August 15, 2016

What Does a Compressor Pedal Do?

what does a compressor pedal do

For musicians, there is a real difference between playing acoustic against an electric guitar. Among other things, there is greater control over the instrument, and there are more effects created. They need the help of tools such as a compressor pedal to make the music sound even better.

What Does a Compressor Pedal Do?

While it is true that playing acoustically requires a lot more effort and practice, an electric guitar offers more consistency across the board. This consistency comes in the form of a normalized dynamic range, as well longer trailing notes. Guitarists can create these effects by the use of a compressor pedal.

A compressor pedal is a tool which picks up the sound from the guitar and compresses the tones to normalize. What that means is that the range of the sounds is in a specific range, and the resulting volume is equal to each note. This results in nuanced notes being given the same volume range as other notes. The problem with music is that some of the notes get lost in the playing. In fact, these notes are almost mute because others are louder. The compressor pedal helps these notes to come up on top, leading to a better appreciation of the music.

How Does a Compressor Pedal Work?

For practical purposes, the dynamic range of music is the range of frequencies that an instrument can create.

Some instruments can create a wider range than others. For the guitar, for instance, an experienced player can coax a wide range of notes or frequencies. However, music is not about a single note, rather it is an interaction between different notes, creating chords, and sequences. When there is a lot of things going on, the subtle notes may disappear.

What do you use it for?

  • The guitar compressor pedal helps with this problem. Among other things, it can put a limit on the volume of the notes. In a graph, the volume of the loudest and quietest notes are within a limited or smaller range. Also, this makes those notes softer, more easily and clearly to listen to, even if the rest of the notes are loud.
  • Another function of the guitar compressor pedal is sustaining a note. This is usually what non-musicians would think about when they see a pedal, or even an electric guitar for that matter. For a guitar, a string after plucking in will create a note, and must fade over time. It will become softer and more quiet until it stops. The compressor can sustain the loudness or the volume of the note. The note will then keep the volume until the string stops vibrating.
  • You can also create other effects with the compressor. The compressor pedal has found its best use in the studio. This is where the musicians and musical engineers have been able to experiment and tweak together the music. There are few recordings nowadays, live which do not have the assistance of a compressor. Also, it has found use in other instruments, including the human voice.

With the use of computers, compressors are also their software counterpart. There are not plug-ins for sound mixing and editing software. First, you must record the music, and if there is a need for a compressor, the computer will add it. However, if the guitarist used a pedal compressor during the recording, he could not reverse the effect on the computer.

How to Pick a Guitar Compressor Pedal?

In fact, for playing the guitar, there are different options and effects available with a given compressor pedal. It is a matter of preference which one a musician would use. In much the same way that they have options on which guitar to play for any given song.

Here is a short video discussing the merits of compressor pedals.

Among the popular options for compressor pedals are:

  1. Boss CS-3 Compressor/Sustainer Pedal – This pedal compresses louder signals while working on boosting lower signals at the same time. It provides smooth and sustained quality music which is ideal for guitars and bassists.
  2. MXR M102 Dyna Comp® Compressor – It is an inline compressor that works best by evening out the signals to your amplifier.
  3. Xotic Effects SP Compressor Guitar Effects Pedal – The consumers highly recommend this product because it uses the operational transconductance amplifier technology. It has superb tone quality and offers a variety of compressor tones. This product is more versatile than the others.

When facing with different options, trying different products is the best course of action. Bring in your guitar to a store and test a few compressors to see which one is the best fit. If you have comments or suggestion, please feel free to leave me a note below.

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