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Someone 'splain compression to me

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by curtisstetka, Oct 5, 2006.

  1. curtisstetka

    curtisstetka Member

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    I got the concept. I've tried a Boss CS-3 (with Monte Allums mod) and more recently a Diamond.

    I guess I just don't get it. What the heck is the fuss all about?
     
  2. Big0range

    Big0range Member

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    Well, as the piston rises, fuel and air are injected into the chamber and the spark plug creates an explosion, forcing the piston back down...
     
  3. jmadill

    jmadill Gold Supporting Member

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    Compression is easily misunderstood.

    It's all about evening out the sound that you already have ... making the peaks less peaky, and the lows higher.

    Most pedals vary, but a true compressor will have 4 basic settings. Threshold, attack, compression, and gain.

    Threshold is where you tell the compressor the signal level you wish it to cut. The lower the threshold, the more signal the compressor acts upon. The higher the signal, the less signal the compressor will process.

    Attack is how quickly you want it to act. Slower means that the compressor gradually kicks in, whereas faster means you are just limiting the level. The slower the attach, the more you can hear the effect take hold. At some settings on some compressors, it will almost sound like it is breathing.

    Compression is the ratio to reduce the signal that is above the threshold. The higher the ratio, the more it reduces the signal.

    Gain how much you want to boost the signal to make up for the compression. More compression = lower signal, adding gain increases the output.

    There are many different compressors out there, but they all act on these basic principles. If you don't have controls that represent the ones listed above, the maker has made certain assumptions, and has built multiple functions into fewer settings.

    As a couple of examples, the Carl Martin Compressor Limiter has all of them, but call "attack" response. The Barber Tone Press has volume, blend, and sustain. For the most part, compression and attack are hard set inside the circuit. Sustain is gain added to signal that is lower than the threshold, but added to bring the level up to the threshold. Volume is essentially threshold. Blend adds original signal in to make it all sound more natural.

    A good use for a compressor is for rhythm parts to even out the dynamics or inconsistency of the strumming, especially with really dynamic pickups. Adjust the threshold to an average level between your loudest and softest strumming, adjust compression to just knock down the peaks, adjust gain to make up for the reduction in total level, and then adjust attack to make it sound right.

    Another use for leads would be to add sustain on held notes. Set threshold to kick in at a lower signal level, set compression to reduce the above threshold level fairly significantly, and add gain to make the compressed notes louder. Adjust attack to make it sound natural.

    I hope this makes sense and helps you understand it better.

    -jm
     
  4. VintageToneGuy

    VintageToneGuy Member

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    Thanks for that explanation! That's better than the one Analogmike gave me some time ago.

    VtG
     
  5. curtisstetka

    curtisstetka Member

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    yeah, thanks. That's a great explanation.

    I'm now trying to figure out if A) I just don't need/want a compressor or B) I have yet to try the right compressor for me.
     
  6. StompBoxBlues

    StompBoxBlues Member

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    That was an excellent description.

    Compression can be really amazing sometimes, if used correctly, or it can also be an effect in itself (lotsa times a strummed acoustic...that "squashed" sound I used to associate with Ovation guitars...Dave Mathews sound also it sounds like to me). Generally it helps even out things, and can make up for differences in pickup for strings (one string lots louder than the rest, etc.) and give more "presence".

    It is generally (in my opinion) used for cleaner sounds. I mean, when you use an OD or a fuzz, or distortion you are automatically getting at least some compression, as the sginal "tops out", squashing it.

    One thing you have to watch out for pick attack, as compression (the idea mainly, you squash a signal, thereafter you can raise it more again so the quieter sounds now are louder and more like the louder sounds) raises the noise bar...also string squeek.


    I like to describe how it works as....think of a tiny soundman in the pedal...he rides the fader like a demon....but is human. Give him some beers (raise the attack time, and release) and his reactions get slower...some fast loud notes might sneak in, and he won't be quick enough to adjust down the fader...and/or when you get quiet he takes a little while to raise it again. Want to give him just enough beers so he isn't pumping the faders, overreacting, but not so many that he is too mellow.

    Country guitar uses compression a lot. A lot of rock is more dynamic, and it isn't THAt common I don't think in that or blues, except...

    Using it sparingly can really make a great clean sound. I used to use a Barber (and the Marshal ED-1 is also excellent) and set it so it was really subtle. I loved my clean sound, and just kept it on all the time. You forget it is on, and it sounds great, and only notice it was doing SOMETHING, when you turn if off and the tone gets duller. That's a good way to use it.
     
  7. curtisstetka

    curtisstetka Member

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    Thank you too. I guess what was troubling me was having a pedal there that didn't seem to be doing much of anything. I'd turn it on and say "Is that it? Is that all there is? Is that what I just paid $150 for????"

    I think I've answered my own question here. Compression doesn't really matter so much for what I like to play.
     
  8. musickbox

    musickbox Supporting Member

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    Yea, sometimes compressions isn't for everyone. It all depends on what you want to do. compression is a huge part of my sound. I didn't squash my signal but just even out my sound. It helps my dynamics a lot. Some of fellow musicians are like I don't hear a difference. But when I sit them down and show them, they are like wow, I should try one out. It's one of those things that are used all the time and people don't notice (especially in recordings).
     
  9. StompBoxBlues

    StompBoxBlues Member

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    I can say...one thing (my opinion of course) I think gets overlooked....if you think of Pink Floyds "Shine On You Crazy Diamond"...the opening with the beautiful, bluesy, clean guitar part against the synth.

    I can't be sure, but to ME, that sound..IS the sound of a compressed guitar (slight compressed). I can get in the ballpark with no comp, but if you play up in the higher frets, that kind of solo, try it once with mild compression then with none.

    I had a part in a song, a solo, in this one blues song at the end, that ended up there...one night I had the comp with me, played it with that, and the drummer was awed by "my sound"...he was floored. I am pretty sure it was the comp that got that across...I don't use one now as I have no room on my pedalboard and comp is a low priority with me at the moment...but again, sometimes if you set it subtly, and play for a while you like your sound...turn it off, THEN you can really tell if it was doing something. The other way round (start with it off, turn it on) isn't as obvious for some reason.
     
  10. Moe45673

    Moe45673 Member

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    To me, my Diamond Comp is awesome in a box. The main thing I love about compression is that no matter what I play, single notes, chord stabs/strumming, fills, runs, open strings or my fingers squished on the 22nd fret, it all comes out the same volume and cuts through the mix just as evenly. With the Diamond comp set correctly, this happens yet I still maintain my intended dynamics.

    I've been using a stripped down rig since I moved to NYC (just OD and Boost). I sent my Diamond in a few months back to get modded to the current specs of a 100K comp pot. I preferred it the old way so sent it back to get unmodded (Diamond customer service is second to none!). Since I'm playing a show on the 25, I realized how sweet having my comp would be. I emailed Mike and asked him to send it to NYC instead of Toronto, and he said no prob.

    I used to say my Catalinbread SCP was my desert island pedal, but now I can't decide between it and the Diamond!
     
  11. leofenderbender

    leofenderbender Member

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  12. curtisstetka

    curtisstetka Member

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    Thanks again, y'all. So if I want to impress my drummer I need a compressor? :)
     
  13. burningyen

    burningyen Vendor

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    A lot of Gilmour's stuff is laden with compression. In addition to Shine On, listen to Another Brick Pt. 1 and the solo on Another Brick Pt. 2.
     

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