Using uncompressed drum samples can be very unappealing to new music producers and beat makers, but anybody who has a real love for audio and an unbridled admiration of music and sounds that are true to their source will venture into the compression-less world sooner or later. Compression is basically the process of increasing the volume of the quiet parts of a song, piece of music or drum sound. It has been around since at least the 60s, possibly earlier.
Compression on drum samples can come into your workflow at two stages. The first is the drum sample selection process. This is where you’ll find the samples that were appropriately compressed by the library manufacturer, and hopefully not overly compressed. If you’re finding that a lot of your samples are ‘banging’ and very loud before even coming into your song, you’re probably dealing with samples that have had all the life sucked out of them already.
The second stage at which compressed drum samples could greet you is the mixing stage. This is where you would, for instance, apply a compressor yourself over the snare and kick drum samples, to give an example. The difference between this stage and the previous is that you are making the creative decisions here, and not being subjected to the careless maximizing compression of the sound compiler.
Just about every song in the top 40 these days has a great drum samples pattern that has effective compression that cuts through the mix, as this is vital for radio-viable songs in this modern age. While compression is often frowned upon by a lot of audiophiles, it has plenty of creative uses, even in electronic music. For instance, using a chained-in effect to achieve a ‘ducking’ sound like in dance music is quite popular.
If any of the sounds you pick are necessary but overly compressed nonetheless, there are ways of adding some color back onto the canvas, and one of the first steps you could look at is editing the actual wav sample. You should be able to see the spike at the start of the sample if it does not encompass all of it. Then lower the volume of that section but allow it to blend in. What you may want to do is mix this with a similar, uncompressed sample and set the latter to about 30% mix. This will give the sample some extra crispness, and while some of the same frequencies will be boosted, the overall effect will be much more natural.
One of a few compression techniques for drum samples is the NY compression effect. In essence, it’s achieved by combining an original sample with the same sample heavily compressed. Having both allows the volume to be maximized while the dynamics are not totally diminished.