How to Use Parallel Compression in FL Studio

In the email I sent you, we covered what parallel compression is and how it works. Parallel compression is useful for making things stand out in your mix. It will work for pretty much anything, but it’s commonly used on 808s, vocals, bass synths, and drums. Now, let’s get to work and figure out how we can apply this technique.

Again, if you aren’t familiar with compression and why we use it, I highly suggest reading this article first. I also suggest getting a look at how the Mixer works as a prerequisite. Go ahead and fire up FL Studio and we’ll get started.

Download .flp File

Step 1: Create a Bus

A bus is basically a single Mixer track that contains multiple signals from several other Mixer tracks. They’re useful for adding the same effect to multiple signals, for example reverb, or in our case, compression. We can also control the gain fader, stereo separation, panning, and other Mixer track parameters for an entire group of instruments or sounds by sending them all to a single bus and then changing the bus’ parameters.

In this example, we’re going to be applying parallel compression to a drum/percussion bus. We first need to make sure all of our drum elements have their own mixer track. Then, we’ll route each one to a single Mixer track called the Drum Bus, and un-route each of them from the Master bus. I made a short drum loop consisting of claps, shakers, hi-hats, a snare, and some percussive elements that we’ll apply parallel compression to.

drum loop sequencer mixer

Make sure each element has its own Mixer track. The number to the left of each channel in the Step Sequencer is the Mixer track it’s routed to. Click to zoom.

I like to exclude the kick from parallel compression because I usually apply separate processing to it on it’s own track. Now, route each one to a blank Mixer track, and name it Drum Bus.

  1. Select the track to be routed
  2. right-click on your Drum Bus input arrow
  3. Click “Route to this track only”

You can do this quickly by using the ⇐ and ⇒ arrow keys on your keyboard to cycle through the selected Mixer tracks.

drum bus routing

Use Left and Right arrow keys to cycle through Mixer tracks.

Step 2: Route Drum Bus to Wet & Dry Drums

Now, we have everything except the kick being sent to the Drum Bus and the Drum Bus only. Next up, we need to split the Drum Bus into two identical signals and send them to their own  Tracks. One is called Wet Drums. This is the one we will apply heavy compression to. The other is called Dry Drums, which we’ll leave alone.

  1. Name the next two empty Mixer tracks Wet Drums and Dry Drums
  2. Route the Drum Bus to both Wet Drums and Dry Drums
  3. Un-route the Drum Bus from the Master bus
wet dry routing

Now we have two parallel signals that contain the entirety of our drum loop, minus the kick.

Step 3: Route Wet & Dry Drums to Parallel Drums

Next, we need to send Wet Drums and Dry Drums to the next blank Mixer track. Name it Parallel Drums. This adds the heavily compressed wet signal to the uncompressed dry signal.

  1. Route Wet Drums to Parallel Drums
  2. Route Dry Drums to Parallel Drums
  3. Un-route Wet Drums from Master bus
  4. Un-route Dry Drums from Master bus

Now both signals are combined with each other in the Parallel Drums bus.

Step 4: Adding Compression

Next, we need to squash the living daylights out of the Wet Drums signal. A add a Fruity Limiter to Wet Drums and open it up so we can change the settings.

Compressor Settings

Open up the Fruity Limiter in the Wet Drums Mixer track. You can toggle the waveform speed by scrolling inside the compressor window.

  1. Change mode from LIMIT to COMP
  2. Drop the threshold THRESH down to -24 to -26 dB
  3. Turn the RATIO all the way up
  4. Make sure the attack knob ATT is at 0

Congrats, you’ve successfully used parallel compression! Try toggling the mute button on the Wet Drums Mixer track to see what a difference it makes. The drums sound louder and punchier because we doubled up on the quieter parts of the signal. Magical.

Let’s look at what else we can do to maximize the effects of parallel compression.

Step 5: Add Linear Phase EQ

We can also add an EQ to the Wet Drums bus to boost some of the highs and lows. There is one thing we need to remember, though – make sure to use a linear phase EQ plugin. A linear phase EQ alters the phases of each frequency by the same amount as the EQ is applied.

This ensures that when the signals are added back together, the phases are aligned. If you don’t use a linear phase EQ, you can end up “smearing” the transients of your drums. They’ll sound blurry and off instead of tight and crisp.

Another thing to consider is the latency that linear phase EQs tend to add. This can also result in smeared and blurry drums. To get around this, we need to use a latency compensated EQ preset in Fruity Convolver.

  1. Add Fruity Convolver to Wet Drums
  2. Click Presets on the top right of Fruity Convolver window
  3. Select the “Linear phase EQ (short compensated)” preset
  4. In the EQ, create a high shelf to boost highs
    1. Select the “Double curve” shape mode for the right control point (right-click)
    2. Add a control point in the middle (right-click)
    3. Toggle the lateral position of the middle control point to control the shelf filter cutoff frequency (click & drag)

You can be pretty aggressive with the EQ here because if you remember, the signal has already been compressed considerably. Usually, you’d also want to add a low shelf to boost the low-end too.

But since I leave my kick out, there really isn’t much low-end energy in this signal. Therefore, I only boosted my highs. Try toggling Convolver on and off to see what kind of difference it makes. It should sound crisp and loud, just what we’re after. Let’s look at what else we can do to make our drums and percussion sound even better.

 Step 6: Add Reverb to the Parallel Drums

Next, we can add some reverb to the final Parallel Drums bus. This can add space and depth to your drums, and takes things to the next level. We can use Fruity Reeverb 2 for some nice reverberation effects.

  1. Add Fruity Reeverb 2 to the Parallel Drums bus
  2. Drop WET down to around 28%
  3. Check the TEMPO button
  4. Turn DELAY knob to the 2nd snap point (2.00)
  5. Turn SIZE knob to 6
  6. Turn DEC knob to 1.0 sec

fruity reeverb 2 settings

You can hear the delay subtly coming through. For an even more subtle effect, lower the WET slider some more. Try toggling the SEP (stereo separation knob) and room size to see if you get something that sounds interesting. Basically you want to experiment to see what’s right for you and what works for your mix. Use your ears!

Wrap Up

That’s it for this lesson. As we can see, parallel compression is a powerful tool and the pros use it all the time to bring life to just about anything. Try it on your vocals or basslines next time and see what happens. And most importantly, do what sounds right to you. Everyone will have differences in their track, so learning how to use parallel compression effectively for each situation may take some practice and tweaking. Keep grinding! See you next time.

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