2 - heavy compression for parallel processing

Parallel Compression

Parallel compression is often talked about in hushed tones, as if it carries almost mythical powers to improve your mix. However, in reality it is relatively straightforward. At its simplest it involves mixing compressed audio with an unprocessed version of the same signal (hence the name).

This can be achieved in a number of ways, with the most convenient method partly determined by your choice of DAW or compressor plugin. For example, if you’re dealing with a single audio recording of all the drums, it’s simply a matter of duplicating it on another track and then applying the processing to the new copy. Alternatively, you may also use auxiliary sends pointing to a dedicated compression bus. The easiest way of all is becoming increasingly common: some plugins feature a mix control, making experimentation straightforward.

Although you can try the processing with any settings, a common approach is to set your compressor to dig in quickly with a fast attack and medium-fast release, then bring the threshold down into ‘way too much’ territory. Mixing the original back in will restore the squashed transients, but also pick up the level between hits. In fact, parallel compression often means that you notice the effect most on quieter elements, as the main hits are now much louder than their squashed counterparts.

We spoke in greater detail about parallel compression in this walkthrough.

Author Bruce Aisher
21st May, 2014


  • best mag in the net!

  • Good Job Bruce!

  • Superb

  • meh, equalizing is much more important than compression

  • The tuning of the drums is also very important. Not all percussion is unpitched, therefore it might be a good idea to tune drums either to the tonic, fifth, or whatever scale degree the drum section accompanies. Great tips, tho.

  • Another thing you can try: Use a Vocoder on your drums!

  • Leo – great point, and not just for pitched elements either. Pitching anything from kicks to claps to hi-hats up or down a step or two can have a dramatic impact on the overall sound of a beat.

    Check out our guide to the basics of drum tuning here: http://www.attackmagazine.com/technique/walkthroughs/how-to-tune-kick-snare-tom-drum-samples/

  • Great tips! You can also drive tracks and groups trough guitarpedals. Adding a hint of distortion to beats sound pretty amazing many times. No need to add it much, a bit of nice harmonic distortion you don’t even notice brings nice crispy attack and richer harmonics. Mooer pedals for example are pretty cheap but effectice. Here some kick drum / various pedals examples http://thegearfiend.com

    Would be nice to see an article about how different pedals work with full beats;)

  • Second that article idea from Hannu!

    Just use everything you have in your toolkit. I begin with pitching sounds, to see if they can fit better to the mood. EQing the shit out ouf your drums, you don’t need or want (which depends on the overall sound you’re looking for actually ). Then you might compress your drums to beef ’em up if your tracks need it, give specific sounds some room and reverb (I do it with sends) and then do some bus compression. Don’t overdo it and the result should be a drum sound you can definitely use. Tweak the rest later in the Mixing, because you will then have a stronger opinion on the overall sound you want.

    I think a big problem is a missing idea of the “big picture” in the first place. It’s easy to trick yourself into twiddle your drums and bass and all that difficult too long, while you don’t have any idea about how you want them to sound when it’s done. This idea can be there from beginning or can build up while you compose and arrange the track – just be sure you don’t tweak for hours without thinking of your whole track and how it should sound in the end. It’s easy to lose hours when not thinking the way, I did it – and still it’s happening too often.

  • it’s easy to mix and compress just drums and make them sound beefy and loud like in your examples. in fact, there are tons of garbage tech house sample packs with pre-compressed drum grooves that can serve the exact same purpose as having loops like these

    how about you throw in some vocal samples? and a couple chords? and a bassline? and some reverb? maybe show a distortion heavy track with elements that are difficult to fit into the mix? and maintain the quality throughout an entire track? i’m not trying to bust your chops or give you a hard time for the sake of it, but there are many tutorials online that say “hey guys check it out, mixing and compressing is a really easy way to make your drums sound massive. check this example out for instance!” and then they loop a generic tech house beat with the cleanest and easiest to mix percussion and call it a day while not really proving nor teaching much

    i’m new to your site and am always open to any good tutorials or knowledge that others have to share though, so keep on writing articles. i especially liked the seventh tip on exploring transients more

  • ” ….we’d definitely recumbent exploring the higher reaches…..”

    Darn that auto spell correct!

  • Compresión is more important than eq…


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