Music Production Basics: Compression

By in Other

When you are starting out on music production, you may have heard of compression.
You can use a compressor to fix sounds or use it for effects. An example of fixing can be maintaining a notes length as it fades out. Creatively, you can use a technique called “gain pumping” which used commonly in edm for adding power to the kicks. The initial sound is boosted then quickly released to give it a punch effect.

There are 5 basic controls within a compressor in music production . Each will change the sound of an audio clip within a track.


Sets the volume level (dB) at where the compressor starts doing its thing. For example, if you set the threshold at 5 dB, any audio signal above that volume level will get compressed according to the rest of the compression settings below.


Sets how much compression will be applied to a signal once it passes the threshold.
Having 3:1 ratio will bring out 1 dB for every 3 dB that goes over your threshold level.


This is measured in milliseconds (ms). This is how long it will take for the compressor to reach the maximum sound level. Having a fast attack level is commonly used for damping percussion tracks so the overall signal can be increased.


Also measured in milliseconds (ms), the release time controls how long it takes for the compressor to release a signal once it goes below the threshold level. Having a long release time us commonly used to sustain an instrument’s note.


This is the overall volume of with the effect. This can also be known as the makeup gain.

Here is a simple guideline for the settings you can use when you get into music production.


Attack: 5ms
Release: 10ms
Threshold: -15dB
Ratio: 5:1 – 8:1
Knee: hard


Attack: 4-10ms
Release: 10ms
Threshold: -4dB – -8dB
Ratio: 4:1
Knee: hard


Attack: Fastest
Release: Lowers
Threshold: -3dB – -8dB
Ratio: 4:1 – 12:1
Knee: soft

Main synths/instruments

Attack: Fastest
Release: Fastest
Threshold: -10dB – -14dB
Ratio: 2:1 – 8:1
Knee: hard or soft

When you get into music production, it is essential to know how to use a compressor. These are just the basics of compression but it should help you give an understanding on how to use it for music production.

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