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Billy Sheehan on compression (not his solo album)

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Alvaro Martín Gómez A., Dec 19, 2011.

  1. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Hi everybody.

    I've never used any kind of compression effect for my live gigs, but my recent effects GAS originated by my Darkglass Electronics B3K pedal made me feel interested about that stuff since one of the reasons I've never used compression is because I've never known how to use it wisely. BTW, thank you so much Bongomania and Scottfeldstein for your invaluable help! :)

    Due to that, I've been reading a lot about compression and found something that I think many of you might find interesting (my apologies if it has been posted before. A search didn't return any hits). In the accompanying book for Billy Sheehan's Advanced Bass DVD, he dedicates a full section to compression. Not that his settings will work for anyone, but anyway I think anybody interested in this stuff will find this info useful in one way or another. You can read it in the book preview available at Google Books (pages 4, 5 and 6).
  2. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    Interesting read. Hadn't thought of the issue he brought up in quite that way, but I have experienced the "hey that isn't as easy now that I'm plugged in" phenomenon.
  3. Some bass players love it, others hate it. You need to try it out to see if it works.

    My philosophy that a little bit transparent compression for any bass player is good as it evens out the bass levels in the band setting so the volume levels are more uniform*). Add more compression and you start getting into slap/Sheehan craziness if that suits your playing style.

    *)There's a reason compression is used a lot in the studio.
  4. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Too much hip thrust
    Sounds like he's hooked on it. "compression for bassists is the same as distortion is for guitarists"...

    I don't use compression.
  5. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    I think there's a different way of reading that. I'm guessing you've read it as "compression is absolutely necessary for bassists"; but he's describing at great length the way that amplification affects the way we hear dynamics--and in that regard, compression on bass is in fact exactly like distortion on guitar.
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I noticed that phenomenon, too. But my solution was to practice with the amp on. What was I thinking?
  7. I'm not a big fan of Sheehan musically, but I have much respect. He also seems to have a very down-to-earth style when it comes to describing his gear, technique and point of view.

    Good post! It definitely has me considering compression in the near future.
  8. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Wikipedia often mistakes my opinions for fact Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    I think the main advantage of using compression for live and loud is it makes it safe to be aggressive when you need to be. The point about expanding the dynamic range is valid and it's nearly exponential in my opinion as the venue gets louder. Again, IMO the broadness of the range is created by amplification, and is not the natural dynamic of the performance. To my mind, the amplifier "fans out" the dynamic range whereas the compressor when properly used (aka used tastefully) restores it to a more natural state.

    If not compressing, I think even using the peak limiter and noise gate functions can get you more than halfway there in terms of optimizing for stage volume.

    Having said all that, I'm a big fan of compressing in line between the preamp and power amp. I don't quite get the stomp box compressors because the instrument signal lacks the range that is created at the preamp stage. I also feel limited (no pun) using a compressor in an effects loop because what's the point unless you're 100% wet?

    To each his own, but I say give it a try before you knock it. Just realize that like any other component in your setup, it takes time, research, experimentation, and an open mind to find what's best for you.

    I'm not a super-big Billy Sheehan fan, but I have a ton of respect for the chisel and glue mentality. +1 to everyone who tries new things every now and then.

  9. I totally respect his playing, but his level of compression is way over the top for me. I understand why he does it though - I'm sure it really helps with the tapping and having those notes heard.

    I wound up getting a compressor to use with my B3k a while ago - a DOD Milkbox, and after fiddling with it for hours, I decided to turn it off and turn up the gain on the B3k some more.
    At that point the overdrive was a bit more than I wanted, but I have noticed that's what usually sounds perfect in a mix - I imagine it's the natural compression working its' magic.
  10. Savage_Dreams


    Jan 8, 2007
    they work just fine for me. dont knock it till you try it.
  11. Epitaph04

    Epitaph04 Always overcompensating Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2010
    I really doubt he is. I'm sure he meant to say "everyone."
  12. LiamCohl


    Jan 29, 2005
    Toronto, ON
    parallel compression is a wonderful thing, very common in recording, and can be useful for the same purposes in live sound, it can very easily be set up to do the opposite of a standard compressor in that as you blend in a heavily compressed signal to the clean signal it brings up the volume of the quieter notes and keeps the sound more similar to the unaffected tone than most compressors.
  13. lidesnowi


    Jan 29, 2011
    I rarely use compression on bass ,but if i do i always use parallel compression and never more than 30%!
    This is one of the better ones The Empress Compressor
    Anyway the fingers are the best compressors IMO!
  14. Of all the effects, I've always been interested in compression but don't think I've ever truly grasped how to harness it. Good read.
  15. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Exactly. My apologies for the confusion. What I meant was: "What works for him may not necessarily work for you".
  16. Thanks for posting this! Very interesting read. I'm also don't use any compression, but I might give it a shot...
  17. But I must admit that the Sheehan bass sound used with Niacin jazz tunes is a pretty interesting combination -- like a rocker bass player going mayhem playing jazz covers with a drummer and an organ player.
  18. rashrader


    Mar 4, 2004
    Baltimore, MD
    10:1? Wowzers... That is pretty extreme. I love Compression, but I keep it around 4 or 5:1. If I am adjusting anything, it is usually the threshold.

  19. FunkMetalBass


    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    I think my compressor might actually be at 10:1 right now too. I'll have to check when I get home.

    I use a 1-space 2-channel compressor in my rig. I use the first channel for my preamp's line level output, and so the soundguy takes my compressed signal. Then I use the second channel for my wet output, and that signal goes to my poweramp. They are more or less the same settings, although I do increase the ratio a bit on the line level output.
  20. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Wikipedia often mistakes my opinions for fact Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    Interesting point.

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