A preset for CG compression?

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Arash Ahmadi
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A preset for CG compression?

Post by Arash Ahmadi » Sat Feb 16, 2019 4:19 pm

Hi folks,

Listening to different classical recordings these days it seems like most recordings sound more or less the same (regardless of the different guitar sounds which is not the point). It's also obvious that different mics or/and recording techniques may have been used.

I realize that compression is an important step and that might be what makes different recordings sound more or less similar. If so, is there a common pre-set or default compression setting for classical guitar?

Please feel free to share your thoughts.
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sxedio
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Re: A preset for CG compression?

Post by sxedio » Sat Feb 16, 2019 9:12 pm

Hi Arash, you started a compression thread before viewtopic.php?f=16&t=118522&hilit=compression and at the bottom I link to an even older compression thread, some interesting thoughts there.
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Arash Ahmadi
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Re: A preset for CG compression?

Post by Arash Ahmadi » Sun Feb 17, 2019 12:44 pm

sxedio wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 9:12 pm
Hi Arash, you started a compression thread before viewtopic.php?f=16&t=118522&hilit=compression and at the bottom I link to an even older compression thread, some interesting thoughts there.
Hi sxedio! Right, I've re-read both threads again but my question here is slightly different.
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Re: A preset for CG compression?

Post by Reza Chitsaz » Sun Feb 17, 2019 1:25 pm

I don't use a compression at all, I always feel the sound is changing so much that I don't like it. Do you think it's important to use it?
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Arash Ahmadi
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Re: A preset for CG compression?

Post by Arash Ahmadi » Mon Feb 18, 2019 12:47 pm

Reza Chitsaz wrote:
Sun Feb 17, 2019 1:25 pm
I don't use a compression at all, I always feel the sound is changing so much that I don't like it. Do you think it's important to use it?
Greetings!
Well, compression is used for all professional recordings.
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"The duty of an artist is to take a demon and deliver an angel" (Dr. Elahi Ghomshei)

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Re: A preset for CG compression?

Post by Jussi » Tue Feb 19, 2019 6:02 pm

Arash Ahmadi wrote:
Mon Feb 18, 2019 12:47 pm
Reza Chitsaz wrote:
Sun Feb 17, 2019 1:25 pm
I don't use a compression at all, I always feel the sound is changing so much that I don't like it. Do you think it's important to use it?
Greetings!
Well, compression is used for all professional recordings.
No, that's not the case. I've spoken to a handful of sound engineers about recording classical guitars, the general message with respect to compression is to generally avoid it so as not to lose the dynamics of the performance. Those that have uses compression have done so sparingly, either to tame certain frequencies (i.e. minimal, frequency specific use and very specific to each instrument / room / mic setup) or for a mix which might be played on lower quality speakers / headphones where the lower dynamics become inaudible or louder sections break up (this was only one guy, he called it a "radio mix" and was thinking of car speakers or cheap headphones!?!). At any rate, I don't think default settings will be of much use to you! I'd start with no compression and if you think it's necessary, add small amounts specific to the recording.

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robin loops
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Re: A preset for CG compression?

Post by robin loops » Tue Feb 19, 2019 6:26 pm

Compressor presets are just starting points anyway and parameters have to be tweaked to work with whatever recording you’re working with.

For anything, only use compression when needed to fix issues with the original recording (quiet parts are lost while louder parts jump out too much). In general compressors are used to make different tracks fit better in a mix but less necessary when recording solo instruments.

A good starting point if you feel you need a little compression to bring up the intensity of quit parts is to use a transparent as possible compressor with a very low ratio. Then bring up the threshold until it just affects the peaks. Play with attack and release values to make it sound as natural as possible. You don’t want to make it sound too punchy or too squishy.

Think of compression (especially with classical recordings) as a way to overcome the shortcomings of the recording process in general by adjusting dynamics to match live listening experience rather than to modify the character of the instrument recorded. In other words, sometimes a recording doesn’t sound like it would listening to the instrument directly, a compression can bring it back.

The best practice in general is to capture the best recording possible and make as little modification as needed. With post processing the mantra ‘less is more’ is a good rule to live by. Especially in classical music. A good rule of thumb is, if you can hear the effect (compression, reverb, etc.), it’s too much. In other words the changes made should be felt/sensed and not heard.

In my studio projects, I use something I call the 3 decibel rule. Basically any change I make using eq’s or compression, limiters, etc., I try to keep under 3db. With compression this means setting the threshold for a maximum of a 3db cut. And with eq, for example, I try to keep any cut or boost within 3db. This applies to the frequency range of the instrument in question and would not include cutting low end frequencies (outside of its normal frequency range) to reduce low end rumble or high end boosts for air, etc. Be careful to avoid cutting or boosting harmonic frequencies (outside the instrument’s range) though.

With classical solo instruments I’d try to stay within about half that limit though. 1.5db max. If it needs more than that in any area, I prefer to redo the recording to get the desired effect. So if I find I need to cut the low end more than 1.5db, I’ll move the mic so the recording is less bassy. If I need to much compression, I try moving the mic further away or adjust my playing dynamics so quiet parts aren’t lost. And so forth.

The best tool you have toward shaping the final result of a recording is the microphone (type,placement, etc.) and the mixing technique. Get it right at this stage and the final result will be better. While tools can make a poor recording sound better, none can make it sound as good as a good recording in the first place.
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Arash Ahmadi
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Re: A preset for CG compression?

Post by Arash Ahmadi » Wed Feb 20, 2019 6:22 pm

Jussi wrote:
Tue Feb 19, 2019 6:02 pm
Arash Ahmadi wrote:
Mon Feb 18, 2019 12:47 pm
Reza Chitsaz wrote:
Sun Feb 17, 2019 1:25 pm
I don't use a compression at all, I always feel the sound is changing so much that I don't like it. Do you think it's important to use it?
Greetings!
Well, compression is used for all professional recordings.
No, that's not the case. I've spoken to a handful of sound engineers about recording classical guitars, the general message with respect to compression is to generally avoid it so as not to lose the dynamics of the performance. Those that have uses compression have done so sparingly, either to tame certain frequencies (i.e. minimal, frequency specific use and very specific to each instrument / room / mic setup) or for a mix which might be played on lower quality speakers / headphones where the lower dynamics become inaudible or louder sections break up (this was only one guy, he called it a "radio mix" and was thinking of car speakers or cheap headphones!?!). At any rate, I don't think default settings will be of much use to you! I'd start with no compression and if you think it's necessary, add small amounts specific to the recording.
Yes, that's the idea. But to me, it seems like CG icons use more or less the same "pre-set/default" or setting for compression in their albums. Ofcourse they don't do it themselves, a sound engineer does it for them.

Now you confused me a bit. When an album is released, it should sound great on a high-end speaker and on a low-budget speaker. "...or for a mix which might be played on lower quality speakers / headphones where the lower dynamics become inaudible or louder sections break up (this was only one guy, he called it a "radio mix" and was thinking of car speakers or cheap headphones!?!)". I've never seen 2 ver. of an album one for high-end speakers, one for low-budget ones...
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Arash Ahmadi
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Re: A preset for CG compression?

Post by Arash Ahmadi » Wed Feb 20, 2019 6:31 pm

robin loops wrote:
Tue Feb 19, 2019 6:26 pm
Compressor presets are just starting points anyway and parameters have to be tweaked to work with whatever recording you’re working with.

For anything, only use compression when needed to fix issues with the original recording (quiet parts are lost while louder parts jump out too much). In general compressors are used to make different tracks fit better in a mix but less necessary when recording solo instruments.

A good starting point if you feel you need a little compression to bring up the intensity of quit parts is to use a transparent as possible compressor with a very low ratio. Then bring up the threshold until it just affects the peaks. Play with attack and release values to make it sound as natural as possible. You don’t want to make it sound too punchy or too squishy.

Think of compression (especially with classical recordings) as a way to overcome the shortcomings of the recording process in general by adjusting dynamics to match live listening experience rather than to modify the character of the instrument recorded. In other words, sometimes a recording doesn’t sound like it would listening to the instrument directly, a compression can bring it back.

The best practice in general is to capture the best recording possible and make as little modification as needed. With post processing the mantra ‘less is more’ is a good rule to live by. Especially in classical music. A good rule of thumb is, if you can hear the effect (compression, reverb, etc.), it’s too much. In other words the changes made should be felt/sensed and not heard.

In my studio projects, I use something I call the 3 decibel rule. Basically any change I make using eq’s or compression, limiters, etc., I try to keep under 3db. With compression this means setting the threshold for a maximum of a 3db cut. And with eq, for example, I try to keep any cut or boost within 3db. This applies to the frequency range of the instrument in question and would not include cutting low end frequencies (outside of its normal frequency range) to reduce low end rumble or high end boosts for air, etc. Be careful to avoid cutting or boosting harmonic frequencies (outside the instrument’s range) though.

With classical solo instruments I’d try to stay within about half that limit though. 1.5db max. If it needs more than that in any area, I prefer to redo the recording to get the desired effect. So if I find I need to cut the low end more than 1.5db, I’ll move the mic so the recording is less bassy. If I need to much compression, I try moving the mic further away or adjust my playing dynamics so quiet parts aren’t lost. And so forth.

The best tool you have toward shaping the final result of a recording is the microphone (type,placement, etc.) and the mixing technique. Get it right at this stage and the final result will be better. While tools can make a poor recording sound better, none can make it sound as good as a good recording in the first place.
Thanks Robin, it was good to read some examples. I have 3 questions:

1- Would you apply compression only to parts of a solo recording and leave the other parts untouched?
2- Do you mean that a good recording doesn't need compression?
3- Is it possible to remove squeaks or buzzes out of a recording?

Meanwhile, I can easily hear the traces of reverb and EQ in today's CG albums (even iconic players such as Jason Vieaux). Does that mean that the sound engineer hasn't done a good job or I've listened to the sound of guitar and recordings too much as a player? ;)
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Re: A preset for CG compression?

Post by robin loops » Wed Feb 20, 2019 8:34 pm

1: If the threshold is set so the compressor only engages with occasional peaks it basically is off the rest of the time. So in that regards I wouldn’t bother to automate compression on and off. It’s basically an automatic process. That being said if there were a single problematic part to fix, I would apply compression there only. But really having nothing to do with if it’s a solo or not.

2: a good recording can benefit from some light compression but as I mentioned, only to overcome the shortcomings of the recording process. If a recording is so poor in dynamics that it requires a lot of compression to make it listenable l, then I’d personally consider it a poor recording or performance. In which case, if the option to re-record isn’t available, then more compression is in order.

3: in short my philosophy is no. Squeaks good or bad are part of the performance. I personally don’t subscribe to the idea of using tools to fix bad performance. Only more practice can do that. If a performance is so squeaky it needs to be fixed, the fix (in my opinion) is re-record.

And regarding the last question. Of course you can hear a bit of reverb, but it should sound as natural as possible and as little as needed so with reverb i should have said it ‘shouldn’t stand out’. But if you can “hear” eq or compression at all in a classical recording then yes, it’s over processed and poor engineering in my opionion.
Last edited by robin loops on Wed Feb 20, 2019 9:23 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: A preset for CG compression?

Post by robin loops » Wed Feb 20, 2019 9:10 pm

But it’s important to keep in mind that there are no rules, only guidelines. And those guidelines are for the most part based on opinions. Any method that yields the desired results is correct, regardless of whether it follows general guidelines or not.

Personally I prefer a minimalist approach but that’s just what works for me. I feel it’s a good starting point for anyone but certainly not the end all only way to go.

The only real ‘rule’ is to use your ears and do what works for your tastes and the given situation.
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Re: A preset for CG compression?

Post by Jussi » Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:02 pm

Arash Ahmadi wrote:
Wed Feb 20, 2019 6:22 pm
Jussi wrote:
Tue Feb 19, 2019 6:02 pm
Arash Ahmadi wrote:
Mon Feb 18, 2019 12:47 pm


Well, compression is used for all professional recordings.
No, that's not the case. I've spoken to a handful of sound engineers about recording classical guitars, the general message with respect to compression is to generally avoid it so as not to lose the dynamics of the performance. Those that have uses compression have done so sparingly, either to tame certain frequencies (i.e. minimal, frequency specific use and very specific to each instrument / room / mic setup) or for a mix which might be played on lower quality speakers / headphones where the lower dynamics become inaudible or louder sections break up (this was only one guy, he called it a "radio mix" and was thinking of car speakers or cheap headphones!?!). At any rate, I don't think default settings will be of much use to you! I'd start with no compression and if you think it's necessary, add small amounts specific to the recording.
Yes, that's the idea. But to me, it seems like CG icons use more or less the same "pre-set/default" or setting for compression in their albums. Ofcourse they don't do it themselves, a sound engineer does it for them.

Now you confused me a bit. When an album is released, it should sound great on a high-end speaker and on a low-budget speaker. "...or for a mix which might be played on lower quality speakers / headphones where the lower dynamics become inaudible or louder sections break up (this was only one guy, he called it a "radio mix" and was thinking of car speakers or cheap headphones!?!)". I've never seen 2 ver. of an album one for high-end speakers, one for low-budget ones...
Perhaps they do arrive at the same 'answer' for compression, but the folks more knowledgeable than I were pretty clear that the whole process is done on a case by case basis. In the end the only question is whether or not it sounds good regardless of what anyone else does!

I agree, I was surprised to hear about that alternative mix - it was a while ago now but as I remember it was to be used as accompanying music in a radio show, so I think it was probably to sit more neatly behind a speaking voice where you'd want a bit less dynamic in the music (which makes more sense than what I wrote above!). He did mention the speaker quality though, and it makes sense to me that better speakers / headphones can handle a wider dynamic range without loss of clarity, while poor ones wouldn't. I don't know of anyone releasing two versions of an album though (except for perhaps re-mastered releases of older albums, but that's a little different).

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Re: A preset for CG compression?

Post by Arash Ahmadi » Sat Feb 23, 2019 10:22 pm

robin loops wrote:
Wed Feb 20, 2019 8:34 pm
1: If the threshold is set so the compressor only engages with occasional peaks it basically is off the rest of the time. So in that regards I wouldn’t bother to automate compression on and off. It’s basically an automatic process. That being said if there were a single problematic part to fix, I would apply compression there only. But really having nothing to do with if it’s a solo or not.

2: a good recording can benefit from some light compression but as I mentioned, only to overcome the shortcomings of the recording process. If a recording is so poor in dynamics that it requires a lot of compression to make it listenable l, then I’d personally consider it a poor recording or performance. In which case, if the option to re-record isn’t available, then more compression is in order.

3: in short my philosophy is no. Squeaks good or bad are part of the performance. I personally don’t subscribe to the idea of using tools to fix bad performance. Only more practice can do that. If a performance is so squeaky it needs to be fixed, the fix (in my opinion) is re-record.

And regarding the last question. Of course you can hear a bit of reverb, but it should sound as natural as possible and as little as needed so with reverb i should have said it ‘shouldn’t stand out’. But if you can “hear” eq or compression at all in a classical recording then yes, it’s over processed and poor engineering in my opionion.
Thank you Robin!

Well, in regards to squeaks I mean occasional ones that doesn't necessarily ruin the recording but you wish they weren't there. It really happens when the strings are new. They are people who absolutely hate squeaks... well, you might say they better not listen to the guitar then - but you know what I mean.
Last edited by Arash Ahmadi on Sat Feb 23, 2019 10:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A preset for CG compression?

Post by Arash Ahmadi » Sat Feb 23, 2019 10:25 pm

Jussi wrote:
Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:02 pm
Arash Ahmadi wrote:
Wed Feb 20, 2019 6:22 pm
Jussi wrote:
Tue Feb 19, 2019 6:02 pm


No, that's not the case. I've spoken to a handful of sound engineers about recording classical guitars, the general message with respect to compression is to generally avoid it so as not to lose the dynamics of the performance. Those that have uses compression have done so sparingly, either to tame certain frequencies (i.e. minimal, frequency specific use and very specific to each instrument / room / mic setup) or for a mix which might be played on lower quality speakers / headphones where the lower dynamics become inaudible or louder sections break up (this was only one guy, he called it a "radio mix" and was thinking of car speakers or cheap headphones!?!). At any rate, I don't think default settings will be of much use to you! I'd start with no compression and if you think it's necessary, add small amounts specific to the recording.
Yes, that's the idea. But to me, it seems like CG icons use more or less the same "pre-set/default" or setting for compression in their albums. Ofcourse they don't do it themselves, a sound engineer does it for them.

Now you confused me a bit. When an album is released, it should sound great on a high-end speaker and on a low-budget speaker. "...or for a mix which might be played on lower quality speakers / headphones where the lower dynamics become inaudible or louder sections break up (this was only one guy, he called it a "radio mix" and was thinking of car speakers or cheap headphones!?!)". I've never seen 2 ver. of an album one for high-end speakers, one for low-budget ones...
Perhaps they do arrive at the same 'answer' for compression, but the folks more knowledgeable than I were pretty clear that the whole process is done on a case by case basis. In the end the only question is whether or not it sounds good regardless of what anyone else does!...

...I don't know of anyone releasing two versions of an album though (except for perhaps re-mastered releases of older albums, but that's a little different).
That makes more sense. Yes, and I like the re-mastered versions more! It's such a relief to get rid of the hiss and all the extra noise...
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Re: A preset for CG compression?

Post by robin loops » Sun Feb 24, 2019 6:07 am

In regards to occasional squeaks: I say it’s better to just leave a few squeaks than to use filters or eq to eliminate them as it will affect the overall tone.

Keep in mind that using compression can make squeaks stand out more. It you use compression to cut 3db off the loudest parts, this effectively raises the noise floor as well. Playing with attack and release could theoretically help mask them but then you’re compressing around the squeaks and again, overall the general sound will be affected.
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