003 MixCoach Minute – how to balance your parallel compression tracks

How do you mix in parallel compression without it taking over your track? I’ll tell you what I do in this MixCoach Minute episode.


Raw Transcript:

Hey guys. It’s Kevin with MixCoach. This is the third episode of the
MixCoach Minute. MixCoach Minute is where I answer questions from my
members and subscribers that if we were just sitting here in two chairs
talking. So that’s kind of what I’m doing. MixCoach Minute is brought to
you by, I’ve always wanted to say that, is brought to you by MixCoach
Member, where you can get some really, really good training, get with a
really great and helpful community of mixers just like you. I’ve found that
my mixers who have been MixCoach Members for awhile, their mixes
consistently are getting better. And anyway, I think it’s something that
you should look at. Mixcoachmember.com.

Okay, let’s get to the question. Steven Borden says, Steven. Hey, Steven.
From LA. He says, “How do you blend a smack track” which is what I call
parallel compression. I usually smack the drums and add it back to its
parallel compression. He says, “How do you blend a smack track without
getting it too loud and do you EQ the return to highlight the effect?”

Steven, it really depends on what you want to do with the smack track. On
some songs that I really want it to be really like aggressive and snarl at
you like that I use more of it. It just depends on how good you have the
smack track sounding. Some days I do better than others. Some compressors
do better than others. So it really depends how much.

Typically on more of a subtle mix where I’m not trying to say, “Hey. He
added parallel compression.” And sometimes you do want to do that. But on
the mixes that I don’t do that on… Sometimes what I’ll do is I’ll
actually listen to the smack track by itself and EQ and compress the smack
track as if it were the only drum track. So I try to make it stand on its

So one of the things that bothers me about the smack track and one of the
reasons I don’t use a whole lot of it on the whole drum kit is that the
cymbals get washed out and that’s a pretty good indicator that you used too
much compression on the drums. But sometimes what I’ll do is I’ll send a
bus out into the smack track and I won’t send cymbals.

I’ll only send kick, the kick in and out if I have both of them. The snare
top. I hardly ever send the bottom. And the toms. And usually toms after I
process them, in other words, after I gate them or had E, not EQed. Well,
EQed them or gated them or sliced them out to where they’re clean if I do
that. So I use them on kick, snare, and toms. You know, I don’t even send a
[inaudible 00:03:03] to that. I don’t send cymbals, in other words. I don’t
send overheads and I don’t send high up because that’s the part that sounds

So that helps me get a good balance to the compressor so that it sounds
natural. And then as far as EQing it, I usually don’t EQ it a lot to
maximize the effect. But what you want to do is make sure that it will
sound good on its own and when you add it back to the track usually what
I’ll do is I’ll slide it up and I’ll get it to where I think it needs to be
and then I’ll mute it. And if I miss it, that’s when I know that it’s on
the threshold of being where I want it to be. Now from there on it’s how
much you, what your taste is of how much you want to smack it.

So what I’ll usually do to make sure that the blend is right, usually what
I’ll do is I’ll slide it in there to where I think it needs to be and then
I’ll mute it. And when I miss- I did the same thing with reverb as a matter
of fact. I’ll mute it and if I miss it I know I’m in the ballpark of where
I want to be. That’s if you want to be subtle. If you want to be extreme,
of course, you can use mostly smack and just a little bit of drums.

But just real quick for the guys that don’t know what parallel compression
is – I actually learned this from a friend of mine several years ago, I
think back in ’93 or ’94. And he did it. His name is Steve Marcantonio.
Steve, if you’re listening, thank you. I love this trick. He used
compression like an effect, like you would a reverb and he’d set it up the
same way. And he would compress a drum kit and add it back to the drums.

And what the advantage was was you didn’t get the artifacts from the
compressor when it came to the attack, only the release. So you’re
uncompressed drum signal was what gave you the attack and the compress
signal was what gave you the release. So the combination of both of those
was just a big, huge, fat drum sound.

And he also did the same thing, parallel compression with piano. He used an
RO exciter or maybe it was BBE maximizer. But he would process the piano to
where it was very bright and then he would add that processed piano back to
the piano. And the same thing. I’ve done that before too. I don’t think
I’ve done that, I think he does that more than I do. Just mute it and when
you start to miss it you know you’re in the ballpark. And then that way you
know that it’s not taking over your track or anything like that.

But, Steven, I hope that helps. Let me see to make sure I got your
question. I think I covered everything on your question so that’s how I
would blend a smack track in to make sure that it doesn’t take over a
track. So if you get a chance go by MixCoach Member and check out what we
have to offer there. There’s hundreds of members, great mixers. You will
learn as much from them as you will from me. So check it out. And I will
see you on the next episode of MixCoach Minute. Thank you for watching.

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