Layering Vocals using Parallel Compression

Parallel compression techniques for layering vocals to achieve a big and dynamic sound.


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In music production producers will use an Old School technique which came about out of NY called parallel compression or New York Compression.

Parallel or NY Compression

The idea is very simple: you take a vocal line, copy it onto another channel in your DAW, heavily compress it and mix it with the original channel. The thinking is that the original unprocessed vocal acts as an anchor to keep the vocals in check whereas the parallel or copy is used for heavy processing or ‘colour’. The two mixed together will give a big thick sound. HOWEVER, this is not the only way to create a parallel copy. You can use the auxiliary feature in your DAW and send the vocals to that in varying amounts. It is the same procedure as setting up an effects send/return in your DAW. I tend not to use auxiliaries for parallel processing for the simple fact that any process I apply to the original vocals is copied across to the auxiliary channel.

Although most compressors come with a Mix feature which in effect mixes the original signal with the processed one and thus is termed as parallel it is not the same as running two separate channels of the same audio. We might need to apply additional processing to either channel without one interfering with the other.

Parallel compression is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to parallel processing. Basses, drums, vocals and so on can all benefit from this wonderful powerful technique.

In the video I show you how to set up for parallel processing and in particular how to use NY Compression. I show you each and every step of this wonderful process.

Plugin used in this video:

Boz Digital Manic Compressor

Topics covered in this video are:

  • Advantage and Disadvantages of working in Parallel
  • Smearing and Summing
  • Level Matching Gains
  • Source and Destination Targets
  • Parallel Compression and Phase
  • Working with Styles
  • Dry to Wet Mix