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Monday, March 12, 2012

Pre-fader compression can be your best friend

Busy week teaching. As well as teaching guitar and theory I also teach Pro Tools and the history of music to film at the Toronto Film School. It's a lot of fun especially since it has to do with music.

Here is a recording technique I like to use which I find very helpful. It's called pre-fader compression. Yes the fader is the volume slider on an inline recording console as well as it's digital counterpart but when talking about recording, it has a different meaning. Think of fader as record. If something is pre-fader, it happens before it is recorded and post-fader is after it's been recorded. In Pro Tools and other digital recording/editing software programs the signal comes into the track, recorded if the track is armed and then deals with the plugins on the track before it goes out to the Master fader or speakers. Understanding this is very important because if you are recording on a track and you insert a plugin on that track that effect won't be printed or recorded on that track. It will be post-fader. You will still hear the effect as your track is still going through the plugin but after it's already been recorded. I find if I am going to record a guitar track that might get loud in spots due to strumming or picking hard I use what is called pre-fader compression.

Pre-fader compression means that I am passing my signal through the plugin (compressor) before I record it. I think of it as a little safety net sort of speak. Remember to keep the threshold around 20- to 24ish and the ratio 2 to 1 or 3 to 1. Anymore you will start to hear the compression in your track and you can't remove compression once recorded. The compressor is meant to catch and gently tame any notes that are a bit loud. You want to have the freedom to close your eyes and really play from the heart and not worry about clipping.

Here are the steps to setting this up.

1. Use an Aux track and have your signal coming into this track.
2. Insert a compressor plugin on the Aux track.
3. Have the input of the aux track be the input that your guitar is plugged into ex. input 1
4. Have the output of the Aux track be on a bus ex. bus 1 mono (important to match mono with mono).
5. Have the input of your audio track be the same bus as the bus output on the Aux track.
6. The output of the audio track will be output 1/2 which is the Master Fader and then to your ears.
7. Record Arm your audio track and you're ready to record with the benefit of pre-fader compression.

I've been listening to:

Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West: Stratosphere Boogie:
An amazing record featuring tele great Jimmy Bryant and steel giant Speedy West plus rhythm section. Recorded in LA from 1951 to '56, this is burning instrumental country music. Jimmy Bryant is one of my favourite guitar players and was Leo Fender's Telecaster test driver. Both Leo and his right hand man George Fullerton were looking for guitar players to test out their new guitar and when they found Jimmy Bryant, it became an amazing partnership. Bryant became known as a Tele player rather than just a guitar player and was the first player to play Fender's new solid body. Jimmy Bryant had a lot of bebop in his playing and added a nice flavour to country guitar playing. Buy this record!!

That's all for now.

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