Join Larry Crane for an in-depth discussion in this video Parallel drum buss compression, part of Music Production Secrets: Larry Crane on Mixing.
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Parallel drum bus compression is something I've seen more people using over the last ten or fifteen years, and it's something people talk about quite a bit. Now what it is, it's really simple in concept. You take the drum mix that you've already created, hopefully one you're happy with. And then also send that to a stereo compressor and blend it in under the mix that you have already. What it does is it really thickens up the drum mix. You've reduced all the peaks in the compressed part of your drum mix. And that blended in underneath your regular drums makes your peak to average ratio change.
And makes the drums sound louder. Yet all of the peaks of the transients, the hits, or the kick in the snare. Those are coming through exactly as loud as they did before you applied this effect. So let's see how this works in process. (MUSIC). So that's our straight mix. We got a mix going on the console, what I did here is, I actually assigned that mix to buses one and two. And it's coming down over here, on buses one and two, as the dry drum mix.
Now, I've also assigned buses three and four over here, and I've run that bus into a compressor, into a Chandler TG1. I like this compressor a lot because it crushes in kind of a fun, musical way. It gets a little distorted when you push it hard especially, but it really sounds great. Now I'm going to run the mix again and slowly bring in the compressed drum mix. (MUSIC). You can hear the mix gets stronger and get louder.
Let's listen to the compressed drum mix just by itself. (MUSIC). You can hear the snare distorting a little bit. You can hear the room sounds come up. The room becomes more present because you're reducing those peaks. So sounds in the background become louder and part of that is just the ambiance of the room in the tracks you've already recorded. Let's do this again, here's the dry mix. And I'm going to blend in the compressed mix.
(MUSIC). That's kind of fun, too, where I've actually let the compressed mix take over from the dry mix. If I want a really aggressive, distorted drum sound, I can do that quite easily. But then again, I can always pull those faders back down and give us something that's a little more traditional, a little softer sounding. One thing to keep is mind is, what do you want to send to this compressed mix? In some cases, you can just send the kick and the snare into this compressor. And then blend that into the mix to make the kick and snare pop out of the mix more. Other times, you can put the kick, snare, the toms, maybe even the overheads, but I generally try to avoid putting the room mics into that mix.
One reason is what we heard already where the, the room sounds coming up a little more in the background. But, in this case especially, I've already given the room mics a little bit of compression when I was recording them. So I don't want to compress them twice and make it really splattery. But, you know, why not? Let's hear what that sounds like. Here I'm assigning the room channels to the compressed mix, and let's hear a little bit of that. (MUSIC). That's kind of fun. We could hear more of my scratch guitar in the mix there too, but we heard some real exciting room distortion sounds.
So in most cases, I wouldn't put them in there. I'd be careful to accentuate the room so much, but if you want to accentuate the room, this will help you do it. Now let's also move over and show how this is done inside the computer. Okay, I've opened up another Pro Tools session here. And this one has a drum mix in it. It sounds pretty similar to the one in the console. (MUSIC). So that's the mix with no parallel compression.
Let's switch over to the mix screen here. And you can see I've already set up a little bus here. Now this has an 1176 compressor on it and what we're going to do is, we've sent all these channels through buses one and two. Just like we did on the console over to this 1176 bus entering right there. And I've also turned the one off for the room sound, like we had on the console. Let's hear this, how this sounds when we blend in the 1176 into the drum mix.
(MUSIC). Just like the console, that makes the mix kind of pop, makes it louder, a little more aggressive. One thing to be really aware of in this case is Delay Compensation. If you don't have Delay Compensation on for your plug-ins. And this track here this extra bus of drums is delayed because it's running through a compressor plug in. As opposed to the dry bus which is running straight, you will be in trouble. The phase errors between those two the lateness of the compress bus. Is going to actually thin out the drums as they are on the dry bus. You can hear it like this.
Here I'm turning off the delay compensation in Pro Tools. Okay, now that we've turned off the delay compensation, lets hear those tracks together. (MUSIC). It'd seem pretty strange and metallic if something was being cut out, that's the problem you could run into. So always be aware that could be happening in your mixes.
So you can see how easy it really is to use parallel drum bust compression. It's a good trick, it makes your drums fit in the mix better, stronger It works on aggressive music as well as quiet music. I frequently use it to make just softer drums just stay a little more present, hold their own against vocals and other instruments. So try this up, play around with compression settings and levels of dry to compressed and, you'll find it works for you too.
Want more music production secrets? Check out Music Production Secrets: Larry Crane on Recording.
- Understanding the mix room acoustics
- Cutting frequencies
- Prepping vocal takes
- Drum mixing
- Gating audio for noise elimination or for creative purposes
- Creating and using backwards reverb in a DAW
- Re-amping guitars, bass, vocals, and more