How to use compression?

I have a post production mp3 that has a snare drum level that drives me nuts (way louder than rest of production). I have Cubase 4.0.1. I think compression is what I want to use to correct this problem. Is that right?? Also, I can’t see from reading the manual how to use compression on an mp3 file. I can find compression and how it works in the manual, just not how to actually apply it step by step. In the end I basically want an mp3 with a more normalized snare drum level relative the rest of the music on the recording. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. :confused:
thanks a bunch in advance.


I am not qualified to answer your question… while you will probably get some good info about that here, compression is a (to me at least) a fairly deep subject and it’s specific to recording, mixing and mastering in general, not just in DAWs, but in the analog world, so places like, articles at SOS magazine, etcetera would make great reading.

Also, though compression could be right for this application, an advanced spectrum analyzer/editor like in the Wavelab 7 might be better. Somewhere (Mix magazine I think) I watched a video narrated by Greg Ondo where your exact scenario existed and he edited the snare out from a stereo mix. Which is amazing.

Just my 2¢

You would use it the same way as for any Audio file.

I can think of several ways to try to reduce the snare level but the techniques would vary depending on how the snare is played and sits or pokes out the track?

A very effective but labour intensive way would be to automate the volume at the offending bits. Kind of like a manual compressor. The trouble with using a compressor is getting it to act only on the snares, one other way would be to copy the track and cut the track to just the snare bits you want to affect and use that as a side chain input to a compressor on the main track using fast attack and release settings then setting the gain reduction to taste.

Another way would be to do the same (copy track and cut, leaving the snares) then switch the phase button and mix the out of phase snare cut bits back into the main track and set the amount of cancellation by varying the volume of the cut track.

Does Cubase 4 come with the multiband compressor? You could use it to isolate the fundamental snare frequency and compress that, leaving the rest of the track (which are not in the selected frequency range) intact. It would be best not to use an MP3 but I’ll assume you have no choice.

  1. Load Cubase and import your file to a new (stereo)audio track.
  2. On the insert of that channel load up the multiband compressor.
  3. There are 4 bands in this compressor. Solo the 2nd band by pressing the (s) on the second row of graphs (above the ratio knob).
  4. Now to the top graph. On the 2nd (soloed) band drag the left dot so that you can hear the start (punch) of the snare. This can be around 300Hz but try not to select the kick. When you hear serious bass, you’ve gone too far.
  5. Move the right dot until you encompass most of the snare. Again this will depend on the sound of the snare you are using and what else is playing within that frequency range on where to drag to. Try to compress as little of the rest of the track as possible.
  6. Threshold/Ratio. Something I like to do is turn the ratio right up (8.0) and move the threshold (0.0) down until the gain reduction starts to show. It just let’s me know where the threshold for the snare is so I can begin treating it. When you’ve got a good gain reduction coming through (bar above solo button) turn the ratio down so you aren’t overcompressing it. Your ears should be the judge of what to do.
  7. Attack/Release. If your snare has lost it’s punch then turn up the attack slightly to retrieve it. Not too much though otherwise the compressor won’t have time to kick in. It’s normally a safe bet to leave the release on auto.
  8. Don’t forget to de-solo the 2nd band!
  9. Now that you have turned the snare down you may want to turn up the volume of the whole track (providing that the snare was the loudest element to start with).

That might help but there are still plenty of other ways to treat it.

Lots of great advice from really smart people on this forum, such as you’ve gotten above!

Also, please forgive me if I am making a mistake here, but from your other post saying you were a newbie, I thought maybe this article might help: SOS Past Articles now online (back to January 1994) . It also makes reference to an earlier, more basic one.

Wow. You guys are really terrific!!. Thanks for all the great advice and input. I’ll study what you gave me here, try them out, and let you know the results. Wow. Thanks again … maybe there should be a “pre-newbie” category … after reading your answers I think I might be in that one!!

really. thanks again so much for your time.