Do You Need A Compressor?

LivingMyDream

Friend of Fred
Gold Supporting Member
May 4, 2016
6,964
Peculiar, Missouri
I don't NEED a compressor, because I do like to play dynamically. I do have a compressor, though, because occasionally there are times when I want to reduce my tendency to add dynamics on a specific song.
 

Emergence

Synchromatic
Gold Supporting Member
May 25, 2022
721
New York
I have a compressor. I stopped using it when I learned to play. What? Really.

I have a Keeley 4 knob that I bought to even out the loudness between strings when I play finger style. The plain strings are typically plucked. I play the wound strings with my thumb which imparts a different timbre and attack. A far better solution was a wound G, changing strings as soon as the wound strings start to sound dull, and control. Don’t pull on the B and E strings like they’re bow strings.

So what’s more important, technique or gear? Do strings count? Is a compressor important at all? Anyone want one? PM me if you do.
 

TSims1

Gretschified
Jun 18, 2013
12,786
Atlanta
I use a compressor 100% of the time, but so lightly you wouldn’t know it’s there. I use it as a tone builder. It makes the whole overall sound bigger and wider if used properly, without diminishing dynamics. I swear I need to make a video and show some folks what’s possible.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,707
Tucson
I have a compressor. I stopped using it when I learned to play. What? Really.

I have a Keeley 4 knob that I bought to even out the loudness between strings when I play finger style. The plain strings are typically plucked. I play the wound strings with my thumb which imparts a different timbre and attack. A far better solution was a wound G, changing strings as soon as the wound strings start to sound dull, and control. Don’t pull on the B and E strings like they’re bow strings.

So what’s more important, technique or gear? Do strings count? Is a compressor important at all? Anyone want one? PM me if you do.
I tend to agree wth you. My dynamics are hard-earned and I really don’t need a device to take them away.
 

Chmason85

Country Gent
May 1, 2018
1,206
Philadelphia
I use a compressor 100% of the time, but so lightly you wouldn’t know it’s there. I use it as a tone builder. It makes the whole overall sound bigger and wider if used properly, without diminishing dynamics. I swear I need to make a video and show some folks what’s possible.
I’ll gladly watch that video because I never use my compressor at all, it seems to neuter the tone
 

Chet Harrison

Gretschie
Apr 27, 2020
300
USA
A little compression on bass sounds nice just to alter the initial attack a bit and round things out.

On guitar, you have to be very careful because a too-high ratio, a too-low threshold, and/or a too-long release sounds really terrible, IMO. If you're playing in time but the compressor is not letting the note through until a split second later, it sounds like you're playing behind. I think that's why most guitarists prefer a compressor with a blend control.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,707
Tucson
A little compression on bass sounds nice just to alter the initial attack a bit and round things out.

On guitar, you have to be very careful because a too-high ratio, a too-low threshold, and/or a too-long release sounds really terrible, IMO. If you're playing in time but the compressor is not letting the note through until a split second later, it sounds like you're playing behind. I think that's why most guitarists prefer a compressor with a blend control.
If there’s a blend control, that definitely changes things for the better.
 

NJDevil

Country Gent
Jul 9, 2014
1,574
Commack, NY
I use a compressor 100% of the time, but so lightly you wouldn’t know it’s there. I use it as a tone builder. It makes the whole overall sound bigger and wider if used properly, without diminishing dynamics. I swear I need to make a video and show some folks what’s possible.
I started using it consistently last summer after giving a few very thorough test drives and have the Compressor Plus on the right side of my Keeley Aria.

I'm using it a lot with the exception of Johnny Winter, SRV, swing, and some other material. The more I learn how to use it, the more I realize it adds a new range of dynamics vs. diminishing "touch sensitivity". It is a tool like any other so either one knows how to use it, or they don't..... and the learning part has been a lot of fun!

It is great for a wide range of solo work and really is a tone builder like Tony stated. There are many compressors on the market and they vary in flavor just like any overdrive/gain pedal so I think the only limitations are really in the approach from the guitarist or the fear to explore.
 

oneforsorrow

Country Gent
May 15, 2020
1,162
Iowa
Need? No. Want? Or would definitely use? Yes.

I don't have one on my board but I am wholeheartedly in favor of them. There's a time and place for any effect if that's how you do your thing. It shouldn't be used as a crutch but it can do something that playing dynamics can't -- decrease the dynamic range. You can temper the peaks or exaggerate them with your playing but you can't "compress" them. And if that's what you want to do, by all means, do it.

As I said, I don't have one on my board but I want one. I had a BBE Vari-Comp years ago but it didn't do what I needed at that time and I sold it to pay for something different.

And while it's a different animal, we all know that there's been precious little recorded music released in our lifetimes without some form compression applied. Even if a compressor wasn't used, fader rides were likely done to change the volume relative the other elements of the mix.
 

Maguchi

Gretschie
Aug 11, 2022
180
Lalaland
????????????
You don't necessarily "need" a compressor. I have one on my board, a Keeley 2 knob, but I use it sparingly. For some gigs and situations a compressor can come in handy to make sure that intentionally softly picked sections and intentionally strongly picked sections are both audible to the audience or on a recording. In an arrangement you may want to use softly picked sections and then harder picked sections for effect or variety. The compressor can lessen the difference in volume between these two sounds without changing the character or tone of these sounds too much.

That said, I'd be careful not to use a compressor too much or even at all in practice. With a compressor on a lot of the time you won't hear as much whether your picking is even string to string and note to note and your technique can get sloppy. On a related topic, in the '80s when metal was popular, a lot of guitarists used noise gates so that open string noises or sympathetic vibrations of strings below a certain volume level were silenced by the noise gate. IMHO using a noise gate like this invites sloppy technique. With a noise gate we don't hear the slop, so we don't mute to correct it. And our technique is not as good. Anyways, I'll get off my soapbox now.

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loudnlousy

Gretschified
Gold Supporting Member
Oct 18, 2015
12,727
Germany
I usually do not need a compressor because the distortion of my amps do a lot of compression, already.

For clean paying it would make more sense to me. I usually use one of the studio`s compressors since they are of better quality than my MXR.
 

stevo

Friend of Fred
May 1, 2012
7,310
Atlanta
Compressors have been used by many professional players for years for various reasons. No one needs one, but learning what they do might resonate with something you want from your sound. There are many things they're used for and many different types.

They don't of necessity mess with your dynamics, they don't necessarily kill your tone, guitar amps don't really replace them, and a lot of folks keep one on all the time in their signal chain. There are several different types that have different characteristics and you might just find that you really like what one or another sounds like. So many uses that it's impossible to say yes or no for you.

But in general, they're often misunderstood. But if you look into them a bit more and listen to a bunch of demos, you'll know if you want one.
 
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stevo

Friend of Fred
May 1, 2012
7,310
Atlanta
I have a compressor. I stopped using it when I learned to play. What? Really.

I have a Keeley 4 knob that I bought to even out the loudness between strings when I play finger style. The plain strings are typically plucked. I play the wound strings with my thumb which imparts a different timbre and attack. A far better solution was a wound G, changing strings as soon as the wound strings start to sound dull, and control. Don’t pull on the B and E strings like they’re bow strings.

So what’s more important, technique or gear? Do strings count? Is a compressor important at all? Anyone want one? PM me if you do.

I think that's the right approach for evening out string loudness - along with pickup height etc. Using a compressor for that is essentially putting it in a limiter function which of necessity means you're doing some squashing. It's a common use for bass though.
 
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