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Achieve multiband compression WITHOUT a multiband compressor

A post by David Mellor
Tuesday May 08, 2012
Multiband compression is one of the most powerful techniques used in mastering. But you don't need a multiband compressor plug-in to use it.
Achieve multiband compression WITHOUT a multiband compressor

If you want to make your music sound louder, then a multiband compressor is an excellent tool for the job. Basically, it splits up the frequency range into several bands, four would be a good number, and compresses each band separately. Thus, the full frequency range can be packed with energy with less wasted space.

It should be realized that such a powerful technique can really mess up your sound, so multiband compression should be used with taste and good manners. Or not, if that's the sound you want ;-)

So you might feel tempted to reach for your credit card and shell out for a multiband compressor plug-in. But you don't have to - you can do it with the plug-ins that came as standard with your DAW. Here's how...

Let's suppose that you have some mixed stereo music that you want to process. Load it onto a track and make three copies of that track (there are other ways, but this method is easy to explain).

Insert a filter plug-in (or an EQ plug-in that has filters) into each track. If you don't have filters, then you'll have to try and approximate the effect with EQ. It isn't quite as neat a solution, but you can still get interesting effects.

Set the cutoff frequencies of the filters so that each track represents a single band of frequencies. These are good settings to start off from...

  • 20 Hz - 200 Hz
  • 200 Hz - 700 Hz
  • 700 Hz - 2.5 kHz
  • 2.5 kHz - 20 kHz
  • In each case use a slope of 24 dB/octave

Ideally you would want to have approximately the same amount of energy in each band, but of course this will depend on the audio you are working with. Don't regard these frequencies as set in stone therefore, but tweak them to your liking.

Next, insert a compressor into each track and adjust the settings so that compression is clearly audible in each band. Don't forget to compensate for any level that is lost with the gain makeup control, if your compression plug-in has one.

You should straight away be able to hear that the music is much stronger and more powerful. With careful tweaking of the settings you should be able to go much further with this.

Here's an example, with quite mild settings. This uses the frequency bands given above. The song is The Woodcutter's Wife by Audio Masterclass Featured Artists Chandelle.



A post by David Mellor
Tuesday May 08, 2012 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)