Comprehending one of the studio's most important but mysterious tools—with metaphorical cocktails!
[Originally published 6/8/2020]
Welcome to Recording Dojo—PG’s new monthly column pertaining to recording and engineering, with guitarists in mind. Think of this column as your place to develop better audio-recording skills, experiment with new techniques and gear and, most importantly, mindsets. So bring your best self forward and your willingness to learn … the dojo is now open.
Let’s begin our training with compression: a confusing topic for guitarists as players and as engineers wanting to make their recordings more professional. Compression has five core parameters: threshold, knee, attack, ratio, and release—or TKARR. I’m going to explain this metaphorically, as if you are at a major event, say, the Grammys, and you’ve just won. You’ve condensed a lifetime of “I’d like to thank” into 15 seconds, and you’ve been regally whisked offstage by an anonymous beauty in a ball gown.
The next thing you’re instructed to do is leave backstage, go through the giant ballroom (where a band is playing and people are partying), and go to the press room for photo ops and post-win interviews. You walk down the long hallway towards the ballroom door, where a burly 6'8" doorman stands behind velvet ropes. The doorman is the threshold and the velvet ropes are the knee.
In order for you to get into the ballroom, the doorman has to let you in. As you arrive at the door, he takes his hands off the ropes (hard knee), crosses his arms, coldly stares at you, and says, “What are doing here? This is for Grammy winners only.” Ouch! He doesn’t recognize you. He only listens to Siberian reggae bands. High threshold. So high that you can’t pass though. Conversely, if, as you approach, he gently unfastens the ropes (soft knee), says “I’m a huge fan,” and moves aside without you having to break stride, you have crossed the threshold and are now inside the ballroom. This is a well-set threshold, only allowing in those who are authorized. Or perhaps, as you arrive at the ballroom entrance, you notice that the doorman has passed out, the ropes have long been knocked over (no knee), and anyone can enter. Low threshold.
As soon as you enter the ballroom, within a millisecond, a waiter comes up to you: “Champagne? The press room is on the other side of the ballroom.” That’s quick attack. You notice there’s a string quartet playing Haydn’s Op. 76, and the volume is comfortably loud (low ratio, somewhere between 1.5:1 to 4:1). Almost as soon as you enter the ballroom, you’ve got your libation and move directly to the press room—quick release. You arrive at the press room with your wits about you, ready to talk about your big win.
Or, upon entering the ballroom, you mill around in the crowded room looking for directions and you’re in the middle of the ballroom before a waiter comes up to you and shouts: “Drink? Press room is over there.” That’s medium attack. The band is an ’80s cover band and the volume is rather loud for the room (medium ratio, 5:1 to 9.5:1). You eventually find your way to the press room and arrive slightly stunned, but ready.
Another version: Upon entering the ballroom, you’re immediately lost in a sea of people, shouting for directions and hopelessly trying to be heard above the Mötorhead tribute band. Your ears are ringing. Time passes, and you somehow find the press room door and a waiter shoves a drink in your hand just before you leave the ballroom. Slow attack. You arrive, dazed and confused, in the press room (high ratio, 10:1 and above).
These simple scenarios should help you understand the parameters of compression. It’s very important you know that all of these scenarios are equally and musically valid, and by no means exhaustive. Want that “When the Levee Breaks” drum sound? Low threshold, high ratio, quick attack/release. Want your acoustic to sound natural and dynamic? High to medium threshold, medium attack/release, medium to low ratio. Remember, the focus of this article is to explain the five parameters of compression (TKARR). Based on their highly varied and different designs, not all compressors give you access to every parameter. So, this will be our subject next month!
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A collaboration honoring Grammy-award winner and guitar virtuoso Christone "Kingfish" Ingram featuring his signature humbucking pickups.
"The Kingfish Telecaster Deluxe guitar gives me a sense of comfort when I’m playing across genres; everything from blues to smooth rock, it’s all about versatility. For me, it is important for people to play other genres,” said Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. “One of my favorite features on the Tele are my signature pickups because they’re a solid option for players in all genres. Being a blues player is a beautiful thing, but it’s about more than that. I’ve always been into heavy tones from my influences like Gary Moore and various blues players like Freddy King. I hope this Tele inspires players of all genres to dig in and rock out.”
The Kingfish Telecaster Deluxe guitar has been designed to the artist’s specifications with an emphasis on power and personal flourish. The heart of the instrument is the Kingfish Signature Humbucking Pickups, custom wound for velvety lows, punchy mids and a snarling high end. The custom pickups will also be sold separately, making it that much easier for players everywhere to achieve Christone’s signature tone. Finished in mesmerizing Mississippi Night, the guitar looks as stunning as it sounds and the custom color is more than meets the eye. This mystifying shade of purple harkens back to the deep night skies Kingfish would often marvel at while growing up in Clarksdale, Mississippi. The Kingfish Telecaster Deluxe features an alder body. The “V”-shaped roasted maple neck gives the instrument a distinctly vintage feel and the comfortable 12” radius rosewood fretboard allows for huge bends and scorching riffs up and down the neck. A custom “K & Crown” logo on the pickup covers and Kingfish’s signature autograph on the headstock rounds out the instrument’s personalized touch.
Christone "Kingfish" Ingram | Fender Signature Sessions | Fender
- The Kingfish Telecaster Deluxe features two custom humbucking pickups voiced for growling, overdriven blues-rock, delivering deep, shimmering and dynamic tones.
- The “V”-shaped roasted maple neck has a classic vintage feel and improved resonance thanks to our roasting treatment.
- An adjust-o-matic bridge allows each string to be adjusted for perfect intonation.
- The slab rosewood fingerboard offers warm vintage Fender tone, while the 12” radius is great for big bends and soloing up and down the neck.
- The mesmerizing Mississippi Night finish pays tribute to the birthplace of the blues.
- Other features include a custom etched “K” crown logo on the neck pickup cover, a custom neck plate and Kingfish’s signature on the headstock.
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A new tool for working on Floyd Rose and tremolo-equipped guitars.
The Tremolo Buddy is a lightweight, durable, and easy-to-use tool designed to simplify necessary maintenance tasks on a Floyd Rose or other tremolo systems! This unique design offers a simple solution to tackling the “BIG FIVE” problematic maintenance areas of a tremolo-equipped guitar by helping to keep tension on the bridge:
• String changes
• Intonation adjustments
• Bridge height adjustments • Spring claw adjustments
• Truss rod adjustments
Using two simple clamps, the Tremolo Buddy allows you to keep the strings on the instrument without having to loosen tension or place blocks under the bridge. This design also works as a stand to flip the guitar on to conveniently work on spring tension adjustments in an upright position. The tool is quickly unclamped by using easy-off triggers so you can get back to tuning or playing in a matter of mere seconds.
In addition to its intended usage for tremolo systems, technicians and musicians have found that the “third hand” is also handy for working on non-tremolo equipped instruments. A durable glass-reinforced nylon body provides lightweight strength, while the rubber TPE foot pads protect the guitar’s body and is safe on all finishes.
The Tremolo Buddy is a lightweight, durable, and easy-to-use tool designed to simplify necessary maintenance tasks on a Floyd Rose or other tremolo systems! This unique design offers a simple solution to tackling the “BIG FIVE” problematic maintenance areas of a tremolo-equipped guitar by helping to keep tension on the bridge.
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