5 Combinations of Effects for Parallel Processing
Like many post-2010 audio engineers, I love parallel processing. Parallel compression, parallel EQ, parallel distortion, parallel universes — as long as it’s parallel I’m all about it.
If you don’t know by now, parallel processing means running a duplicate of a channel or a duplicate return channel and processing that duplicate differently than the original “dry” signal. The effected duplicate is then blended back in underneath the original.
Here’s a few new takes on some parallel processing techniques I’ve been using as of late.
1. Parallel Compression + EQ
Parallel compression is awesome. But one thing I’ve noticed as of late is that sometimes I’ll get the perfect “squeeze” but the result will be a less than ideal tone. Specifically I’ll find that the signal will start to get midrangey. I’ve taken to EQ’ing the parallel return to rebalance the tone of the signal before blending it back in.
Bonus points: I’ll usually use a linear phase EQ to do this because it has the most transparent affect overall.
Favorite uses: Vocals, but anything where I want to preserve the tone of the dry signal but alter the “fullness” of it.
2. Parallel Distortion + EQ
The same idea applies to distortion. Sometimes I want to really break up a signal — like super hard, but the resulting distortion creates an unappealing EQ curve. Specifically, I’ll find that the signal will start to get too bright.
I’ve taken to EQ’ing the parallel return … wait … this is the same sentence as above … ok, you get the idea.
Bonus points: minimal phase EQ is fine here, the phase coherency is already out of whack from the distortion.
Favorite uses: Drums. So much goodness. Also, Bass. Because bass + distortion = happiness.
3. Parallel Chorusing + Compression
When I want something to feel wider, but still maintain it’s mono fold and central image, I’ll usually reach for a chorusing effect. And I tend to do this in parallel rather than use a wet/dry knob on an insert (mostly for workflow here).
I’ve found that putting a little squeeze on the chorus return can actually add some subtle but useful presence and texture to a signal. And depending on how the compressor is linked it can also create some interesting movement of the image across the stereo field.
Favorite uses: Guitars. Acoustic, electric. Vocals too from time to time.
4. Parallel EQ + Compression
Wait, didn’t we already do this one? Well, no, this is different. In this technique I’ll over-EQ a signal in parallel and then compress it. And I will do this additively, like boosting the bejeezus out of the low end on a kick or snare and then compressing it, giving it a weighty sustain. Or I’ll do it all subtractive-like, such as filtering all the lows and low-mids out of a vocal and compressing that to give the vocal a consistent “sheen” and presence.
Favorite uses: Kick, snare, vocals … really anything that just needs something to be more tonally consistent.
5. Parallel Everything + The Kitchen Sink
Sometimes it’s fun to just go nuts. Parallel chorus, EQ, compress, throw a little reverb on there as an insert, stereo widen that, add a little tube-saturation, some eye of newt … you get the idea.
The sky is the limit and I’ll find myself concocting some pretty wild parallel returns.
It phases, it flanges, it does your taxes. I couldn’t begin to list all the possibilities, but if you ever run into something that just needs more zing, duplicate that track, and go to town.
Bonus: Parallel Pitch Shifting
This is a fun one I’ll do on pop vocals from time to time. I’ll pitch a vocal (usually at a cadence) up a fifth or an octave. I’ll throw on reverb as an insert, and I’ll tuck it down to where you don’t really hear it as a separate voice.
Adding this kind of harmonic can make a certain phrase feel very big, or step out of the speakers a little bit. And it will give the melody line a little extra movement. Sometimes tying in a flanger or pitch correction can be fun for this effect as well.
Anyways, those are five favorite parallel techniques I’ve been experimenting with lately with a great deal of success.
Take these ideas, apply as warranted.
One other quick tip: these techniques tend to work best when you have a very “clean” signal — so take care of all your corrective EQ before applying your parallel magic.
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