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Tips for Using Parallel Tape on Drums in a Mix

Hey folks, Matthew Weiss here —,

I’m going to show you a little technique here that I’m using on this record, and it’s one that I use fairly commonly, not super often, because it’s sort of specific as to what I want it for, but it’s a nice little technique for fattening up some drum sounds with a little twist to it. So I’m going to give it a play here.


Alright, nice little drum sound, but let’s say I want to thicken it up a little bit. So what I’m going to do is bring in this parallel return here, and what I have on it is the VTM Tape. So I’m going to bring it in, and then I’m going to break down what’s going on.


So this is a very exaggerated version, because I want you to hear what’s happening. When we talk about thickening up drum sounds, a lot of times we’ll talk about parallel compression or parallel distortion, but this is a unique combination of both where I’m hitting a virtual tape machine very hard, but there’s a little bit of something interesting going on. I want you to listen to the top end. Really listen to the hats and the cymbals, and you’ll hear something very strange, but also kind of cool.


You hear this weird, phasey, flangey thing going on, and that’s because in the tape emulation itself, there’s a setting called “Wow.” Wow refers to an angular mismatch in a playback device, and we’ll most often times hear it on like, a really old record player, where the angling either of the actual vinyl that we’re playing back, or the angle of the setting itself is not uniform, so it’s not perfectly level. That angular change causes pitch modulation to occur. Now, in a tape machine, this will also occur as well, however, most tape machines are very, very, carefully, very, very, carefully calibrated, and you’ll get less than 0.01% of pitch modulation.

However, in this particular case, I want the pitch modulation, so under settings here, I’ve turned the wow and flutter all the way up to 100%. So we’re getting that complete modulation, and alone, it sounds like this.

[drums, modulated]

Now, what you notice is that you don’t really hear it, because even at 100%, it’s a very subtle amount of pitch modulation. It’s only when you bring it into something that isn’t modulated that you get that sort of phasey effect.


And there it’s like, really, really distinct. So the reason why I sometimes like this is because if done in a subtler way, it creates that sort of fuzzy, hazy kind of textural quality that we sometimes like in drums when we want them to sound really especially analog sounding, for lack of a better word.

So sometimes we want something to sound like it was done on a cheap tape machine or something like that, and this is a way to exaggerate that. So within these settings, I’m also doing a couple of other things besides the wow that I think is worth pointing out. What I’m going to do is I’m going to turn this down to about 50%, then I’m also going to explain what’s going on between the wet and the dry, and why I like this for thickening up a drum sound in general.

So here’s our original drum sound.

[drums, dry]

Then here it is going into the tape machine.


[drums, to tape]

And you’ll notice two things. It’s one, a lot more focused on the low end, and two, it sounds a lot more compressed. So the way I have this setup is I’m hitting the input a lot more hard.


I want a little bit of distortion, a little bit of breakup, I want it to be a little fuzzy, and I want it to really like, have that compression effect, and I’m also choosing settings over here that help exaggerate that.

Rather than using the cleaner half inch setting, I’m using the slightly dirtier two inch setting, rather than using the cleaner FG-9 setting, I’m using the slightly more mid-range exaggerated FG-456 setting, and then I’m using the 15-inch per second, which is a little darker, and then I’m using a low bias. Both of those things are going to center the frequency curve closer to the low end rather than the high end. If I change these out, for example…

[drums, adjusting tape settings]

Completely changes the frequency curve to what I’m trying to do. Remember, I’m trying to thicken this up and give it a little bit more body, so I want to focus into that low end. If I wanted some excitement into the top end, I’d probably do something different. I’d probably hit the high bias, 30 inches per second, maybe go to the FG-9.


Right? We get a whole lot more top end doing it that way.

So those are the settings that I setup that way. I changed the wow back to 50%, and then what I’m going to do is blend it in parallel with the original signal.

[drums, blending in parallel]

Then depending on how distinct I want that phasing effect in the top end, then I might adjust this wow and flutter here.


If I want it to sound like it’s coming in through an old board or dirtier gear, I might have it all the way up, and that can be fun. So I’ll do that for things where I want a vibier sound, like some styles of Reggae, if it’s meant to be more like, throwback Dance Hall, Indie Rock, I might do something like that. Certain styles of Backpack Hip Hop I might do that, there are a lot of reasons why I might do that, but it’s just a little interesting technique that I wanted to show you guys.

Alright, so if you go to, you’ll find a whole bunch of one-hour segments that are all dedicated toward drum recording — or drum mixing, rather — there’s one on mixing acoustic drums, there’s one on drum compression, there’s a couple other drum ones in there, and then there’s also a whole bunch of workshops on unrelated things that are all really, really good information, and stuff you can learn a lot from, so I want you to go over there and check that out, and if you see anything that looks like it could sort of help out whatever you’re doing, click that buy button.

Anyway, if you dig this video, and you dig what I’m doing, don’t forget to hit that like button, hit that subscribe button, and I will catch you next time.


Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch:

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