Compressor and band volume

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Ian McLaughlin, Jun 3, 2019.

  1. Ian McLaughlin

    Ian McLaughlin

    Aug 11, 2018
    I'm a compression n00b but I'm learning.

    This is about overall volume when using a compressor. Please know that I searched on TB before posting this but did not find suitable questions or solutions.

    I have the Keeley Bassist, using it mildly: 3:1 or 4:1 ratio, threshold at around -30 or -20 (between 10:00 and 12:00) and use gain as the volume control.

    Band plays a softer ballad: volume is fine.

    Band starts rocking: I need more volume.

    With the compressor I can't just "play harder."

    How would you go about adjusting overall volume to match the band's volume?

    Adjusting the gain knob on the pedal for every tune is impractical.

    Do I just need to learn to control it with the bass's volume? This seems less effective when going thru the compressor.

    I'm thinking of a volume pedal somewhere in the chain, probably towards or at the end. What do you think?
  2. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    I don't think adjusting the gain is really practical as it tends to take some fiddling to get it just right.

    There are lot's of strategies you could use.

    1. Maybe you need two compressors. Use one for ballads and one for rocking out.
    2. Choose which type of music you will use the compressor for. Maybe you need more sustain for ballads, so use the compressor there, and turn it off when you rock out. This might be challenging with this particular pedal. Many compressors have a variable output which is useful for volume matching. The idea is for the signal to be the same regardless of whether the compressor is engaged or bypassed.
    3. Set the compressor and your amp's volume for when you rock out. Use technique or your bass's volume control to vary level as needed. When you play softer, the compressor will compress less or not at all.
    4. Stop using a compressor. I was a touring pro for over 20 years and never once used a compressor on stage. However, the audio tech compressed my DI send for FOH as needed.
    5. A volume control pedal after the compressor could be helpful.
  3. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    My apologies if this is obvious. 3:1 means that for every 3dB over the threshold you get 1dB of increased output. So if you play louder by 6dB, you only get 2dB more through the compressor. Play louder by 9dB and 3dB more passes through the compress. I.E. The consequence of compression is reduced dynamic range, which is the problem you are dealing with. You have figure out how to set the compressor and amp volume to produce the maximum volume you require.

    The threshold of this sort of pedal is fixed and the gain is variable. (Edit. the Keeley Bassist has variable threshold and Gain is after the compression). As you increase the gain the signal comes up to the compression threshold. The output of the pedal also increases as you increase gain, but as soon as you hit the threshold the rate of increase at the output is determined by the compression ratio.

    With studio compressors, and few pedals, the threshold is variable. So the input gain can remain constant and you adjust the threshold to whatever level you like. As you lower the threshold, the signal is compressed more, so the output level will decrease. A makeup gain control is provided to compensate. I moved and edited the following for accuracy: Perhaps you need to adjust the Threshold on the compressor and turn your amp up. Or perhaps you need to decrease the compression ratio.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
  4. Ian McLaughlin

    Ian McLaughlin

    Aug 11, 2018
    No apologies necessary, thank you for taking the time.

    I understand compression ratio and what it means. It's also why using the bass's volume is not ideal to adjust overall volume (I think?)

    Not sure what you mean by fixed or variable threshold. It is variable on this pedal in the sense that there's a threshold dial. Do you mean variable "on the fly" in response to the input signal?
    Stumbo likes this.
  5. smeet

    smeet Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    Blending the compressed and uncompressed signals (called parallel compression) can help with this. It can also give a more natural sound, even at high compression ratios.

    Raising the threshold and/or reducing the ratio can help too.
    .:Aidan:., Rilence, Goatrope and 2 others like this.
  6. Zbysek


    Mar 23, 2017
    Czech Republic
    This, especially No. 3.

    Set your sound when playing loud. Adjust for ballads by:
    1. soft touch (preferably)
    2. using volume pedal after the compressor
    3. using volume knob on your bass
    4. switching off the compressor.
    Please note that almost every sound tech will compress your signal at FOH. Don't overdo compression. I have heard too many overcompressed basses recently...
  7. Ian McLaughlin

    Ian McLaughlin

    Aug 11, 2018
    Lol, "FOH." I usually play small bars here in Brooklyn with just the house amp. It's rare I'm in a house mix. Every now and then I get to play a larger place with a proper sound guy.

    Thanks. I think I use rather mild settings on this pedal.
    Wasnex, petrus61 and Zbysek like this.
  8. steelbed45

    steelbed45 34 on Ignore Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2011
    Nolanville, TX
    Q: Why is the rest of the band able to play at different volumes and you're not?

    The issue isn't the compressor. The issue is that you can't match stage volume to begin with. Your maximum should be "rocking out" volume, not soft ballad volume.

    I use the Keeley Pro with around the same setting as you. 3:1, -20. Nothing crazy.

    Have you tried just switching the compressor off during one of these moments to see if it makes any difference?

    Honestly, if the "house amp" is just a 100 -150 watt setup, there's only so much you can do.
    SoCal80s, gregmon79, pcake and 2 others like this.
  9. Zbysek


    Mar 23, 2017
    Czech Republic
    I, see. Than it's probably not an issue.

    I have a recent experience this Saturday when I played at a big outdoor festiwall with several thousand people in the audience. Because the festiwall was organized by the bandleader, we decided that all musicians in our band will participate (we have two drummers and two bass players in order to alternate when one of us has gig elsewhere).

    So I played the acoustic part of the gig on my EUB and my fellow bass player played the electric part of the gig on his BG. During his part of the gig, I wandered around (both behind the stage and in the audience). I liked his sound on the stage (he uses tube-simulating compression). But I didn't like his sound in FOH. The second layer of compression added by FOH caused that there was no attack and no dynamics...
    stingray78 and Ian McLaughlin like this.
  10. JohnArnson


    May 28, 2019
    This answers your options perfectly well:
    Compressor and band volume

    I'll pick one of the options from that linked post concerning choosing not to use a compressor at all, and think you should ask yourself if you really need it.

    You might come to the conclusion that you do indeed need it, and if that is the case chose one of the other solutions suggested in the post linked to, but personally I have only found compressors limiting (no pun actually intended) for my playing and tone.

    Compressors tend to not only mess with the natural dynamics of your playing but also the natural frequency content of your tone, since, unless you use a multi band compressor, as an example an eventual volume spike happening isolated to one specific frequency area of the signal will cause the compressor to bring the level of the combined signal down as a whole, resulting in less prominent frequency areas getting even more suppressed, theoretically possibly causing them under audibly level, throwing off the natural frequency balance of your tone.

    Usually though this effect will just cause what some perceive as a more focused tone, to me though it's a less rich and less natural sounding one.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
    Ian McLaughlin likes this.
  11. Nunovsky


    Sep 4, 2004
    There's a simple way to resolve that. You can use a boost pedal after your compressor to avoid getting overrunned on those rock songs. If you don't want to saturate your preamp, you can place it in the fx loop.
    Also check with the rest of the band what frequencies range is everyone setting their sound on. Sometimes, it's not a problem of volume but of frequencies because if the guitar player likes to use distortion with a lot of bass or the keyboard player likes to play in the lower register, then they enter your frequency territory and you disapear in the mix.
    When everybody plays softer, you can hear more of your bass because there's less things happening, but when they hit harder, sometimes it just becomes all messy.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
  12. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Trying to talk about a potential issue with compression in isolation is somewhat difficult since effective compressor use is so context dependent.

    Can you describe your entire signal chain from the bass (which kind) through effects (if any) to the amp (make/model and cab) along with your amps’s settings? And also a moderately detailed description of what else in your band you’re playing alongside of - or maybe up against? And maybe something about the style of music being played when you’re rocking out. For example, are you guys tuned down?

    And could you also maybe spell out exactly what you’re looking to accomplish by using compression? Different types of compressor work better for different things. The Keeley Bassist is very transparent (i.e. won’t do anything to enhance your overall tone) and pretty much confines itself to peak limiting. So if a more consistent signal level isn’t your primary goal, then the Bassist may not be the ideal compressor for your purposes.

    You’re experiencing the classic “I can’t cut through the mix” problem. And right now it doesn’t sound like the Bassist is solely responsible for that to me. So as much info as you can provide would be helpful getting to the bottom of the problem and figuring out what needs to be done to fix it.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
    Ian McLaughlin and Zbysek like this.
  13. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    To the OP: where is your compressor in the pedal chain?

    Ian McLaughlin likes this.
  14. keatz


    Jan 19, 2011
    This is why I love parallel compression. Also, if u need more when rocking out, use an OD or Boost Pedal to kick on that's placed after comp
  15. JohnArnson


    May 28, 2019
    As in possible but not for certain, all depending on the original level of that or those frequency areas and the general frequency content of your tone.

    Point being it can, but not for certain will, throw off the natural frequency balance of your tone.

    Most stuff here in life being relative and context dependent, you know.
    Ian McLaughlin likes this.
  16. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    All those can be helpful. But something I’ve often found helps more than most is rethinking your EQ settings and adding a HPF to the signal chain. I helped out a friend recently with a similar issue. He’d tried four or five expensive top shelf compressors and was getting nowhere when all he needed to do to improve his sound was to put a HPF at the end of his chain to remove everything below about 42Hz. That and stop using his ‘beloved’ reverb pedal when playing at higher volumes. :laugh:
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
  17. Medicine Man

    Medicine Man

    Apr 10, 2015
    The best way to use the Keeley is use a mild ratio like you are, and set the threshold so that the led only kicks on when you really dig in. If the threshold is too low and it kicks in on every note, it is over compressing, imho. Then set the third knob to a loud enough volume. If this is already what you're doing, you need a bigger cab setup.
  18. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    That’s about where I am right now based on what the OP has described so far. I strongly suspect his cab (or the cab and amp) just isn’t cutting it when his band cranks the volume.

    Early on in my music life, one of the best pieces of advice I ever received was: “Don’t spend good money trying to fix things with pedals when what you really need is a better amp.”

    Those words of wisdom, if heeded, can save you a small fortune over the years besides getting you a far better sound. :thumbsup:
  19. Nunovsky


    Sep 4, 2004
    Man, that's like "let's turn on my disapear pedal"...
  20. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    You betcha! The original Romulan cloaking device if there ever was one :thumbsup:

    I also eventually got him to try a delay pedal set for a hint of slapback since he missed that “bounce” so much. That and ditch his flanger for a phaser which also got him much the same effect, but without garbaging up his signal.

    Now if I can just get him to maybe consider trying out a 4x10 cab…:laugh:
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