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Compression on Acoustic Guitar

Acoustic guitars are one of the most used instruments, thanks to their ever particularly unique, beautiful, and rich sounds which have allowed them to be used in various musical genres. The spectrum ranges from folk to country to rock, it seems. For acoustic guitars sky is the limit.

Keeping apart the authentic sound of Acoustic Guitar, rookies should remember that recording acoustic guitar is a different thing altogether. One of the most important aspects of it is compression on Acoustic Guitar. This blog will focus on everything around Compression on Acoustic Guitar, including the basics, how it works and other tips!

What is Compression

Before getting into the details around compression on Acoustic Guitar, let us first take you through the basic of Compression. To put it in simple words, Compression is used in recording, mixing, and mastering, which is used for reduction in the dynamic range of a track.

Dynamic Range is simply the difference between an audio track's loudest and softest parts. Reducing the dynamic range makes the music track sound more even and more polished, and professional.

Types of Compressors

With so many types of audio compressors to choose from, we have formed a list of each in this section, which will give you a basic understanding of how each compressor performs.

Optical Compressors

Optical compressors are high-quality audio compressors that use a light source and a photoresistor to control the level of compression in any audio track, giving the track a smoother and more natural tone.

VCA Compressors

VCA or Voltage-Controlled Amplifier compressors are some of the most expensive and sophisticated compressors because of the use of solid-state circuits that control the compression. The IC in these compressors allows users to have accuracy and transparency in their execution.

FET Compressors

Field-Effect Transistor Compressors, more commonly known as FET compressors, use a transistor to control the compression just like their name suggests. They are most commonly used in places that demand an aggressive and punchy sound.

Tube Compressors

Tube compressors use high-precision vacuum tubes to control the compression level in any audio track producing a warm and vintage sound.

When choosing a compressor for acoustic guitar, the final sound you aim to achieve is the most important thing to consider. Each of the above compressors will deliver a different type of sound. The next section in this blog will help you make the right selection.

Importance of Using Compression on Acoustic Guitar

While there are many benefits of using compression on Acoustic Guitar, from our experience, we have curated a list of some of the most significant reasons for using compression on Acoustic Guitar.

Control Dynamics

Compression's main purpose is to allow the user to control the dynamics of an audio signal. If you have ever heard an Acoustic guitar, you must know that their performances can be highly dynamic, creating difficulty in balancing the overall mix.

Compression overcomes the issue by reducing the level of the loudest parts of the signal while allowing the quieter parts to be heard more clearly, resulting in a balanced and polished sound.

Add Sustain

Compression on Acoustic Guitar allows music producers to add a certain level of sustain to the notes of the track by reducing the level of the attack in the notes. This is mostly used by guitarists who like playing fingerstyle or solo guitar pieces, especially because sustained notes play a critical role in their performances here.

Enhance Tone

Compression adds a certain warmth and depth to the sound of an acoustic guitar, which enhances the harmonics and overtones of the guitar. This is why compression on Acoustic Guitar is often used during recordings in a home studio where the natural acoustics settings of the surrounding is not giving the best outcome.

Improves Consistency

Suppose you get used to using Compression on Acoustic Guitar. In that case, you will realize that it has improved the consistency in your performances as the dynamic range in an acoustic guitar performance can vary greatly depending on the musician's playing style, and the room's acoustics is now at a consistent level because of the compression.

Control Feedback

One of the most common reasons for using compression on Acoustic Guitar is its ability to control the feedback on the instrument. Acoustic guitars are infamous for their feedback, especially in amplified performances with high-volume settings.

Choosing Right Compressor For Acoustic Guitar

Choosing the right compressor is extremely confusing if you don’t know exactly what you are doing. Well, we are here for your rescue. Selecting any compressor will undeniably affect the guitar’s sound; hence, making the right choice is essential for achieving the desired sound. Below, we have mentioned some of the most critical factors that any musician should consider before choosing a compressor for their acoustic guitar.

Sound Characteristics

The sound characteristics of a compressor are an important factor that any person should consider when choosing a compressor. Each compressor has its level of transparency, warmth, and the amount of color it adds. You can consider the above section to find which compressors add what characteristics to the final audio.

Ratio and Threshold

The ratio and threshold settings of a compressor are a little technical but don’t forget that they are essential if you want to achieve the perfect compression on acoustic guitar.

The ratio of a compressor will eventually decide how much compression is to be applied to the audio signal. Meanwhile, the set threshold will determine the level at which compression starts getting executed.

For example, a low ratio and threshold might be suitable for subtle compression, but a higher ratio and threshold are required for aggressive compression.

Attack and Release Times

Any sound engineer worth their salt would know that the attack time determines how quickly the compressor will respond, and the release time decides how quickly the compressor releases the audio signal.

In simple words, a fast attack time is mostly used when maintaining the natural dynamics of the guitar is required. Contrary to this, a slow release time is used when the music producer wants to prevent the loss of the guitar's natural sound.

Budget

Not many of us can run the music production process without a budget. Hence the budget is one of the first and essential factors before considering a compressor for acoustic guitar.

As mentioned earlier, the cost of audio compressors can vary. They can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Some compressors will most definitely offer better sound quality and more advanced features. Still, they might not be suitable to fit your budget, so make sure that you consider it before choosing a compressor for your acoustic guitar.

User-Friendliness

People often go for the most advanced audio compressors, neglecting that the user-friendliness of a compressor is an important factor when selecting a compressor for acoustic guitar.

Without having the technical know-how of an audio compressor, even the most expensive and advanced compression on acoustic guitar will not work effectively. Hence, you should never ignore user-friendliness before making your final decision.

Tips for Using Compression on Acoustic Guitar

If you are reading this blog, we are sure you are willing to learn more about compression on acoustic guitar. For all of you, we have gone a step ahead a put forward some of the most helpful tips for using compression on Acoustic Guitar. Read this section thoroughly to get the best output out of your skills.

Setting The Correct Threshold

The threshold you set on your compressor will decide at which point the compression on the acoustic guitar starts acting. Make sure you rehearse your set a couple of times and decide the correct setting of your threshold so that your track produces an even sound after compression on the acoustic guitar.

Correct Ratio Selection

Depending on your desired output, select the right ratio for the compressor. A low ratio is used to have a natural sound of the guitar, while a higher ratio can be useful to even out the sound or add sustain to the guitar.

Understand the Effect

Apart from all the technicals, each compressor will affect the produced track. Ensure you understand the effect the compression on Acoustic guitar has on your track. There is no specific method of doing it rather than putting in your time and listening to it.

Experiment

One of the most underrated things in the world of compression on Acoustic guitar is experimenting. People often settle with one compression technique and hence have no idea what the other has to offer.

Each compressor has its sounds and characteristics. We highly recommend experimenting with different compressors as it will help you understand different compressors and eventually allow you to find the one that works best for your particular situation.

Conclusion

Compression on Acoustic Guitar can prove to be an effective technique in producing a wonderful piece of art as it will not only help you to even out the sound in your recorded track or live session but also make it more consistent and easier for you to mix.

Talking about compression on acoustic guitar, we can never deny that practicing is the only key to understanding the importance of its multiple aspects like threshold and ratio, warmth and depth, as well as attack and release timings of different compressors. In the end, we have learned that different types of compressors will have different sounds and characteristics, so it is worth experimenting till you find the compressor that does the job for you.

- Joseph SARDIN - Founder of BigSoundBank.com - About - Contact

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