A bass compressor is easily the most often used effect used by bassists. It’s also one of the most unglamorous effects.
If you have a compressor, you will probably always use it as you play.
Compressors fall into the family of dynamic effects. In music, dynamics refer to how loud or soft a sound is. Dynamic effects alter how loud or quiet a signal is.
What is Compression?
Compression squeezes, or compresses, the dynamic range of a signal. A compressor will reduce the volume of loud notes which in turn allows the overall volume to be boosted.
An excellent example of compression is when you hear a vocalist singing a quiet passage followed by a loud one. How come you can hear the whisper quiet passage, but the loud one doesn’t distort and blow out your eardrums? Most likely compression is being used on the vocals to compensate for the wide range of dynamics. The loud vocal passage’s volume is reduced by the compressor making room for the quieter passages to be turned up.
Why Do Bassists Use Compressors?
Using a slight amount of compression on bass beefs up your bass tone a bit. Compression can give your bass sound that smooth, glassy tone. You can get a punchier sound using compression. Compression can really balance out very dynamic playing styles like slap bass.
If you use too much compression your bass tone might sound lifeless. But, just a little makes a big tonal difference.
A bass compressor is about the only must-have effect for bassists regardless of the style you play. I highly recommend getting a compressor both for live playing and home recording. The average listener won’t know it’s there, but you will enjoy the subtle effects.