In the vastness of music production mixing techniques, there are fads and there are timeless treasures. A fad may be all the rage for a short time in a specific genre, but a “fad mix” will surely sound dated when the fad passes. Unfortunately, it is common for the subsequently dated mix to be ridiculed, cast out of the cool crowd, and made the subject of many cruel jokes and clever memes. However, timeless treasures are applicable and valued in many genres, and will remain pleasing and good regardless of age.
Bolstering your repertoire of techniques with ageless wonders will make you increasingly versatile and efficient. One such technique is called parallel processing. From kick drums to vocals, from alt-rock to yodeling, parallel processing has a place, and that place is to unlock more flexible control over attack, sustain, harmonics, and more.
Copy? Over and Out
The concept of parallel processing is routinely overcomplicated. If you understand the idea of parallel lines, which you do, you won’t have any trouble. Imagine two identical, vertical lines side by side; they’re parallel. Now imagine two identical tracks side by side in your mixer; they’re parallel, too! So, the parallel part is easy, but what about the processing? Typically you process the initially-identical tracks differently—with compression, distortion, reverb, etc.—then mix them together. Okay, that sounds fun, but how do you get two identical tracks from a single source? Basically, you copy it. This can be done in a handful of ways, depending on your DAW and workflow preferences, but the two most popular methods are right near universally available.
Although the aux send method is more complex, it does offer benefits. If you’re working with ten tracks of drums, it would be far from ideal to create ten more tracks of drums, which would quickly consume precious real estate and CPU resources. Running out of processing power is a slippery slope to downtrodden thoughts and misplaced rage. Instead of doing that, you could use an aux send on each of the drum tracks, which would allow you to send copies of all ten drum tracks to a single channel/track. One new track versus ten new tracks. Hmm, I think the math can speak for itself here.
Due to the usefulness of parallel processing, an ever-increasing number of plug-ins are popping up with basic integration of it. How? The humble and greatly-lauded Dry/Wet (a.k.a Mix) control. It adjusts the balance between the original “dry” signal and the processed “wet” signal.