How to make specific drums 'pop' with reverse parallel compression

Individual servings.
Individual servings.

When your drum bus compression is working well overall, but one or more elements of the kit are suffering a bit in terms of snap and transient because of it, this technique can save your bacon.

By sending individual sounds to a return channel in parallel with the compressed bus, each one can be mixed back in in its uncompressed form to bring the attack of that particular sound out. Read on to find out how it's done…

Step 1: Let's add snap back into a heavily compressed drum kit using 'reverse parallel compression', where we start with heavy compression and blend uncompressed signals back in as needed. Open your DAW and import the files starting "DnB", then group the outputs of DnBDrums and DnBSnare.

Step 2: We're demoing this with a DnB beat, but this technique is good for all drums, including acoustic ones. Add the HoRNet Fat-FET plugin to the grouped drums, setting its Ratio to 3:1, Threshold to roughly -24dB, Attack to a fast 0.05ms, and Release to around 70ms. Our drums are now more solid, if a little quieter - apply makeup gain with the Output slider to fix this.

Step 3: The snare's "snap" has been squashed, however, so let's blend the dry snare back in. Create a new Return channel, and send both the Drum Bus and the DnBSnare track to it. By tweaking the send level of the snare track, we can mix in as much of the unprocessed snare as we want. You can apply this trick to any drums in your mix, not just the snare.

Get schooled in a universe of compression - over 14 pages and in 17 videos - with issue 222 of Computer Music. Includes FREE VST/AU effects rack plugin, FX TimeTrip sample pack and more!

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