Compressing EDM Drums Beats

A detailed tutorial in how to compress a driving EDM Drum Beat.

Beat Construction


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Compressing EDM (Electronic Dance Music) drum beats requires a basic understanding of the genre and a deep understanding of how compression works.

All tempo driven genres are governed by the ‘drive’ element – the marriage of the bass and drums. With EDM it is the timing of the kick drum and the movement of the bass-line that define how the genre is perceived. Other elements play an important role in the overall makeup of the genre but it is the drive that defines the genre and when we are dealing with tempo driven music timing becomes a critical factor. Constructing drum sequences with emphasis on micro editing quantise values is one method by which producers can inject a groove into their beats. Using time based dynamic processing, like compression, is another. However, if the compressor’s attack and release values are set incorrectly that lovely groove that took a week to nail will die a quick death.

A compressor is not just for controlling the dynamic range of the audio being processed. It is also a sculpting tool. It can reshape a sound quite dramatically AND it can be used to create dynamic motion. I am sure you have come across the ‘pumping’ effect – the effect is synonymous with drum beats and bass lines whereby the gain of the beat or bass line is over hyped to achieve a swelling and pumping effect. This is achieved through extreme ducking when using compression. This type of effect is what we refer to as dynamic motion and is one potent way to add movement and interest to a staid drum beat.

To fully master time based dynamic processing one has to understand how the attack and release components of a compressor work. But how do you set the correct attack and release times when dealing with fast tempo driven music? Do you simply use your ears and hope for the best or are there techniques available that ensure that every time you input attack and release values they are always correct?

In the video I show you how to calculate the exact attack and release values for a compressor using the song’s tempo and some basic mathematics. I show you how to use a BPM chart and a tempo calculator to extract the correct attack and release values for any tempo and at any sub division. I show you how to use Eventide’s UltraChannel and FabFilter’s Pro C to compress EDM drum beats. I end by showing you how to use parallel compression to further shape EDM drum beats.

Plugins used in this video:

FabFilter’s Pro C2

Eventide’s UltraChannel

Topics covered in this video are:

  • Understanding EDM requirements
  • Frequency Management
  • Tempo and Sync
  • Tempo Calculator and Techniques
  • Understanding the relationship between attack and release
  • Compressor Parameters
  • Various Compression Topologies
  • Transparent v Coloured