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Al Krow

Live bands compress bass - since when?!

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I'd echo what @51m0n is saying - it's not until you start getting into mixing, something I'm still at a very early learning stage of, but I've really enjoyed messing about with compressing drums and just playing around with using various mic's etc to get the sound - using compression to get 'that' snare sound or messing with the whole kit using eq and comp.

I think compression makes a bit more sense overall when mixing and in isolation it can sometimes seem a bit redundant - unless you're after a really specific sound - squished country guitar or on a drum mix.

I'll be the first to admit I'm a total novice but having access to stems from a host of various online tutorial sites has been great fun.

 

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I haven't read all 9 pages, but... I used a compressor almost from when I started gigging in '87 until I stopped at the end of '96.

Now I'm back, I'm using a compressor as a 'better knob'*.

 

*Just to clarify, I twiddle the knobs and turn it on and off while listening to the results. This way I can be confident that using the pedal gives me a sound closer to what i want to hear than not using it**, which seems a pretty sensible approach, if subjective.

**I've been starting to use harmonics more and I think I might need to up the compression a tad, as they get a bit lost unless I use a distortion pedal.

 

Edited by Stub Mandrel

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Does make good sense. And kinda confirms what I've been thinking for a long while - compression is best left to sound and mixing engineers to be done well / properly.

That's a resource that pro / semi-pro touring bands will / may well have; much less likely to be available for most of the rest of us BCers other than at certain venues with in house PAs and sound engineers. We have one such set up we regularly play at, the rest is down to our own paltry resources with a 10 minute pre gig sound check!

As Simon so eloquently put a few posts back: most of us are not going to be able to dial in a compressor to save our lives. 

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On 06/01/2020 at 14:35, Dood said:

"Multiband compression..."

The Labour Party tried that, with poor results.

 

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5 minutes ago, Al Krow said:

most of us are not going to be able to dial in a compressor to save our lives. 

There are some really simple guides out there, but for most pedals you have no more than three or four knobs to twirl, and use your ears.

If there's a mistake it's setting the controls to what you THINK should work rather than focusing on what it sounds like.

Do that and SOME people will decide it sounds better without (I click mine off when I want to sound raw with lots of dynamics).

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14 minutes ago, Al Krow said:

Does make good sense. And kinda confirms what I've been thinking for a long while - compression is best left to sound and mixing engineers to be done well / properly.

That's a resource that pro / semi-pro touring bands will / may well have; much less likely to be available for most of the rest of us BCers other than at certain venues with in house PAs and sound engineers. We have one such set up we regularly play at, the rest is down to our own paltry resources with a 10 minute pre gig sound check!

As Simon so eloquently put a few posts back: most of us are not going to be able to dial in a compressor to save our lives. 

Not sure that is what @51m0n is saying at all.

My take on what he is saying is, if you want to understand compression and get better at using it, get involved in mixing, and that can be at the dog and duck with your own mixer and not a pro-touring rig.

Most modern mixers have an ability to record the channels going into them, USB stick or otherwise, this recording can easily be taken and the levels etc of instruments be played around with to see what compression does on a free DAW resource etc.

If you play the same venue often you can check your mix at the desk vs the ambient sound in the room with a recorder placed out in the audience and judge how things are balanced, number of people in the room affecting it, how this should be tweaked etc.

Then knowledge gleaned can be used to help on bass specifically.

I think that is the essence of what he is saying, and all ‘pro’ engineers started somewhere.

 

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19 hours ago, Al Krow said:

Does make good sense. And kinda confirms what I've been thinking for a long while - compression is best left to sound and mixing engineers to be done well / properly.

That's a resource that pro / semi-pro touring bands will / may well have; much less likely to be available for most of the rest of us BCers other than at certain venues with in house PAs and sound engineers. We have one such set up we regularly play at, the rest is down to our own paltry resources with a 10 minute pre gig sound check!

As Simon so eloquently put a few posts back: most of us are not going to be able to dial in a compressor to save our lives. 

 

It's like saying a band doesn't need to know how to eq.

An experience I had a while back... Having had an onstage dispute with our singer/soundman (his claim not mine) on how to mitigate feedback from the fiddle one look at the desk and his eq'ing of said fiddle proved he didn't have a clue. He was boosting lows to give the fiddle more low end oomph (a fiddle doesn't produce lows below 200Hz ish  etc - from that day I have described him as a volume man not a sound man - he understands how to make instruments heard but beyond that....clueless.

Now when he finally was agreeable to taking another opinion and advice we managed to fix the issue and since he's been open to advice on eq'ing drums etc (less is more, cut first before boosting and some general frequencies to use as a basic starting point for each instrument) and we've had little to no issues since and those we have have been quickly sorted.

Compression doesn't have to dialed down to the 'nth degree' on every source but some basic understanding and judicious use where needed, rather than plastered all over every instrument, will not hinder a band. Not every band will need or value it or have facility to use it but it's another live tool should one feel comfortable employing it.

It's not too long ago a fellow BC'er disregarded HPF'ing as being pointless and the band complained it took away all the bottom end to that person nearly custom ordering a HPF from a well known UK pedal builder! Once we have a better understanding and application of an effect or tool we're better able to decide if it's needed.

Most of us lack the luxury of a long and involved sound check or a sound engineer but if we all understand how to mange our own instruments sonic space thats no bad thing be that volume, eq or dynamics.

 

Edited by krispn
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Yeah Al you've got the wrong end of the stick a bit. I don't think I quite got across my point.

It's like this, punters are used to significantly better produced music than they were even 15 years ago. They expect that level of sophistication in order to consider a band really good. They couldn't really tell you this on the whole, I'm not suggesting they are all secretly qualified to critique a live mix on a technical level. But it comes down to getting the emotional connection between you as a performer and your audience.

Big tours have unbelievable mix capabilities live now. Small gigs down the pub actually do too.

If you can break out of the "I am bassist, simple pawn in game of life" mentality, and embrace an attitude that includes, "We can, for reasonable outlay of money and some fairly significant outlay in time and learning get within a hair's breadth of that quality of output". Then for a frankly tiny outlay compared to 20 years ago you can transform you bands mixes live, and reach more punters.

A tiny part of which is learning how to use compression in s live mix properly...

Edited by 51m0n
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12 hours ago, 51m0n said:

But it comes down to getting the emotional connection between you as a performer and your audience.

^^ this.

My experience is that the following are, by some margin, the key factors here: 

1. Do your vocalists have any personality and can they engage with the audience (and related to this can they comfortably hear themselves through the monitors)?

2. Are the volumes of the instruments and vocals balanced and appropriately loud for the venue and the event?

3. Is the band tight and plays with groove?

4. Do you have decent lighting?

5. Are your sets full of material that audiences love?

Get that right and IMO you'll be 95% of the way there. For me the rest is tinkering at the edges and which as you rightly say: "A tiny part of which is learning how to use compression in a live mix properly..."

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1 hour ago, Al Krow said:

^^ this.

My experience is that the following are, by some margin, the key factors here: 

1. Do your vocalists have any personality and can they engage with the audience (and related to this can they comfortably hear themselves through the monitors)?

2. Are the volumes of the instruments and vocals balanced and appropriately loud for the venue and the event?

3. Is the band tight and plays with groove?

4. Do you have decent lighting?

5. Are your sets full of material that audiences love?

Get that right and IMO you'll be 95% of the way there. For me the rest is tinkering at the edges and which as you rightly say: "A tiny part of which is learning how to use compression in a live mix properly..."

That's for the inevitable "What makes a band enjoyable to listen to thread" not Live band compress bass ...

but the points are valid for an enjoyable night out - the decent lighting feels like some has recently bought a party bar but otherwise :)

 

 

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@krispn well the first 2 points you quoted in your reply are related completely to compression, point 5 is about target market- you wouldn’t play verbatim pop versions  Atomic Kitten in a Punk or Cannibal Corpse type gig venue.

3 is a given, or should be for any self respecting group.

Lighting? Can’t see how that comes above - 3 recent gigs I have been to, 1 an intimate coffee shop one - normal lights, engaging and brilliant. Mark Lonergan in a big venue it was mainly just dark - lights never changed - great sound and engaging. 
Another band - all the flashing lights in the world, good musicians, tight, engaging - sound was absolutely awful - everyone was put off and left early.

Groove, tightness, feel musically and soundwise are defo hand in hand together.

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9 hours ago, Al Krow said:

^^ this.

My experience is that the following are, by some margin, the key factors here: 

1. Do your vocalists have any personality and can they engage with the audience (and related to this can they comfortably hear themselves through the monitors)?

2. Are the volumes of the instruments and vocals balanced and appropriately loud for the venue and the event?

3. Is the band tight and plays with groove?

4. Do you have decent lighting?

5. Are your sets full of material that audiences love?

Get that right and IMO you'll be 95% of the way there. For me the rest is tinkering at the edges and which as you rightly say: "A tiny part of which is learning how to use compression in a live mix properly..."

You will find that 1 and 2 are effectively boiled down to, do our vocalists deliver, and, can we mix our live sound effectively. If you can't then number 3 is highly unlikely too IME.

 

And being able to properly use eq (parametric and graphic as appropriate), compression, reverb/delay are absolutely vital to achieving that as a bare minimum.

So whilst I said compression was a small part of mixing as a whole, it's a vital part.

If you ask me to rank the tools required to mix in order of importance (both to understand and to getting a great mix), for me it goes like this for live:-

1/ graphic eq - to ring out monitors and FOH

2/ Parametric eq - to remove ugly timbres, subtractive eq is far more effective than additive eq whilst sounding more natural with tighter q 

3/ Gain, Faders and Groups and Monitor sends to achieve an easy to control consistent mix for everyone - yep eq is more important than faders to really grasp imo. Shocking I know.

4/ Compression/ducking - to be able to balance levels across time and get a better mix with more being audible without resorting to more volume and heavier eq to do it. Note not really for levelling at all then!

5/ Delay - because great delays can provide the sense of space of a reverb without the clutter

6/ Reverb - sometimes only a reverb will do, but what type and with what settings?

Edited by 51m0n
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On 07/01/2020 at 12:49, E sharp said:

Do you think that Vail Johnson is going to post?

Not if he's still sporting a mullett....

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Maybe compression is like a mullet - business like at the front end to provide a party at the back - and it looks and sounds good, but not everyone can carry it off

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1 minute ago, Cuzzie said:

Maybe compression is like a mullet - business like at the front end to provide a party at the back - and it looks and sounds good, but not everyone can carry it off

That's it discussion over 🤪

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13 minutes ago, 51m0n said:

That's it discussion over 🤪

As 51m0n is recognised as a patient and generous man with his devotion to discussing compression maybe we should heed his advice on this one :)

 

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33 minutes ago, 51m0n said:

If you ask me to rank the tools required to mix in order of importance (both to understand and to getting a great mix), for me it goes like this for live:-

0/ A decent pair of ears not influenced by any of the band member's egos.

1/ graphic eq - to ring out monitors and FOH

2/ Parametric eq - to remove ugly timbres, subtractive eq is far more effective than additive eq whilst sounding more natural with tighter q 

3/ Gain, Faders and Groups and Monitor sends to achieve an easy to control consistent mix for everyone - yep eq is more important than faders to really grasp imo. Shocking I know.

4/ Compression/ducking - to be able to balance levels across time and get a better mix with more being audible without resorting to more volume and heavier eq to do it. Note not really for levelling at all then!

5/ Delay - because great delays can provide the sense of space of a reverb without the clutter

6/ Reverb - sometimes only a reverb will do, but what type and with what settings?

Before we go out, one guitarist has a mate who's a sound engineer and we are going to ask him to help us  get our basic sound dialled.

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1 hour ago, Stub Mandrel said:

Before we go out, one guitarist has a mate who's a sound engineer and we are going to ask him to help us  get our basic sound dialled.

That sounds like a really good idea. I think @bassfan is about to be doing something similar.

Dunno if there's a way of capturing what your guitarist's mate is doing differently e.g. maybe by you guys setting things up in the fashion you normally have and taking a pic of your mixer and compressor settings and then seeing what the sound engineer changes?

I'm of the view that becoming a very competent bass player is something that takes consistent effort over a period of years; there's an element of arrogance to think that we can become competent sound engineers in a much shorter period and without equivalent effort. I guess we can get to "good enough" on the mixing side in a shorter span just as we can on basic bass. It then becomes a matter of our priorities as to where our passion lies and where our time gets spent.

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7 minutes ago, Al Krow said:

I'm of the view that becoming a very competent bass player is something that takes consistent effort over a period of years; there's an element of arrogance to think that we can become competent sound engineers in a much shorter period and without equivalent effort.

First time round I did about ten years and was never happy that we any of the bands I was in ever relied on more than a random mate or partner to feed back on whether or not we 'sounded OK'.

Even with minimal PA and pub gigs I'm aware that some bands have rich, full sounds without blowing the windows out and others sound either muddy or thin as a rake. I'm determined that we have someone who will not only be honest about how we sound but also be able to offer advice on how to sound better. I'm no longer confident that each band member (including myself) can choose the most appropriate settings for themselves.

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I've used a compressor of varying types on my bass rig for as long as i can remember whether its built into the amp head or on a pedal. Depends on who's sound i'm trying to replicate at the time. Generally tho its barely on and acts more lie a limiter than anything else.

I've no idea what famous bass players have been using and just assumed majority of them used it somewhere along the way.

Dave

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On 10/12/2017 at 12:30, Al Krow said:

For sure. But has it also not been used live for many decades? When did Paul McCartney and John Entwistle start using compressors on their pedal boards?

I've seen Pail recently. At that level and with as much technology as that band uses it's would be hard to tell what Paul is actually using. 

Now if we're talking 1965 Shea Stadium my money says Paul was straight Bass to Amp , no effects no compression.

Blue

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