Parallel compression is a classic production and mixing technique that can really add some density, punch, and excitement to an otherwise stagnant source. There really is nothing complicated about it because it’s as simple as adjusting a wet/dry blend knob on any other effect. In the video above, we demonstrate this technique in one of the most common applications, drum busses, by dialing it in to sound heavier, explosive, and more identifiable to the drum groove.
We start with a rough mix of the drum group itself, and find a balance between kick, snare, toms, and overheads that we are happy with, then send them to a “bus” track. Here we take this master group and apply an aggressive amount of compression. We will be using way more compression than we would normally use, but this is intentional because we will be blending it in with the dry, unprocessed track.
Our approach is to start with a very fast attack that will eat up any of the transients. From there, we set a high ratio and lower the threshold to where the compressor is seriously compressing with a large amount of gain reduction.
We dial in a fast release which causes some musically pleasing distortion. We pull off the release to find a setting where the compressor sounds like it is gasping to the rhythm.
The result is a super squashed sound that feels distant yet explosive. This will “wrap around” the unprocessed track like a blanket, and the dry track will deliver all the punch and attack lost in compression.
We like to add EQ here for what’s referred to as “New York Style Compression”—basically, it is a boost on a low shelf and a high shelf that serves as a sonic hug.
From there you simply blend to taste. Working in parallel is a great way to experiment without fear of permanently wrecking your source.
A dramatic effect like this is also great for automation, as it can add drama and movement to your tracks in a chorus, bridge, or breakdown.
Parallel compression does not always have to be this extreme, but any amount can do wonders for many sources like guitars, bass, vocals, and your mix bus!
If you have any other questions about this tip or any other topic, please give us a call!