Confusion over compression

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Black 'n Tan, Apr 8, 2005.

  1. I have done some searching but I would like somebody to just simply explain why compression is so darn important. I'm just getting started (but I'm older and have saved up some money) so I snagged a really good deal on an Aguilar DB750. Should I get a good rack-mount compressor for it? Why?

    p.s. my goal is to eventually play some hard rock/nu-metal stuff as well as eventually acid jazz on this rig (axe is a Spector Euro5).

  2. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    Basically what compression does is smooth out the difference between the lowest volume notes and the highest volume ones. This makes your overall signal sound more precise and even, as well as gives a boost in sustain. While you don't "need" it many bassists consider it a must have effect.

    You might want to get a good compression pedal first and expiriment with it. You might find that you don't like what it does to your sound (though for numetal I'm betting you'll end up using at least some compression). Pedals tend to be much cheaper than rackmount gear and there are some very nice compression pedals out there.
  3. I'd consider it a must-have for studio use, but not for live use. Of course I do still have a compressor in my live rig, but I don't find it to be incredibly necessary.

    Another benefit of having one in a live rig, besides the smoothing out of the peaks, is you can usually attain a louder average volume from your amp than you'd be able to without the compression. Your peaks aren't as high, so you can turn up a bit louder before clipping on the hard notes.
  4. Toasted


    May 26, 2003
    Leeds, UK

  5. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    That's the coolest description of compression I've ever heard :)
  6. Tedintheshed

    Tedintheshed Banned

    Oct 8, 2004
    Columbus, Ohio
    Compression has 3 basic uses (the first two are very similar), from what I have seen:

    1) Speaker protection
    2) Signal leveling
    3) "Squash" effect

    All of this is accomplished through the basic function of a compressor- gain reduction. Here is a very good description that was posted for me about how is accomplished and what compression actually does:

  7. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    It's not. I have been a working bassist for 30+ years and have never ever used a compressor in a live situation. Granted, I play with a very light touch, and don't do much slapping. A compressor in a live situation may be beneficial if you tend to "dig in" very hard, or slap the crap out of your bass, or have a rig that doesn't do a good job of producing good tone across the whole frequency spectrum. You won't have that problem with the DB750.

    You don't need a compressor for the studio. IME no engineer that knows what he/she is doing will request a compressed signal coming from you. If they don't have the compression they want themselves, find another studio.

    A compressor doesn't fatten up your tone. Usually the opposite is true. A limiter on the other hand can be effective in that regard, but again IMO only when your bass and/or rig need the "help". For example, when I used to have an old Trace Elliot solid state head, it was suggested to me that I try an Alesis Micro Limiter, and it was very effective. They don't make them any more, but if you're lucky you can find one on the used market for $60-75.
  8. Thanks for the great responses! I think I get it now.
  9. Bongolation


    Nov 9, 2001
    No Bogus Endorsements
    Success! I love it when this happens! :D
  10. Bongolation


    Nov 9, 2001
    No Bogus Endorsements
    In general, these days engineers and producers want the cleanest raw track they can get, which they will then extensively process to suit.

    Curiously, I once heard an engineer trying to explain why he compressed bass tracks twice. I wasn't capable of understanding the technique, but apparently it's not uncommon among pro engineers. If anyone does understand this and can explain it, please do.
  11. From time - time I use compression during live situations but I am real quick to turn it off because I lose control over using dynamics. Otherwise it is useful but only sparingly.
  12. Droog


    Aug 14, 2003
    I often double compress bass (and other instruments). Its not that complicated really. It all depends on the situation and the player. Generally I will lightly compress on the way to tape/disc just to get a little better signal to tape and protect from distortion. Also some musicians have no concept of dynamics and they get a little more compression. When it comes to mix down, compression is used to help fit the instrument into the mix better. This is when I use my ear for compression, more than settings. Over the course of a mix and in certain parts of a songs the bass may get too buried or stand out too much. Slap players generally get a lot of compression where as the guy just playing the 1 and the 5 probobly won't need as much.

    Hope that made some sense.
  13. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    You are obviously an engineer who knows what he's doing Droog. :D

    Everyone should take special note of where I highlighted in bold. The use of Dynamics is the most important and least utilized tool in music. Capital "D" for emphasis!
  14. johnvice


    Sep 7, 2004
    I started out playing acoustic bass and got in the habit of plucking HARD, I took this habit to electric. Hard plucking produces a very dynamically uneven signal which a compressor is good for.

    However, if you learn to play light, you can "limit" your compression..and play more intricately as your plucking fingers will be sailing over the strings. As an example, I was watching the "Rush in Rio" DVD and was surprised at Geddy's light touch.

    A great way to play light is ALWAYS play through an amplifier turned up too loud. Force yourself to compensate for this loudness by playing softer.

    "limit" was in quotes in reference to a Limiter. This is like a compressor in that it makes loud passages softer not soft passages louder. IMHO this is a much better effect for most bassists as if you play slap/pop style you are going to want to limit the louder parts.

    Even playing finger style I don't get the dynamic smoothness I do with a pick so I like a bit of limiting on my signal.

    The advantage to limiting is you get a natural delay that you don't get with compression.

    The only time I use compression is when I am trying to play harmonics like Jaco or Randy Tico and am faced with a loud attack in the harmonic's percussive "chime" followed by a soft harmonic and trying to play soft supporting "regular" notes. This situation requires compression
  15. Droog


    Aug 14, 2003
    +1 Yes!
  16. Droog


    Aug 14, 2003
    Thank you. I try.

    It's kinda funny. I have been engineering longer than I have been playing and I can honestly say that as an engineer it is easy to complain about a persons lack of control, but as a bass player I know its harder than it seems. I think control is one of the sure signs of an experianced bass player, which I am not. In fact I may just get a compressor for live, because I tend to dig pretty hard sometimes, or just get caught up in the tune and get carried away. Its hard rock so it's a little more exceptable I think, and sometimes intensity is a little more important than a perfect performance. None the less a good player can rock his ass off and still maintain control. For those who can't, well there is a big world of "Gain Reduction" waiting for you. :D
  17. De Teng

    De Teng

    Oct 27, 2003
    Utrecht, Holland
    I am only using the compressor for taming the elements... which are in my situation the EBS BassIQ and the EBS Octabass. If you just play with the attack a little too much... it goes... BOOM... and that's what the audience don't like.. and neither do we on stage.

    Not in my main setup though... I looped those three and place the chorus afterwards. Now I have the dynamics of the chorus, while reducing the peaks of the previous pedals. Perhaps I could do the chorus before and compressor at last, but then I can't control the first two... I think this is the best option, wouldn't it be?

    Also I've been thinking of the route to go is the first two in the loop (BassIQ and the Octabass) and the Multicomp aand the Unichorus afterwards. If I have to use it when slappin, I don't have to engage the whole loop... choices...choices.. playin' bass is difficult isn't it? ;)
  18. Dell


    Apr 7, 2005
    I have to do the same thing. I work in a studio thats run by a youth service so we get lots of young bands come in, most of whom can't play very well and have no sense of dynamics.

    One thing I didn't see mentioned in all the replies is Sustain. I use a boss pedal compressor live becuase there are parts where I need a long sustained note (I use a mex jazz which has a few dead spots) so using a compressor helps get a bit more length out of a note.
  19. True, a clean recorded tone gives the engineer the most control over the tone in the final mix... but as has been mentioned sometimes compression is needed when tracking to get a hot signal to tape without clipping if the player has a large range of dynamics. This especially applies to vocals, as well as occasionally bass.

    The reason I'd double compress in a mix, is simply that using gentle compression twice sounds a bit nicer than using a harsh compression once, but achieves the same result of getting something to sit in the mix a bit better.

    I also double compress live, but have it setup as one TBer suggested in a compression thread a long time ago - channel one with a slow attack and low ratio to give sustain and punch, channel two with a fast attack, high ratio catch the peaks for speaker protection and keeping the signal tame if I get too excited.
  20. Not sure what you mean by this?

    If you use the settings on a compressor properly, you could achieve either one.