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Is using compression cheating?

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

  1. Thumpin6string

    Thumpin6string Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2013
    Redding CA
    Amps are cheating. Tone controls are cheating. All pedals are cheating. Active electronics and pickups are cheating. I'm glad I have all of these things or I would sound like :poop:.
  2. mikecd1

    mikecd1 Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2009
    CT, New England
    Had a DBX rackmount compressor with a preamp and heavy power amp in the 80s and 90s(way too heavy rackmount rig). After using a while I had it dialed back quite a bit and eventually sold it as I kept it so far dialed back it didn't seem like it was doing anything at all. Felt like it impeded some of my attack as I like to dig in on my jazz bass and the compressor sounded like it slowed that down. Thought I needed it to get a "fat" sound, but found other ways to do that. My current amp doesn't have compression and I've never thought about it since for live, but in the studio use it all the time in varying degrees on many things. YMMV
  3. Guilty! :bassist:
  4. MDBass

    MDBass Supporting Member

    Nov 7, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Dingwall-Fender-Jule-Dunlop-Tech 21-Darkglass-Nordstrand
    Anyone who thinks compression is “cheating” doesn’t understand what compression is: literally every piece of popular music in the last 50+ years has been made using compression.
  5. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    A compressor is by no means the only thing that compresses a signal.
    Apart from the fact that most in most situations where FOH is involved, some compression happens somewhere between bass and FOH speakers, you will get compression from nearly every kind of dirt you might use. A saturated tube amp will compress your signal. A simple Overdrive pedal will, too.
    Guitar players use the saturation of the amp itself and/or pedals to get more distortion into their signal and no one asks whether or not that is considered cheating.
    A compressor in itself is just a tool. You could use it after a preamp or dirt pedal to even out the signal while retaining the touch sensitivity of the dirt pedal, which is an art in itself and not easily achieved.
    You could also use it with a super low threshold to kill all the dynamics in the signal - either because you want to sound like a synth (or sound like you compressed the heck out of your signal) or because you lack the ability to use dynamics and need to even out your signal. The latter might be cheating because it won't make you a better player.
  6. FugaziBomb


    Jun 5, 2017
    Is using an amp cheating because you can't play the bass loud enough for an audience to hear it unplugged?
    Marcelo Coip, jamro217 and oZZma like this.
  7. Practice with the compressor off, gig with the compressor on. Pretty simple.

    I can understand both sides of the argument, but anyone who tells you it's cheating is just being ridiculous.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2018
  8. I use up to FOUR different compressors (but not all at the same time!)-

    Two are VCA-based, one is optical and one is whatever you call an DIY Orange Squeezer (is that one really a VCA type?).

    They all sound different sounding and work well within different styles of music, as they are set up to accentuate different aspect of playing, from regular finger-style, picking, slapping and muted funk.
  9. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Using a compressor is not cheating but that doesn't mean you shouldn't strive, in your words, "to eliminate unwanted playing volume spikes or inconsistencies." Even if you don't use an actual compressor, there is typically some degree of compression in you signal chain that varies with gain and volume. My advice: strive to be a good musician and feel to free to use whatever effects/processing you like.

    I don't generally use outboard compression with bass, and when I do it's usually at a ratio and threshold that I can feel more than hear. I do have two amps with built in compressors, and I tend to leave them on pretty much all the time. The compressor on the Mesa M9, in particular seems to tighten up the low end.

    One amp that I would probably use an outboard compressor, vintage Hiwatt DR201. If you play this amp at relatively low volume it can be pretty brutal unless you use a little compression to take some of the edge off. Most of my other amps have enough natural compression that an outboard compressor is generally not required.
  10. Greevus


    Apr 15, 2009
    Just cheating your tone
  11. andruca


    Mar 31, 2004
    Madrid (Spain)
    I guess my frequent use of an Epiphone Viola strung BEAD with some crunch and heavy compression makes me quite a serial ofender in the dark art of cheating.
  12. sawzalot

    sawzalot Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2007
    Not cheating. Go to about 4:14 in this video: . Right where he says something like "I use it to really grab the peaks".
  13. BluesWalker

    BluesWalker Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    When you get caught and fined, you can send me the payment.
    Marcelo Coip likes this.
  14. dbsfgyd1

    dbsfgyd1 Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2012
    Richmond , Va
    No, it is not cheating. And if you are like most, you will not be using an excessive amount of squash. Although that can be fun to play around with, for me it’s like running in quick sand.
    Spidey2112 likes this.
  15. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
    If it's a crutch which makes me sound better, consider me handicapped...
    jamro217 and Element Zero like this.
  16. red_rhino

    red_rhino Gold Supporting Member

    You might end up sounding good. Definitely cheating.
  17. Mosfed


    Apr 21, 2013
    Chamonix Mont-Blanc
    Partner - CCP Pedals
    You realize that every single recording that you have ever heard of bass guitar has compression of some sort on it right?

  18. I never use it live anymore, only when recording.....just a little bit on rock /metal stuff, and a bit more on pop, soul, r&b, disco stuff.
  19. vonbladet


    Nov 30, 2017
    East Belgium
    I didn’t even know as there were rules. Is there a list, so I can rip it in half?
    retslock likes this.
  20. Perrygoround


    Jun 27, 2016
    When a musician plays a piece of music, the goal is trying to achieve the best possible result using any available resource at his/her disposal. The goal in any artistic piece is to make the piece as good as you could, not showing off what you can or can't do without using any tool.

    Is a painter using colours, or an array of differet brushes instead of his finguers cheating?
    Is a scuptor who is using a hammer and a chisel instead of his bare hands cheating?

    I don't think so but, of course, others may disagree and consider Picasso and Michel Angello nothing but big cheaters instead of people whose art deserve any recognition.
    Marcelo Coip likes this.

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