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Tips for Overcompressing Drums in a Mix

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Tips for OVERCOMPRESSING Drums in a Mix
Tips for OVERCOMPRESSING Drums in a Mix - youtube Video
Hey folks, Matthew Weiss here —,

This lesson is going to be about compression on drums, and specifically, how we can use over compression to shape the sound. So what we’re going to be doing is some pretty extreme compression. I’m going to play the record in context so we can kind of hear it first.


So you can hear we’ve got a pretty dark, grungy, gritty kind of a record going here, and I think if we’re going to start using extreme compression, we’re probably going to want to have something that fits into that sort of gritty, dark, moody kind of vibe.

But that said, I mean, no rules in music. Maybe you could have the happiest song in the world and have super, crazy, nasty compression going on on the drums.

Okay, what I have right now is basically just the drums cleaned up. There’s no compression here, the only thing I’ve got on the drum buss itself is a trim control, which is just level, and this Virtual Mix Buss here, which is really just a touch of saturation, but there’s no actual compression going on.

So what is over compression? Over compression is when we are driving a compressor past where it normally sounds like we should. It’s something that can be unwanted, or it’s something that can be a tool.

In this particular case, what I’m going to do is I’m going to grab some compressors here. We’ve got all sorts of modules, right? We’ve got our little 1176 style thing, we’ve got — here, let’s grab this guy, our 401, let’s grab this FG-Bomber, which is really more of like, a transient shaper. Let’s grab… what else do we have here? Let’s grab The Monster. Whatever that is. We’ll find out, I’m sure.

Now, what I’m going to do is I’m going to set things to the extreme, right? The idea of over is we’re going too far. So I’m going to set the release as fast as it can go, I’m going to set the attack as fast as it can go, I’m going to set the ratio to 20 to 1, which is as high as it goes, and now we’re going to start grinding this compressor.


And that’s basically the idea behind over compression. We go from something that sounds like a natural drum kit…


To something that sounds really not.

[drums, over compressed]

Alright, let’s repeat this process with a different compressor and see what we can get. Every compression, when you get into the world of over compression, is going to have its own kind of sound, and that’s where the fun really starts. Knowing what happens when you really start overdriving something.

So let’s try a lighter ratio, let’s try like, four to one, let’s do the same fast attack, fast release, and let’s see what we can get.


You can hear that there’s something slightly slower about this compressor, and so we’re getting a little bit more swing from it. The 1176, it actually kind of maintains the connection between the drums.

[drums, 1176 compressor]

Whereas this 401, we’re going to hear this almost pumping sort of sound.

[drums, 401 compressor]

Right? It sounds a lot more bombastic, we hear a lot more room tone, still something that sounds crazy and over driven. Let’s try The Monster. Now, The Monster is meant to emulate the 1176 with all buttons in, which is sort of a glitch of the design, where you can press all of these different ratio buttons at the same time, and the circuit just totally freaks out on it, but it’s kind of cool at the same time.

[drums, The Monster compressor]

Right? We can hear that’s clearly the most pronounced over compression of the bunch, then of course we can start messing around with these attack and release curves as well and start getting a whole bunch of interesting results.


Let’s try going the other way, let’s see what happens if we start slowing the release down.

[drums, adjusting release]

We get something that has sort of more of a similar characteristic to say, the 401 that we were just playing with before.

[drums, 401, then The Monster]

Right? So we can get a variety of shapes, we can get more pump, less pump, depending on what we’re trying to do, what we’re trying to bring out of it.

So let’s try — You know what, let’s try something different entirely now. Let’s see what happens if we really over-modulate a compressor, and what that means is we have something that’s acting so fast, it actually breaks the sound up.

For this, I’m going to grab the Plugin Alliance Purple MC77, which is a hardware clone of an 1176, so it basically acts like an 1176.

[drums, Purple MC77]

So this is just, you know, kind of normal compression over drums, it just makes it a little bit pumpier, gives it a little bit more fullness and fatness, it’s a nice sound, but we’re not going to do that. What we’re going to try to do is ruin the sound and hurt its feelings.


Right? That almost sounds like it’s coming through a guitar cab. It sounds absolutely destroyed and annihilated.

Now, any time we’re doing over compression, we can of course take the over compression for what it is, and stylize the entire record around that. If we’re doing something this extreme, for example, where it sounds super broken up and distorted and everything like that, then we really want to get that sound design correct and build our bass, build our guitar right around that sound. If we’re going to have this kind of harmonic breakup because the drums are going to take up so much space, we’re probably going to need to thin the guitars out quite a bit.

This is something where it kind of reminds me of Prodigy, or a lot of old school Chemical Breaks to have this sort of broken up sound.

[drums, distorted and over compressed]

But if we don’t necessarily want to design our whole sound around that, but we still want that attitude, we can start blending things in in parallel, meaning we can start mixing in the dry, uncompressed sound with our destroyed sound.

So here, for example, we have this parallel mix knob, and a lot of compressors these days have that.

What I can start doing is start backing off this distorted version and start bringing back in the uncompressed version.


Alright, let’s bring that in in context with our mix and see how that feels.


It kind of fits with the vibe of the record, right? It’s grungy, it’s gritty, we still have some punch from the drums, so it’s not totally annihilated, but overall it works.

So that’s an overview of how to approach really using compression as a sound design tool more than its intended purpose, and really just getting totally crazy with it, which of course is some of the fun of mixing and producing, is just to be totally nuts and just see what happens.

If you want to get really in depth on how to use compressors, how to conceptualize compressors, and what compression really is, I have a for sale tutorial at, and of course, if you dig what I’m doing here on this channel, hit that like button, hit that subscribe, and I’ll catch you next time.


Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch:

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