For a long time my attitude towards compressors was "I know I should be using these... so let's throw one on this patch!"

I didn't have much knowledge about what they could offer to my sound design.

Now I understand what compression can offer me.

I'm not going to use this blog to break down the basic principles of compression. There are already some great articles out there that go into those principles in practical and in-depth ways.

Today I want to hone in a little more on what I use compression for specifically when I'm designing patches. It comes down to two words:

Smoothing and Character

First I'll talk about smoothing: some of the MainStage sample based instruments have potential but they tend to be a bit choppy and lack musicality. A bit of compression can go a long way to smooth out those inconsistencies and deliver more pleasing and reliable results.

Now character is a bit more nuanced, I suppose. Specific to MainStage/Logic it takes some knowledge on the various compressor types included. MainStage comes with seven different compressors, each modeled after a famous studio compressor. Let me share the three that I like to use the most:

First: Platinum Digital
This model is super clean and transparent. Use it when you want to smooth things out but you like the character of your patch already.

Second: Studio FET
This one is quick and aggressive. I use it on instruments that have attack like plucks, pianos, and chord synths. It might not be as useful on sustained sounds like pads or leads.

Third: Vintage VCA
This last one is modeled after a comp nicknamed "the record-maker". It's a classic mastering compressor and tends to lend that "glued" vibe to whatever is run through it. I use this one a lot. Probably the most of these three. It handles pads well and also balances out spikes nicely.

That's a bit on how I approach compression in sound design! Hope it was helpful. Have any tips of your own for the MainStage comps or have a question? Just leave a comment below! I'd love to hear from you.


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