The Secret to Mixing With Compression

Following advice you hear online could be a huge mistake if you don’t know this crucial compression secret…

…and without it, your music will never sound professional and radio-ready.

Rob here from, and in this video I’m going to share the secret to mixing with compression like a seasoned pro.

It took me years to come to this realization, and after teaching over half a million people online, it never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t know this secret.

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UPDATE: I also put together this waveform demonstration video, so you can see exactly what compression does to an audio source:

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And if you’re new to compression, here’s a neat little trick that turns any compressor into a “One Dial” compressor:

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Are you ruining your music with compression? Following advice you hear online could be a huge mistake if you don’t know this vital compression secret and without it your music will never sound professional or radio ready. Rob here from and in this video I am going to share the secret to mixing with compression like a seasoned pro. It actually took me years to come to this realization and after teaching over half-a-million home studio owners it never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t know this.

But before we dive in be sure to grab the free compression cheat sheet that’s going to help you to get this right every single time. Over 5,000 people have already downloaded this cheat sheet and used it to produce better mixes in their home studios, so and grab it there’s a link in the description. It’s completely free.

So, the secret to mixing with compression is this. The use of compression varies widely between genres and I’m going to say that again, the use of compression varies widely between genres. Don’t forget that, because this is the key to making sure you’re producing mixes that actually benefit the music that you’re working with and that it enhances the track rather than just apply compression for the sake of it.

Now, very few tutorials online seem to mention this fact and you can’t really take one size fits all approach to compression, because every genre is so different, every track requires a different approach to compression and you simply can’t apply the same strategies to every genre. Yes, you’re going to use compression in the same way, but you got to know how to use the compressor but the ‘why’ behind compression and the intention behind it the reason you’re using it is going to vary so much between different styles of music.

In fact, out of the four main tools at your disposal as a mixer; balancing, EQ, compression, and panning compression is the one that varies the most between genres. So, in this video you’re going to learn how to approach five different genres. You’re going to learn about compression in pop, rock, hip-hop, electronic and then acoustic genres like jazz, folks, and classical.

So, let’s start with pop. There are two ways to think about compression or two reasons we use compression, to control dynamics and to shape tone. And you can’t really do one without the other.

If you load up a compressor to control dynamics you’re going to inadvertently also shape the tone and vice-versa, but you could still have a focus or a primary concern when you load up a compressor because you should have an intention and depending on what you’re trying to achieve whether it is to make a vocal sit there in the mix or whether it’s to make a kick-drum sound punchier you need to have that intention first and that’s going to dictate whether you’re trying to shape tone or control dynamics. Now, in pop you’re going to generally be more concerned with controlling dynamics than shaping tone and that’s going to be the main focus when you pull up a compressor it’s going to be to make the vocal more consistent, so you can hear every single word.

It’ll be because you want the bass to sit perfectly in the mix and provide a solid foundation, it’ll be because you want the snare to be hitting exactly the same volume every single time and with pop we expect this crazy level of consistency where everything just sounds perfect and polished. So, that’s going to be the main motivation behind compression for pop music. Now of course, you’re going to end up shaping the tone too if you apply loads of compression to a snare it’s going to shape the tone, but this is where serial compression comes in, especially in vocals because you can use several compressors in a row to achieve dynamic control and really rain-in the peaks without shaping the tone too much by using two or three compressors on the same channel.

And then, we have rock music which is all about tone. So, again we’re going to be using a lot of compression in pop you probably going to end up using quite a lot to get that level of consistency you need, but this time in rock it’s going to get you that consistency but your main concern is to shape the tone because rock music is synonymous with compression. And if you listen to mixes like Crystal and Algy or older Green Day records that kind of stuff you can really hear how much compression is going on.

Everything has been slammed, and that’s how you get this stereotypical aggression, and attack, and excitement that you expect from rock music. So, to achieve that you’re going to want to use slow attack times, because you can’t get that aggression with fast attack times you know fast attack time in a compressor is going to make it sound thick and heavy, whereas using a slow attach time is going to make it sound punchy and aggressive.

So, moving on now to hip-hop and with this it’s kind of like a half-way point and lots of different hip-hop tracks fall into different caps and that’s kind of the easiest way to think about this. If you want to make an older sound in hip-hop record that sounds a bit more traditional, a bit more gritty, a bit more low-five then you’re going to want to take a more rock approach and I’m going to use quite a lot of compression to shake the tone, because if you listen to modern hip-hop that you would hear on the radio like Kanye or Drake or something like that, even Kendrick Lamar and his lesser known hip-hop acts, it sounds very clean and professional and it’s got a sheen to it that’s reminiscent of pop and mainstream music. So then, you’re approaching compression more in a way of controlling dynamics, so it kind of falls into both camps.

Now, moving onto electronic music we have an interesting use of compression here, because a lot of electronic music is based around samples or synthesizers and sound design, and an inherent part of that process is making sure things are the same in volume every time. So, a snare sample in a electronic music track and any form of electronic dance music or EDM or House or anything it’s just going to be the same snare over and over again, pretty much. So, you don’t need compression because you don’t need to control the dynamics.

Now of course, you may want to shape the tone of that snare, you may want to make it sound punchier, and then you would want to use compression but you don’t really need to control dynamics because everything is already consistent in volume because it’s synthesizers and samples. So, really the main thing you’re going to be compressing is the vocals, and then you’re thinking more about okay it’s probably going to sound mainstream, so you’re going to probably approach it from a perspective of controlling the dynamics so more like the pop or mainstream music. And then everything else you don’t feel like you need to use compression, because you’re not going to use anywhere near as much compression when you’re mixing electronic music as acoustic or guitar based genres.

And then, finally we have purely acoustic genres like jazz, classical, just singer-songwriter who have an acoustic guitar, folk music that kind of stuff. And in this case you’re going to be using little to no compression, so this where this mistake comes in that if you approach a jazz track in the same way as the pop track and there are actually exceptions to this rule because there is some modern jazz music that’s mixed like pop music.

But if you want it to sound traditional then you’re going to be doing very, very little processing if you think about old Miles Davis and Coltrane records there’s pretty much no EQ or compression. And you want to approach it in a way that’s very subtle. If you’re going to use a tiny bit of compression you want to make sure it’s not very noticeable and the exception to this rule is if you want to kind of make it sound modern and mainstream then you’re going to have to approach it more like pop, but if you want it to sound traditional then no compression at all or very little.

So, make sure you don’t approach all genres the same and this is absolutely vital. This is a big step in becoming a better mixer and a better producer in general is to doing what’s right for the track, not just have a set of techniques and tips that you’ve learned and applying them to everything thing you come across but instead thinking about the nuances of the genre and the vibe of the track and how you want to shape it in a certain way and compression plays a big role in that.

So, make sure you download the cheat sheet because this is a lot to take in and it’s going to vary so much. Inside that cheat sheet you’re going to find a recap of how to approach these different genres, you’re going to find my go-to compressor settings, a breakdown of all the compression parameters. Over 5,000 people have already used this cheat sheet to improve their mixes, so I’m going to share it with you for free. So, go to the link in the description, download that, and it’s going to help you to make an instant improvement. So, I’m Rob from and I’ll see you again soon.


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