How to Use Compression in Pro Tools

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Compression is an essential tool in the recording studio. Compression allows you to control the dynamics of instruments with a very wide dynamic range like drums or an acoustic guitar. Without compression a drum track would vary in volume so much that it would make accomplishing a coherent mix very difficult. With the correct use of compression you will be able to keep the dynamics of the original performance intact, while controlling some of the dynamic range of the instrument.

Things You'll Need

  • Pro Tools hardware
  • Pro Tools software
  • Computer

Using Compression in Pro Tools

  • Create a new session in Pro Tools. Choose "File" - "New Session" from the main menu.

  • Create a new audio track.

  • Record some audio. Press record and enter some audio into your track. It can be a guitar, vocals--anything you like.

  • Click the "Insert" button on the audio track.

  • Choose "Dynamics" from the sub-menu.

  • Press "Play."

  • Move the threshold slider to the left as your audio plays back. As you lower the threshold level you will notice the "reduction" meter shows more and more compression is being applied. The further you move the threshold slider to the left, the more compressed your track will be.

  • Move the gain slider to the right. When you compress a track, the volume of the track becomes lower. To compensate for this, you use what is called "makeup gain." Moving the gain slider to the right will increase the volume, making up for the volume that was lost when you compressed the track. Try to return the track to its original volume before you added compression. Once you are done, your track will still be at the original volume, but it will be compressed. This will allow you to create a much better mix. That's it! You now know the basics of using compression in Pro Tools!

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not over-compress your tracks. It is tempting to add a lot of compression to all of your tracks. But, you should try to only use what you really need. Compression takes the dynamics away from your track. A track that is too compressed can sound dull and lifeless.

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