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Re: Guitar Compression was :Re: ...reflections...

On Fri, Jul 2, 2010 at 9:31 AM, andy butler <akbutler@tiscali.co.uk> wrote:
> André Donawa wrote:
>> A question for you guitar players. Do you use a compressor when you are
>> live looping and do you have any recommendations?

In the past I never used compression. But then I typically chose the
amplifier and speaker to give the tone and dynamics I like. As for
speakers I prefer 10" elements because they answer with better
dynamics on my playing. But most tube amps already compress the tone a
lot. The part of compression that I don't like, for guitar, is that it
takes away the of dynamics from the musicians playing. I kind of like
the option to play over a wide dynamic spectrum and this was the
number one factor in the days when I did a lot of studio and live
session guitar playing.

When using a laptop and software for guitar playing I have a different
view on compression since I've found that it can be set up to work
well together with your finger playing technique. It's just a matter
of delicate balancing the sound dynamically, in the compressor. But
even with software I use much less for compressors guitar than for

However, just as you can learn to play your instrument with good
dynamics you can learn to play with compression. When learning that I
first found it very annoying, since I was used to a more acoustically
dynamic respons, even in electric guitar playing. But with a lot of
listening and experimentation I found out how to play even with a
heavily compressed guitar tone.

I think a compressor also is good to make other effects sound in
different ways. There's a lot of fun experimenting with putting a
compressor at different stages in an effect chain.

When live looping I always compress the master output, that goes to
the PA system or amp, no matter what instrument I play as source sound
for looping. Through this compressor goes both my instrument input
live sound and the looper output and they balance in a delicate way on
the edge of the compression. This mean I actually affect the overall
PA sound with the notes I play on my instrument. If I play very hard
the looper's "wall of sound" is ducked to make room. And vice versa If
I play open and ambient music with a lot of space the reverb swells up
to shine between my notes; it sounds more with less sound ;-))  For
this "balancing playing and looping" compressor trick I first used an
RNC (Really Nice Compressor) set to Super Nice mode (yep, funny guys
there at FMR Audio) but today with the laptop setups I use a multi
band compressor set to four bands (on the master output). I must add
that the sweet-spot is very delicate and you have to work on not only
the final compressor's settings but, actually even more, on the
bass/treble character of your instrument's live input sound and every
component through the entire signal path. An easy mistake to do in
live looping is to use an instrument sound with too much bass energy.
What happens then is that "punch" and "attack" will be lost in the
loops you create. Such bad looping will sound even worse with my
master compression setup.

So guitar compression in live looping is IMHO really about balancing a
lot of factors all through the entire audio path. I sometimes refer to
the technique as "reverse-engineered mixing". You have to play the
sound right in the beginning to make it fit into the mix when layered
in the looper.

Greetings from Sweden

Per Boysen
www.looproom.com internet music hub