Magazine article Guitar Player

Techniques: Compression Basics

Magazine article Guitar Player

Techniques: Compression Basics

Article excerpt

THE USE OF COMPRESSION BY GUITAR PLAYERS has become a sort of snake oil tonic. It can pump up sonic impact and clarify note attack, but, all too often, the application of compression sucks the life out of the guitar sound instead of enriching it. Here are some tips for using compressors for good, instead of evil.

WHAT IS COMPRESSION?

It always helps to know exactly what a signal processing tool does, and many guitar players have no clue about compressors--except that they "make the sound chunky." Here's what's really happening to your guitar signal when it's compressed. For one thing, you're not "beefing up" the signal, per se. The compressor reduces the dynamic range of the input signal after it passes a set threshold level (measured in decibels). This action effectively increases the presence of soft signals, and decreases the presence of loud signals. The benefit to the guitarist is that bass and low-midrange content is typically enhanced, pick attack is more prominent, and the overall sound of the guitar appears "louder."

MORE ONLINE!

To hear audio clips of the compression settings detailed in this article, click to guitarplayer.com.

SIX GREAT GUITAR SETTINGS

The following settings are basic starting points to achieve specific sounds. Depending on your model of compressor, the performance of the guitarist, and the amp and mic [or modeling processor] used, some settings may vary a bit. I tracked these sounds at San Francisco's Potrero Post studios with session guitarist Jerry Stucker using the Focusrite d3 plug-in for Pro Tools.

RINGY

THRESHOLD: -17.8dB

RATIO: 10:1

ATTACK: 150ms

RELEASE: 987ms

This setting is heavily compressed, making chords and single notes thick and even, and sustain like, forever. The medium attack allows the guitar strings to ring, and the long release holds on to produce a massive, Nell Young-like sustain. …

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