Hosted by Point Blank Course Advisors David Reid or Luke Hopper and one of our team of instructors, our weekly Friday Forum Live sessions are designed to give you a taste of how our online school masterclasses work. You can ask us any question you like about production and our online courses so you are fully informed about our methods of interaction and feedback online.
Today’s session was delivered by Point Blank Tutor Anthony Chapman has worked with the likes of Klaxons, Franz Ferdinand, and Rizzle Kicks amongst many others. He says “In this week’s session I looked into the finer points of using return chains in the Ableton Live Drum Rack device. I did this using these chains to create parallel compression effects, sends and returns for reverb and delay and sends that route out of the drum rack into the main Live mixer. I also answered questions relating to parallel and bus compression, as well as other techniques in this area.”
Check out this week’s session below…
Luke Hopper: Welcome along to Point Blank Music School in London,
I’m Luke Hopper and I’m joined today in the studio by producer,
engineer, and Point Blank tutor Anthony Chapman for this week’s
edition of Friday Forum Live.
Now for those of you who don’t know, who haven’t tuned in before,
Friday Forum Live is your chance to get a bit of an insight into what
we do here at Point Blank, to get a look behind the scenes and see
what you can expect from signing up to a course with us, from studying
with us, and becoming part of our community.
Anthony’s here to give us a bit of an insight into Ableton Live, into
Parallel Compression, and using drum racks within Ableton.
We’re also going to have an open forum here, so if you do have any
questions make sure you get involved, post in the chat room. Anything
from the technical, what Anthony’s going through, right the way up to
general Point Blank stuff or course info, anything like that, and
we’ll do our best to run through all the questions as we go.
Just before we jump into the tutorial with Anthony, there’s a couple
of things to let you guys know about. At the moment we have a free
reverse reverb device for Ableton Live which you can download via the
Facebook page if you head to Facebook.com and search for Point Blank,
right on the top tab you’ll see a free Ableton plugin, and that is our
brand new reverse reverb device. Well worth checking out, it’s a free
download as well.
Also, we have to say that today is the very last day that you guys can
get the music business course, the online course, for half price. If
you go over to PointBlankOnline.net, you should be able to see the
course under Music Business Courses, and it’s 50% for today only.
The final thing to talk to you guys about is, the next enrollment date
for all online courses is December 10, so if you are looking to jump
on a course with us then I’d recommend kind of starting the enrollment
process as soon as you can really because they are getting quite full
That’s it from me for now. As I said, keep posting in the chat room,
get your questions in, and I’ll try my best to get through them all as
we go. And I’ll hand you over to Anthony.
Anthony Chapman: Thank you very much, cheers. As Luke says, what I’m
going to look at today a bit is parallel compression, specifically
within the drum rack in Ableton Live. There’s a few features of the
drum rack which I think aren’t immediately obvious, particularly when
you start using live.
There’s a lot of stuff that’s not so much hidden, but the default’s
made so that you don’t see stuff right away. Parallel compression, and
I think you’ve experienced this as well, is such a popular question
topic, it’s something that comes up all the time. I think people hear
it talked about–
Luke: It’s a bit of a buzz word.
Anthony: Yes, it sounds a bit mysterious, it kind of sounds like a
bit of a magical ingredient. Believe me, it can be really helpful and
a really exciting technique. It’s actually quite simple, but what I
wanted to show you is how we get that running in a drum rack in
Ableton Live and I’ll show you a way of getting it running on your
entire track as well.
The other things I want to show you are using, creating sends and
returns within the drum rack and also getting those to come out in the
mixer. I know back in the dim and distant past when I started using
Live with the drum racks I was kind of scratching my head for a while
thinking “How do I do this? How do I get the signal to come out this
It was all there, it was just a case of sitting down with it and
finding those features. I’m hoping I can do some people a favor and
get them where it took me a little while to get. So shall I head over
Luke: Yes, jump into it.
Anthony: What I’ve got here is just a really simple 16 bar loop
with 6 tracks, very, very simple. I’ll just quickly talk you through
the different kind of elements that we’ve got here. This is the main
drum rack I’ve got here.
We can see the parts there, pretty standard. Quite a lot going on
because I deliberately wanted to have something with quite a lot going
on as it makes it easy to demonstrate parallel compression.
This is with all of my processing that I’m going to be showing you,
this is with it applied. I’ve also got another drum rack which is the
same, but without the same processing.
If we A-B between those, that’s the dry one and that’s the one with
the processing. Straight away you can hear once we’ve applied a bit of
this processing everything gets a lot more punchy, a lot more
If we look at the other little elements I’ve got going in here, if I
stop the clips, I’ve just got a simple tambourine loop there as well.
Then a little bit of white noise running through it, which of course
is [inaudible 05:52]) these days.
Everybody’s running stuff like that through the tracks almost the
whole time. When you actually stop and listen to stuff it’s amazing
how much white noise there is running just constantly through tracks.
Then, we’ve just got a little bass tone there.
Mirroring the bass tone, I’ve got a synth bleep that’s a bit higher
up, which is up here. This is a similar kind of technique to what I
was doing last week with the two drums, I’m very deliberately running
two things playing the same melody, focusing on different elements of
Okay, so let’s go back and look at the drums because this is really
what we’ll mainly be looking at today. I’ve opened up the drum rack
there, and as you can see what I’ve got running here, I’ve got, as
last week, fat kick, top kick, fat snare, top snare. On each of those
if we listen.
We’ve got the fat kick, the top kick, the fat snare, and then the top
snare there. That’s exactly the same sort of approach as I was taking
last week and I kind of wanted to bring this in. What you’ll see, I’ve
also got running here is a bunch of sends within the drum rack.
If I look at the device, you can see this section at the bottom here
is brought up by clicking this R here which brings up your return
chains. What you can do there is you can drag and drop any sort of
plug in or device into there.
I’ve named them, so I’ve got parallel which is my parallel
compression, I’ve got a reverb there as well, and then I’ve got these
two external returns and what I’m doing with those is sending the
audio out to the returns in the main mixer.
Luke: Is it across the whole rack?
Anthony: When you drop things into the return chain area it creates
return channels within the rack, that’s these here on the right. It
also creates a send which you use to drive that.
What I’ve done, if you look at the parallel compression which is the
most important one I want to use, is there’s a send here, and each of
these channels, if I send there that comes up on this parallel
compression return. That’s kind of the architecture. What I’ll do in a
minute is I’ll go into the dry drum rack and I’ll show you how that is
Just to talk about what parallel compression, usually it is mixing a
dry signal or a very, very lightly compressed signal with a compressed
signal, quite often a heavily compressed signal.
In this instance, if I show you on that parallel return there, I’ve
got this compressor running here which is actually fairly heavy if I
run that clip and we bring that channel up. It’s compressing quite a
lot, I think it’s compressing by about 8 or 9 db.
I’ve got the threshold quite far back, and if we solo that we can hear
that on its own. That is just my compressed version of all of my drums
in the rack. What is really useful about doing it this way is because
we’re doing it with sends, we can dictate what parts of the drum rack
go into the parallel compression.
For example, if I didn’t want the main high hat to go in there I would
just turn that down in the send. Now, everything else is going into my
parallel compression but not my high hat.
Similarly if I’ve got this extra snare there, just now I’ve got the
main drums and that little ‘woop woop’ thing as well. That gives you
an extra level of control over what is going into the compression. I
hope this is making sense for people, I don’t know if anybody’s asking
Luke: We’ve just got a lot of shout outs really. People locked
in from Dublin, from Portugal, from Trinidad in the Caribbean,
Amsterdam, Irini Corfu, without a doubt an international crew. No
questions yet. If you do come up with anything guys just post in the
chat room and we’ll answer as we go.
Anthony: Cool, no worries. That’s my parallel compression bus
there. Now, I’ve also got a little reverb return within the drum rack.
I just wanted to show you that we can do this within the drum rack, so
I wanted to show you a reverb return in the drum rack and then one out
in the main mixer as well.
If we just have a listen here, I’ll just play that clip again. It’s
quite faint, that’s just one I’m running off the snare within the drum
That’s a real small detail, but it gives me that sort of control. I
see a lot of students who, to get reverb running on their tracks in
the drum rack, will resort to dropping a reverb plug-in into the
individual track in the drum rack, which will work but it’s not ideal
because you have to then balance the wet and the dry signal in the
plug-in, it’s not as controllable.
Also, if your computer’s not really powerful, reverbs are actually one
of the big resource hogs on a computer so if you start dropping
reverbs in on loads of different channels it’s really going to eat
into your CPU. I also personally like to minimize the number of
different reverbs I use because I think when we use reverb we’re
trying to put things into a space.
Luke: It’s better if they’re all in the same space.
Anthony: Exactly, or maybe one or two or three.
Luke: When I work I think I tend to have two, one short, one
Anthony: Exactly. I also think they sound a bit better when you mix
a bunch of sources going into the reverb, I think that actually sounds
better than when you have it on individual inserts.
Luke You’ve got a quick question actually Anthony. Someone, a
regular viewer actually, wolfpyroman, has asked, “What are the actual
benefits of using parallel compression?”
Anthony: That is a really good question, and I should thank you
wolf for picking up on my leaving that out. The benefits of parallel
compression are if you’ve got something that dynamically changes from
very heavy stuff to kind of light stuff, when it changes between those
different moods the gulf between them is reduced.
When something’s really slamming, the parallel compression channel is
going to make itself very obvious and you’re going to get that really
compressed vibe. We all know what it’s like when you drop a compressor
in on something and you start your wind, you go, “Yes, that sounds
fantastic!” and it’s really tempting to just really crank it.
Of course when you really crank it, you start to lose those transients
and on drums that’s a disaster. Parallel compression can be used to
maintain the transients on your drums but also give it that urgent,
slamming character. Similarly, if the whole track breaks down that
parallel compression is going to ease off.
If it broke down to just high hats or something that parallel
compression will ease off and it will breathe a bit.
Luke: It’s not going to be a dramatic difference.
Anthony: Exactly, it will balance everything out a little bit.
Mainly though, it just sounds really good. It’s a nice, very immediate
sort of sound. By no means is it something that you should only use on
drums. I first became aware of parallel compression being used in
classical music, in orchestral recordings.
Apparently that’s a very popular use for it. You think about an
orchestral recording, it’ll go from really quiet to bang, and you
can’t just slap a big compressor over it because the whole thing would
get squashed. It evens everything out a bit and gives it a sort of
Basically, the main benefit of using parallel compression is to be
able to get the sonic character of something really, really compressed
without losing the transients and the real useful end of stuff. I hope
that explains it.
Luke: I think that’s a pretty good explanation. I better say,
guys if you are experiencing slightly in and out picture, there’s a
couple of technical issues but it should be sorted any second.
I’ve seen a couple of people posting in there. Don’t mind too much
about that, we will get it fixed ASAP. Joe has asked, “Do you use
different attack and release settings when using parallel compression
than you would normally as an insert?”
Anthony: Usually, yes, particularly with drums. If I was just
compressing the drums bus, and remember last week I was saying that I
believe when you use sampled drums from sampled libraries, you don’t
need to slap loads of compression and stuff on because it’s already
been done. But if I’m compressing the drums bus, I’ll keep the attack
fairly slow because I want those transients to still make it through.
With parallel compression, often, I’m approaching it in a different
way and I really want it to sound compressed, I kind of want that
initial when you put a compressor on you go “yes, that sounds so
cool.” I want that so I can mix it with the dry signal, so often I
would use fairly fast attack.
I’m under one millisecond attack. It’s basically saying the dry stuff
can do all of the transient work, all of the transients will poke
through from the dry stuff, but the parallel compression is there to
just be really slammed and mix it in with everything else.
Luke: Okay, I think we’ve got a couple more. GrooveNuts, great
name, has asked “Could this type of compression be used after the mix
down process, or maybe before, or is it more effective after?”
Anthony: It depends whereabouts you’re applying it. On the drum
stuff, I would really want to be doing this in the mix. As you saw,
the way I use the sends I like to have that control. I don’t put
everything in parallel compression if I don’t want to.
Sometimes what you might find, if you slam everything into parallel
compression, if there’s crash cymbals and stuff you’ll kind of notice
them ‘whaaa whaaa’, sort of pumping a little bit, which sometimes is
good but it might not fit with the track.
Sometimes I will use parallel compression on an entire mix, a bit of
it, and that could be in the mix or in the either mastering or pre-
Yes, you could do it, but you need to be aware that when you’re doing
parallel compression on a much bigger section of the mix or the whole
mix, the more stuff that’s going into that parallel compression bus
the more careful you have to be. Again, be careful.
When I say this stuff, it’s not because I’m so great and I’ve never
done it, I say it because I’ve done it all. You crank it and get so
vibed out on it, and then you go home and you listen to the track the
next morning and go “what have I done? I’ve just completely overcooked
Luke: Subtlety. Okay, I think you kind of answered that. De-
influenced asked if parallel compression is to be added only on drums
or the whole track.
Anthony: Could be either. In this instance, at the moment, it’s
just on the drum rack but it totally could be on the whole track.
Luke: Experimenting again, like you spoke about before.
Matthew’s asked “do you have a tip on how much we have to compress
high frequencies like hi hat or snare, the parameters of the
compressor. As soon as I compressed them it gets so snappy it hurts my
Anthony: That sound…well, obviously I’m saying all this without
hearing the sound, but it would depend on the attack. It could be that
you are compressing it with a really fast attack and then turning the
volume up in response and that’s making it really snappy.
As I was saying, this is a really handy thing for me because I can
control the level of the hi. As I did in Live, I turned the send down
on the hats there going into my parallel compression so I can sort of
turn that down.
Again, going back to my hobby horse of watching out for compressing
sampled drums and stuff like that.
It really depends, like if you’re going to compress a hi hat on its
own, does it really need it? This is what I would be thinking, because
if it’s playing the same velocity every time is it really going to
need it? If it’s the same sample played every time.
If it’s a single hi hat hit, there’s just nothing there really to
compress other than the transients. So, I don’t know. Just watch out
for the attack and try putting everything through a bus and
compressing that, rather than the individual sounds.
I mean, with loops that is a whole different kettle of fish because
you can get a lot of exciting stuff going with compression on loops,
because that’s a collection of lots of different sounds that’s already
Luke: Okay, it looks like Harvey has asked again about the whole
mix. There can be occasions where that’s called for.
Anthony: Absolutely. Parallel limiting as well sometimes can work
Luke: Let’s jump back into Live for a second, and keep the
questions going guys and we’ll answer them as we go.
Anthony: No problem. What I’m going to do is show you how I put
this together. I’m going to close up my drum rack which has all the
processing on it and I’m going to use this dry one here. This is kind
of like a standard drum rack, this is kind of like what you would see.
If I just play that we can hear we’ve got the standard drums. It
sounds pretty good, but I want to give it some more life. I haven’t
got any sends within the drum rack, so what I’m going to do first is
come down to this bottom left section of the drum rack and click the R
to bring up the return chains area.
You can see here where it says drop audio effects here. The first
thing I’m going to do is my parallel compression. To do that I’m going
to go up to the devices and I’m going to drag a compressor down into
By the way, you’ve noticed today I’m using all factory plug-ins from
live so anybody who has live should be able to do this. I’ve dropped
that compressor into the return chains area, and as you can see on my
individual channels in the drum rack we’ve now got a send, Send “A”.
What you need to look at on the return chain here is the output of the
return chain, so it’s sending audio to the rack output. So what this
means is the audio of this return chain is contained within the drum
rack, so that will come out with everything else on that main drum
rack fader which is this one here.
Now, you can change that to root to any return tracks you’ve got in
the mixer, so this is how I would create a send in my drum rack that
feeds to my main reverb. If I create a return chain, I right click in
that space there and create a return chain, and I’m going to call that
Now I’ve got a parallel compression return, and this is my external
reverb which I’m going to root out to my reverb which is in the mixer.
That’s Return “A”, which is this one over here which just has the main
whole reverb on it.
What I need to do now is get my drum sounds running into the parallel
compression. To do that I need to use Send “A”, because this is “A”
here. I’m going to do this in a quick and dirty way, basically I’m
just going to go through all of my channels and set them to 0 db. That
just means it will be the same level as what is coming from the fader.
Now, if I play this and I solo my compression bus… this is my
parallel compression bus, I’m going to come down here and I’m really
going to drive that hard. What you’ll notice is if you set your attack
and release quick enough you will actually hear it start to distort.
This is because the attack and release is triggering so quickly, that
if you imagine it like a sawtooth, it is actually physically
distorting it. A little bit of that can be okay. What I’m going to do
as well is I’m going to take out the crash cymbal from that because
that’s kind of getting a bit washy and pumpy.
You see I’ve taken that out, and remember we’re only listening to my
compression bus. I’m going to pull the high hat down a little bit, and
that little disco percussion thing. Mainly I want to concentrate on
the kick and the snare.
I’ve also, I don’t know if you noticed, I’ve got this vinyl hat. It’s
just a little hi hat with a little record scratching, I’ve looped it
up in the sampler, and that just fills everything out a bit. If I take
my parallel compression out, that’s the sort of raw output of the drum
rack. If I put it back in you can already hear how much punch that can
bring into it.
If I go onto my snares here and I use Send “B”, that Send “B” is going
to send it out to the main reverb in my mixer, which probably isn’t
the best reverb for a snare drum but it’s there and we’ve got it going
there. Lastly, on this little bit I will also, let me grab a reverb
and put a reverb in the drum rack. This is something I’ve been doing
in the drum rack that’s got the effects on it.
That one is going to go to the rack output, so on this return here
I’ve got my reverb there, I’m going to make sure that’s 100% wet. This
is something to watch out for, because a lot of the presets in Live
for reverb aren’t set to 100% wet.
Because this is a return, I want it 100% wet because I don’t want any
of the dry signal coming through. It is something that bugs me, I have
to say. I think they should all be 100% wet and you can dial them back
if you need to. I think maybe I’m just a bit old school.
If I run that, and if I now use Send “C”…that’s again, we’ve got our
own little reverb within the drum rack as well. Yes, that’s kind of
how I started to put the whole thing together. All these little bits
to do the return chain, once you do it, it’s obvious.
I honestly found when I was a novice Live user, it was something I
would hit again and again. The drum rack for me was one of the most
exciting bits of Live. I really love the way it’s laid out and so easy
I would get so far with it and I would think “Ah but I really want to
be able to integrate it into the rest of the mixer properly” and it
honestly just took me ages and somebody said “oh, you do this” and as
soon as you open up that return chain area it’s like “oh, okay” and
then it all starts to open up.
Luke: You’re just passing that along.
Anthony: I guess I just want to try and help people kind of think
about using it in a slightly different way. I often see student
projects with six or seven reverbs dropped in on the individual
channels of the drum rack.
It’s like we need to sort that out, let’s rationalize this a little
bit. And often the only reason I see it is because they’re saying “oh,
the CPU’s overloading, my computer’s really struggling.”
Luke: They’re saying “what’s wrong with it?”
Anthony: I have a look, and it’s good because it means I can show
them we can rationalize these all down into one reverb then they get
so much power back.
Luke: I think it’s really going to be quite useful for a lot of
people. We’ve got lots of guys who haven’t used this kind of technique
before, so let’s have a look. ‘Zekeyulah’ has said, “So you send the
instruments you want to the parallel compression bus instead of
dropping compressors on each track?”
Anthony: Yes, absolutely. And the reason I use the send in the drum
rack is because I can control the level of the individual parts that
are going to the parallel compression.There are other ways of doing
this. I mean for example there would be nothing to stop me making a
return track, and this is kind of how I would do a bit of parallel
compression on a whole mix, I might be able to demonstrate that in a
I would make a return track, and then put all of my sends on the
individual tracks in the mixer to 0 so they’re all going the same
level as the faders, and then put a compressor on that and balance
that up as parallel compression for the whole mix.
There’s nothing to stop you doing that on the drum rack. You could do
that outside the drum rack, you could do it inside the drum rack there
and have all the sends to 0, but I like to have that flexibility. Then
you could hear, for example, the crash cymbal doesn’t really need to
get slammed so hard in the parallel compression.
Luke: Kind of pull that back a little.
Anthony: Yes, it’s nice to have that control.
Luke: What would be, to speaking from a novice perspective, the
benefit of using parallel compression on the whole mix?
Anthony: On the whole mix? It’s kind of the same as I was saying
before, really. It’s the differences between the loud passages and the
quiet passages will be smoothed out a little bit but not in as blatant
or as ungainly of a way as if you just slap a compressor across
everything and just leave it running.
That said, I do always compress my mix. I am compressing this mix a
little bit. I do always do it a little bit, but I try to do it quite
One thing about mix bus compression is that really you should mix into
it, but the key is working out the time at which you put the
compressor across the master. The way I tend to work on a mix is, once
I’ve got my drums up and I’ve got an idea of the level that the drums
are going to be at, that gives you a good idea of what the level of
the track is going to be.
Then I drop my compressor on the master, and I carry the mixing into
that. I always try to keep an eye on it that I’m not slamming it too
hard, because if you do a mix and you’ve got automation in the mix and
you do all other effects, and then at the end you go “Oh I’ve finished
my mix, now I’m going to go and put a compressor over it,” that’s
going to change the character. Especially automation.
Luke: Then you’ll have to go back and do it all again.
Anthony: Exactly, so you’ve got to get it in quite early. But yes,
absolutely parallel compression is a valid thing to use in that
instance as well.
Luke: Okay cool. Let’s have a quick look through the chat room.
Okay, funkmasterbuzz has asked “Does it not cause phasing if you don’t
put the compression onto a different setting, iff1 or look-ahead?”
Anthony: This is a good question, this is a really good question.
It can. It depends on, yes indeed it does depend on, which setting you
use. Look-ahead can cause a problem.
Just in case anybody’s wondering, look-ahead is a setting in the
factory compressor in Live, and I think the gates have it as well.
Lots of other software have plug-ins that have look-ahead. It’s
basically, you turn on look-ahead and in here we can say, on pretty
much any of the compressors you’ve got a value of look-ahead, it can
be 0 milliseconds, 1 milliseconds, or 10 milliseconds.
That means it goes ahead in the timeline, and looks at what’s coming
up. Obviously, when you turn on look-ahead that causes a delay
because, if you think about it, if you turn on 10 milliseconds look-
ahead, you have to be hearing everything late for it to work.
It can cause phase problems, I tend to find that I leave it on one
millisecond look-ahead and it seems to be okay, it’s not phasing at
the moment. I will say some devices in Live do cause it more than
others. I was experimenting last night with using the saturate and the
overdrive to kind of do a bit of saturation on everything, and I was
finding that they were causing phase problems.
There’s probably something that they’re doing which, you can get
around it but I just thought I didn’t want to go so insanely deep into
Luke: So with the look-ahead, keep the time very, very short.
Anthony: Yes, if you can keep it on the 1 millisecond setting in my
experience it’s usually fine. This is with the factory compressor in
Live. It does tend to be okay. If you put it on 10 you can get
Luke: Okay cool. Let’s have a quick look. Oh, quite a few coming
in. “Please recommend what compressors in your opinion are best for
drums, for basses, for synths, and for the whole mix? Anything in
Anthony: Wow, okay. Well first off I should say I think the factory
compressor in Live is really, really good. It’s tough because it
doesn’t look very exciting because it’s just a generic device so we
kind of get fooled a little bit into thinking that it isn’t a great
compressor, but I think it’s very good.
Especially when you side chain stuff, everybody knows one of the
genius moves of Ableton was building side chaining so easily into it.
I know when that was first demo’d to me my eyes widened and I thought
“Oh, this is going to make life so much easier.” I think the
compressor in Live is great.
Third party stuff, I’m a huge fan of the IK Multimedia Black 76 which
is IK’s emulation of the UREI 1176. That is a fantastic compressor, I
would use it on everything and I usually do on my tracks. The thing I
like about that, it models the amp stage of the compressor, so even if
you’re not compressing when you turn it on it sounds different, which
is what you want when it’s modeling this bit of analog gear.
One I really do like is “The Glue”, by Cytomic. And ‘Live 9′ is going
to come with that included, they’ve made a new device just called “The
Glue”. It doesn’t use the interface that the third party version uses.
Luke: It’s got Ableton’s own.
Anthony: Exactly. It’s quite nice, they’ve got sort of a VU on it
and the idea behind that is that it’s really good for bus compression,
so for drums or for the whole mix. I think, I believe, that it’s
modeled after an SSL bus compressor that you get in a lot of those big
I know back in the days of using big studios and big analog desks and
having to hire gear in, a lot of the time in the late 90s, early 2000s
clients I was working with would say “we want the SSL bus
compressors.” I would always be on the phone to hire companies saying
have you got an SSL bus compressor because we need one right now.
Like, “It’s 2:00 in the morning and we really need one.” That’s really
good. There’s loads out there, Waves R Compressor I think is really
nice. Honestly, don’t feel like you have to run out and buy stuff
because I think the stuff in Live is great.
Luke: And as you said, Live 9 is going to have that…
Anthony: Yes, that Glue compressor is going to be fantastic. I’m
really excited to try that. They mentioned bass, the Black 76. the IK
one. Unfortunately we’re a bit late, I know last week they were
selling it for about 25 pounds. IK often have specials. Be like me and
be a bit tight, keep an eye on things when they’re cheap.
Luke: Wolfpyroman is back asking another one. “Could parallel
compression make a bass more subby or give it more body?”
Anthony: Yes, it absolutely could. It depends on the character of
the bass that you’re feeding into it. If what you’re finding is that,
say you’ve got a bass sound that is quite full, quite a lot of growl
at the top end, you’ve got quite a lot of sub.
What you might find is that if you think “I like the growl” and you
try to EQ up the growl, but you lose the definition of the sub. Then
you EQ up the sub, but you lose the definition of the growl.
What you could do with parallel compression would be say “OK, let’s
look at how dynamic it is at the bottom end and then split it into two
busses using the technique I’ve got here, and then just treat one
side, wind a bit of top end off it, really hype up the bottom end a
bit and do that pre-compression, that can totally help.
What you can end up with is the sub end being kind of nailed and
really flattened so it’s really consistent while letting the top end
do its thing. Yes, absolutely you can totally do that.
Luke: Okay, very good advice. Let’s have a quick look.
Groovenuts again has asked “How would you mix down the drums after
you’ve finished with them? For example, would you try and glue them
together with the rest of the track via another compressor?”
Anthony: Okay, well I can actually demonstrate that a little bit
here. What I’m going to do is go back to my original one. I’ve shown
you how we made the parallel compression, the external reverb, and the
reverb within the drum rack. I’m going to close that one down and
we’ll go back to the original one, which is the one that had the
effects that I prepared already. Now if we look at the whole drum
rack, I’m just going to hide some of this so it’s easier to see.
This is my drum rack here, and as you can see, yes indeed, I am
compressing it a little bit. I’m using this mixgel setting, which is a
preset in Live that’s quite gently, quite slow. I mean you can wind it
on quite a lot, and it’s got quite a slow release. It’s got over a
You’ve got to be careful you’re not killing the dynamic, but it is
quite nice. And interestingly, I’m using that on the master so
everything is being compressed through that as well. What you’ll
notice, is I try to do lots of little amounts of compression.
On the parallel compression that’s different, I would slam that, but
when I’m doing my compression across the mix or on buses, what I tend
to try to do is a little bit here, a little bit there and everything
kind of sort of starts to get tamed and under control.
As I said, something I keep coming back to, resist the urge to go
crazy with it because it sounds exciting, I know it sounds exciting.
Especially with electronic music like what we’re looking at here, the
transients can get lost and that’s it. Your track is dead.
Somebody will play it on a big system, and if there’s no transient
punch or knock forget it. On the drum rack there, I’ve got the mixgel
compressor and a little bit of EQ because after I’ve done all of my
funny business with parallel compression and the compression I just
thought it needs a little bit of help at the top end. It needs a
little bit of help at the bottom end and in terms of overall balance
and sound that’s pretty good.
If I start to bring in the tambourine there we can see another bit of
related processing I’m doing on the tambourine there, which is two
stages of compression. I’m using the first stage of compression here,
I’ll solo this, I’ll turn off the second one.
Obviously the tambourine, this sample is when it’s the hit on the hand
it’s very loud but the little shook bits are quite quiet, so I’m using
the compression to even out the level between those two bits, to sort
of smooth it out a bit.
Then I’m side chaining it from the drum rack as well, so I’ve already
reduced that dynamic range a little bit and I want it to pump a little
bit based on the drum rack so I can let the drums breathe a bit. Like
I did last week, I’m EQ’ing that down a bit.
Rather than doing it off the kick drum, I’m doing it off the whole
drum rack. You could do it straight off the kick drum, from the drum
rack I could set up a send.
Luke: We’ve actually got a question. AndyStone has asked “How to
side chain whilst using parallel compression, are we using every
single channel with single compression or in a different way?”
Anthony: Okay. I’ll demo what’s going on here, and a different way
of approaching it as well. If I run these clips again, this is just my
drums and tambourine.
This is a side chain on the tambourine, which is being fed by the
entire drum rack which I have EQ’d down so it’s mainly the bottom end
and the snare. But there’s different ways I could approach that.
Let’s say I did just want to side chain it only off the kick drum.
What I’m going to do is go to my drum rack, and I am going to make
another return chain. I’m going to create a return chain and I’m going
to call that side chain. Then what I’m going to do here is make
another return in the mixer, so I’ll make a return track and call that
If I go back into my drum rack here, this is “E”, Send “E”. Let’s say
I just want to send my kick to that, so I’m going to send both sides
of the kick, the top kick and the fat kick. I’m going to send that to
my side chain track in the mixer.
I can see it here, everything’s getting a bit slammed for a minute.
This is my side chain reference here now. If I go to the tambourine
and I set my side chain reference here to the side chain return “C”,
now that is only being side chained by the kick drum from the drum
They were asking, this is just showing you there’s different ways of
doing it. Like I said, often my preference is to use kind of a mix of
the whole drum track for side chaining. It depends, because as I said
last week, a lot of the stuff I tend to do is a bit breakbeatier. I’m
from that background, so even when it’s stuff that’s housey, and it’s
got a lot going on.
I like a lot of percussive stuff going on. If I was doing something
that was a lot more banging, kind of techy, then I would probably
think about just using the kick drum. Or, what I often do, I know the
remix I had up last week, I have a track which is just a kick drum
sample on quarter notes which I’ve just duplicated through the whole
I’ve got that turned down in the mix, but I use that as a sort of side
chain-like key for everything. So that means even if you break down to
a track, say you’ve got a pad I could just feed it a side chain from
that. Even though the kick drum’s not playing it will still pump. So
that’s how I would approach that.
Luke: Cool. We are kind of approaching time, but we’ve got a
question from Zekula who’s asked “Do you always use peak mode for
parallel compression? If so why? What about Opto or RMS?
Anthony: Peak mode usually will be what I would go to because I
want a fast response. Peak mode for me on the Live compressor is
usually the most controllable, the most immediate of the modes. Opto
mode is a lot smoother, so maybe if I didn’t want as punchy of a sound
I would try Opto. RMS, that’s a very different beast because that’s
basically a different way of measuring loudness that’s kind of an
average, rather than peak.
Peak any moment you measure the loudness that is your peak, whereas
RMS is averaged out over a period time. RMS mode is good for
compressing the mix for smooth mellower sort of stuff. I tend to use
peak, but there’s no reason why, particularly Opto, if you have
something where smoothness works, then use Opto.
Luke: Good stuff. Funkmasterbuzz has asked “With parallel
compression, is it better to set the attack to let the snap through
before it gets slammed and just send the snap back into the original
drum track mix?”
Anthony: It is a matter of preference, and my preference is if
we’re dealing with any kind of dance music or rock music, pop music. I
mix a lot of rock music and I use parallel compression when I’m mixing
rock music as well.
Luke: Yes, we talked about that last time.
Anthony: Yes. I use parallel compression on the drums like
absolutely, I couldn’t do it without it, it’s a very modern sound.
What I tend to do is my parallel compression bus won’t just be
compression, it will be really saturated and quite distorted as well.
You can bring it up behind the drum kit and just give it so much life.
That’s the kind of way I work and it’s a similar way in dance music, I
like to let the transients come through from the original drums and my
parallel compression bus I will tend to set with really fast attack so
that the transients get a bit caught by that, because I like to think
of that as my two balances.
Again, it’s all kind of related to drum layering from last week. I
like the top kick to give it the snap and the transient, and the sort
of deep, the fat kick to give it the body. It’s a similar sort of
thing with parallel compression. The dry tracks are going to be my
transient snap and the parallel compression bus is going to be my
Luke: Okay. Just a couple more guys as we are getting to the end
of this session. The [inaudible 48:51] has asked “What is the maximum
value of gain reduction we would allow on the master bus compression,
and is this any different in parallel or normal compression?”
Anthony: It is different. I can’t really put a figure on it,
obviously, it depends on the character of the track, but I would
always err on the side of caution.
With a typical, modern mix in mind I would be aiming to be compressing
by no more than sort of 3 db, 3 or 4 db on the master bus, not a huge
It would be different if I was working in an analog studio with
vintage gear, that’s different because if you’ve got a big old optical
valve compressor on the mix you can really, really [cane] that.
When I’m mixing in the box, not a huge amount. If we look back at our
parallel compression here, this is pretty heavy. I think this is
around 8 db, so that’s quite a lot. You can really, really go for it
with parallel compression.
This question has kind of hit the nub of the issue of parallel
compression, this is what we use it for. We love that compressed
sound, but we want to be able to have that compressed sound and still
have our clarity and punch of the dry sound as well, and this lets us
balance between the two.
Luke: Parallel compression is the tool to balance it then.
Anthony: We all love the sound of compression, our ears compress
stuff naturally anyway. But we always love that kind of sound, Joe
Meek in the 60s, he was one of the first independent record producers.
He had his studio up the road in Holloway.
He almost invented a lot of what we do now in compression. He was
right, he was spot on. People really like that sound, it sounds good.
We want that, we want a bit of that certainly in pop music and rock
music, anything that’s kind of strident and loud we want that. I
wouldn’t expect classical music to be slammed or anything like that.
Luke: You never know.
Anthony: Yes, who knows?
Luke: I guess that’s a pretty good note to end on. Thanks to all
you guys for tuning in, for watching with us today.
If you have any more questions, just post in the comments when the
video’s archived or continue to post now and we’ll do our best to get
through those as well.
Of course, we’ll be back again next week. Same time, Friday 1:00.
That’s it from us.
Make sure you stay tuned to the Facebook page and the blog as well
where you’ll get all the info about Master Classes, Friday Forum
sessions, and course info as well. That’s it from us, just to say a
big thank you to Anthony.
Anthony: Thank you so much, thanks for having me.
Luke: Yes, we’ll see you next week. Thanks for watching.