And I wouldn't advise doing that unless you know what you're doing or unless you wanna experiment with weird sounds, but 

Malcom: right. 

Benedikt: yeah. Yeah. But I'm just saying you can use you, you can absolutely use it to do these drastic things, but it's not the common thing to do.

Malcom: Now that sounds to me like a creative tool rather than a mixing tool though. Right? Um, like how they're using it there. Um, which is cool. Yeah. Totally encourage you to grab it and, and see what weird noises you can make. Like, like playing with side chain stuff can be really creative. We can really create these weird pumping movement things. Um, but . What we're really talking about is, is practical use cases that we actually do use it for in the hopes that you can understand why we use it and how it works and what its purposes are, and just kind of demystify the whole thing. So it doesn't seem like this magic bullet and it's more of like a specialist tool.

Benedikt: Yeah. I would like to just burn through, through my list real quick with like actually, because I have in mind a couple of things that I can, I can tell you that's that are really specific, really targeted because the more I think about it Most of the time that I use multi-bank compression, it's really very targeted problem solving. That's what it does. It like really solve specific problems. For me, it's not very creative, but it's like, yeah, it's a problem solving tool. And I have very specific use cases for it. So the first one being what I said, a little bit of mixed bus control, where I basically. Set it up like a mixed plus compressor, but very transparent only to avoid buildups in certain parts of the frequency spectrum. Um, but it's like doing very, very little and I am still experimenting with that if, and I'm still, not a hundred percent sure if I actually. Wanna continue using it. If I really think it's that much better or not, I I'm, I'm trying. And I like, you know, experimenting with it and I feel better now if I see that it's keeping things on the under control, but it might be that I, at some point stop using it again on the mixed bus. So, but now the more specific things based low in control, as I said, low band only controlling the fundamental notes, making it more consistent. The one thing to be, to be, to pay attention to there. Try keeping the, the, the attack times as short as you can without causing distortion because very short attack times will cause distortion on, on any base signal and you, for that purpose, like of keeping the lower and trans consistent, you don't want to add additional distortion or at least not too much of it. So keep the attack short enough so that it grabs. Every note quickly enough, but long enough so that you don't wanna introduce that you don't introduce unwanted distortion. And for the release, you probably have to use a fairly long release because short release times on low end also cause distortion and sound pretty aggressive. So make it as short as you can get away with. But as soon as it starts distorting, keep it a little longer. And then you basically set the threshold to achieve the amount of gain reduction. You want the threshold at the ratio. And for me, it's. Two to three, two to three Tobs of sort of, uh, of gain reduction. And then I make up for that on the output so that I have the same amount of base that I had before, but more consistent by a couple of DB.

That's how I approach this.

Malcom: that in our like understanding compression episodes that we've done, we talked about like hearing the movement of a compress. You, you gotta figure that out before you dive into multi band compression, like as a prerequisite, if you aren't hearing what a compressor does just on its own uh, figure that out first, but one feature I really love about most multi band compressors is that you can solo the band. That you're you're working on. So in the case of, you know, just working on the low end of the space guitar or, or base of the whole mix, whatever it is, you can just solo that and hear the movement a little more clearly. You want to take it in and outta solo. But that, that I can find to be really helpful for like shaping that attack and release time, um, is just, just hearing that 

Benedikt: Yes. By the way, the compression episode is episode 61. Uh, if you go to the self recording band.com/ 61. Um, that's where you find that, or just search it on your podcast app. Uh, so if you, if you, uh, need some like yeah. Basics of, of, of, if you need to, to learn about the basics of compression basically, and what, what the, the controls actually do and how to listen for, uh, what, what compression does to your music, then you can listen to that episode. 61. All right. Then the next thing is what you already said too. The guitar mud control or build, build up control where it might be fine on open chords, but as soon as you play poly mute, there's just too much. It's too boomy. Um, you wanna keep that under control? So again, one band of multi band compression set it so that it, it actually affects the part of the spectrum that causes the problem, like the fundamentals of the guitar. And it can be a low shelf, sort of, it can also be a bell just around where those fundamentals are. And then you said it basically by year two, the amount of you said it. So that, that it's still like moving air and it's still big, but not like overly, like not overpowering everything else and not muddy and not, not covering up, but the whole low end, basically it's, it's a feel thing. And you it's, I think it's actually not too hard to dial that in. Once you play around with it a little bit. It's just to keep things in check.

Malcom: And it it's a very specific problem. You'll know it when you hear it, you're like, okay, I gotta deal with that. At this one part of the song at that, this is the tool for it.

Benedikt: Totally then, uh, Lance control is a pretty common one instead of a deser. A deser basically oftentimes is a multi band compressor with one band. So instead of using a dedicated deser, I sometimes like to use a, um, a multi band compressor. Some, sometimes one or the other works just better. So what I do there is I set it to, to, um, I'm targeting a certain frequency or frequency range, and then I choose. I can basically tell the, the multi band compressor, if it should just list, quote, unquote, listen to that band and then react to it. Or if it should listen to the whole thing and react to it, or a specific side chain input. So again, listen to the compression episode, or maybe we have one on side chaining too. I think we have where, um, There's always the de the, the detection circuit and the actual audio circuit. And you can tell the compressor to listen to one thing and then react to the other thing, listen to that episode, um, to learn how that works. But basically I use it like a, um, like a DSR oftentimes, um, and that can be also mean to, to, to reduce sort of control sibilance on drums. If I. Like a good example would be sometimes I think the crashes are fine. And they might be a little darker, but the high hats might be overly bright and they are a little above the crashes in the spectrum. So I might use a multi-bank compressor and only use the very top end as a shelf or something, and only address the high hats so that the crashes stay the same. But when the high hat comes in, it ducks down, you know, the top end a little bit on the overheads to just make the high heads less bright or less sticking out that sort of Lance control, you know, it just. It just goes to show that it's a powerful tool to solve problems. A normal compressor couldn't do that, but the multi-band, I can, even if I don't have it um, a high hit mic, I can reduce the perceived volume or brightness of the high heads in the overheads. If I just address the very top end for example.

Malcom: Totally it's uh, yeah. And by now I think people are kinda figuring out okay. If they want to, you know, compress just one frequency band multi-band compressor. That is again, we're just gonna keep repeating that mantra. That's what this tool is for.

Benedikt: Exactly then the next one. I don't need even need to explain that really it's it's like just an extra bit of consistency overall. Like whenever I need that on any signal, whenever I feel. Something is a little inconsistent in some part of the spectrum. I can just compress that. Like I would with a normal compressor, but I don't have to affect the whole thing. I just affect that one part of it. So again, we're not even using all the bands every time we use it. Oftentimes we just using multi band compressor to just use one band, as 

Malcom: Yeah. 

Benedikt: said. So

Malcom: Yep. That, that's a, yeah. Great distinction is like, you might have four bands there, but I usually only have one engaged because I only wanna mess with one, one spot of the frequency range.

Benedikt: Yeah, by the way, episode 63 is the one where we explain site chaining. Um, so if you wanna listen to that so one great use case one example, that's I think almost a hack that I discovered about from, I think I saw K doing it and I kept doing it ever since, whenever I had this problem, I think it's, it's simple, but so, so cool. You know, when with real drums, there's always consistency issues with real drums because there's, there are very few drummers who can play really consistent and like where all the part, all the pieces of the puzzle are just perfect. There's always gonna be some inconsistencies. And one of the most common inconsistencies is that a kick drum, when it's played really hard, when it's, it's played, when the drummer plays really loud, It's gonna have a lot of clicky attack and less low end, especially if they stick the, the beater to the, to the head. If they play a quieter hit and the beater bounces off the head and it's like a quieter hit overall, you're gonna have a more boomy longer sort of low end with less clicky attack. And if you want a more overall consistent kick drum sound because like the drummer does these things like rather not, not so in like in a, in an unintentional way. Or if it just wanna have a little more control over that, then what you can do is you can set up a multi band compressor on the kick drum with two bands, or actually you have to do it with something like pro MB, like fat filter, where you can set one of the bands to be an expander. So it doesn't duck down, but it adds volume to it. And then you can do, you can set it so that it you're basically creating a dynamic tilt. Thing, EQ thing, where on a, on a, on a loud hit, the compressor will duck down the top end to reduce the clicky sound and to make that more consistent, to have a more consistent beater attack. And it will at the, you know, and, and it will at the same time let me, let me think about that. Yeah. When, when you above a certain threshold, when the, the, the hit is loud, It will duck down on the, the, clickiness. It will make the click. Yeah, put it like, control it more and you have a more consistent beat attack. And at the same time it will increase bottom end. So we'll duck down the, the top end and it will boost the low end for every loud hit. And for the quiet hits, it stays the same. So that way you have a more consistent sound in kick drum because the louder hits don't sound clicky and thin anymore compared to the lower hits. So that's. One example of creating extra, an extra bit of consistency, and you can take that approach and apply it to everything else. It's like, just be creative and think about what you want trying to solve. And then you can come up with these types of fixes to problems can be in a clicky based finger attack or something can be string noise can be pick noise, whatever you wanna isolate and control or make more consistent. That's just a common thing overall. Very targeted problem solving. And then, yeah, as you said, side chaining, ducking, specific parts can be part of it, but I don't really do that a whole lot. I gotta be honest.

Malcom: Yeah, on, on the consistency thing, just two more examples. And I won't go into like the technical solving, but I just, I think that people hearing that example you just gave could then imagine applying that to something like, uh, a vocal recording that has got proximity effect problems, where you're getting too close to the mic and it's getting like really Basey all of a sudden. Multi band compressor can be a great fix for that, right? Cause you can, you can combat that proximity effect. Um, acoustic guitars are another one that is pretty easy to run into that same problem with even the guitar as an acoustic guitar moves as they're playing it, that can create all kind of weird frequency jumps and uh, a multi band compressor can be a very. Useful tool to combat that type of problem. If it's needed, ideally it's not needed because it's like, it's one thing to say that you can use a multi-bank compressor to fix stuff like that. But often the, that inconsistency is so inconsistent that it's really hard to dial something in to actually be able to solve the problem. Um, so, so again, getting things right at the source, very important. Um, But yeah, it like, I, I think people are probably seeing, like, this is a tool for solving individual problems. It's not like a magic piece of gear that just makes things sound better. It's a very precise problem solver. The last one on my list, cuz my list is essentially the same as yours. We use them the same way. It's it's a tool for a job, but the, the last thing I think could be worth mentioning is using it as a transient shaper. So most recently for me, I wanted the, the kick attack and the verse of the song to be less intense. It was cutting through great on the big, loud parts of the song, but on the verse, it was just too in your face. So I just engaged the multi band compressor to, to shape the attack. Uh, the click of that, that drum. Differently in the verses and it just made it like, it was just like one way of really subtly making it less pokey and, and being like, okay, it's just less in focus, less distracting for the verse now. Um, So you can use it to do cool things like that as well, just to

Benedikt: so you auto, so you,

Malcom: uh,

Benedikt: sorry, sorry, just to get a concept, right? You automated that or you created a second track and treated the, the two kick drums differently.

Malcom: I automated it in. So it just, just bypassed the plugin until that part of the song. That that was how I did it, but you could totally just have it on a different track or, or whatever that would totally work. Or, and, you know, often, usually for that problem, I use an EQ that just cuts some high end. But in this case it was like, no, I just need to, it just needs to be shaped differently. Which sounds different. So transient response is something you can control with compressor. So with a multi compressor, you, the in theory can control the transient response, the different frequency bands, right? We're, we're thinking about, cause it could be a problem. You, you encounter so.

Benedikt: Absolutely. Absolutely. And you brought up a good point here. Some of these problems that we mentioned might you might just be able to fix that with EQ, honestly, and it might be perfectly, it might work perfectly well. It might be transparent. And these are just one way of solving these, not the only way. Sometimes it's, it's the, it's the best way. Not always. So again, Now we've told you all the things that multi bank compression is useful for, but at the same time, we still believe that you don't have to use it. And, and uh, most important thing is you have to be intentional about it. You have to know why you wanna use it, then fix that problem that you're hearing, and then check if it really did the job that you wanted. So like you said, Malcolm, you. You might set it so that it reacts to so that it treats, uh, or, or it solves the inconsistency problem, but you have to check if it really does that, or if it creates unwanted side effects, if it, if the cost of it is actually higher than the benefit, and if it really does what you want it to do, because sometimes these things are not so easy to dial in. Sometimes you think. It, it should react to the Lance or whatever, but you turns out it only reacts to, um, other parts of the vocal, but not the Lance. And then it just doesn't work for the jobs. It's often the case also with dynamic EQ, same thing. Sometimes I, I think, okay, if I just use this one band on this frequency, it should be solved. And then I do it and then turns out it doesn't react to the S at all, but instead it text ducks down something else, and I don't need that. So, uh, you have to check if it really does the job, if it really solves the problem for you. And you gotta be intentional. And if you can't hear a difference or if you don't really know why you're using it, then you probably shouldn't using it. You shouldn't be using it. Um, yeah. When in doubt, just turn it off, honestly. 

And, uh, 

Malcom: Benny and I's both of our homework is to reassess using it on our mixed bus as our little static thing. We, we both need to go look at that and make sure we actually like it.

Benedikt: yeah, honestly, really. I, I plan, I was planning on doing some, some, some blind tests with Thomas actually to figure out if. If we both agree that the, the version with it on is really, always better. Um, because it, it looks good to me and it makes sense logically, and I feel good about it, having it on that and controlling that 0.5 TOB or something per band and the piece of mind, but maybe it comes at a cost that I'm not aware of right now, and that I shouldn't actually be using it that way. So

Malcom: Okay. I've got a theory on this because it it's something that I've been messing with too. and we'll report back on this on a future episode to everyone but, uh, my theory is that though, like, cuz it does make things more static, consistent, that is for sure. Um, 

Benedikt: definitely. I mean, I, I can't hear the difference. I'm not saying that I can't hear it. I'm just not sure if it, if I really like it better,

Malcom: Yeah, it makes it more pleasing, but I think it comes at cost to punch in a way like a density and, and punch is lost. I think, um, that, that, that's kind of what I'm hearing and, and sometimes that's totally worth it, but, uh, I, I wanna see if that's what you perceive as the difference as well when we're using it this subtly. So report back we'll, we'll get to the bottom of this.

Benedikt: Do you, yeah. Final thought on this while I, while we're edit, uh, do you think that maybe going, because I've tried that and I think that solves that problem at least a little bit. Do you think that. If you pay more attention and you more carefully dial in the individual bands to sort of combat that, uh, do you think that could solve it? So what I mean is if you think, if you, if you have a perceived. Loss of like punch for example, I thought I could maybe fix that by, um, sort of increasing the attack time on the lower midrange, for example, to let more of the snare punch through and reducing the release time to make it more aggressive, but like maybe having the attack time, very short on the sibilance up top to, to make that smoother. So. You know, change what, what I was saying, you start with the, with the same settings basically, but then you go in and tweak them to match the needs of each individual, individual band. And I sort of did that in an attempt to get the consistency that I wanted while letting the, the punchy stuff still through, you know, that sort of thing. But I'm still not sure if it's, if it's entirely solving the thing, the

Malcom: I like, I, I would almost definitely not do that because it sounds like it would take way too much time

um, it sounds way too tweaky and, and it sounds like, okay, like at that point, We probably should do something else. Like it's like an earlier in the mix problem. Right. Um, and then the, the only other problem I see with that is that I bet it would work really well, but only for that part of the song, you know? Um, so like if this, the temp of the song or part gets more complex or something, it could really fall apart on you. Um, which is kind of another reason that we probably should reassess using multi-band on the mix bus like we're doing, because it it's so program dependent. So we need to check it at multiple stages throughout the mix to make sure it's serving. Yeah, we got our own homework to do. It's

Benedikt: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And I do that and I think that all is the reason for me only using it. So in a, such a subtle way, and never going beyond like point something DB, which is which kind. Makes me think why, why use it at all then? You know, but like that, that's part of the reason because as, as soon as I push it harder, it like, it's get, it gets too obvious. So yeah, maybe I don't need it at all, but yeah, that's, you know, the other thing is at a certain point and, and I don't wanna sound arrogant, but of course, with experience and at a certain point where you are happy with your mixes and stuff, you wanna improve and, and, and squeeze out the next, like final couple of percent or whatever off quality and you try new things. And it's like a very subtle thing. So for me, and I think when you're professionally mixing, it makes sense to experiment with that and do these kinds of tests. But when you're just learning to mix and you're just starting out, don't even worry about all the things that we just mentioned. It's like, you've got a lot, lots and lots of other things to worry about. And, and that's honestly, probably true for myself too, but I just keep looking for things that I can improve or new things I can try. That's why I do these things.

Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. If there, if there's one thing that I hope that most of the listeners get from this is that they can stop thinking about it for a while. Honestly, it's like, okay, we listen to this, we got a better understanding of what it is now. I'm gonna focus on other stuff and just forget about multi-bank compression for the foreseeable future. 

that that's kind of best case scenario, I think just take it off your plate.

Benedikt: Awesome. Very cool. As always though, if you have your own trick, it could be a problem solving thing that you figured out could be a creative thing. Whatever. If you have your own trick, your own hack, your own thing that you like that you use on, on certain things, let us know, let, like shoot us a message or, uh, post in the community. If you go to the surf recording band.com/community. Uh, share it there with us, uh, because we always like to learn about these new tricks and, and, and, and, and things, and, uh, that you like, and you do, and maybe there is something we should try ourselves that we haven't heard about. So, 

Malcom: Yep. Yep. All right. Thank you so much for listening to everyone. Bye.

Benedikt: Thank you. See you next week. Bye.


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