Compression

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Compression is "essential" said a friend of mine, but I'm not so sure. Doesn't a compressor take the dynamics out of everything??? I've been playing almost 7 years and I've never used one. The one on my amp is always off since I didn't like it when it was on that one time.....
 
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odominguez

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Compression is a tricky business. A lot of people tend to think that it kills the dynamics but if used correctly, basically what it does it to balance the low level signal with the high level signal so that one of them doesn't sound louder than the others. When mixing, compression is mostly used on bass and vocals, since these have a very wide dynamic range and can easily get lost within the mix if not taken care of properly.

That doesn't mean that compression should be used all the time. If you prefer the sound of your bass uncompressed, I suggest you stick with what sounds best to you.
 
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Wow. Ollie, you must be up late!! It's almost 1 am here on the west coast!!! I'm not running out to buy a compressor, but I was curious. When you say low level as opposed to high level, do you mean frequency, or volume?? Thanks.
 
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odominguez

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naetog said:
Wow. Ollie, you must be up late!! It's almost 1 am here on the west coast!!! I'm not running out to buy a compressor, but I was curious. When you say low level as opposed to high level, do you mean frequency, or volume?? Thanks.

I mean volume. Sound waves are defined by two characteristics. One being frequency, as you well mentioned, and the other one being amplitude. Frequency is how many times that particular wave completes a full cycle within a second and amplitude represents how loud that sound is.

Dynamics processors normally play around with the Amplitude (Compressors being part of the Dynamic processors family). On a compressor you normally have 5 main controls:
  • Threshold: The level at which the compressor will kick in and compress the signal.
    Ratio: How hard will the signal be compressed, i.e.: 2:1 or 4:1.
    Attack: This represents how fast the compressor will kick in after the signal crosses the threshold level.
    Release: This represents how fast the signal will be released to its original level.
    Make-up Gain: The make up gain is the last stage of compression, once you have compressed your signal and your loud sounds are a little softer to match your not-so-loud sounds, this contol allows you to bring the overall gain of the signal up as a whole.

Playing around with a compressor will definitely bring new ideas to your head and help get a more consistant level out of your instrument.
 
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Hi, not frequensy but volume level, it's good especially when you change between finger and slap/pop. Also a reminder that there are good ones and bad ones, I use the EBS compressor which I find not effecting the sound quality / mats
 
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I use the Aphex Compressor - I find it's quite transparent and I don't over-use it - the diode display is useful for this. I believe some compressors are quite noticeable and some people like to use them as an effect - I don't know much about that!

I reckon if you're playing pounding 8th notes it fattens out the sound - also good for going from slap to fingerstyle (or vice-versa) as Mats says, but if you're playing something intricate, it will harm the dynamics (ie high and lows in volume)
 

sethsbase

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I second Mats about the value of compression for percussive styles like slapping... it absolutely helps keep things under control if you don't squash the hell out of the sound. But I use harmonics ALLLLL the time (one of the reasons I'm a Warwick man), and a bit of compression goes a long way in bringing them out as well.

When I play fingerstyle, however, I want the compression either OFF or set so that it only catches the biggest peaks... otherwise I tend to get that "ping-pong-ball-dropped-into-a-bucket-of-water" sound. (POINK POINK POINK POINK)
 
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if you want a dirt cheap but good standard compressor to play aroud with and see if compression suits your needs i suggest trying the behringer tube composer t1952, i've been using one for a couple of monthes now and i love it. if you find its not really your thing you can just chuck it in a home studio or the like and at under £90 you've not lost out too much.
 
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