How to “Parallel Uncompress” a Snare Drum in the Mix


Hey, folks! Matthew Weiss here —,

I’m going to show you a really cool little easy technique. This one is pertaining to a rock record, but it could pertain to any kind of record; any style you might be working on. It’s very cool, and just for funsies, I’m going to call it parallel uncompression.

What does that mean? Okay, well in this particular example, I have a bunch of drums, and they are going to a drum buss. That’s fairly common, I think. I’m going to solo them, and I’m going to play them.

[drums play]

Sounds yummy.

And, on this drum buss, we have some parallel compression. We have some distortion, we have some compression, and it’s set to, like, 15/85 on the wet-to-dry-ometer.

However, that said, just because 15 to 85 doesn’t seem like a particularly strong ratio, it’s actually quite noticable.

So, here’s before, then after.

[drums before and after parallel compression]

So, you can pretty easily hear some of the effect that it’s having. On the one hand, it’s pulling a little bit on the overall sound and creating a nice little tension and a little bit of a release groove going on, bringing out some of the reverb.

It’s also rounding out some of the overall leading edge of the kick, and also the snare. Now, on the kick, I think that it really benefits from rounding that out. On the snare, I think I’m losing a little bit of punch.

But, sometimes we reach these points where we have to make compromises, and ultimately it sounds better with the compression than without, to my ear.

However, there is a way that I can have my cake and eat it too. That is simply by creating a send on the snare track, and just routing it right out channel one and two.

So, here is before.

[drums before parallel compression]


[drums after parallel compression]

I’m going to exaggerate that real quick.

[drums, parallel compression]

So, what it’s doing is it’s sending out an uncompressed version of the snare out of the main outputs, so it’s going around the drum buss. This can be pretty effective, because the way that this compression is setup, is that it is reacting to the kick and the snare, which means that in order to get the right sort of feel of the groove of the attack and release, I need to have a set amount of snare going to it.

If I start adjusting that level, then I’m going to start getting different levels of compression, and different kinds of feel and curve, and I’ve sort of got it where I like it.

So this is a way to get more snare into the overall mix without rounding out the leading edge, and without having to change my compression settings all around in order to do it.

So, it’s parallel uncompression. Use it as you see fit.

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch:
Smiley face
  • Randon Nelson

    I find myself setting up a parallel compression chain by using a separate aux for my par compression and my drum buss; using sends on each track sending as much as I want of that track to the parallel compression aux and watching how much db reduction happens from the kick and snare and adjusting the sends to make then even or to taste. Any advantage to your technique over mine?