Drum Mastering Using Parallel Compression
You have probably come to this point while mixing your track: the more elements you add to your drums, the less impact they have. In this tutorial, I will walk you through one way to counteract this using parallel compression.
When we talk about acoustic drums, certain recording aspects make mixing more difficult. For example, the majority of acoustic drums are recorded using several microphones: some for the room sound, others for overheads, and one for each drum. Additionally, the mixed output of these mics has a lot of room for phase interactions caused by spill and slight timing differences (See Blog: Phase and Phasing). Therefore, this ultimately causes certain elements in the kit to lose their impact or punch.
The Parallel Trick
One trick for counteracting this phenomenon and reinforcing impact and body in the mix is to use parallel compression. So in this tutorial, we will show you how to do it right.
In the first place, we have a drum kit stem containing some common elements like kick, snare, and hi-hats. In addition, the audio below is a rough mix of the elements, exported to a single track. We prepared this in advance solely for demonstration’s sake – let’s listen to it.
Drums – Clean
Generally speaking, they sound okay. But, when played alongside a bass loop, it seems the individual elements that make up the drum mix lack impact. In essence, they are not particularly fat.
Drums and Bass – Clean
Solidify The Drums
So let’s try to fix this. In SoundBridge, we will make a new RETURN TRACK by clicking the “create return” button in the top-left portion of the sequencer window – above the track list. Immediately, we will see a new track called RETURN 0 added to the bottom of the sequencer window (above the master) as well as in the mixer window.
After creating the RETURN TRACK, select it and drag a compressor onto its insert rack. We chose to use Solid Dynamics by Native Instruments, but you can use any plug-in compressor you want.
Now, let’s open the mixer window in SoundBridge. Here we will see that each channel on the mixer was given a respective send fader for the return – just above the pan dial. Let’s try dragging this slider up to 100 %.
When this step is complete, let’s move our attention to the actual RETURN channel in the mixer window. On the compressor unit we added, adjust the settings like so…
1) Take the threshold way down (on our compressor, this means to the right – which seems counter-intuitive – so make sure you know which direction you’re going).
2) Crank the ratio knob to something extreme (infinity will work).
3) Fast attack.
4) Slow release
Within this setup, we will gradually bring up the level of the RETURN TRACK. Consequently, this will allow us to hear the distinction between the clean signal and the heavily compressed signal and blend them the way we want. In this next example, notice the drums seem fattened up and sort of glued together.
Drums – with Parallel Compression
All in all, there you have it – a standard parallel compression technique applied to a drum mix. Remember, this technique can be used – and is commonly used – on a variety of instruments and sound sources.
Finally, let’s listen to the drums & bass together.
Kit and Bass – Context