Let’s have a look here, we’ve got a track from Peg and Dan called Naked Nuns. We’re going to duplicate it. We’re going to add a compressor. Let’s go for, in this case we will use Q Base standard built-in compressor. I’m just going to turn this off on A so it’s not doing any compression at all. Whereas B, it’s going to be very much compressed.
The reason I have a compressor on both A and B is because some host software doesn’t allow for plug-in delay compensation, so you’ll get phasing issues. Just to keep it simple, we’re going to have a compressor on both. Just so that we know the delay is the same in your software of choice.
On B, we are going to squash it with extreme settings. You would never, ever apply this amount of insane compression to your main original source, but remember that A’s dynamic range is going to remain entirely intact while B is going to complement A.
What I’m going to do in this case, because the jams are quite nice and punchy, I’m going to set my attack really fast and my release quite fast. I’m going to set it to peak. What this is going to do is really remove the transients. It’s going to turn B into a completely flat, lifeless bit of solid audio. As a result, when you add some of B to A, it’s going to beef up the overall feeling, the overall sound.
A good idea is to slap on some compression settings, quite extreme ones, turn down B. Now we have A playing. I’m going to add in a little bit of B and see how it feels, see if it complements A. You can kind of hear, it’s definitely doing something, it’s definitely complementing A, but there’s going to be a little bit of a volume boost in there, which can be deceiving, as discussed in this months edition of FutureMusic Magazine.
What I’m going to do to correct that, I’m going to add a group track, which will be A and B combined. I’m going to send my outputs of these 2 tracks to combined. Now A and B are going to be running through this group. I’m also going to have a third version of this song, just as a reference. This will be the dry, non-compressed, non-parallel compressed signal. I’m going to mute this. This was hitting a peak of minus 2.9. This is hitting a peak of minus 3.5, so I’m just going to turn this down to match by naught .6.
We volume matched, so now what we’re going to hear is the effects of the parallel compression at the same volume as the dry reference track here at the bottom. This is a subtle thing, as mastering should be, but a little bit of B combined with A helps bring up some of the quieter sounds. If you look at the dynamic range video tutorial, if you remember the 8 to 1 ratio that we applied, and we were talking about the effects of over-compression on a human voice, what you’ve done is, on B, you’ve squashed it so that the quieter sounds and the loud sounds are very similar in volume. You’re adding some of this to A.
As a result, A is really sort of beefed up from the bottom up, essentially. You’re maintaining the nice peaks of your original drums through A, but you’re also getting a bit of a boost, a bit of a push, more of a solid backbone to your track. It’s quite a subtle thing, it really is, in this instance anyway. We could, of course, apply much more extreme settings and turn it up a little bit just so you can hear it a bit more.
Turn this down by another naught .4 dB to make that a nice round 1 dB, and volume match. Oh, sorry, my mistake. Let me [inaudible 00:07:48]. Okay. These are now volume matched.
The combined signal just seems a bit more upfront and exciting and in your face and not at the expense of the peaks, not at the expense of the drums. You’re bringing up some of the quieter sounds, you’re making it more involved, but you’re still maintaining that nice original feeling, that power.
As you can see, this is an extremely useful tool in mastering, especially in dance music when you’re dealing with samples. This is kind of layering a bit. It’s a powerful thing when used correctly. Do not push too hard because then you’re really digging into dangerous territory where you’re starting to become overpowered by the really compressed signal. You really want A to be the focus and B to complement A.
This is useful. This is something that I would use on a day-to-day basis. Again, it’s extremely important about respecting the original audio and trying to preserve. Work with the audio, not against it, when it comes to compression and mastering. You want the original source to do the hard work, and you want your compression to complement that and not overstep its mark or overstay its welcome.
In a nutshell, that’s parallel compression. You can also achieve the same thing without this setup where they’re bussed to the group. If you’re using a compressor that has a wet dry function you would set the signal to completely dry and dial in extreme compression settings and then slowly turn your compressor’s wet dry slider towards wet and see the effect. It’s pretty much the same thing.
I quite like doing it this way, it gives you a bit more flexibility. Then I would apply further processing to the combined signal on its insert channel rather than on each of these.
There you have it. That is parallel compression in a nutshell. An amazing tool so use it wisely.