Compression on Guitars

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by Brutus the Barber, Jun 24, 2005.

  1. What kind of compression settings do you guys use on crunchy distorted rock guitars? For instance take a song like Vertigo by U2, not really a heavy song or a band, but it's still a killer guitar sound.

    What attack, release, thresholds etc settings would u use?
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    For me it's not which settings I use because "settings" can vary from compressor to compressor. In other words, YMMV.

    For me the question is which compressors do I use on guitars ? ... and that's an easy one to answer. I love UREI LA4's on guitars. The only "settings" on an LA4 is the ratio, threshold and make up gain. I usually go for 4:1 and knock about 6dB off the guitars, which results in a silky sustain that I like on crunch, clean and acoustic guitars.
  3. Hi there!

    Thank your for your quick answer. I use the Cubase SL compressor not the best in the world, but that's all I can afford at the moment. When you say you knock about about 6db off the guitars, does this mean I reduce the volume from 0db to -6db in the increase volume setting? Sorry for asking such silly questions but im bit green when it comes to these issues.

  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    What I meant was I dial in 6dB of gain reduction on the track.

    With the Cubase comp I would apply a fast attack and a mudium release ... and dial in the gain reduction until you see the GR meter show peaks of -6dB.

    Happy tracking!
  5. McCheese

    McCheese Well-Known Member

    I think he means lower the threshold until it's consistently pushing down about 6db in the gain reduction meter.

  6. I see! Thanks a lot guys!

  7. tmcconnell

    tmcconnell Guest

    compression on distorted guitars?

    Usually a very distorted guitar is so compressed anyway I just don't use compression - certainly not when tracking.
  8. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member

    Re: compression on distorted guitars?

    Exactly...much of the "quality' of distortion is nothing more than drastic compression going on at several places in the amp (input and output stages...effects looks, etc...) This is why solid state distortion (compression) sounds so differently than tube amp distortion/compression...

    On those rare occassons I do add yet another level of compression to a already squashed to death signal, its more as tonal coloration...

    In software, I'll try a UAD Fairchild set very mildly...or an LA2, just as another flavor....
  9. tmcconnell

    tmcconnell Guest

    More on compressing guitars

    If you examine the link here audio stuff/bassguitar spectrum.jpg

    you will see a spectragram I made of a bass guitar, directly into the board, first plucking the low E, then a Low A about 10 seconds later. The stripes are the harmonics emerging from the noise field created by the attack. You can see the fundemental of the E in the low 50's to get oriented. Color indicates energy level, and note the scale covers a lot of range.

    This gives you an idea of what will happen when you compress a guitar. The noise burst is by far the most total energy, and its the first thing the compressor responds to. You can avoid this with a long attack time. The compression in amps looks like a fast opto - with a knee, allowing a little more attach thorugh than a compressor with a zero attack time.

    Then you see the harmonics emerge. Note on the A string how the second harmonic has more energy than the fundemental. As the compressor begins to release, the frequencies still left in the source will bloom, and normally, the higher frequencies will emerge as the attenuation decreases. This creates the organic effect we all love about distorting amps. If you want to emmulate that effect then I suggest a opto (or a knee), 30ms attack, and long like 1000 ms release depending on the passage and the material. peace.
  10. Re: compression on distorted guitars?

    Well I always thought the purpose of the compressor was to flatten the sound to fit naturally in with the rest of the tracks, no matter if it was guitar, bass or vocals.
    But I guess there's more then one way to use it.

    Thanks guys for all your advice!
  11. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Re: compression on distorted guitars?

    tmcconnell is telling you right. I don't use ANY compression on ANYTHING other than when I'm tracking vocals. And only because my levels keep jumping on me, I have to compress them when tracking to avoid this "or" during mixdown.
    Think of a signwave as a womens boobs :shock: hehehe
    And the compressor is a bra.
    If you don't use the bra (in this case compressor)
    then those big t!t's are "ALL in your face" (or rather the size of the audiowave)
    But, if you put a bra on them (or compress them) all the sudden they don't seem so BIG.
    Sure their nice and tight and compressed. But when they are aloud to be "natural" they are much more pleasent to touch, err umm I mean hear. :roll:
    AND I would add, that you can see (or hear) alot more curves, without all the unessasary stuff. It's actually BIGGER without compression.
    So many people want to jump on here and say yeah "compress everything" and then 300 people read that and think , O.K.
    Compression is good. Wrong
    Compression is a tool that changes the charactoritics of the dynamic's.
    It basically destroy's them.
    But some guy's think compressors are boob jobs.
  12. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member

    That is the most bizarre analogy I have ever read or heard...

    But to continue with it...sometimes the natural state of things needs a bit of assistance on while planning what to wear...ergo, compression on the inbound is often a very good tool...

    And much like a bra, should enhance rather than detract from the final overall pitcure...and should NOT be seen directly.
  13. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    If you find the NEED to compress going in then some careful examination of the source is needed. ie...mic placement,room characteristics,tonal settings on the amp,even arrangement.There is a sticky thread at PSW written by the infamous Slipperman that makes for very interesting reading about this very subject.I recommend it to all you heavy guitar recordists.
  14. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Thanks Midlandmorgan :D
    And I can come up with something more bizarre than that. :eek:
    Lets say JLO's ass is the waveform and her G-string is the compressor.
    Of course this would be about a 1 to 40 ratio. :D
  15. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member

    You lost me...I wouldn't know J Lo if she walked in my front door ...
  16. CoyoteTrax

    CoyoteTrax Well-Known Member

    I agree with Morgan in a lot of ways. Compression for electric guitar can sometimes be used as a wonderful effect. Just as surely as it's used with acoustic guitars.

    Take a passage that you want to be very intimate and up front and personal for instance. You can turn up the amp relatively loud, play the passage very softly and carefully (especially if using fingerstyle), compress it at about 4:1 on the way in and get a very cool effect where very soft and subtle techniques are brought up to the surface to be heard just as clearly as the not-so-subtle characteristics. Essentially creating the effect of having the listener be more privy to "the moment".
  17. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Now your losing me. It was just a joke dude. Get over it....
    And just so you know, JLO is that sexy actress (with the big ass) that also sings and records CD's. I hear she uses compression on her guitar tracks. :wink: She's basically everywhere, award shows, commercials, magazine covers, movies, films, TV show special guest, she's a real sucess. You really can't be much more famous than Jennifer Lopez. And I'm sure you dont need to worry about "her ever walking through your front door. "
  18. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member

    WTF?! I know its a joke...and I am aware of her success...But since I don't watch TV much, hardly ever go to movies, refuse to set through awards shows, and only read science fiction and trade magazines....

    As for her walking thru the door, I know I don't need to worry about it, since you seem to have it all locked up.... :roll:

    Gimme a break man...I know a joke when I see one...
  19. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    If your cool with a joke, then how did I "lose you". I think you "hit the reply" icon just to dis me.
    WFT, WFT, WFT.
    calm down dude, if you "know" it's a joke you don't need to reply to tell me "You lost me". That does not sound like you understand that it was a harmless joke. But that you would rather dis me for whatever reason.
    Now that's a joke! :) I wish I had that locked up. As would any man with a brain in his head.
  20. Reggie

    Reggie Well-Known Member

    I think this condenses it:

    It is quite hilarious, but if you can glean something more useful than just "vague things to think about," then you must be more consistent in your Ritalin dosages than me (or Slipperman).

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