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How to USE compression?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Fender05, Jan 10, 2014.

  1. Fender05


    Oct 20, 2008
    I did a search, but didn't find what I was looking for. Apologies if I missed it.

    Here's the thing. I understand HOW compression works. Attack, threshold, ratio, release, etc., I get it for the most part. Where I get stuck is how to USE it (maybe APPLY would be a better word?) in a live situation. I'm a bit of a knob twiddler where I'm constantly tweaking (to the point it annoys me) so I usually end up either with a tiny, tinny sound, or almost no difference. How do you know when you've got it dialed in?

    For context: I play in a melodic heavy metal band (think Lamb of God meets As I Lay Dying). I primarily play my custom shop Warwick Thumb, with usually my Schecter as a backup. My rig is a Mesa M6 to an Ampeg 810, with the SansAmp RBI in the effects loop. No other pedals/effects. Chain is bass -> Sennheiser wireless -> Mesa -> SansAmp (in effects loops) -> Ampeg.

    What compressors would you guys recommend? I don't have any space left in the rack, so a pedal type would be preferred. Where should I put it in the signal chain? Before the Sennheiser? Before the SansAmp? What are some recommended "jumping off point" settings to get me going?

    This got way longer than I thought. Thanks in advance for your input! :D
  2. I have used it as overdrive before.
  3. Azure Skies

    Azure Skies Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 21, 2012
    Designer / Owner of Broughton Audio
    +1 On starting at Ovnilab. It lead me to get the maxon CP9 pro +. For a finger style player I'd recommend setting the ratio at around 4:1, the threshold at a point where the compressor activates at "digging in" volumes, and set the level as needed. I've never found much use in attack and release...as a bassist I would always want the attack to be as fast as possible, and the release doesn't seem to matter much. You may not notice much of a difference right away, but after playing a usual venue you'll notice your dynamics evening out, and you get that nice aggressive "digging in" tone without the harsh "digging in" transients.
  4. Fender05


    Oct 20, 2008
    I was just reading the Ovnilab site. There's a LOT of useful information on the individual pedals there, which will be super useful when I go to actually try and buy one. But I still don't know what I'm supposed to be looking/listening for...
  5. how to use it ? hmmm, well, this is what I do when I get a new compressor...

    set all controls to flat, then switch in and out of bypass mode and listen.
    set ratio at 2:1, run a signal, switch in and out of bypass mode and listen.
    adjust threshold until I start hearing some changes, switch in and out of bypass mode and listen.
    adjust attack a bit, switch in and out of bypass mode and listen.
    adjust release a bit, switch in and out of bypass mode and listen.
    Then I go back to ratio, adjust a bit, switch in and out of bypass mode and listen.

    in my experience, it all depends on your style of bass playing, i.e., slap happy guy will have much different settings than soul finger guy.

    mostly just listen and see if it sound good to you.

    probably more flavors of compressors out there than basses, so budget yourself and stick to it. Though I gotta say, it's tough to go back to cheap comp after using a really nice one.
  6. Fender05,
    Other folks can elaborate on this better but compression will even out your tone. Your big fat E string and the G string will sound similar in volume when compression is properly applied. The same goes when slapping. This generally entails higher volumes due to attack of the strings compared to finger-style playing. With compression, you will have a similar volume when slapping or playing finger-style and your soundperson doesn't have to worry about your bass OVERPOWERING the mix. Bongomania's website has a lot of information. I'm sure he'll address your concerns or you can PM him directly.
    In your case, I'd place the compressor after the wireless. This will settle your tone before it gets to the amp and allow your amp and SansAmp do their job.
  7. Fender05


    Oct 20, 2008
    Eriky, that's definitely the type of advice I'm looking for. Thanks!

    Now who's gonna take his lead and elaborate??

  8. Elaborate on what specific aspect of compressors?
  9. Fender05


    Oct 20, 2008
    I dunno, I guess, haha. Enlighten me on all things compressors, as related to how to use them live and what to look for tone-wise for various sounds.

  10. Compressors are practically a requirement for "traditional" country guitar as well as acoustic music. Anything with clean playing or low gain amps really, as it evens out the dynamics. Compression naturally happens in tube amps when driven so most rock and metal is already compressed by default. That said, modern prog metal uses obscene amounts of compression to create the percussive guitar tones used by bands like periphery and meshuggah (3 compressor pedals sandwiched between overdrives is not uncommon).

    Compression on Bass is a slightly different beast. It is not uncommon for a guitarist to have a singular tone for everything as lead and rhythm guitar are two separate disciplines; Bass has no such multiple definitions in the common musical lexicon. While compression is used to enhance a guitar's tone, compression is used to reign Bass in. Bass is a very powerful instrument, you could overpower the rest of the band like nothing. One big spike in your tone and nothing but Bass flies out of the mains. It's for your own good too, have you ever hit a really low note and your speaker had a heart attack?

    That is enough for now I think.
  11. Lebowsky

    Lebowsky Effects Forum Resident Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2007
    Lausanne, Switzerland
    let Marcus explain :)
  12. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    I'm guessing at the time of this post you had only read the reviews page, and not much of the FAQ page? What questions are still on your mind after reading the FAQs?
  13. Fender05


    Oct 20, 2008
    Actually...I COMPLETELY missed the FAQ section on the top of the page, lol. Working through that now, but it seems like that's exactly what I was looking for. Thanks a ton, guys!