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Once recording and editing are finished, audio engineers can take advantage of the training in Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools to punch up the final output. Digidesign Certified Expert Brian Lee White covers all the basic mixing tools that every producer and engineer should know, from using EQ to add clarity and focus to using compression and limiting to maximize track levels within a mix. Brian stresses the importance of setting up a solid mixing plan prior to any work in Pro Tools, and gives advice on the best plug-ins for each stage of the process. Exercise files accompany the course.
So I have mentioned parallel compression a few times now. While it sounds like some overly complex math equation, it's actually quite easy to understand and implement. Parallel or upwards compression as it's sometimes called is simply combining an uncompressed signal with a compressed one and blending the two to taste. This sort of best of both worlds approach preserves the dynamics and openness along with the character and frequency response at the unprocessed signal while solving the issue of the overly dynamic track getting lost underneath the mix.
So here is how it works. If we take a look at the drums in the Take Me Down session, what I have or all the drums being submixed into the drum bus and that submix is actually being picked up in two separate places, right, on two separate aux tracks. I have a DrumSbMx and then a DrumSquash track right here. There are other ways you can set this up via sends and returns or just by creating duplicate tracks, if it's just a single track. But in this case this worked out the best and on the DrumSbMx, I don't have any compression.
But on the DrumSquash I'm using a significant amount of this BF76 to really kind of fill out the track. And what I'm going to be able to do is blend of the two to taste. And what this is going to achieve in my mix is going to allow me to fill out and give those drums just that little extra oomph in the dense sections of the mix, so that they don't get lost. So let's listen to each side of this parallel compression setup.
Here is just the DrumSbMx Solo. Mute that. (Music playing) And now here is what the squashed track sounds like. (Music playing) Now let's put the two together and listen any dense section of the song.
So I'm going to go to the chorus. I'll bring out my Memory Locations, and we'll go into a chorus here and I'm going to listen it with and without that DrumSquash track. So here is without. (Male singing: You take me down and my feet will follow, wherever my heart goes.) (Male singing: I'll come around, I'll come around, like I always do,) (Male singing: Look at my feet on the ground, I got my feet on the ground.) (Music playing.) So you can hear what that's doing, just giving that little extra oomph to the drums.
It's filling it out a little bit more, making sure they don't get lost in the mix. It's essentially creating a nice pillowy floor for the rest of the drum's submix to sit on. So nothing gets lost. It's bringing out the sustain of all the different drums. And what I can do is some neat things with the DrumSquash bus is I can bring it up I can automate it up or down for different sections of the song. So I might pull it down in the verse and then push it up and then push it up even more on the last chorus just to give it that extra just kind of everything is to the wall.
Now engineers often disagree about whether or not your overhead or room track should get added to a squash bus or a parallel compression setup and some people opt to just do compression straight up on the drum submix for going via parallel compression there. And it's really up to you, how you want to process it. Some tracks will really benefit from this technique and in this example I'm kind of going for that extreme sustain on my drums, making them sound even bigger than they are and this actually really helps because it was recorded in a smaller room.
And so what actually works out better that I included the overhead in the room into the squash track. So it's going to sort of fill out the sustain of the room and make the drum's sound as if they were recorded in a little bit larger space. So where else can we use this trick? Well really you can use it on anything. Then let me show you a great technique for quickly adding a parallel compressed track. So if I look at my entire mix and let's say I want to do some parallel compression on acoustic guitar, what I can do is I can take and just duplicate this track.
So I'll right-click on the nameplate and say Duplicate. And I'll say go ahead and duplicate it with the Active Playlist. I'll uncheck Alternate Playlist and then I'm going to uncheck Insert. So I don't want to copy in my inserts over because I'm going to apply my own. Then I'll go ahead and leave the automation intact if there is any volume automation there. And what I'm going to get next is a duplicate and I can rename that to acoustic guitar compressed and maybe what I'll do is I'll switch the compressor over, I'll just copy the compressor over to this track and then we'll go for more of an aggressive compressed sound.
So we kind of listen to this track here and bring in a lot of compression. (Music playing) Okay, so I want to avoid any kind of distortion from overdriving the compressor. Sometimes the DigiRack isn't the best compressor for doing these extreme compressed sounds.
I might try instead to use the 1176. Once I have got a nice compressed bed, what I'm going to do is bring it up along side of the dry signal or the uncompressed signal. So I'll pull this down, turn off my automation temporarily and we'll listen. Oops! (Music playing) And you can do this on any kind of track.
You can just set on lead vocal or on guitars. It really works great when you want to retain the original dynamic quality of the instrument. You don't want to crush it and affect any of its frequencies. You want to keep it kind of bright and present, but you still want to get some of the benefits from compression like giving it a nice bed to lie on, so that nothing gets lost. So ultimately parallel compression is a bit of a hot topic these days and what you are going to see is a lot of plug -ins currently and in the future are building in mix or wet/dry parameters into the compressor.
Usually, these were reserve for like reverbs and delays and courses but now they are building them into compressors and what that's going to allow you to do is build a parallel compressor just on a single track. So you don't have to worry about duplicating the track, but you don't need one of these compressors to achieve that. You can simply duplicate the track or setup some sort of busing arrangement like I did on the drums to kind of blend the two to taste. Now, it's not an appropriate or necessary technique for everything, but I think you'll find it's a really handy trick to have in sort of your mixing tool kit.
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