Parallel processing can be a real hero to your mix if you use it correctly. Drums can be reinforced with power and fatness. It can take background vocals to a new level, or just highlight and bring forward some tones and if you want to get that “in your face” drum sound, parallel processing is the way to go. With parallel processing you can retain a nice original signal but still be able to process it really hard. So here are my favourite tricks.
Widen things out
Start with creating two new aux-tracks that you pan hard left/right. Send the signal you like to widen to both of the aux-tracks. Place an EQ on one of the aux-tracks and tweak the sound so the bright parts are almost to exaggerated. Do the same thing with the EQ on the second aux, but tweak it a bit differently this time. This will make your track feel wider, and it is a awesome technique on synths and backing vocals.
Fatten up drums
Send your kick, snare or tom to an aux track and set up an aggressive compressor to smash it with. Don’t worry about killing your transients when you are using this technique. Also play with the attack and release time, it can do magic. If you have a copy of the 1176 try the “all buttons in”-mode and blend it in with the original signal. This is really effective when you going for a dirty sound.
Targeting a specific sound
This next trick, is a very powerfull way to utilise parallel compression. Instead of just parallel-compressing a full signal you can use this technique like a phase-free EQ. If you use a compressor with an external source, you can now feed the sidechain with an EQed version of the original sound. This allows you to, for example, bring out the low end of a kick drum or a certain tone in your guitar. Lets say that you cutoff the high-frequency on your bass track then the compression will only trigger to the low end, without any artifacts.
You can also put a compressor after your reverb on the aux return track to get more control over the presence versus the wet signal. Sometimes when using a big and long reverb on vocals the dry sound disappears. By sidechaining your vocals through a compressor and setting a low threshold and high ratio, your compressor will duck the reverb when your vocals are playing. This can bring back a presence to your vocals but retain the reverb tails.
Phasing has always been a problem when mixing, and especially when you are using a lot of parallel processing. Luckily for us there is a lot of great tools out on the market to help us out. Little Labs IBP from UAD is a great tool for fixing phase issues. But if you don’t have a UAD-DSP card you can still fix the problems with a simple sample delay. Just offset the signal a few milliseconds and it should help to solve your phase problems.
Don’t be static
Your parallel treatments don’t have to be constant. Try playing around with some volume automation or try out different filter movements. Small and well placed automations can make a track sound more exciting and vibrant. Remember that parallel treatments work best when using it with care and caution.