Effects Rack: Compressors for Specific Sounds


Axe-Fx Master Class


Lesson Info

Effects Rack: Compressors for Specific Sounds

I'm going to get into something now that is probably the least understood guitar effects least understood audio effect in general. Maybe I know my understanding. It is certainly just get to slide up there one step beyond cursory. I am very much, eh? Doesn't sound good, good kind of person with the compressor and honestly, that works quite well for a lot of people. S o to understand the compressor basically, if you never turn down your amp in the middle of plane because you hit one note, it's been too loud, you're embarrassed, you're probably not a guitar player because that's happened. All of us, we've all been like at a gig and we just go for one day and works like, oh, that was not good, that was way too loud. You go back and turn down your ramp and the rest of it's too quiet for the rest of the night, so you go and turn it back up when you hit one more note, basically, if you've got a compressor set, right, it is the magic engineer it's, the guy who's riding the fader constantly on ...

your guitar and he knows what you're about to play, and when you're about to hit a note, that's a little too out of it. And he does it in just the right ways that it feels natural if you wanted tio or that it comes across as an effect if you wanted to sow compression could be used into very uh very different ways in effect that are very similar dia linn in practice compression is a guitar effects usually takes the form of a pedal uh and in that you can see if you go into the compressor block you got the studio compressor and then you've got three other ones and two of them are petals which are based more on a compression pedal that z kind of thing that you know you'll see to kind of give like a snap through a sound a lot of guys will use compressors to kind of kick a drive a little harder than it's already being driven a lot of blues guys like john mayer uses compressors to really nice effect on his leads you gotta clean tone you want to thicken it up increase your sustained and out a little bit of sparkle to it hit a clean tone with a compressor that set right which we're going to do in a second it's almost like turning on a clean boost with a little bit of driving it but it adds a really nice dynamic sparkle then you kick the drive on in front of it and you're sustaining your lead your kind of david gilmour territory who always had compressors on most of his leads are not always but mostly had compressors on a lot of athletes, so, uh, slide there for sex just to kind of briefly go through the the settings in a compressor, you've got the threshold, which is where the compressor starts listening, you've got the attack, which is how quickly it starts compressing you've got the release, which is how quickly it stops compressing you got the makeup, which is how much volume it brings back automatically. And then you've got the ratio, which is the least understood part of compression and the easiest to understand ratio basically, as it was put to me, is the answer to a seventh grade math problem express one half or one fourth is a fraction so one half has won over two and ratio answers a jeopardy question when the compressor is at maximum squash, how much quieter is the signal going to be so if the ratio is one half is going to be half his loud it's one eight it's going to be one eighth is loud when it's, when the compressor is doing its job two, one hundred percent then that's, what it's going to be lowering it by? So that said let's, take a look at a a couple different compressor situations, so just right off the bat this is based on actually the gig preset I showed you earlier. Uh, this is a based on a fender twin is just like a kind of typical blues blues kind of set up, and if I had a single coil guitar with you probably a little easier to illustrate, but let's, just listen to kind of how this responds, so when I use my fingers there's a nice snap so that just from the amplifier itself ah, a lot of stopping their tio so let's turn on the compressor on its default settings and see what that does to this out. Oh, those snaps become a little more pronounced, they're muted, but they've got a little more character to them, so setting a compressor and I'm gonna use the pedal here because really, this is more of a pedal type situation and we'll talk about why in a minute, but I'm gonna call this like a snappy pop compressor, so basically you're going to hear you hear some snap out of it but also it's going to level everything out so a compressor a lot people you know, I think ok makes everything quieter the way a compressor works in effect is the level of everything is raised and then it lowers level when you play loud, so it just seems quiet but really it's bring everything up and then bringing it back down where it was before when you play louder and it compresses so the degree to which compresses obviously depending on how you said it so loud is quiet or really what it seems quieter it's actually just where it was before you turn on the pressure so the best way to dial it in is to go and will this play way should get the level of the compressor set to where it's unity between the two so they sound almost basically the same volume whichever we've got it the press was bringing in a little bit of volume so what I'm going to do is just lower the level by one and a half tv and then use the space bar here so that doubleclick little quick accented trick space far bypasses blocks it's a little too much so I'm gonna go that's pretty good all right so the most popular and prominent feature on a sustained pedal obviously is a compressor pedal rather is the sustained and I say that misspoken said sustained pedal because most people use a compressor as a sustained pedal so what it's going to do is if I play a cord and hold it out turn off the compressor and you hear the court fade away I pressed her on it's gonna bring it out so that it holds it for a lot longer because as it gets quiet it's going keep stop compressing the whole you know the whole level is hard on initial thing is quieter because it's snapping down on part was making the whole thing last longer because what was loud before can now be brought up to be the same level of load. So with this what I would d'oh is put a really high attack like crazy high attack but like, you know, somewhere up here and uh basically I want to hear that first part actually want to hear it even more I don't hear that first part, but then I wanted to clamp down I wouldn't use this record so much like that isjust illustrate, but for leaves like a clean lead it's having a nice snap tio turn this up a little bit um emphasis basically puts more I would say this it accentuates the high frequencies before compressing and then kind of tunes them down after it compresses so really just kind of make this sparkle higher on the on the front end, which is the compressor is you can see is first off because of the way that we set the level thinking everything quieter, but we can bring the level off so that now we settle those settings when you took this sustained I've got a lot quieter than that we're just going to read, you are kind of gain test here and uh put on this thie fire, andy wood and complete country. You would have a really great country tone at that point. So basically just created this kind of a clinton honestly, the best way to see it it's not in the editor, but if we come over here, you can look on this screen where you can see the game and essentially what's happening is when I play it's clamping down on that and then slowly releasing back up so that when I plan keeping all that in the same volume so initially hold it down I'm gonna set some really extreme settings so you guys can see exactly is having if I put the release on ten milliseconds after every note it's ah popping back up really quick so it then has to climb back down on each one of those transients as opposed to if I put the release really slow, it's going to stay down and it's going to swallow all those transients way this is kind of acting is a subtle limiter with the release that high generally wanted to d'oh. I wanted to be pretty quick so that I get that snap there, I think then the wrestler notes or kind of brought back up, so with this, you know you can do the kind of snappy sound I would use this again a lot with a single coil and I would use it basically bring the level of I would set it like one and a half, maybe in two d b s so it's almost a clean boost, but it's also bringing up these really nice kind of snappy poppy sound on when you're on a single coil like the neck pickup of ah stratocaster type did you get it doesn't really translate with home blockers, but you get a really poppy sound, especially for playing with your fingers, but then that kind of pops out within everything else is kind of mellow, so you can really get a great dynamic feel out of it. It helps to accentuate lines is if you're playing and you put your release up a little higher, you can play lines that are all very smooth and kind of women the same thing, but with the attacks that the way we have it, you can, you know, let the note fade out a little bit in popular quick and get a really nice accentuated line at the start of a phrase or something so it's a really powerful way to kind of carve out your dynamics and accentuate the way you're playing us certain line you would use it for everything but for like blues the stuff that I really love setting a compressor like that that's where I said and forget a compressor that's the limit of like what I practically used for a compressor, I'm going to show you some other cool uses for it that are not as much things that I would use gigging, but that are super applicable. Two guys who are doing like experimental presets or even people who are using the expects to mix. There are a lot of actually new features in the recent from where they're really powerful sparks compression and everything with the amplifier block and also in the new cabinet block settings in this pre empt there's some really cool stuff in there. Uh, that I invite you to explore is outside the scope of this class. For now, I'm going to show you what happens when I hit this dr block um and again I dialed this pre set for a single coil pick up so it's not going exactly, but this dry flock is set tio not super aggressive, it's more of a kind of losing compressor. First off here, there's a little more gain, so it's cool to kind of kick it on when you've got a lead already going again, we watch this you can see where so when I play hard it's clamping down on that, just kind of even ever anything out so again, in the way that I have this, the compressor is acting kind of as a clean boost that accentuates the dynamics in the style that I would be playing with this kind of stuff so it's a pretty specific use for it I'm gonna say this cause blues anything or something um uh okay let's talk about another instance of compression this is another kind of like effect on instance in which you're using compression is an effect not so much as a sound so there is compression for effect and there's compression toe level everything out we're going to talk about kind of like a studio compressor kind of thing I'm like a hard limiter that's going to just chop the top off everything you're playing, which is really useful if you want to play really really loud, but you want to peak anything, I just want everything to be, you know, like a modern pop song, this is the whole time there's no discernible difference between anything that can actually be really useful if you're trying to get a really high game preset right at the top and you just wanted children, children drink and you don't want to clip anything you just said a hard limit you chop the tops off everything on and you could do it in a way that makes it actually not sound bad right now that we're talking about one of my all time favorite sounds I am obsessed with the eighties clean tone straight into the board using the board's compression no amplifier no nothing uh I picked the high watt here because I pulled this out of one of my pink floyd presets and the high watt basically is dialed here you can fear to just almost be like to preempt high what is such a clean and you really got to drive it really hard to get it to get nasty so these are actually the default settings for the high watt I believe what I'm gonna do though is go in and I'm not going to the cab not complete amp uh this really is just going to be an illustration of how to get that like direct in like michael jackson bad thriller that errol I think you know the guitars in human nature or the lead line billie jean that comes in it's kind of like super over the top snappy compression sound it's a sound that I actually didn't know how to get for a really long time then somebody showed me and the reason I'm showing you is because like here it is two blocks and we got like there's nothing complicated going on here right off the bat you can just kind of here super super clean like painfully clean but I am going to do is pop this level way up thiss way better on a quilt things it's that kind of thing way can play the actual rift but you get the idea oh um so I'm going to change this again to the pedal which may be counterintuitive given that this original effects was made using board compression we're like a rack mounted compressor straight in the board I've gotten better results with this pedal so that's just what I'm going to do you guys welcome best around the studio compressor we're about to in a minute anyway uh but for this particular preset I'm gonna use this and I just kind of got these uh, values just blow it up a little bit and uh again with this emphasis is just adding sparkle to the first couple notes which is really what we're doing we wanna get that super snappy uh all right. Only last thing we've got to dio as you see really easy totally classic sound actually going doll from this base down make it a little more anemic in a good way way watch the meter all this compressor you can see it's just slamming the transient but to get from that attack being where it is get enough of that light that pot you know what is that uh what is it getting a hey nineteen in the wrong key uh super compressed steely dan actually really good reference point for this kind of tone um let's add some reverb I'm gonna go with the studio there's a great factory preset that I'm going to pull up now to kind of illustrate I put this together very quickly it sounds great I really this would be a great time to throw in that filter we got in the earlier class let's uh trying to recreate that real quick here not going to spend a lot of time adjusting it since we've already done it but probably turned the game up those that does anything at all and, uh wait a second just the envelope a little bit in the area anybody somebody is more adept at the kind of well it's not gonna do anything if I do that is it uh anybody out there who's better it kind of that kind of stuff super pronounced very uh, you know, single use kind of tone but I love that stuff and, uh people ask me sometimes how to get that town so there you go, there's the super poppy compressor I was going to mention briefly if I haven't overwritten it there's a great factory preset poppy this is kind of does more time was spent on this than was spent on my pre sectors that sounds one hundred times better, but the really cool thing here is check it out this gate uh is set on a reverb so that river mess around with that it's kind of cool kind of the sound I was going for in this one so let's talk about that's using compression for a super super aggressive purpose and before that it was using it kind of to accentuate your dynamics, but the really the really powerful other way to use compression is two eyes to use it as I'm going to switch this to a heavier gain, ample fire here, um to use it less is an effect and more as a final sound sculptor. So wait, khun dio kind of what I refer to is like a fader writer, and this is kind of like what I was talking about before about having, like, a magic engineer who ah who's just kind of riding the fader all the time, making sure that, you know, everything kind of stays within a nice, just kind of chill everything out like the whole makes just stays in this space and I think it's too aggressive really more to that thing I was talking about before where like, you know, you have you have if you've ever turned down your ram, this is the kind of thing that kind of stays out of your way you're not going to hear it until you hit a really loud note and then it's just going to kind of saying that I know about the note and just kind of pull everything it so we want the ratio really low here because we don't want it two we don't want to hear any pronounce throbbing for one thing, so like if a really loud note comes up you don't want something is really allowed to suddenly be in eighth is loud you wanted to probably be half his loud or even like one what we have here is like one point three uh so you don't want the ratio to be really aggressive, so basically this is simulates the kind of compression that you put on like a recorded track so this is more of, like a mastering thing, so I've been saying for the level but basically what's going to happen is that way watch here again anything and I'm actually going toe to special old a little bit we're going to say that like, for example, the way we said the special what we're saying in essence is that anything over twenty five minus twenty five is going to get squashed, so watch the meter for saving cut to here you're saying it's not really doing anything super aggressive but playing along on you really loud no, I'm actually gonna lower the pressure a little bit, but if you look if you are going ahead and you hit something really allowed it's goingto clamp down on it and but it's going to do it in a really soft weighs over one thing the ratio is really low so it's not going to just slam down on even if I put the attack at one millisecond it's not like we crank racial up to eight or something so at the other end of that you've got the hard limiter which is not doing this kind of like it's kind of this riding at one level like it's just kind of bringing everything everything just kind of staying within its own space and if I recorded and played along you would see that it just kind of goes like the way form we just kind of be like this and just be this nice soft sculpt on there be a little variation and now's a good time actually talk about the difference between are a mess and peak setting something like this which is a compressor that's just kind of listening to the whole mix you've got it on our mess which is route means square that is a timeto average so everything that's happening is going tio let it ride the compressors going to ride here when everything starts getting quieter it's going too slowly drift out until he gets something it's loud it's going to pop up again a little bit whereas peaks or going literally watch every peak and do things on a peak to peak basis as opposed to our master it's kind of like smooth everything out a little more so for something like a hard limiter what I'm going to dio is set this to peak and then I'm gonna this is an extreme example we're talking like on this is fun to watch the meters because we're going to crank the race you upto like eight or nineteen and I mean it doesn't matter eleven it doesn't matter uh and we're going to set the threshold way up here and uh we'll see I mean you can honestly you can set the ratio it infinity if you want and we'll see how that goes uh was the knee it hard and this is like I said a very extreme example of what a compressor can do so you have to bring the level down a good bit on also this threshold as well so basically you see the compressors chopping back up tow level that riverbed because the river is a louder than threshold but every know that we're playing is so it's clamping down on its super super hard almost everything's being a race if we raise this up a little bit right basically what we're doing here and I'm actually going to increase the release a good bit so it kind of stays on this is a hard limiting situation we're saying anything above this level has to disappear we have to remain right here so this is the kind of thing like you know I honestly I can't think of a practical use for it in playing like a gig, but as far as like recording an effect part where you wanted to really just say in this one sonic space, I mean, no matter what I do that's gonna hover right where I told him I thought if I put the attack on like one they released on one ten it's squash every note I play so again, not most practical thing, but if you look it the graph, I think really what's important about seeing this kind of, like, super hard limiter the situation is that you can use it to make sure if you have tio that you're playing never exceeds a certain point on it does it without because the way we've said it doesn't without sounding super fake in and one way that way when you do that is to set it on peak so it's just literally it's looking at those peaks and just going no, no, no and everything else is fine, so when you river comes back in, we could put it before the river in the river would bring out um but again, I hope this kind of clears up how a compressor works showing this super extreme example and then kind of a more nuanced one, obviously most of the uses for they're going to be a more nuanced kind of thing. But the best way to get to know what the pressure does is honestly, just mess with values. And if you get into a situation where you don't really understand what is doing, watch this meter this meters, like, you know, okay, what's happening when I play it's, literally taking everything down to minus six play and it's hopping back up really, really quick, because the release is really quick. So, like, if we crank the release up it's, very visually obvious way weighing in the same volume because the quiet stuff is being went back through the compressor. So, really, you got to think about it, not as the compressor raising the volume with the compressor, allowing it to return back to the volume. It was originally because it's, compressing it so that's, kind of the compressor. I'll bypass this and you guys get the subtle one and the ridiculous one here in this preset.

Class Description

The Axe-Fx Master Class is your advanced training on utilizing the most important capabilities on your Fractal Audio Axe-Fx. You’ll learn about setting up the Axe-Fx to get the sound you want in the studio and on stage. Cooper Carter will discuss:

  • Live rigs: How to set up rigs that use both direct and a cab on stage and the important differences
  • Cabinets: Installation of 3rd party impulse responses (IRs) and making IRs from your own cabinets.
  • Effects blocks: Tips to unlock the full potential of chorus, compressor, and delay effects.
  • System configuration: How to switch up firmware, patches, and more.

You’ll also learn about the most untapped, underutilized part of the Axe-Fx: modifiers. Cooper will show you how to use modifiers like ADSR, LFO, sequencer, and pitch. You’ll also learn how to use external pedals and switches to get unprecedented control over values and scenes in a live setting.

Watch the Axe-Fx Master Class taught by master guitarist and music instructor Cooper Carter and learn how to get more out of your Axe-Fx.


Razvan Cirligeanu

Hello there, This is the next step if you are serious about the AxeFX. It helped me to use features, great features, that I wouldn't EVER have the patience to explore by myself. Yeah, I am lazy... Coop makes it easy, I got more than I expected from this class. One demand: Please, Coop, upgrade the info, there are so many great updates since you recorded this class. Thanks, Razvan