Parallel compression (or the New York compression trick) is a technique used to compress an audio track while avoiding squashing the attack/dynamics. This is a quick guide of how to use it to breathe some life into a drum kit!
Here’s the original un-compressed drum track:
Firstly, send the tracks you desire to be compressed to an auxiliary track via a bus (as shown below).
Then, add compression to the auxiliary track. This means the original un-compressed track plays alongside the compressed track. The original attack of the louder peaks are retained, but the quieter parts are subtly (or not so subtly, depending how the compression is applied) raised. Here’s the compression I used below, all buttons in so pretty extreme!
This technique can give a drum kit a sort of breathing sound, really livening up a dull sounding kit. Here’s the drum track blending the compressed signal with the original drum take:
If you can’t quite tell the difference, here it is changing between the two:
(I’ve been quite subtle with blending in the compressed track here, but this was done to taste. Experiment with different attack and release times as well as threshold and ratio to achieve the sound you want!)
Pro tip: As well as compressing an auxiliary track, you can try adding other effects such as distortion or saturation. Blend them in with the dry track to add character to instruments like bass guitar or synths!