Use Parallel Compression to Help Your Drums Cut Through the Mix

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One of the most common challenges in mixing is getting the drums to cut through the mix without being overpowering. Aside from proper leveling, panning and EQ, one of the best techniques for getting there is parallel compression, also known as “New York compression.” Rather than explain the theory of how and why parallel compression works (read this Sound On Sound article for more background), I’ll simply explain how to use parallel compression on a problematic snare drum that’s buried in the mix.

The basic idea is simple: in addition to your main drum bus, you’ll also set up a compression bus (hence why it’s called “parallel compression”). This bus will have heavily compressed versions of the snare, kick and/or toms on it– whatever pieces of the kit you want to cut through the mix. You can adjust the levels of each using sends, and adjust the overall amount of parallel compression by turning the level of the bus up or down. Another helpful trick is to automate the sends and/or level of the compression bus– for example, if you want the snare to really crack during a breakdown, turn up the send to the compression bus.

Watch this clip from Eyal Levi’s CreativeLive class “Mastering Metal Mixing” for a demonstration using “My Cancer” by Reflections:

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Finn is the producer of CreativeLive's audio channel. You can email him at finn [dot] mckenty [at] creativelive [dot] com @finn_mckenty