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Is using compression cheating?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by ErikP.Bass, Oct 1, 2018.

  1. ErikP.Bass

    ErikP.Bass Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2004
    I was going to post this in effects but didn’t for fear it would be considered trolling, and that is in no way my intent.

    I’m wondering if folks think that using compression to eliminate unwanted playing volume spikes or inconsistencies is cheating to some degree. I’m on the fence about it.

    I wonder how commonly professionals use them and if I should really be striving to eliminate any inconsistencies with my technique alone (pick or fingers, I’m not much of a slapper/thumb player). What do folks think? Half of me thinks that I should give it a go but the other says don’t, it’ll be a crutch.

    I’m hoping that this can be a productive civil discussion about the matter.
    Marcelo Coip and Ellery like this.
  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    If it is, some of the finest live and studio bassists ever have been cheating for decades.
    tfer, BamaBird, retslock and 37 others like this.
  3. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    This question comes up at least once a week. My answer, as always is: 99.9% of the bass you hear at concerts or on the radio is compressed or limited. If it's cheating, then 99.9% of the bass-playing universe is cheating.
  4. ErikP.Bass

    ErikP.Bass Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2004
    Now that made me LOL; I needed that. Guess it goes to show how little I know.
    retslock, Waytootrue and two fingers like this.
  5. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    Meh. I’d never consider it cheating. However, there are alternative uses. I leave mine always on but it doesn’t trigger until I play really hard. Typically, I run flat with a a bit of Bass boost on the bass itself. Sometimes songs call for an almost synthy sub type tone so I’ll fine the Bass knob, roll off the treble and take some mids out. On my active basses, this adds a TON of volume to the amp but since I run the compressor before the input, it squashes the volume down down to the same level as I normally am. Wildy different tone without extreme differences in volume.
  6. ErikP.Bass

    ErikP.Bass Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2004
    Believe it or not I did try searching because I figured I couldn’t be the only one wondering about it.
  7. adivin

    adivin Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    New Orleans, LA
    No, but short scale basses are.
  8. Old Blastard

    Old Blastard

    Aug 18, 2013
    If it sounds good do it.

    Do it on a short scale, if no one is looking.
  9. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    A compressor can level out volume spikes. But it can also boost all the little mistakes and noises you get with sloppy technique. It's a two edged sword most times. So if you're not already a fairly decent player, far from making you sound any better, a compressor can make you sound far worse. Which is why beginners should probably stay away from compressors (and effects in general) until they attain a modicum of proficiency with just their bass and amp. Once you get a solid and consistent sound out of the basics you can begin to explore all the things a device like a compressor can bring to the party and actually benefit from it. But before you acquire those basic skills and level of musicianship anything else you throw into the mix is nothing but a distraction at best and a potential impediment to your development as a musician. Like my grandmother used to say: You can only frost a cake after you've baked it - not before.

    As far as "cheating" goes, professionals have no problems using whatever tools (and compressors are just another tool) are available. Amateurs seem to take an unusual amount pf pride in how difficult something they do is. Professional musicians don't care about the 'what' or 'how' so much as they do the results. Ask a pro and they'll tell you do whatever you need to do, and use whatever you have to use, to make it sound good and serve the song. As long as you deliver the goods, nobody cares what you did to achieve it.

    Music isn't a competition. There's no fixed rules. ("It's more what you'd call guidelines than actual rules.")

    And without rules, there's no way to cheat at something.
    Chef, tfer, BamaBird and 22 others like this.
  10. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    It isn't cheating. It's a tool that doesn't have positive or negative value. It all depends on how and why you use it.

    It can be used as a crutch by players with sloppy technique. Or as a valuable enhancement by good players.

    Same can be said for flats, foam mutes, picks, hairbands at the nut, distortion, chorus and a host of other things.
  11. saabfender


    Jan 10, 2018
    Being able to read music is definitely cheating.
  12. ErikP.Bass

    ErikP.Bass Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2004
    Well said! @40Hz

    Thank for the replies everyone. Many made me laugh out loud. I just got my first short scale and can read music so I might as well throw a compressor/limiter in as well....what’s the worst that could happen.

    I often thought the same thing about foam and hairbands for muting.

    Again, great perspective guys. Sometimes I take things too seriously when it’s really quite simple. I love this place.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2018
  13. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Columbia, Md
    Is (fill in the blank) cheating? Does the music sound better? Then no.

    Even playing air guitar can be okay in certain situations. Super Bowl halftime where you don’t have time for a proper soundcheck, air guitar is alright because the show is about the lights anyways.
    ErikP.Bass likes this.
  14. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    I did a lot practice without any effects or amps, just playing acoustically. I think compression and gain effects do help with playing technique.
    ErikP.Bass likes this.
  15. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    Yes. Any pedal in your chain is cheating. So is your amp. ...and your bass! A true professional doesn't even need gear.

    Because REAL music is art and art is a competition to determine the best of the best without performance enhancing gizmos.
    It's hard and severe and serious business and no one should ever enjoy making or even listening to music in any way shape or form.
  16. I use a little bit of compression to keep spikes from hitting the gain and distorting it. I can turn the gain a little higher and warm up the tone a little more that way. So I use it more like a limiter as you describe.
    Compression can also be more of an effect as some compressors wil color the tone of your instrument and typically fatten up the sound a little bit.
    If you are running an always on dirt pedal, that’s also compressing the sound and if you have a tube amp or preamp then those can add some compression as well.
    It’s really kind of a whatever’s clever situation.
    /\/\3phist0 likes this.
  17. ThinCrappyTone

    ThinCrappyTone Mostly harmless Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2011
    Massachusetts, USA
    Frets are definitelt cheating :roflmao:
  18. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    i totally use mine as valuable enhancement !
  19. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    There's even a bit compression in new strings. Compare a new set of Hi Beams and a set of four year old Rotosound's.
  20. Plectrum72

    Plectrum72 Supporting Member

    Using a compressor is cheating the same as using a tuning pedal is cheating. I've been known to use both. If you're not cheating, you're not trying. :smug:
    tfer, Marcelo Coip, jamro217 and 4 others like this.

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