If you want to know what are compressor pedals and why do you need one, you have come to the right place. Put simply, compressor decreases the dynamic range of your raw signal by making the soft parts louder and making the loud parts softer.
Some guitarists use compressor pedals to produce a more consistent signal and overall loudness, while others use them for creative purposes such as to make their guitar rhythm sound thicker and punchier.
Why you may (or may not) need a compressor pedal
You may probably need a compressor pedal for your recording sessions if you’re worried about variations in your playing. For instance, if your amplifier is super sensitive to different pressures in your picking, the raw recorded signal may produce sudden pops and unexpected changes in volume when you pick a little bit harder or more gently. A compressor pedal would help even out the volumes and make the recording smoother in this case.
Similarly, a sudden jump in intensity from the verses to the chorus may also appear too jarring in some cases. Using a compressor pedal would help make the changes not too sharp to the ears, and avoid clipping in your recording altogether. The end result would be a more consistent recording, as well as more manageable and reliable playing.
Using a compressor pedal during a live performance also helps ensure your playing is more consistent, and the audience does not get a shock from a sudden change in volume. This is especially helpful if the venue is small or the gig volume is supposed to be within control. Compressing your signal before passing it into the main PA system or pedal amp at the gig also ensures that no clipping occurs, and that your guitar doesn’t just eat up everything else.
Another effect from using the compressor pedal is added sustain, as the compressor seeks to maintain the volume even after the note has been released. Hence, for creative purposes, you can use it for greater sustain without pumping in too much distortion or overdrive. This effect can be observed especially by playing slide guitars or slow licks, letting the note ring on after release.
On the other hand, if you’re just practicing your licks and riffs, or if the purpose of practice is to hone your picking skills, then you’ll probably not want to use a compressor pedal. If you are just starting to learn the guitar, I wouldn’t say you need a compressor pedal, either. Spending some time to brush up your skills and personal sound without help (at first) will go a long way in your playing.
How To Keep Compression Useful And In Control
Most compressor pedals come with control knobs to adjust the levels of compression. Some will also provide a knob to control the attack, or the amount of time before the compression kicks in. You may also get an option for parallel compression, which means you can play the original signal and retain some of the force and dynamic alongside the compressed signal. All these controls can be used to shape your tone to your liking.