what does a compressor pedal do

What Does A Compressor Pedal Do? How To Use It, Where To Put It!

Think you need a compressor effects pedal but not exactly sure what it is and how you should be using it?  Look here!

What Is A Guitar Compressor Pedal?

A guitar compressor pedal is used to increase the sustain of a note, and also reduce the dynamic range. It is responsible for making the sound from your electric or acoustic guitar louder and more present. It does this by “compressing” the signal like an old studio recording compressor, which was designed to make vocal recordings sound as loud and powerful as possible.

The guitar compressor pedal is a great way to add flavor to your sound. It will make your guitar’s volume louder, but also bring out the natural sounds of the instrument.

Where Should A Compressor Pedal Go In Your Signal Chain?

Installing a compressor pedal is quite easy. It produces different effects depending on its location in the signal chain. Generally, any gain-effects should be placed before modulation. So, overdrives and compressors come before flangers or delays. Another arrangement is to put the compressor pedal before fuzz, distortion, and overdrive pedals. Most guitarists put first the compressor so as to send a stronger sound signal to the consecutive effects. However, some players place compressors last to boost sound signals before they hit the amplifier. The only problem with this setup is that any hiss or hum brought by other effect pedals is increased by the output gain of the compressor pedal.

When Should You Use A Compressor Pedal?

There are a number of reasons you might want to improve your clean guitar tone. For starters, notes resulting from the clean guitar sounds usually lack sustain and they start to break up as soon as you pluck the string. The compression pedal comes in to boost the endurance of such notes so they can last longer. It does so by raising their diminishing volume. If you prefer hybrid picking or the fingerstyle to play country music, then you need to get the top compressor pedal so as to attain a balanced sound with an electric guitar especially a rhythm guitar. This is because plucking strings with different fingers can lead to subtle discrepancies in volume and sound dynamics. Compression helps to level out the dynamics created by different strings.

Do I Really Need A Compressor Pedal?

It depends on your musical taste. Different pedals come with different effects so what works for one guitarist may not work for you. However, a compressor is extremely essential for anyone who plays country or funk music. Compression also comes in handy if you rely on clean tones when utilizing such techniques as tapping, pull-off, and hammer-on. Compressors also work perfectly with overdriven amps. Are you a country guitarist looking to achieve distinctive thick tones? You might want to go for a compressor with a slapback delay. If you normally play blues, you may combine a compressor pedal with a light overdrive pedal to put on some weight to the guitar tones. In any case, there’s a lot to benefit from compression.

What Is A Compressor Guitar Pedal Good For?

The top compressor pedals are one of the most important tools just behind the guitar tuner. What makes compressors more appealing is their ability to bring beefy tones; more sustain, and balanced sounds. In a recording studio, compression helps to control the overall volume of the audio signal plus the dynamics. Sound engineers rely on compressors to quiet down the louder parts of an audio signal. Compressors have less transformative effects on the tone than chorus pedals. They boost parts of the sound with the lowest volume and dissipate the loudest parts. By processing these inconsistencies, compression ultimately minimizes the dynamic range, making the sound signal louder and smoother but with more sustain.

Common Controls On a Compressor Effects Pedal


The threshold of a guitar compressor pedal is used to set the level at which sound will trigger compression. This allows for precise control over this effect because you can adjust the threshold according to your needs.


The ratio control on a guitar compressor pedal is what you use to determine the amount of compression. For example, if you have a low ratio and crank the sustain knob, it will make your notes last longer without them fading away as much.


The more low-end you want in your music, the longer it will take to compress.
This setting adjusts the time it takes for the compressor to reach set attenuation amount after a signal crosses its threshold.


The time it takes the compressor to turn back up after its volume falls below a certain threshold is called “unity gain.” Some compressors have an automatic release, especially stompboxes with few controls. This auto-release automatically adjusts the release time based on how much attenuation is taking place.

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