Par­al­lel com­pres­sion

Future Music - - CONTENTS -

This month, let’s look at a tech­nique used by in­dus­try pros to add power, depth and ‘in­fla­tion’ to mixes but which re­mains mis­un­der­stood by many. Com­pres­sors – in both hard­ware and soft­ware forms – pro­vide dy­namic range con­trol, nar­row­ing the vol­ume gap be­tween quiet and loud sig­nals, be­fore let­ting you set an over­all vol­ume for the sound you’ve com­pressed.

It’s a myth that com­pres­sors just make sig­nals louder; in re­al­ity, the ap­proach to dy­nam­ics range con­trol most com­pres­sors use is called ‘down­wards’ com­pres­sion, whereby com­pressed sig­nals are at­ten­u­ated (brought down in vol­ume) by a com­pres­sor’s thresh­old and ra­tio di­als. It’s only at the out­put stage, via the use of the make-up gain con­trol, that you can choose to boost the vol­ume of your freshly com­pressed sig­nal, giv­ing you choice over how loud each sound should be.

How­ever, to­day we’re look­ing at par­al­lel com­pres­sion tech­niques, which, whilst us­ing the same com­pres­sor func­tions, op­er­ate ‘along­side’ a track’s main sig­nal flow to add a sec­ond, com­pressed sig­nal un­der the first. As sig­nals which have been set up as par­al­lel, sec­ondary chan­nels in this way play a sup­port­ing role, they can of­ten em­ploy more ex­treme com­pres­sion set­tings than a ‘main sig­nal’ al­low. In fact, the arte­facts and hy­per-squashed sound of more bru­tal com­pres­sion set­tings are of­ten a ben­e­fit when work­ing with par­al­lel sig­nals, in ways which would of­ten prove un­nat­u­ral us­ing source sounds on their own. But we won’t just talk about when th­ese treat­ments can prove use­ful, we’ll go fur­ther, us­ing par­al­lel com­pres­sors in se­ries us­ing mul­ti­ple in­stances; and we’ll work with th­ese par­al­lel chan­nels when fur­ther en­hanced by other plug­ins too. Mostly, we’ll see just how much more power, punch and pres­ence can be added to a mix via the use of par­al­lel com­pres­sion, us­ing this tech­nique to make cer­tain parts within a track pop into the fore­ground of a mix, so you feel closer to the mu­si­cal ac­tion.

In gen­eral terms, any stereo com­pres­sor will let you pro­duce par­al­lel com­pres­sion treat­ments but we’ll also look at the ben­e­fits of work­ing with par­al­lel multi-band com­pres­sion ef­fects, en­hanc­ing spe­cific ar­eas of the fre­quency spec­trum with be­spoke dy­namic range re­duc­tion set­tings. Check out this month’s video to see this in ac­tion. Per­haps the best-known use of par­al­lel com­pres­sion is on drum beats, an ap­proach re­ferred to as ‘New York Com­pres­sion’. We’ll see this in the three-step walk­through, while the six-step walk­through dis­cusses us­ing par­al­lel com­pres­sors to en­hance the lead vo­cal in a mix, as a track moves from one den­sity of ar­range­ment to an­other. As we’ll see, com­bin­ing par­al­lel com­pres­sion chan­nels with stereo widen­ing tools, prodi­gious use of the pan dial, or cou­pling com­pres­sors to other ef­fects for fur­ther sonic en­hance­ment can help take your mixes to the next level.

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