Have you ever heard someone talking about how useful compressor plugins can be when writing music?
Have you ever loaded one up and became overwhelmed by all the knobs and buttons on one?
Do you wish there was an easy way to understand what these knobs are doing?
Well, today is your lucky day. I will be explaining the 5 main knobs that can easily be found on just about any compressor.
If there is still any confusion you have, feel free to use the comment section at the bottom of this page and ask away!
The 5 main knobs on a compressor will be the Threshold, the Ratio, The Attack, the release, and Knee
1.)THRESHOLD I would like to give a simple and easy explanation of what a compressor actually does. -------------
If you think of the sound you are trying to compress as a room, the threshold is the roof. The threshold determines how loud a sound has to be before it is being effected by the compressor.
2.)RATIO The ratio is the slant of the roof. A low ratio give your sound more of a chance at retaining it's dynamics (it resembles this shape in a way /). If you do a hard ratio, you are saying that you want all the transients that hit above the threshold to flatten out. (Alright this might sound more confusing than it actually is, I will be providing pictures and audio so you get a better idea of what's happening to the sound.)
3.)ATTACK The attack determines how quick the compressor reacts to the incoming sound it is trying to compress. A fast attack will quickly pick up all the transients in the sound, which tends to eat them if you are using a low threshold. A slower attack will give your transients more room to breath.
4.)RELEASE The release determines how fast or slow you want the sound to stop compressing after it has hit below the threshold. A longer release means the compression hold on longer, a slower release means the sound quickly lets go.
So, why are compressors important? Well, it brings out the lower sounds of your instrument or percussion and levels it out with the loudest sound. This gives the sound a much more fuller, fatter/etc sound and allows you to let a certain sound sit better in the mix.
Bonus Knob - KNEE Some compressors don't have this function. If it does, use this to determine how sharp or smooth you want the compressor to transition from a compressed signal to a non compressed signal aka reaching the peak of the ratio and then going under it. A sharp knee would be like flicking a light switch on and off, and a smooth knee would be a lot more slower.
I believe I have covered everything in terms of basic compressor functions. Some compressors have even more knobs (check molot) that can easily confuse and frustrate you. So if possible stick to simple compressors till you feel confident to explore them even deeper.
Hope you this helped!