One of the most mysterious guitar pedals out
there are compressor
pedals. It seems like the two most common questions are “What does
Compression do” and “Do I Need a Compression”. In this post we will try to
tackle both of these questions and help you gain a better understanding of
A compressor is a dynamic
effect that reduces the dynamic range of your playing. Essentially its limits
your peak volume and raises your noise floor. This makes your Louder volumes
softer and your softer volumes louder. Think about it as if it has added a
ceiling and floor to your playing. You can set a ceiling, also called a threshold,
to your signal. Once your volume level hits that threshold the compressor will
kick in and bring your volume level back down. At the same time you can raise
your volume floor by turning up the overall level of your input signal. This
will give your playing a more even volume level overall.
How can I use it?
Compression acts as an extra
hand that will help add some control to your volume levels. It is kind of like having
someone on the volume fader ready to turn you down when you get too loud, and
turn you back up for the quite parts. This is a good way to make sure what you
are playing can always be heard by the audience. At the same time, you don’t have
to worry about playing over your bandmates. A compressor pedal will also help
add some sustain to your playing without adding any drive or distortion. This
is helpful when want a good punchy clean tone for your leads. Another nice
effect of using a compression pedal is that your delays last a little longer
with more clarity.
Everybody! If you have listened
to any album created in the last decade you have heard compression in action. When
it comes to compressor pedals it really depends on the guitarists personal preference.
They are really popular among country players because they help even out their
runs and add a nice attack to the front of each note. This is really helpful
for “Chicken Picking” because there are so many quick riffs featuring a lot of notes.
The licks are smoothed our and each note sounds at the same level despite how
hard the player picks each note. It can also be helpful for bringing out subtleties
like hammer on’s, pull off’s, and slides.
Anyone who likes them! This is
a bit of a cop out answer, but a compressor can fit nicely into the sound of
any genre. A lot of country players like them because of the attack they add on
the front end of the note. This is especially nice for "Chicken Picking"
which has lots of notes played quickly up and down the neck. The notes are all
smoothed out and sound at the same volume even if the player is inconsistent in
their picking. It also helps those hammer on's and pull off's ring through. A
blues player may look for a similar effect in switching from full chords to
single note runs.
Do I Need a
That question is up to you to answer.
There are great players who pass on them, and other players swear by them. The
best way to decide is to try one out for yourself and see what works best.
There are great inexpensive options like the Dynacomp or the Xotic Compressor,
but like ones that have a few more options like the Deep Six or Empress
compressor. If you add a compressor to your chain and like how it sounds keep
it. If you aren’t a fan, try a different pedal or just use the space for some
other cool effect. No matter what you choose, you wil be in good company.