Compressor – my favorite toy of all. People like effects for their musical instruments. Fuzz boxes, distortion, echo, reverb, flanging: there are literally thousands of effects and/or “processing” for sound. My favorite effect for sound is actually just such a thing- a type of processing; compression and/or peak limiting in some cases.

What a compressor does is just what the name sounds like: it brings down the loud peaks in volume that are there, and brings up the parts that are low in volume. It squashes the sound waves to make them more even with each other. I don't want to misrepresent or misstate my total knowledge of compressor history. I could be ill-informed, but I believe originally-compressors were used to protect the electronics of the recording gear used, and/or the playback electronics; say in a movie theater.

But compression is my favorite sound also, bar none. Did you listen to records by any of the early 1960s British artists, in particular? Compression is the biggest and most important sound there, to me anyway. It’s all subjective, of course.

I have been "dialing in my own sound” for years, both with my guitar and with my recording mixes. It is an endless process, really. But since the 80’s I have always used the sound of the guitars from that band “The Jam.” The song "In The City” has always been my benchmark. To me, that is the best, clean electric guitar sound I have ever heard. A Rick through a Marshall, squashed….:-) Yay! I have to say to myself ”these are my people”….

To get that sound and most of the other pleasant and/or rocking guitar sounds from the 60’s and 70’s, to my ears-they were squashed. Personally, if I could only have one effects box in my chain – it would be a compressor – over anything (including reverb, which is huge on my list.) They are not hard to use. You just have to use your own ears. When it sounds right…it is!

Last thing: People whine and whine about digital recording having “no soul,” etc. The simple and easy way to give digital recordings a “warmer” (sorry to be so nebulous) sound is this: run your incoming signal through a good analog compressor or peak limiter that is “tube” in design. This way your sound literally comes from the analog-tube world. From there it goes into your interface to your computer.

It also greatly helps to have one or two really good outboard mic preamps as well-if you can swing it, before the compressor in the chain. If your interface has a good sounding preamp in it with insert points, just get to your compressor that way. This can take your recordings way-up, easily and quickly.

Then, to quote George Martin: “All You Need Is Ears.” Turn those on too! They are your most important tools.

Cheers! Jamie Hoover

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Jamie's EZ Tip 115: Misery x=x Music



So I finally rented “Whiplash;” the recent film about drummers and it serves to bring up a point, a mission statement for me: Making music DOES NOT need to-or have to be miserable, or even troublesome. In fact, I believe the opposite; I believe with all my heart that most music, though it may require effort, practice, patience, non-paid time, expense, and potential disappointment SHOULD NOT and isn’t always chained to misery. And yes, I know sometimes it is..

Watching this determined young man, over and over in this flick exploding like a pack of firecrackers (never mind the basics) on the drums, only to slam his sticks down in disappointment and bloody fingers (see Ringo,) only shows two points to me: First, it gives the producers of the film validation for making yet another movie about the disconnect of people and true happiness, which somehow always seems to sell tickets. ??? Second, it will be viewed by budding musicians as a requirement for success, ala “no pain, no gain.” This is true to an extent: practice makes perfect. With learning to play music though, there is certainly no need to place any negative state of mind in your way-before you even pick up your sticks…..or picks.

In my career I have know quite a few really-negative, self indulgent, and usually inferior musicians who always seem to make everyone around them soak in their misery. There are many times you can read of musicians that are completely “your hero" that turn out to be lousy human beings. I have a been around a few and I have to say-they disappoint me and, in end I end up feeling sorry for them. They lose…but I lose too, sadly.

It’s one thing to be possessed by music; I certainly am, and I’m glad about that. I am also possessed by having happiness in my life. Between the two, they can work together in concert. Remember; music is a gift, not a curse.

The band leader in this movie deserves awards for how he portrays his character, that can’t be disputed. The character he played though, was a very talented jerk. Buddy Rich comes to mind. Possibly a chemical imbalance? Whatever…there is simply no need to be that kind of a teacher. Life is too short. For each talented jerk I have met in my time in professional music-I have met 10 princes, each as talented as the jerk, but a whole lot easier to make great music with. Happy, self-fulfilled folks…

Make music a happy place. Music=Joy. Don’t miss out….and don’t buy into this junk. “Star, Smile, Strong”—Broadway Danny Rose.