|1. Foreword||2.About music||3. About rock||4. About sound||5. About mixing||6. About guitarists||7. About tubes||8. About pedals|
|9. About digital||10. Ab. compression||11. About saturation||12. About filters||13. About delays||14. About chorus||15. About switching||16. Synthesis|
Joe Meek is certainly the man who has explored and settled the foundations of this process, and his circuits are still in use today. Compression is widely used in modern music, for the best and the worst.
Compression for the worst. A compressor can kill the life of an instrument track, cause playing soft or strong is a critical means of expression for a musician. It can also kill the musical message of a track, or of an album. The radios that broadcast music must compress the music, for technical constraints. The DJ’s have to compress too, to get this high volumes that people want in a disco. But when you really want to listen to music the way it was meant to be, you don’t want any compression.
Compression for the best. Compare drum tracks recorded in the sixties or the early seventies with what we do today. First of all, the miking techniques are much more sophisticated than before, and almost each instrument of a drum kit is now recorded separately. This allows applying compression, but also gating and expansion on a case by case basis (and reverb, echo, EQ…). Drum tracks have gained expression, musicality, and most of all, clarity.
Of course, top-rank drummers don’t really need that: people like Manu Katche, Steve Gadd, or basically, every experienced jazz drummer have a sufficient control over their hands and feet to sound good even with two mikes only in front of them. But in the real life, where drummers are human beings and not aliens, dynamics processing and compressors are almost mandatory when a clean and strong drum track is desired.
Compression for guitars. A compressor can work as a limiter (put the peaks under control), as a sustainer (increase the notes decay time), or both. With a short response time, a compressor allows leveling all the notes in a guitar part: this is extremely interesting for arpeggios, for example, or during a very fast lead part, when the right hand can “miss” the pick of a note.
Tom Scholz knew all that, of course, when he started thinking about building new gear for Boston. He has registered a patent which is, in my opinion, one of his most interesting publications: US 4,627,094
Plug a guitar directly in the soundcard of your PC, and record what gets out of it. You won’t like it… the sound will be thin, even if you boost it. Boost it again, and it will clip and sound even more horrible.
Take a compressor, and do it again: you will lose in expressivity if the compression is too strong, of course. But all in all, it will sound much better. More “natural”. The sound is almost acceptable. Add some EQ, some reverb, and you’re done: you have a real guitar sound. No amp, no saturation, no speaker, no mike: just a little box with a few components…
The explanation is fairly simple, and is explicit in Tom Scholz’s patent: “On a guitar, the first sound or pulse that comes out can be a huge peak which is almost always much stronger than the signal which follows within a few milliseconds. A guitar amplifier tends to smooth out these sounds because it cannot respond to them fast enough, because it clips (distorts) large signals, and because the speakers have a slow response” (Scholz – US 4,4627,094 – col.7 – l.25 to 30).
Copyright Rockman.fr 2007