Parallel Compression is one of my favourite mixing techniques, you can blend the natural and dynamic original source with an punchy and aggressive compressed copy. You get the best of both worlds. I'll describe what exactly parallel compression is and talk about a few ways I use it in my mixes.
So what is Parallel Compression?
Well simply put, you either make a copy of a track, or route it to an auxiliary input to create two tracks playing together. Leave the first track as is, and then add compression to the second track. Then you can blend the track in to taste.
I'm primarily a Pro Tools guys, so I'll describe the setup in Pro Tools. This same principle can be applied to any DAW. Let's say I have a mono kick drum track. I'll add a mono send to a internal bus, let's say Bus 1 for this example. I then create a mono aux track, and set its input to Bus 1. This create two outputs for the kick. Then, I add a compressor to the aux track. I usually solo the aux track and adjust the compressor settings to where I like it. Then I pull the aux fader down to -∞. Then I'll solo both the kick and kick aux channels together, and gradually pull up the aux track until I start to hear the extra punch it gives. And thats the setup!
Some Tips For Using Parallel Compression
- Use pre-fader sends. This prevents the level coming into the aux track from changing, which would result in the compression changing as well. Keep that consistent.
- Create multiple aux compression tracks and blend. One of our engineers, Brad Smith, showed me how he will create 2 or 3 auxiliary busses for his drums, and each has a different compressor. He can then blend multiple parallel compression sounds together depending on the style of the song.
- Some compressor plug-ins have a built in "mix" feature, which allows you to do parallel compression without having to create a separate track. Take advantage! One plugin I use that has that feature is the UAD Fairchild 670 on my mix bus.
- Don't be afraid to compress hard on the parallel tracks. They may sound pretty squashed by themselves, but once blended, they provide a lot of punch and the uncompressed version keeps the original tonality.
Some Of My Current Go-To Parallel Compressors
1) UAD 1176 Bluestripe
2) UAD Fairchild 670
3) Scheps Parallel Particles
4) UAD Fatso Jr/Sr (The tape feature on this is incredible)
5) Fabfilter Pro C-2
Feel free to share any other tips or tricks you have with parallel compression here!
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