Downward and Upward Compression for Rap Vocals

A unique approach in managing the Dynamic Range of rap vocals using various compression and expansion modes and topologies. If you want your Rap vocals to jump out of the mix this tutorial is for you.


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Downward and Upward Compression for Rap Vocals is a video tutorial that explains the two types of compressor modes, downward and upward, and how to use them to process rap vocals.

I love novel approaches to existing processes and this particular process ranks right up there with the best of them.

Rap vocals require a different mindset to the norm when it comes to managing gains and the dynamic range. The sheer speed and aggression in delivery means we need to think on the micro scale. In effect, there are too many things happening too quickly and applying broadband processes doesn’t always yield good results. With rap vocals, you need to process in stages. BUT that’s about to change.

Downward and Upward compression

An Old School technique that has been around for a while now is to use two modes of compression at the same time. The idea is to use a downward compressor to manage the peak transients and an upward compressor to narrow the dynamic range. This particular chain of processes is not complex to set up but it is a little difficult to implement as one compressor’s settings are reliant on the other’s and vice versa. In effect, you need to work both processes simultaneously.

A downward compressor reduces gain above the threshold.
An upward compressor raises gain below the threshold.

This two stage process is a wonderful way to manage the dynamic range of rap vocals and emphasise certain parts. However, imagine throwing in another compressor but this time something that is very different from the standard downward compressor – that of using data transmission line compression sometimes referred to as chip compression. This type of compressor squeezes everything around the threshold and leaves everything else unaffected.

Now imagine using all three modes of compression in one single process. This has been made possible by the wonderful plugin manufacturer Hornet. They have created a plugin called Dynamics Control.

In the Downward and Upward Compression for Rap Vocals video, I explore the various types of compression modes we use for this great technique making sure to show you what settings to use and how best to use all three compressors in series to control rap vocals.

Plugins used in this video:

Hornet Dynamics Control

FabFilter Pro MB

Topics covered in this video are:

  • Compression
  • Downward
  • Upward
  • 3 Way Fixed Thresholds
  • Dynamic Range
  • Response
  • Techniques and Best Practices

If you found this tutorial to be helpful then give these a go:

Compression Masterclass

Vocal Production Masterclass

Extending the Dynamic Range of Rap Vocals

The 4 Modes of Compression and Expansion

Compressing Rap Vocals

Side-chaining vocals against the mix

Processing Rap Vocals – Prep and Optimisation

Gating Techniques for Vocals

Layering Vocals using Parallel Compression

Mixing Hip Hop