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How To Use Parallel Compression In Pro Tools

How To Use Parallel Compression In Pro Tools

Audio engineers often use Parallel Compression when mixing Rock and Pop songs. However it's a tool we can use when we’re tracking, mixing, and even in production. Whether it be used digitally in our DAW or Analog, Parallel Compression can help us add some oomph and presence to our initial recording and mixes while still maintaining the dynamics of the original recording. I use parallel compression when tracking in Production frequently. It's very useful to bring things forward in the mix and help tracks cut through.

You can use Parallel Compression on just about anything but we see it mainly paired with drums and vocals. Let’s take a look at this drum recording I have and see how we can use Parallel Compression to make them sound bigger and "badder". Parallel Compression is simply in the name. We’re going to send our signal to a separate bus, compress it in parallel, and blend it back in with our original drum recording.

On every track in Pro Tools we have sends located just below our inserts.

Sends Below Inserts in Pro Tools to set up Parallel Compression


These sends are often used for time based effects like delays and reverbs; but they can also be used to feed things like buses with compressors on them. In order to Parallel Compress, we’re going to use the sends on all of these drum tracks and send it to a Bus we’ve created.

Drums Sends and Sending to a Pro Tools Bus

Parallel Bus in Pro Tools


On the Parallel bus, I have a compressor that I'm going to hit pretty hard. Have fun and play around with the compression settings, as it varies song to song and depends on what you're looking to accomplish. This can be just as creative as dialing in a delay. A compressor reduces the dynamic range of the input signal. Depending on the settings, it can make loud parts softer and soft parts louder to make the audio seem more even. Compressions is a significant tool in how a singer can get a soft airy expression right out front.

Compressor Settings in Pro Tools


Typically when we are using Parallel Compression we go overboard with some aggressive compression and blend it into an uncompressed signal. Something we also can do is EQ the Parallel Bus. This can help us accentuate some frequencies that we are trying to get and add some extra punch to our kick and snare.

EQ the Parallel Bus

Another easy way to Parallel Compress a singular track is duplicating the track, adding compression to it and blending that with the original.


Now that we have our parallel bus running, let's blend it in with our original drums.

Slowly pull up the fader and listen to how it's affecting the Kick and Snare. Is it adding energy to our cymbals and making things feel louder? If you pull this fader up and things start to feel thin and out of phase, you may have your delay compensation turned off. We need to make sure this bus is in perfect phase to get the best results.

Drums and Parallel Bus in Pro Tools - Delay Compensation


Be mindful of not being fooled by a rise in actual loudness. Since we're adding in a copy of our original signal, it's easy to just make our track louder. Parallel compression should help things hit and feel louder without actually raising the volume. If you feel like the Parallel Bus is working wonders for your Kick and Snare but it's hurting the clarity of your overheads, don't send the overheads to the bus. We don't have to send all of our tracks to the bus; just what we want compressed.

This process works the exact same with outboard gear. Instead of sending to a bus, we send out of our DAW to an outboard piece of gear like a compressor or anything else you’d want to run in parallel. Create a new track in Pro Tools to record it back in. Blend it in the same way you would your parallel bus.

Experiment with different applications for Parallel Compression. Often we are led to believe it's something only mix engineers do; but I use parallel compression when tracking in Production frequently. It’s a handy tool we can use to help bring things forward in the mix and help it cut through. Not to mention it's always fun to hit compressors really hard and we’ll always have a dry signal to go back to.

Author: Carter Jahn
ProMedia Training, LLC



Carter Jahn
Carter JahnProducer / Audio Engineer
Grammy Winner
Carter Jahn is a Grammy Award Winning Producer and Audio/ Mixing Engineer in Los Angeles, CA. He won a Grammy Award for his Engineering work on The War on Drugs album, ‘A Deeper Understanding’. With years of studio experience, Carter has worked alongside many top Engineers and Producers such as: Shawn Everett, Chris Walla, Francois Tetaz, Brent Kutzle, Damian Taylor, Tommy English and more. Carter also owns a commercial recording studio, "Cherry Studios" in North Hollywood where he produces, records and mixes major label and independent artists.

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