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There is a power chord refrain used throughout this song. Here is the video, queued up to just before where you hear the power chords the first time.

I've often thought it might be a compressor that is used to get this "compressed" sound. But I've read up on what a compressor does and I'm not sure that's quite it.

Anyone know how to get this effect?

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  • 5
    Side note: reading what a compressor does is no substitute for hearing what a compressor does Aug 4 at 20:22
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    Sound engineer David Z talks in 2001 about recording guitar (among other things) for that song: web.archive.org/web/20050210123643/http://mixonline.com/mag/…
    – simon
    Aug 5 at 10:57
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    FWIW, I don't believe these are power chords-- I can hear a third quite distinctly in them, although it is possible it is an overtone that is exacerbated by the YT compression. Aug 5 at 16:19
  • Very little of that song was not massively manipulated "in post," and I think the distortion has volume control set up as an envelope follower. ( mixonline.com/recording/… ). I cannot find a "live" performance of it that does not look like they are pretending to play. Their awards show performance, the guitarist has no effects set up, his guitar sound rapidly switches from heavy effects to clean chords, and the audio itself sounds almost exactly like the recording. If it is live a lot of it may be midi triggered
    – Yorik
    Aug 6 at 18:13
  • Some guitars do have midi capability even back then.
    – Yorik
    Aug 6 at 18:16
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Yeah, it's a heavy comp, but it's combined with the actual playing style, which is a really slow drag across the chord each time.

I think it's either combined with a slight delay panned half right, or it has a close & ambient mic, panned centre & half right, so the sound seems to spread slightly towards the right each time.

There could be chorus on it too, or it's a side effect of the delay [however generated]. I'm not hearing a distinct double-track.

From comments
I think they've copied the "Bowie mic" thing from Heroes [but without the gate, perhaps] & had one long ambient mic panned off-centre. That would automatically be duller than the close mic. Distortion doesn't have to make it dull, especially if you use a really saggy amp*. That amp doesn't sound like a modern hi-gain, smooth noise, it's an older amp with perhaps slightly past their best valves or capacitors.

*I loved it when I discovered if you 'turn round' the amp faces in Native Instruments' Guitar Rig you could actually dial in an amount of sag. It made my day because I actually love that noise, if nicely controlled.

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  • It could be the same guitar being played through two amps at once, but I 'm pretty sure I hear two tones. There's some midrange twang coming through that I wouldn't expect to survive that level of distortion. I heard the chorus too, but decided it might not be there after I settled on "probably two guitar tracks"
    – Edward
    Aug 4 at 17:26
  • I think they've copied the "Bowie mic" thing from Heroes [but without the gate, perhaps] & had one long ambient mic panned off-centre. That would automatically be duller than the close mic. Distortion doesn't have to make it dull, especially if you use a really saggy amp. That amp doesn't sound like a modern hi-gain, smooth noise, it's an older amp with perhaps slightly past their best valves or capacitors.
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 4 at 17:29
  • This comment about 'turning round' the amp face. What kind of amp was that, and what does all that involve? Very interested. Could it be done with anything available on the market today? Aug 4 at 19:17
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    I just looked through the manual - seems most if not all of the amps still have that control - you turn them round to get to deeper edit parameters. Long time since I've actually used it, tbh.
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 5 at 7:12
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It's distortion. Distortion does have a compressing effect. You can emphasize the compressing effect of distortion by putting a normal compressor before the distortion effect, which is pretty common.

Aside from that, it sounds like the guitar part is doubled by a cleaner guitar. This second guitar likely has some milder distortion which also has a compressing effect, it's very common.

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It sounds like a Rockman distortion

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    Hi Christopher. Welcome to the site. Just know, the site goal is to leave reasonably substantial answers, with citations when possible. Could you fill out your answer a bit? Perhaps explain what you hear that leads you to your conclusion.
    – Aaron
    Aug 5 at 19:44
  • The Rockman always sounded like an over-treated Marshall on a power-soak. It didn't have the sag I'm hearing in this. The chorus was …let's call it, a sound unto itself.
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 6 at 7:28

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