Can 2 Hours of Training Help You Understand Compression?: A Review of @JoeGilder’s Understanding Compression

Some time ago I bought, learned from, and reviewed Joe Gilder’s Understanding EQ video series. To put it mildly, Understanding EQ was the best money I’d ever spent to improve my mixes. When I told my friend about the Understanding EQ videos, he got it and the Understanding Compression videos.

The next piece of production I heard from my friend was completely different sonically than what I’d heard from him before. His drums hit harder; his snares sizzled without obstructing vocals; his 808s rumbled with clarity unheard from him before.

I had to learn what he learned so I collected the change from my couch and car cushions and bought Understanding Compression. Read on to find out how Understanding Compression helped me and can help you.

The Understanding Compression video series is split into 5 main modules, plus 3 bonus modules (which I didn’t notice until a few months after going through the main training). The main videos weigh in at a little over 2 hours. The training helped me (and can help you) understand:

  • compressor terms and controls
  • what compression sounds like
  • how to shape a sound using compression

Understanding Compression Helps You Understand Compressor Terms and Controls

The first two Understanding Compression videos are Compression 101. Sometimes it’s helpful to have the fundamentals reinforced. Although I’d used compression many times before, it was nice to finally hear a straightforward plainspeak explanation of the controls.

Joe does a good job of not boring/confusing you with extra technical details. Instead he explains concepts in terms of how they sound. His beatboxed explanation of a “tight” sound is priceless to hear and makes perfect sense. After watching the first two videos you’ll know how compressor controls relate to compression concepts. You’ll understand how to manipulate any compressor despite different control layouts.

Understanding Compression Helps You Understand What Compression Sounds Like

In addition to teaching you compression controls and concepts, the Understanding Compression videos help you understand what compression sounds like. In fact, “What Does Compression Sound Like?” is the name of the third video.

After going through the What Does Compression Sound Like video a few times I was able to hear how compression enhances some of my favorite songs. For the longest I thought the key to getting a thick, tight sound was layering. I wondered how the vocals in commercial recordings sounded thick and clear at the same time.

Watching (and re-watching, and re-watching, and re-watching) the What Does Compression Sound Like video trained my ear to hear compression. Once you’re aware of what compression really does in terms of sound, you’ll be ready to use it to shape your own sounds.

Understanding Compression Helps You Understand How to Shape a Sound Using Compression

The fourth video gives you a process to apply everything you learned in the previous videos. Joe takes you through his “7-Step compression system,” a common sense approach to achieving your sonic goals through compression. You’d probably come up with most of the steps by yourself. However, there’s one step that will give you a compression Eureka moment. Once you start using makeup gain to counteract gain reduction, you’ll have a clear unbiased comparison between compressed and uncompressed signals.

Between the fourth and fifth videos in the Understanding Compression series, Joe shows you a method to use compression purposefully and effectively. He takes you through real world examples of the 7-step compression thought process.

The examples cover a variety of instruments and compression goals. I learned how to:

  • tighten lead vocals
  • bring out percussive elements in sounds (he used guitars but it could easily translate to arpegiatted synths, strings, etc.)
  • add punch to a kick drum
  • and add snap to a snare

If you’re new to mixing or compression, the Understanding Compression series will give you a quantum leap forward skillwise, assuming you take the time to do the ear training. If you’re an experienced mixer or have some familiarity with compression, the Understanding Compression series will solidify your principles at worse.

So far every product I’ve bought from Joe has been under-priced and provides perpetual value. Understand Compression continues that trend.

If you want to get better at using compression, buy Understanding Compression.

 

You’ll probably fall in love with his blog, Home Studio Corner as well.

Let me know what you learn from the Understanding Compression series in the comments. Also, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments too.

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