Dynamics in guitar

Dynamics in guitar

As a guitar player, this is a very blurred territory. We keep on talking about the dynamics of this amp, of this pedal but in fact what we view as dynamics is actually compression, or lack of dynamics.Would you buy an amp that when you switch from the clean channel to the crunch the level jumps 10 times? Would you like an amp that blasts everything it can when you change channel for your solo? Obviously not. You will match all your channel levels so as switching from one another does not induce too much level change. And that my friend, is the exact opposite of having dynamics.Dynamics is the difference between low levels and high levels. The bigger the difference the bigger the dynamics.In guitar world, we should be talking of gain dynamics, and that is actually what we absolutely love when playing guitar. You trudge lightly on your guitar to have a crystal clean sound, and when you hit hard, you lightly break the sound to have some crunch spikes added to your tone, while the overall volume level stays the same. Same with that crunch rhythm tone to strike your riffs, while keeping some gain reserve with the guitar volume knob. When you fully open your volume knob for your leads, you slightly increase the volume but mainly add gain, to have a bigger sound.We want our gain to fluctuate with our playing, as if we had a magical helping hand turning slightly our gain control while we play.And often this is what a guitar player will call dynamics. The compression given by a tube amp that magnifies the tone. How the bass is heavy when you play lightly on a clean tone, and how, when you strum extremely hard, the mids and highs take over because all the bass has been comped by the amp.Recording an amp while keeping this gain dynamics can be extremely difficult. What we hear while playing next to our amp is so different from what the microphone is picking up from the cabinet. And if your gain structure is not set right you can add the compression of  the preamp, taking out a bit more of the huge sound you are looking for. An inexperienced guitar player starting in recording will often be bewildered by how the track in the DAW sounds flat and dull.Then begins a whole new adventure of recreating this ideal guitar sound for recordings...


  • Fend
    03 septembre, 2018

    You're talking like a sound engineer and I bet you're :P Gain can have dynamic too when talking about the difference between the lowest gain and the highest gain level you can have by just modulating our pick attack. We don't talk about volume dynamics but gain dynamics. So we're right too, don't we?

    • Two notes
      07 septembre, 2018

      Hello, indeed I am a sound engineer. You are right there is gain dynamics, and that is exactly what is talked about in this article. I am also a guitar player, and we, guitarists, should mention gain dynamics when talking about dynamics. Having ran a guitar shop, I often met many players who were looking for compressed sound (in terms of volume) while having evolving gains while playing and were confused when we talked about compressor pedals.