At first I was going to write the usual article about how to use a compressor, or some kind of technical article about technique. Then it occurred to me there's an issue much more import for music creators.
To take it a step further, it occurred to me that these technical decisions during the music creation process can actually hamper the creative flow. How many times have you thought you couldn't complete a track because you needed to learn how to EQ or compress properly? How much time have you spent reading or watching tutorials on technical things, and what real benefit has that had for your creative process?
I often get asked how I manage to work as fast as I do (I'm a film composer by trade) and my work often involves creating large amounts of music in a short space of time. My answer is that I have learned not to be too precious about the process, which frees me up creatively to take chances and work fast. Working fast leads me to write a lot of music, and writing a lot of music gives me a lot of experience, and a lot of experience means I can write more music, faster.
Faster doesn't mean being careless or sloppy. It means being in the moment of creation. Creation is instant and occurs in the present. As a composer this state of inspiration has little or nothing to do with how to set a compressor or EQ a vocal.
I'm aiming this line of thinking at people who make music for a living or out of passion. If you're a mixing or mastering engineer then much of your process is about the use of technical tools. As a music creator however, I've too often seen the tendency to get hung up on technical issues, on things that are workflow killers, processes that stop creativity dead.
Now there are certain times when a plugin compressor, for example, gets used for musical effect, side-chaining is a good example of this, so I'm not advocating being ignorant of how these things work, but rather that you don't let yourself get sidetracked by finicky details.
A good composition will trump a good "mix" 100% of the time. A piece of music with heart and expression in it is more important than what ratio of compression you used on the kick drum. Beside, you're an artist. There are technical experts who live to finesse your sounds into a polished mix, let them handle it. I realise not everyone is in the position to hand their tracks over for mixing, if this is the case, I recommend only starting to worry about it after you have finished your composition. Creativity first, get technical after.
I'l be back with some technical stuff another time. In the meantime keep creating!