Taming peaks and transients may sound like a job for the compressor, but Alex Holmes is here to offer his thoughts on some other tools for the task…
You’ll often come across certain sounds or instruments in a mix that have especially sharp peaks and transients that could do with taming. For example the plucked attack on a bass guitar part that might be interfering with the drums, or an overly aggressive hi-hat. Traditionally, you might turn to compression with a fast attack to deal with this, but it’s worth considering some other tools in your arsenal that you could try first instead.
The most obvious is a transient designer, that can quickly be called upon to shave off the front of the sound, thus embedding it more in the mix and potentially reducing the amount it might trigger subsequent compressors. If you have a plug-in that can do multi-band transient work, then this can be the ultimate tool for working on full range sounds like basses and kick drums, as you can trim the clicks on the top without affecting the punch lower down. Be sure to use the solo function to help set the band crossovers.
Alternatively, careful use of tape and tube saturation can be a great way to tame peaks in a mix and give your tracks a rounder sound. Finally, it can be easy to forget sometimes, but if your sound is coming from a sampler of instrument, then you could try simply turning up the attack a little using the amp envelope. Voila!