Why Use Multiband Compression?
Last video, I showed you how to contour a lead vocal. This video, I’m going to show you why to use multi-band compression, and now, this is not so much a how-to video, it’s a why-to, and I think that if we can figure out why we want to be using multi-band compression, the how is actually not so difficult. We can kind of sus it out because we know what we’re going for.
So I’m going to play this vocal, then I’m going to point out why multi-band compression might be a good choice for processing here.
I’m going to play it one more time, and what I want you to do is listen to the word “before.” Listen to the low end of the word “never,” and listen to the word “I.”
Or I’m sorry, “all.”
So, if we really listen, what we hear is a lot of tonal inconsistency. We hear a little bit of extra low end kind of show up in the word never, we hear a lot of mid-range kind of pop through on before, and we hear both low end and mid-range pop through on the word all.
Right? So when we have tonal inconsistency, that’s when we might want to think multi-band compression. So here would be the case — basically, if I start eliminating mid-range for the sake of cleaning up the word “before.”
[vocals] You hear that “woah.”
If I start eliminating that mid-range, then in every other spot where there isn’t too much mid-range, the vocal is going to sound thin. And that’s the same thing with the low end, there’s occasional bumps in the low end where we might just want to trim it up from time to time, but if we do it throughout the course of the entire vocal, it’s just going to thin it out too much.
And we’re going to get that sense of disproportion still, and even with that gotten out of the way, it still might not sound that good, because we’re hearing this constant change of tone.
So this is where multi-band compression would come in. So I’m going to bring in my multi-band compressor and let’s give it a listen.
[vocals with multi-band]
Now, we can hear that tonally, it’s a lot more consistent. Now, can we hear the compression going? Yeah, I’m using some pretty assertive settings that I’ll break down in a second real quick, but also keep in mind we’re in solo mode.
Here’s the before and after with the rest of the track going.
The world “all” still, you kind of hear a bit of the squeeze on the word “all,” so maybe I would want to adjust that by like, going in here and maybe just manually turning the level down a little so it’s pushing the compressor a little less.
Let’s meet in the middle.
But ultimately, it’s not really quite as noticable once we start bringing in other elements. What is noticable is that the vocal seems to stay in the same place consistenly.
Now, I’d also like to point out that the settings that I’ve used would not be appropriate for this record, which is supposed to sound more open and natural, but if this were say some sort of a Dance/Pop kind of tune, I don’t think that the settings that I’m using are overly aggressive at all.
So it looks a little insane, but basically what’s happening is I’m just evening out the spectrum. There are places where the mid-range right around 1.1kHz really jump. There’s just an overall feeling that the upper mid-range is sometimes deficient, but at times, overwhelming, and the same thing with the top end too.
So I’ll play it and you can kind of watch the meters to get an idea of what’s really going on.
And with vocals, these key spots are actually common spots that you might want to listen for in the way that I’ve done it actually.
In the dead center mid-range, that 400-600Hz range, that’s where a lot of room tone and a lot of microphone proximity type of harmonic stuff can kind of happen that often times needs cleaning, but it’s also the body and strength of the voice, particularly a female voice.
So we don’t want to kill that tone if we can preserve some of it. Sometimes, I would even prefer multi-band over any straight EQ at all, but sometimes, it’s a combination of both.
This dead center mid-range is a spot where vocalists can tend to get spikes. Spikes of harshness that just jump through, and what happens is when the 1kHz band, that region spikes, the vocal disconnects from the record. It feels like it steps out of the music for a moment, and that can actually really affect the way that we sort of subconsciously ingest the song.
So this is not just a technical move to really think about this 1kHz zone, but it’s also a musical move too, particularly in voices.
Then with the upper mid-range, that’s — balancing the upper mid-range is always a bit of an art. Something you have to be aware of, because it’s always going to be that negotiation between things becoming harsh, versus things not being present enough.
The upper mid-range tends to be that section of the vocal that really cuts, so we want it, but it also tends to be that section of the vocal that really cuts, and sometimes, that can become overwhelming for the listener, and become irritating, and we don’t usually want to irritate our listener.
The top zone is where the esses and sibilance and tees, and brighter tones, and soft palette sounds of the voice will show up. I mean, we use multi-band compression for the top end of the voice all of the time. That’s what a de-esser is.
So what I’m doing right here is really, literally, no different than de-essing, so again, this is another common spot.
Now, most importantly of all, not all of this is always necessary. Throwing multi-band compression on a voice can ruin it just as quickly as it can save it. It really just depends on what you’re doing.
So if you need a sense of dynamic to the vocal, which you almost always do, you need to be very wary about even using multi-band at all. A lot of times, vocals don’t need it, and sometimes when they do, it’s very sparingly.
This vocal happens to have a lot of tonal inconsistency, and so I don’t think that using four bands of it is actually that weird, and we can always check the results.
[mix, before and after multi-band]
But you can also hear that there’s a tension on the voice now, and it sounds a little less natural. So we are always playing that balancing game, and like I said, on this vocal, what I’m doing here is too much for the style.
Fortunately, there’s a mix knob…
[mix, after adjusting mix knob]
And that sounds pretty darn good, which is another reason why I really like this particular multi-band compressor. There’s a mix knob on it! How awesome is that? So you know, once I get my settings right, I can just go, “Okay, this is my Pop mix here…”
[mix with 100% wet multi-band]
And this is my indie rock setting!
[mix with adjusted wet/dry ratio]
So yeah, so again, the message here is just what to look out for. This is not necessarily how to do it, it’s just how to be aware of it, and I think that’s almost more important. I think it is more important.
Anyway guys, I hope that you learned something. You know, check in, don’t forget to like this video, subscribe to the channel, drop some comments below, I want to hear from you, and I will catch you next time!