Have you ever wondered how to get your vocal to punch through the mix? Or a kick drum to achieve a punchy sound? Or give clarity to a solo instrument? Well I have a technique that does just that and it’s called Parallel Compression, or as it sometimes referred to, New York Compression.
Parallel Compression is the art of mixing a (usually) dry signal with a heavily compressed one. The benefit of this is that you can achieve a very tight and compressed sound without it affecting the dynamics of the actual performance.
I will preface that it should be used sparingly and not on every track as it can sometimes sound harsh and brittle on the ears if used too aggressively.
To achieve parallel compression, create an aux track and send the signal to it from the audio track you want to use.
Then load up a compressor on the aux track.
The settings below are a rough guide for a punchy sound but feel free to adapt them if you want a more subtle sound.
Ratio: I personally like to set my ratio between 8:1 to 12:1.
Threshold: On a few tracks, the threshold is between -30dB to -40dB. I usually want around 10dB gain reduction.
Attack Time: You want a fast attack so nothing above 5 ms.
Release Time: I found the sweet spot to be around 50 – 100 ms.
Gain: Boost the gain if it is needed (sometimes I like the way mix without boosting the gain).
The next step is to play the track and blend the Parallel Compression in with the original audio. This is where you can make a few tweaks to the settings to get your ideal sound.
After these steps, hopefully, by now your track should be punching through the mix.
My final tip would be to trust your ear and experiment with this technique as much as possible until you find a variation that suits your style of music.
Jen Athan is a composer and producer based in Glasgow. Her work spans many different styles and genres and typically features her love of sampling and experimenting with new sounds. She has written music for theatre shows and short films and enjoys creating music to accompany a narrative.