Sometimes when I receive a mix to master I can hear that the attack setting is incorrect on some of the instruments. If not used correctly it will eat your low note. Too much attack on a kick drum will make it sound smaller. And maybe sometimes you need that, but, if you are wondering where your thump went? it’s likely the problem. Setting your attack too fast won’t let the transient naturally come through as intended. Compression is one of the hardest things to get your head around. Some units have different settings that either work the same or have other options suited for many applications of uses.
Just the other day I was trying to figure out a way to explain to a friend how attack works. And this is how I proceeded to explain it.
I asked my friend to sit behind my studio drum kit. While standing next to him I request him to hit the snare in the center with a typical good hit. Then I asked him to hit the snare with the 2 sticks with one in each hand at the same exact time. Once he did he noticed the snare was choked or dead sounding. IMO this would mimic the fastest attack possible. I asked for another hit but this time to be a flam. Right away the snare had tone again. Ok so a 2 stick hit on the same drum head at the exact same time will make the drum sound very dead and emulate a fast attack setting. The reason? Because one of the 2 sticks will stop the drum from vibrating correctly.
Review the snare drum pic during a flam hit, the first stick that hits in a flam is the transient of the note when micing. The second hit is a little delayed in milliseconds and creates the well known term flam. But more importantly this is how you can look at how or what attack does. Load in a kick drum or snare hit, set a fastest release and attack, 2:1 – 4:1 ratio and Aim for a reduction of -3to -6db.
VU meter works best for this because you can watch the needle react to the transient. while the kick is playing, slow the attack down and watch the needle and you will see that between using you ears and watching the needle you can actually see the attack doing its thing. Always turn your compressor off and on during the attack settings. The setting I usually start with is 10ms. Doing this will bring back the meat and potato’s of your kick.
On another tip, this will work on anything!