Anatomy of Guitar Tone: Compressors in Series for Slide Guitar

In this episode of Anatomy of Guitar Tone, I want to talk about using two compressors in series to get a little bit of that Lowell George sound. Now, Lowell George was most known for his guitar work, and slide guitar work in particular, in a band Little Feet, which was his project.

He is known to have put two Dynacomps on the floor running in series into a very clean amp to get his signature sound.

Now, they say that in the studio, he used two 1176s in series, but it wasn’t very practical for stage, and sometimes when you’re doing recording, it’s just nice to have the compression pre the amp as opposed to post-amp, post-microphone.

We’re going to listen to a couple different versions, we’re going to listen to one with two pedal compressors in series, one version without, and a version where I do process the signal post-microphone. So it’ll be a clean signal with no compression, and after we record it, I’m going to use two UAD 1176 plug-ins to process it and get a similar sound.

Now, for these examples, I’m going to be using this Keeley two knob compressor. This is going to be a little bit more of the extreme side of compression. It’s really going to grab the signal and grab onto it pretty hard. This other compressor is going to be the Effectrode PC-2A.

This is a tube compressor, it has an actual tube in it, and it’s very similar to a Teletronix LA-2A. This is going to be doing a little bit more of the gentle compression and is going to be second in the chain.

[mix, guitar with two pedal compressors]

[mix, guitar with no compressors]

[mix, guitar with two 1176s]

One of the only drawbacks to using two compressors in series is it raises the noise floor considerably.

One of the ways I’ve found around this, particularly in a live situation, but sometimes if you’re doing a live recording, is I place a volume pedal after the two compressor pedals, so that even if I have my guitar volume down, the compressors don’t pick up any signal noise they have in the chain.

Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC. More at guitaristmarkmarshall.com
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