Retro bass drum compression

I was wondering how J Dilla got this bass drum effect he uses throughout his entire Donuts album.

It sounds super-compressed and is somehow eclipsing out other sounds. It goes well with the retro samples he’s using, kind of like AM radio.

Anyone have any idea how it’s done?

THE AM Radio people would die if they heard you say that because they go to great effort to stop that from happening.

Anyway, I suspect I could get something like that with the straight compressor effect in Audacity, maybe coupled with or in addition to “leveler.” You have to be careful with leveler because it’s easy to cause harsh distortion with that.

The bass notes in a song are usually the loudest of the instruments and it’s easy for them to take over a compression job. That’s called “pumping,” by the way, and radio people have been trying to get rid of it forever.


That’s exactly right. The dynamic compression has been applied to a mix of bass drum and other sounds at the same time. Because the bass drum had a high peak level, the compression kicks in on the bass beats and squashes the other sounds in the mix. In most types of music the producer will take steps to prevent this from happening (such as using multiband compression and using a relatively modest amount of compression on the mix, but it has become part of “the sound” in this type of music.