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Parallel Compression in Logic 9
Rounik Sethi on Wed, November 10th 6 comments
Compressors can be a great way to even out the dynamics of a drum mix, vocal performance or any audio signal. A compressor works by lowering the gain when the signal jumps above a certain level or thr

Compressors can be a great way to even out the dynamics of a drum mix, vocal performance or any audio signal. A compressor works by lowering the gain when the signal jumps above a certain level or threshold. This in turn makes the quieter elements appear to be louder and raises the overall perceived level. Most often the impression is that it "fattens" the sound. If the signal is heavily, or "overly-" compressed, this can result in the dynamic range of the signal being squashed.

Parallel Compression, also known as New York Compression, is a way of beefing up the sound and retaining the dynamic range of the original signal. It works by mixing the dry (or lightly compressed) signal with a heavily compressed version of the signal. Although infamous due to it's use on drums, this technique can be used for any instrument in any virtually any musical genre with great results. In fact, it's a technique that, whilst commonly applied in the Mixing stage, can even be used when Mastering a track to give it more presence.

In this tutorial we'll explore how to apply parallel compression using the Bus Send technique in Logic Pro, but you can follow along in Logic Express or any DAW of your choice.

01 - Relative Levels

I'm using four tracks of drum and percussive loops in a four bar loop in this example.

First and foremost you need to mix your tracks until you are happy with their relative volume levels. You can do this in Logic's Mixer more easily than in the Arrange area.

I've also slapped an Adlimiter on the Stereo Output channel strip. This is entirely optional!!
Here's what the loop sounds like "dry":

02 - Group the "dry" Drums

We're going to route the entire signal from the 4 channel strips via a Bus to a new Aux Channel Strip. In the Mixer swipe over the bottom area of the 4 channel strips to select them and click and hold on the Output slot and select any free Bus. I've chosen Bus 20.

A new Aux Channel is created with Bus 20 as the Input. The signal from all the drum channels is now being fed to Aux 1. I'll rename mine "Dry Drums".

03 - Light Compression

This step is optional. I like to add some light compression to the Dry Drums Aux to help all the elements gel together. Click and hold on the top insert slot and choose Dynamics > Compressor
Notice the Ratio and Threshold settings I've dialed in below. It creates a mild overall compressed effect.

See if you can hear the subtle difference in the mp3 sample:

04 - Sending to a Bus

In order to set up our parallel compression signal chain we need to send the dry signal to a new Aux channel strip via a Bus so we can apply heavier compression to that signal. You may wish to send from the separate drum channel strips or from the "Dry Drums" Aux channel. I'm going to send from the original separate channels.

Select all 4 channel strips and click-hold on one their empty Send slots. Select an empty Bus (I've chosen Bus 10).

Rename the new Aux channel (Input is set to Bus 10), to "Big Comp".  With the four drum channel strips still selected, Option-click on one of the selected Send knobs to set them all to 0dB.

Playing back your project will reveal that you've increased the volume level of the drum sound.

05 - Heavy Compression Settings

Insert a Compressor plugin on the first insert slot of the "Big Comp" Aux channel strip. Here is where you can now let rip with a higher than normal ratio amongst other settings to give your drum loop a fuller, bigger sound. My settings are pretty extreme and the resulting sound is squashed and over-compressed. But that's a good thing for when we come to mixing this with the dry signal!

Experiment with the Ratio, Attack and Release and try the different Compressor Circuit types too.

I've solo-ed the "Big Comp" channel strip and here is what the heavy compression sounds like all by itself:

06 - Going Parallel

Un-solo the "Big Comp" channel strip and lower the level of the Aux Channel right down until you can hear only the dry drums. Now carefully increase the level fader while listening to the loop. The aim is to mix the dry and compressed signals so you can still hear the detailed dynamics of the "dry" performance while adding a fullness (and in this case, crunchiness) to the entire drum mix.

The amount of extra body you choose to add will depend very much on the instrument(s) and the genre of music you're mixing. Try A/B-ing the parallel compression by toggle muting the "Big Comp" channel strip.

Here is my final result, which I've added a subtle amount of parallel compression to.

Experiment with more pronounced compression settings on the "Big Comp" channel strip for a larger bodied feel. I'd also highly recommend checking out Olav Basoski's Electronica Workflow Tricks tutorial for more Compression, EQ, Side-chaining and Advanced Studio Production techniques.

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Comments (6)

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  • Dekuruy
    This is very useful, Rounik! You explain everything so clearly. The added audio samples are invaluable.
    • 10 years ago
    • By: Dekuruy
  • Rounik Admin
    Thanks Adam! Hope you find the technique useful in your music productions. Best, Rounik.
    • 10 years ago
    • By: Rounik Admin
  • Mojave
    This mix worked very well.Actually, incredibly well. Might I ask one question? When a mix is made, the send levels which if blue are post fader and will track the fader in the event the fader is changed. Why then choose a pre-Fader send (Green) which is untouched by any change for the fader itself and if one were selected, wouldn't that make it easier to simply adjust the compressed channel down since the feed levels are still as needed in terms of mix? I always wondered if using pre fader sends were a good choice for maintaining better stability? Any other advantages or disadvantages on that front? Since the compressed Aux is a parallel feed and is controlled separately, it seems like a good idea. Thanks again for these great tricks. I like this better then the drop down menu where you can do parallel compression in the compressor itself.
    • 10 years ago
    • By: Mojave
  • Rounik Admin
    Good point Victor! Going Pre-Fader would make it easier if the levels are pretty much where you want them... but Post-Fader means any adjustments you make to the original fader level will be reflected on the Parallel channel... which might be what you want... or might not be. Different peeps mix in different ways, so depending on your mixing style and the material you're working with try both post and pre fader. One just makes it easier to adjust the Send level and the original level using one fader essentially.
    • 10 years ago
    • By: Rounik Admin
  • Sihunua
    Great tute Rounik. Thanks!
    • 9 years ago
    • By: Sihunua
  • HH
    Hi Robert very good and clear, just one question step 4 - using the bus sends for a new submix of the drums. Would it not work if you used the bus send of the group - ie the send section of the group to a new bus - this would be an exact copy of your drums as they are - ie level wise etc Am I missing somthing , are there issues with delay perhalps Best L
    • 9 years ago
    • By: HH
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