I’ve had an epiphany over the last week or so when it comes to using a compressor on both electric guitar and bass. As I have mentioned in previous posts I have had a boss CS-3 for many years, but never really worked out how to use it. So after reading lots of people praising compression I bought a BBE opto stomp a few months back to see if a different pedal would “do” it for me – maybe it was just the CS-3 I didn’t get on with? I have only really been playing bass in live situations recently so I initially tried the opto stomp on the bass and wasn’t massively impressed as it noticeably sucked my tone. However last week I put the opto stomp on my electric guitar pedal board like so:

I placed it immediately before the GraphicFuzz (if you put it after drive it cancels out any boost), and after adjusting the volume so that the pedal did not reduce the signal strength had one of the greatest “a-ha!” moments I’ve ever had with a pedal. I basically turned on all the drive and fuzz, and then as I slowly turned up the compression dial noticed how it really gave control over stray harmonics, uneven picking etc. It seemed the compressor enabled me to control levels of drive that I had previously stayed away from, freeing me to really go for it (in this case in a rather OTT blues jam). It was like I could finally control Gary Moore levels of drive and sustain without sounding like Michael J Fox (as in “Back to the Future”!). So rather than directly effecting the sound this compressor provided control giving me  a new confidence for playing at high drive levels – result!

So now that the opto stomp is a favourite on my guitar pedal board I tried the boss CS-3 on my bass pedal board like so:

Again, when I tried this setup (this time in a practice with my band) I had another “a-ha!” moment. Unlike the opto stomp that doesn’t have an attack control, the CS-3 gave me enough control to dial back in the bassy punch that I like so much, whilst still compressing the overall signal so that again I really felt a much greater level of control. By carefully adjusting the attack and sustain I got a tight compression but without losing the punchy attack that the opto stomp took away – again a major result!!

So, after almost twenty years of having a compressor I’ve finally got compression to work for me albeit by choosing different pedals for electric guitar and bass. On the electric the one knob control of the opto stomp works great as it allows me to dial in the control without overly colouring the sound (or at least the attack setting seems to be set to work well with guitar). However on the bass I really need the additional manual attack control to balance the benefits of compression without losing the punchiness that I like so much in my bass tone – so finally I’m a convert and will be keeping the pedals on both pedal boards and even switched on for the foreseeable future (or at least until our next live gig on 5th November which will be the first true test of the bass + CS-3)!