PARALLEL COMPRESSION (The sacred tool in the pocket of every audio engineer)
Parallel compression or also known as the famous New York Compression (because it is first used by New York Based Engineers) is the most used method for compression this days. That is method where you send the signal from your channel (single or group channel) to aux or FX channel, and you process the aux or FX channel with heavy compression, and blend them together. That is the fix for your lifeless drums if you over compress them with serial compression to get more even volume, that is the solution for getting your drums in front of the mix, without raising the peak volume. And what is more important than this for our breed?
In todays world, the style and taste that is developed in commercial music demands to compress the hell out of every instrument especially on drums, because that is sounding better in clubs, in open events, on your lap top and phone. If you want your tracks to be catchy, contemporary and good enough for the audience, and if you want to work with modern music, you better hurry up in implementing this method in your workflow. And of course that is your first engineer-ish type of moment where you talking on engineer language and the musicians around you don’t know what are you talking about, and think that you are awesome geek engineer that have whole science in his hand. So this method is in every case good thing for every engineer.
I use parallel compression in two ways depends from the style and drum kit.
- By sending parts from drum kit into the parallel chain, (Kick, Snare)
- Sending the whole drum kit (drum group channel) to the parallel chain
But in both cases, it is the same method and the same process of doing it. I open aux channel and I am sending the group drum channel or individual tracks to that AUX channel. I am engaging as insert one compressor with huge ratio, fast attack, fast-medium release. Getting around -15 or even -20db of Gain Reduction. Most often I use DBX 160, LA 1176 (sometimes with ALL button), Fairchild 670, and sometimes even simple limiter will do the work, or your stock compressor from your DAW.
After Compressing the hell out of the signal, most often I am using puigtech EQP 1A (pultech) increasing 100 Hz to Max (10) and 10kHz to Max(10) (in pultech eq number 10 on the scale of volume knobs don’t mean 10db, because of that I wrote Max). But you can use whatever Eq Boosting 5 – 10dB on 100Hz and 10kHz. This will help a lot in carving the low end of your drum kit but also will give air and movement of the cymbals. Very often I use another parallel chain in same time, quite a lot, with some tube distortion or even overdrive. And I am sending on that parallel compression chain, only the elements that I want them to have a little bit of grit, a little bit of distortion in the sound to cut thru the mix.
And when I am happy with the whole drum sound, that is the perfect time to unmute the parallel chain.I am trying to get the best out of my drums without using parallel compression, and when I am happy with the sound of the mix, when I am happy with that how my drums are fitting in the mix with all of the instruments around, that is the perfect time to unmute the parallel chain. That is like the moment of victory for me. At once, the drums are vivid, fresh, in the face, meaty, clear, with strong low end.
This is a good practice. Prepare you parallel compression chain in the beginning, while mixing your drums. Unleash the magic in the end, because if you unmute earlier your parallel chain, you will mix everything else louder, because you have louder drums. That is the point of engaging the parallel aux chain in the end of everything.
Latency Problems. Check your DAW how to adjust the latency compensation. If you have latency problem you will ruin the sound.