Parallel Processing

By March 20, 2008Mixing Tips And Tricks

Do you often find yourself going around in circles trying to get the perfect channel processing but never quite being able to get the sound you hear in your head?  Enter parallel processing…

In the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) environment it is very easy to duplicate a track, process the duplicate, and then create a musical blend between the original and processed tracks.  This will often get you to the sound you have in your head faster as well as allowing for more flexibility later on.

For example, you might have some electric guitars which sound great recorded but just need a little extra bite to poke through in the mix.  Rather than trying to EQ or process the guitar track, try creating a duplicate track (or bus) for the guitars and add a guitar amp simulator to the parallel track.  On the parallel track you can drive the input gain and create a sound which has all the bite you need but is “too much” by itself.  If you then blend this with the original track you have the sound of the original (which was great to begin with) as well as the bite from the parallel processed track.  This creates a sound which not only retains the character of the original, but also has the bite and presence to cut through the mix when needed.

Another common usage of the parallel processing technique is called parallel compression.  In this example, leave the original track dry and uncompressed, and then create a parallel processed track and heavily compress it.  By creating a blend between the two, you retain the punch and dynamics from the original as well as the compressed sound from the parallel track.

A neat trick is automating the balance between the two tracks depending on which section of the song you’re in.  If we take the example of a parallel guitar amp simulator track, then we could add more of the distortion track in the chorus to give the listener the impression that the guitars just got bigger and more exciting.

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