REAL blind spot with compression, can anyone explain it to me?

Dear Anyone.

Hokay, this is the reason I joined this forum - feel free to laugh like drains/flame as much as you like but I wouldn't mind a bit of explanation somewheres....

Y'see, I'm trying to get the hang of mixing but Compressions got me cold.  The way I've read it, you're supposed to set a threshold and a ratio and that determines how much sound comes OUT to how much sound goes IN. So first question. As you've only got a RATIO of the sound coming out, surely it's gotta be QUIETER (you're getting less out than is going in) yet everyone says compression makes things LOUDER. To me that doesn't compute, which means my thinking's at fault, but I don't see where. That's the first prob. I have. Here's the second. 

I've got 3 compression plug-ins, Blockfish, Floorfish and Solid State Logic LMC-1. On none of them can I see any mention of Thresholds, yet all the Compression sites talk about Thresholds - what are they and how do I set them?

Question 3, quite probably related to my lack of understanding of Questions One and Two. If I hit a point where compression is actually DOING something, which I don't think I ever have, then things should get QUIETER because of the ratio effect, or LOUDER because everyone says compression makes things louder even though I don't understand why it should do. I've never, with a gun to my head, heard any sonic difference whatsoever. I've often b/s'd myself into THINKING there's some kinda minor difference going on but in all honesty I can't say I've ever heard any major difference no matter what I do with that big single knob.  I sure haven't heard anything getting majorly louder OR majorly quieter even with the knob on full in either direction.  And I have more idea of next week's Lottery numbers than of any reasons why this should be!

So what's my setup, just to help you out?  I'm disabled so I use a notation program, Quick Score Elite Level 2, and a mouse to put all the notes in. QSE starts off dead basic but can take 90% of all known plug-ins, that's its strongpoint. So I've got the compressors mentioned above, EQium (for EQ, natch!) Edirol Orchestral and many soundfonts/plug-in instruments. And Ozone for mastering.  I THINK I'm OK with EQ, I'm totally lost with compression, I know there's loadsa other effects like phase etc., but I don't want to confuse myself any more than I already am! I also know I should be using Pro Tools or the like to mix with but I really don't want to burden my braincell with another piece of nightmare software until I've got the hang of the basics - I've still got brainburn from trying to learn Reason! (Gave up on that just before they put the straitjacket on me.)

For now, if I could just learn what I SHOULD hear when Compression's working right, how I GET to hear it working right and how to MAKE IT START working right in the first place, I'll be a much happier bunny (and then be able to ask the NEXT dumbass question!)

I write New Age-y music, but you do need to know compression and other effects to do that as well as to do pop music, I feel. 

Yours hopefully and respectfully


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The plugs you describe are all of the 'auto-makeup' variety, so as you compress the signal, they automatically make it louder. Compression doesn't make anything louder, as you point out. What it does is reduce the loud parts, so that the quiet parts can get louder, making the overall dynamic range smaller. So, if you have a piano part with quiet bits and loud bits, compressing it will make the quiet parts closer in volume to the loud parts.

If you want to learn compression, I'd recommend finding a plug-in with the full control set: Input gain, threshold, ratio, attack, release, and makeup gain. Then, using something like a snare drum track, set the input gain to have a good level coming in, loud, but not clipping. Next set the ratio as high as it'll go (8:1 or higher is fine.) Set the threshold low enough that you're seeing a lot of gain reduction on the meter. The sound should be pretty mangled, and you want the attack set to 0 or as short as possible, and the release long... (read more)
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Dear John Suitcase.

Thankyou very much for your excellent reply - would start working on it tonight but it's 11pm and the guy upstairs is a mean drunk with King Kong's spare biceps! But in the morning, I'm sure going to give that a go - I've got a compressor with a load of controls on it so I'm sure it's got all the ones you say and it'll be great to actually hear them doing things - I didn't even really realise there was a 'full control set', I just went to a site, those were the 3 they talked about so I downloaded them (the fact they were legit. freebies helped.... - I don't mind paying for kit if I understand enough to know if it's worth paying for from the demo version.)

And thanks also to anyone else who takes the time/trouble to add any more to this.

Yours respectfully

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Dear John Suitcase, or whoever reads this and stops laughing long enough to answer it....

So I downloaded 5orcery (yup, that's how they spell it!) which they said was a multiband compressor. Great, I thought, I can compress different bits of the signal. Now I'll practice.  So I set up a drum track as per Joh Suitcase's instructions, chucked 5orcery on it and - nothing. No sound, no output, doesn't matter what I do with any frickin' button or dial, the input's on plus 9 (max) but it doesn't matter what I do with that either, I get absolutely zero noise coming out no matter what dial I wiggle in any direction. 

I know others have problems USING compression, but I bet that at least they're getting NOISE coming out the other end.  Right now I'd settle for that, it would be a starting point to work on.  But I've got the Korg MDE Jack of All Trades that put frying eggs all over everything it tries to compress, Blockfish/Floorfish that don't seem to want to do nothing no... (read more)
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Personally, I would chuck the multi band out the Window, and start with something simpler.

Grab the reaper effects bundle from Cockus, it has some dead simple effective stuff.
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Yeah, multiband is useful in some cases, but just adds complexity at this point.

Most DAWs include a basic compressor that has the needed controls, if you search on you will find a bunch of freebies and commercial plugs to try.

I don't have any idea why that plug isn't giving you any output, unfortunately!
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hey brother as a compressor can also be used as a limiter check your thresh hold & ratio are not set to high if set to hot
this will limit your signal to the point where you will get no output at all

this pack is free and a good starting point ulrichburke below is a couple of plugins included in the pack
to see them all head to the link below

once you master some of these plugins you will understand what each one does:)

download link is on there page
look for <<<>>

* Modern Compressor.
                    * Power On/Off button.
                    * Gate On/Off button.
                    * Gain Reduction meter include.
                    * Post-gate control (-96 to -30 dB).
                    * Gate time control.
                    * Threshold control (0 to 48 dB).
                    * Attack time cont... (read more)