I was in Las Vegas recently, and I spent a good part of my time there at a Blackjack table.
I’m not a high-roller, but I do like gambling. Especially at games like Blackjack where you have a system and don’t just rely on blind luck.
Blackjack is a great game to play if you know how to play by the book. You can play for hours if you just follow the simplest of systems.
For instance, if the dealer has a 5 and I have a 12, then I stay and don’t ask for another card. There’s a higher probability of him busting so I’ll stand my ground and hope the probability plays out. You always hope the dealer busts, and when he has a low card there’s a higher chance of him busting.
I also always hit on 16 whenever the dealer has a 7 or higher. You always assume that the dealer’s other card is a 10, so by default you’ve lost. But if you hit and get anywhere from an Ace to a 5 you’re better off. I’d rather hit and lose than wait and lose anyway.
And finally, always split on Aces and eights and double down on 10′s and 11′s if you’re higher than the dealer.
Why did I tell you all this?
It’s a system. A system is basically a set of guidelines and rules that I’ve memorized. It’s actually a pretty great system that works most of the time. You don’t always win, but you can end up playing for a long time without losing any money.
Compression works the same way. Just like in Blackjack, the system I use with compression has a greater probability of working, so I stick to it and tweak as needed.
I follow my go-to presets in my head whenever I’m mixing. A kick drum starts with a ratio of 4:1, a gain reduction of 3-6 dBs and a medium attack and release. With just a few tweaks from there I’m able to get the sound I want.
Bass guitars start with the ratio fairly high, the attack fairly fast and more gain reduction than other instruments just to get it fat and steady. Sometimes that works well, but other times I need to move things around to get the bass to sound right.
And finally, I always parallel compress the drums and shape the snare compressor in time with the track. Just like doubling down on 11 is the smartest move, so is buss compressing the drums. It just works 90% of the time. If you want that punchy drum sound without overpowering the rest of the mix, that’s the way to go.
There’s a system for everything. My system helps me work faster since I know from experience what usually works. Given a good starting point, a great result is just a few tweaks away.
If you need help figuring out your system for compression, check out www.UnderstandingCompression.com.
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