Parallel Compression On Steroids
Many people are now well-acquainted with the idea of parallel compression, a technique which involves mixing compressed and uncompressed versions of the same signal.
There are many advantages of this approach: it’s kinder to transient signals such as drums, piano, and acoustic guitar; it can dramatically increase signal sustain with less unwanted gain-pumping artifacts; and it lets you overdrive analogue-style compressors (to emphasise their tasty sonic side-effects) without making nonsense of the signal dynamics.
However, a lot of the highest-profile engineers are now taking the idea of parallel compression further by mixing and matching the sounds of a number of different compression channels in parallel. It’s lead vocals that most commonly seem to receive this kind of treatment (check out these interviews with Tony Maserati and Spike Stent (for instance), but other instruments also seem to be fair game – Rich Costey talks about processing both drums and bass in this way in this interview, for example.
However, the undisputed Pope Of Parallel, as far as I’m concerned, is Michael Brauer. He uses the idea so extensively that it can be a bit tricky to get a handle on everything he’s doing, so I’ve collected together a few different links which between them should hopefully make sense of it all:
This Sound On Sound Inside Track feature.
Mike Senior is a professional engineer who has worked with Wet Wet Wet, The Charlatans, Reef, Therapy, and Nigel Kennedy. He has transformed dozens of amateur mixes for Sound On Sound magazine’s popular Mix Rescue column.
As part of Cambridge Music Technology he also provides in-depth training courses and workshops specializing in the documented techniques of the world’s top producers. His new book, is a down-to-earth Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio mixing primer which shows how to achieve commercial-grade sonics within real-world project/college setups.