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  • compressor/limiter help on backing tracks

    My band is a three piece (one female vocalist, guitar player, and myself on a roland td-20 kit) which uses backing tracks to supplement our sound. We create the tracks ourselves by pre-recording the bass lines and any rhythym guitar tracks, additional percussion tracks, and vocal harmonies with a boss 1600cd digital recorder. These tracks are then mixed down and sampled onto compact flash cards which I trigger in my spd-s sampler. The problem is that, as much as we try to be consistent with the track levels, some are hotter than others. To control this, I have been using a samson s com compressor/limiter. I have only been using the compresssor, but I am not sure if I am doing the right thing. Would a limiter be better for this to get the tracks all at one level? Or should I stay with the compressor? Right now I have it set at about +2 db with a ratio of 4:1 and the automatic hold and release set (yes, primarily because I have not mastered the art of working the compressor to its capabilities). Any inputs or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
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  • #2
    A compressor is not going to level out a mixed down track unless there is only one instrument or vocal being processed at a time. You need to remix the tracks. Maybe you can bring the Boss 1600 to a few shows or practices and mix it live. Once you find your sweet spot you can mix down to a CF.

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    • #3
      The tracks are mixed down in stereo with an embedded track panned to the right and sent to our monitor mix, and the instruments panned left and sent to one channel of the mixer and then FOH. The compressor is used as an insert on this channel, which is why I figured the compressor may help since technically it was only on one channel.
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      • #4
        OK, lets say you have guitar and bass recorded and the compressor inserted into that playback channel. You have a bassline playing at a good level and then the guitar comes in but is 4 dB louder then the bass. Your compressor kicks in and reduces the signal 4 dB. Your bassline is drops 4 dB along with the guitar so the mix is still wrong.

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        • #5
          I see your point. Now, assuming this is the case: When we mix the tracks, we mix them on our Pa system. Always start with the bass line and use a db reader. We try to get that somewhere between 90 and 95 db. Of course, it always fluctuates due to what register the bass line is in and etc, but relatively always somewhere in that pocket. We then mix in everything else with that. So, our mixes are usually always pretty solid relative to each other (ie, bass line, guitar, harmonies, etc). In other words, we usually wouldn't have a mixed track where the guitar track might be 4 db louder. Once they are mixed down to one track though, that is where the volume levels (from track to track) start to fluctuate. I understand what you are saying, and this whole process is frustrating..So, basically you think I shouldn't even bother compressing that channel?
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          • #6
            No offense,but why not hire a bassist with vocal ability?

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            • #7
              Been there, done that. We went from a 6 piece band together for 8 years and down sized to three. Too many problems, egos, arguments, etc. The band now consists of me, my sister and brother in law, so it is kind of a family thing. We own our own sound and light system and do not have to answer to anyone anymore.
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              • #8
                I see your point. Now, assuming this is the case: When we mix the tracks, we mix them on our Pa system. Always start with the bass line and use a db reader. We try to get that somewhere between 90 and 95 db. Of course, it always fluctuates due to what register the bass line is in and etc, but relatively always somewhere in that pocket. We then mix in everything else with that. So, our mixes are usually always pretty solid relative to each other (ie, bass line, guitar, harmonies, etc). In other words, we usually wouldn't have a mixed track where the guitar track might be 4 db louder. Once they are mixed down to one track though, that is where the volume levels (from track to track) start to fluctuate. I understand what you are saying, and this whole process is frustrating..So, basically you think I shouldn't even bother compressing that channel?


                There may be a few solutions to your problem.

                Are you using compression at mix down? I would imagine that a good dose of comp would be needed for consistant live sound from a recording.

                You could have someone mix down your recorded tracks at a live show and use the resulting recording at shows.

                Use the Boss recorder for playback and mix the recorded tracks live.

                Compressing the live vocals to blend with the recorded racks may help also.

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                • #9
                  I would mix the backing tracks less with the dB meter and more by ear. Mix them so they sound right, then listen through them and make sure they are close to the same volume.

                  As I understand the problem is the varying volumes from track to track, not transients in the tracks.
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                  • #10
                    A compressor won't help in this situation. I work with plent of bands using backing tracks: it takes creating them at a consistent level! Compressing them will only make the hardest compressed ones sound strange and inconsistent. Really it takes someone mixing it outfront to get the levels right, considering the setup you have i'd look at having a small mixer on stage and a way to turn down tracks you know are too loud manually. That's the only way to do it...
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