The Parallel Mix Trick

| Audio Example, Plugins, Tips, Video

There’s a way to get more energy, fatness, and power in your mixes without killing your dynamics or transients.

It involves compression, but not in the way I’ve traditionally used it.

When I saw Andrew Scheps doing this at the NAMM show I instantly knew he was on to something. He calls it the “Rear Buss” I call it the Parallel Mix Trick – but whatever you call it, it’s a useful little move.


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82 Responses to “The Parallel Mix Trick”

  1. Dan

    Second time I see this today, first from David of Mixbus TV and now you! It blew my mind!!! Thax for sharing! I really like how this trick sounds when the compressor is pumping hard (fast attack and release with a high ratio), the effect that you get is more audible, but I know this deppends on the song… the only warning that David gave was: DO NOT EQ!! It can mess with the phase!

    • Allen

      Whatever the nuances or possibilities of over-using this technique, the audio in Graham’s video was the most distinctive and effective result to me of all his mix “tricks”. Thanks for sharing Graham.

  2. Carlo

    Interesting concept but… Am I the only one who thinks that here the vocals are almost shutting down the rest of the instruments? I understand that vocals “has to be in your face” (points of view), but to my ear this is WAY too loud. I would rather pull down the amount of vocals sent to the P Mix buss.
    Yeah, I can tell you guys are singers and want the vocals to be heard way above everything else. It’s not the first time that I see something like one guitar track, one bass track, one keyboard track, and then 15+ vocal tracks. Or, more than half of the tracks in the mixer are vocal tracks. I don’t know, it sounds *slightly* unbalanced, and I’m talking about the arrangement of the song. Like, it’s all about vocals, why even bother to record bass or guitar? lol

    To Dan…EQ? Why not? A linear phase EQ don’t mess with the phase, does it?

    • chasm

      very funny and so true ! haven’t yet checked out the video but so many of the tracks I have come across lately have such a huge bias towards singers like they are God’s gift to mankind, well I like to sing as well but I certainly want a balance. Tangent, It also reminds me how acoustic guitars in Pop rock are usually so buried that they just become a back drop as opposed to an integral part of the groove, which I find offensive being a guitar player and I will make them more prominent.

    • Brutus Tass

      It sounds like the ideal effect for rap, where its all about massaging the ego of the rapper. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

      • Andy

        Not sure about that Brutus. I presume you are a ‘Hip-Hop is not real music type’? I love these. “where its all about massaging the ego of the rapper” well sorry mate but you understand hip-hop about as much as I understand ballet. I make hip-hop beats. I know it’s not ‘real music’ like my 70’s, early 80’s soul 1000LPs plus collection or some half baked band just copying the style of a much better band before them but I would never use Graham’s technique. I’m not gonna go on about what hip-hop is about as you probably will still think it’s not music and I may well think whatever ‘real music’ you are into is either great or a load of rubbish. I am open minded you see and have a wide ranging record collection. I would begins by mixing each drum track and then parallel compress them in a buss and then I would set the levels for the main hook, could be a synth or ‘shock horror’ I may have sampled and looped something from my soul collection, and then mix in the bassline. I won’t carry on so you can indeed get off your soapbox. What incredible groundbreaking ‘real music’ are you into btw?

    • Sasha

      ” I understand that vocals โ€œhas to be in your faceโ€ ”

      No, they don’t.
      I far prefer vocals to sit in the context of the mix; the voice is just another instrument and should be balanced with the other instruments.

  3. Petr

    What a cool trick! Thanks!

    Btw, after adding the P Mix, would you eventually turn up the level of the P Drums a bit to retain your original balance?

    Keep rocking!

  4. Bryan Hoogenboom

    Does this impact your approach to automation, as far as moving components forward and back in the mix that way?

    I like to create the aural effect of the concert visual of feature instruments taking a step forward and toward center as they play a feature, then back to their spot as it wraps up. The panning would stay the same, but this seems like an automatic way to do the volume automation. If so, I’m not sure I dig it. This track doesn’t have a lot solo instruments and fills, and the trick works pretty well. So maybe it’s more genre-niche. I do like the thickness it adds, but agree with others that the balance suffers a bit. No vocal hate here ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m a guitar player, too.

  5. Mojo

    This is a great way to do parallel processing, I do something similar but not as obvious, gonna try this way next time! I do agree with Cairo, this end mix is too vocal forward for my taste, and I’m a vocalist ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Bobby

    I’ve done this once or twice, but after seeing you and a few others talk about this, I decided to add a parallel mix aux to my mix template. The fader’s down on it, but everything’s already set to route through it, and I’ve got a compressor on it ready to rock, so now I have it ready any time I need. ๐Ÿ˜€

  7. Miro Vaz

    Pretty nice but I think that many of well known engineers kind of does that. I read something a long time ago where Brauer uses a “PLUS AUX” with a 1176 too where he sends the instruments that needs MORE on the mix. Kind of the same approach. More average volume on the instruments we need to have more volume and impact.

    Keep Rocking

  8. Mark Kellen

    Cool tip – wondering when in the mix process you would start adding the P Buss as it’s obviously going to change some balances/overall level?

  9. Dave Davis

    Awesome! Gonna go do it right now!
    I’ve already submitted my mix of this song for this month’s Dueling Mixes track, but I’m going to make another mix of it using this mix trick. Very nice ๐Ÿ™‚

    As always, thanks Graham for all the cool things you post… much appreciated!

  10. Voicey

    Carlo, to my ears the words of singers in many professionally mixed songs are difficult to understand, and the voices seem to have been intentionally given second place, whether on studio monitors or cheap speakers. Some singers don’t have very good voices, but even then final clients of songs want to hear the voice as the main instrument. On the contrary, the result towards the end of this video does suit my ears ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Carlo

      I see your point, but I partially disagree that “final clients of songs want to hear the voice as the main instrument”. Voice as the main instrument is a subjective way of hearing music. I get that it’s a popular way of perceiving and feeling a song, but even within this definition the thing is subjective. (see Mojo’s comment)
      Personally I don’t want a main instrument, I want a song. Period. I want to hear the vocals, but I want to hear what else it’s there.

      I heard a song on the radio the other day (Sam Smith, but not quite sure), it was literally all vocals. Faintly, I could hear something behind like drums and bass. I could feel there was *something* following the chords of the song, but I couldn’t tell if it was a guitar or a piano or a kazoo or a trombone. In my humble opinion, a bloody shame of a song.

      Most people don’t care? Probably. I for one do. Especially as a person who likes to produce music and follows an audio blog. End of the rant.

  11. Yobel

    Hi! Nice trick there Graham ๐Ÿ˜€

    Can anybody tell me.please how to do what he has done in the video in Presonus Studio One DAW?? Because I’m new to something like this, and I want to try that trick to my material.


    • Geoff Kabzinski

      I’m a Studio one user too Yobel. I too would like to know how to select “post fader” and “follow main pan” in ST 1 DAW.
      Also I don’t own anything other than stock plugins so can the ST 1 Compressor do the same as the 1176? I guess I might just experiment as Graham said: “Andrew Scheps has a bunch of different compressors in his template and he just picks which one sounds the coolest for…”

  12. Wade

    I’ve seen Mr Scheps respond to the question “Do you use parallel compression?” with “I use it on everything.” And of course, I thought he meant, you know, parallel compression for each track. Now I see that he was speaking quite literally. It’s such an obvious idea that – once again – I feel like a monkey in the opening scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Thanks, Graham!!!

  13. Dave Dwyer

    Hey Graham. Dude…….you gotta stop “Bending my Head” around ๐Ÿ™‚ What a Super Cool technique !

    “Unfortunately”, I just finished Mixing my Solo Guitar Album, ready for Mastering………but now I’m going to have to go back and try this out first on a few of the Tracks ๐Ÿ™

    Thanks for your Fabulous Work as always…….

    Dave Dwyer
    “The Boy from Oz”

  14. Dave

    This is impressive stuff, It’s like a powerful automation tool giving everything it’s own space.

  15. Brian D

    As I recall from the Fly Rasta mix-through sessions, the RearBuss was only setup for instruments/music. Drums and lead vox had their own parallel compression busses. Concept is a cool one regardless how you roll it together.

  16. Martin Weeks

    Thank you Graham. Just tried it in a cautious way on an instrmental I”m working on and KABOOM. Followed your instructions exactly and double checked everything before the fact.

    Brought everything up to the right mastering level at -1.4 for loudness without messing with the limiter settings at all. Actually made things a lot more consistent.

    I see what you were saying about NOT including the drum tracks. Pretty much killed the drums altogether, but that was an easy fix as I used the “Softtube Saturation Knob” (love this little free plugin) and the drums came right back to the correct levels and nice and warm. No distortion, no clipping.

    Saw a post above about seeing the same thing on MixbusTV with David so am heading over there to see what he does and says.

    Best tip all week. Thanks again a whole bunch. The difference was immediate and great.

  17. Ken Bennett

    Very cool. I had a mix once where there were a lot of breaks. The band would stop, then the lead vocal would pick up into the next section. I couldn’t get the bus compression right. The solution turned out be a parallel compressor on just the vocal, another parallel compressor on the rest of the band. The trick was to balance the vocal with the band during the band’s loudest section. Then during the breaks the vocal would ride along at the correct level.

    Not the same situation, but it reminds to work on how things are split out into subs and processed independently before summing. It’s a good place to be creative when things aren’t gelling quite right.

  18. Guy

    I was sitting right there with you Graham at NAMM watching Andrew. I knew he was a heavy user of parallel compression…and it was really cool to see him use it and explain it. I’ve adopted the method myself and love it. Summing out of an SSL Sigma with two mix busses is a real bonus for this type of processing.

  19. Dennis

    Great idea for adding thickness to a mix. BUT … better leave yourself enough headroom on your 2-bus/master output so you aren’t squashing the crap out of your mix and killing all the dynamics. Especially if you start cranking the drums up to match the increased gain from the P Mix bus. If you push your master output to hard and too high, you won’t have much headroom to work with when mastering.

  20. Niedec

    Wow, thisis a great trick. Really simple way to keep a mix dynamic without clogging up your DAW with plugins. Thanks.

    Just tried it on a mix, but instead of sending everything to it but drums, I sent everything but drums and bass. Then I used Audio Damage’s Rough Rider on it. It’s a free VST designed for extreme compression. This is how it behaves:

    I was able to blend that into the mix, and in addition to being more dynamic, it had a bit of distortion and bite that would’ve sounded muddy and overwhelming by itself.

  21. Randy Bulpin

    Graham thanks for the ongoing support you provide to the recording community it is invaluable and appreciated. One quick question is there a video in which you talk about the submix, mix bus and master fader set ups?

  22. paul

    That’s an old trick, used by live engineers.. Personally, I liked it better without the post..

  23. warren love

    Thanks Graham . You make things so clear as usual. Great trick . Personally I like how it brings the vox forward and agree with a previous post that often vocals are mixed too far back. The producer’s decision of course. But of course this “trick” doesn’t just do that. For example how the rhodes has more power and dynamic (what I call ‘interest’} when it has the space to do so in the mix.

  24. Herbert

    Little trick? Major improvement!!! Works great on the mix of the song I am currently working on. I should have known this before, it really is a major enhancement.

  25. John

    I went back to a mix and used this trick, it has made a huge difference to the dynamic energy of the song. Its was not immediately obvious untill I mixed down and A/B it. Now there is more dynamic “energy” to the track. Also it helped to bring out separation and midrange in my instruments when the vocals come in and out. No doubt I will be using this trick on every mix now and will definitely be experimenting with parallel compression on individual tracks more. Thanks for all you do Graham . The difference between this and my previous recordings is night and day and cant believe the results Im getting from my bedroom studio. EQ is my biggest struggle, Glad to be part of the Revolution

  26. Mike

    Interesting that it’s not the usual “hammered with compression” parallel compression. The lower compression ratio and slower release do act more like an automated volume control. I think this would work even better on open, spacious mixes and probably even eliminate a bunch of automation thus saving a bunch of time and tedious finessing! Interesting stuff that I’ll definitely be trying. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I had my eyes opened a little today – it’s not just a.n.other parallel compression video. Thanks Graham.

    • Graham

      Indeed – one of his points was that this reduces his need for a lot of automation. It’s interesting.

  27. David Baker/Cellar Rat Recoding

    Just Tried this on a mix i am working on and WOW! Opened everything up big time. used Fast attack slow release .4:1 ratio (emulating a Neve 33609) Did here a kind of phasey (real word ? prob not ,but you get my drift) thing going on with guitars but, for this song it worked . am going to try playing around with the settings and see what happens.

  28. Don Digital

    Is there any reason why you choose a slow attach and fast release time, most people are making comments about using a fast attack and slow release.

  29. Sidney Thurman

    The video was very informative because I was only applying the PCOMP to the drums. I now know that I should apply it to everything except the drums. Thanks a bunch! There is always something new to learn.

  30. David Newton

    Wonderful tip, one of the most insightful – and another reason I am so glad to have subscribed to The Recording Revolution…shameless plug Graham ๐Ÿ˜‰ This technique is one more grit added to reach a polish. Seems some are overthinking it cuz’ the fader on the Aux track determines the blend. e.g. level of effect. I took all my favorite compressors and set them similarly – enabling each one to hear the difference and character. Waves SSL bus comp., IKM bus comp. IKM BL76, Slate Grey, IKM British channel (not white, and disabled the EQ) – not a comprehensive list, but just wanted to compare colors. Dang if that IKM BC just doesn’t have some magic. Went with that on my current mix which is more ambient. BL76 was more bass heavy (thick), Waves SSL & IKM bus comp were close with the IKM a touch brighter. Slate grey was the most transparent and don’t get me wrong, their stuff is all over my session. Their plugs are SO worth it. Just suggest doing the comp A/B with every application until you’re sure what will work – I am going to add this setup to my template.

  31. Anthony

    Hi! a good tip, that I will try at the first opportunity but it leaves me with a question …
    why is the post fader send on every track and not the mix bus for each group, is it for the panning???

  32. Paul Odiase (The Les Pauls)

    Dear Graham !
    Many thanx !
    Great trick to get more living dynamics into the mix !
    I will try this out this week !
    God bless !

  33. Nirel

    Does this method creates some minor latency/phasing issue?
    and also- when you say send everything but the drums do you mean the busses as well???
    the entire mix is affected by the busses levels.

    • MacINtyre

      Well if every section of the band/mix (git, Vox, pad, FX) is being group routed to their relative sub mix aux/busses then route said instrument submixes (save drums) to a secondary master buss. Don’t worry about a double route from the source….can’t really do that anyway because a master buss simply responds to whatever the final send is that comes from the submix routes. I think you could see it like a secondary or pre-print master buss. Lastly, you could see the default master buss in any DAW as a “non-entity”. Why? Because when you go to print a mix, the DAW might have trouble reading the processing on your master buss. Therefore, route all channels to a new/empty buss and call that one “Master Buss” then route the master buss you created to the default master buss.

      Hope this helps. I know I’m not Graham, but I thought I might be explain

      • Nirel

        Thanx for the info. I wanted to know if i sholud route the busses as well to the compressor?

        • MacINtyre

          I suppose you could…don’t see why not. I think it would depend on the kind of busses and whats on them. It appears as if Graham is NOT routing everything to the PMIX bus…I see he didn’t route the reverb sends to PMIX..those seem to be sitting on their own “zip code”, as it were..

    • Guillaume paillotin

      i ve made a Mixwith the masters session with Andrew Sheps himself. it was so cool by the way, 6 days of mixing with Andrew. changed my life.
      Andrew doesn’t use any busses ( well on a mixtable at least) but prefer use the VCA. so he can control the amount of each track going to the rear buss or any parallel comp.
      Be careful, everything goes to the rear buss except for DRums AND Bass !!!
      On the Daw, it does make a lot of phasing issues !! You have to control it all the time. Better if you have a very precise plug for inversion of phase.( little labs)
      Andrew mix every single track in parallel compression + the rear buss !!! it makes a lot of compressor. and he is gonna send several different instrument to the same comp !! Try this one : Kick snare and Lead vocal to a DBX160 ( parallel comp) it’s awesome because: the DBX has a fine peak at 4.5k, perfect for the kick, and when the vocal and the snare goes together in the DBX, the vocal slighlty push the high frequency of the snare, so the snare never gets in the wy of the lead vocal, and when the vocal stops, the high frequency of the snare comes back , adding lots of groove to the song. It makes like a very smooth sidechain. Try that guys !!

  34. Bill

    This is nice! It kind of makes the sound more 3 dimensional. The voice/ lead sort of jumps out at you. I wonder if it is okay to put a high pass filter on this track?

  35. Todd

    Thanks, Graham! Found this worked well for my unique situation. I only record vocals and mix against pre-recorded, mastered backing tracks. While that may sound much easier to mix, I find it very difficult to get the vocal sounding finished and sitting in the mix when I have no control of any individual instruments, their EQ, nor the overall dynamics of the already compressed accompaniment track. Using this trick seems to have opened up a whole new way for me to control where the vocal sits. Since I have no ability to separate drums, I routed the accompaniment track to an intermediate buss first, where I used a high-pass filter to effectively roll off kick and most of the heavier drum beats. I then routed that buss on to the P Mix with the vox. I compensated for the low end loss of other instruments in the pre-P Mix buss by boosting low end a bit in the tracks sent directly to the main. Not sure that’s exactly how I should do it, but it definitely gave me a controllable improvement.

  36. Tom Flynn

    Thanks Graham for another great trick/tip, really appreciate your time and effort into putting these together.

    Just a quick question, am i right in thinking we are ‘sending’ tracks using the send controls, to the PMIX? Not routing?

    E.g – using the send knobs in ableton to send the sound to the pmix?


  37. Andro

    Graham thank you very very much!!!
    One question – is there a reason that you put sends on all the individual tracks (sans drums) rather than just on the busses in yellow (marked BASS, INST, VOX, RAP)? Would that have given you the same effect, with a bit less work? Or am I missing something?

    • Guillaume paillotin

      To Andro even if the question isn’t asked to me !
      sending from all the individual track allow you to control the amount of every track in that parallel comp ! for example, if you send all the track of your drum in a stereo parallel comp, it could be very cool on snare and kick and would be a way too much on cymbals for example. so you keep it that way forkick and snare and lower it down from the cymbals.
      try add several parallel comp !( not for the rear buss ) that’s the way to the holy Graal of a very rich sound, full of tone, cause that’s what does parallel comp, it enhances the tone of each track !! and that’s cooool !! and the result is that you have a mix between a very natural sound from the original track + effect of comp in parallel. it ‘s both natural and compressed !!! so never use a comp on the original track.

      • Guillaume paillotin

        In fact, that’s the way of using comp as eq !!
        you can use several comp in parallel on a vocal, one which is going to enhance the low (LA2A for example), one for the middle range (1176 is perfect ), and you can add an aural exciter for very high frequencies !! you have to still hear the natural sound of the original track to make a good mix with the parallel comp ! don’t push the parallel too hard, check the phase !!!!
        lot’s of experiencing to do but that’s a very good way for mixing every style of music !!

  38. Mike Dower

    Boss little trick.. To all the wierdos with no chill.. These are not rules.. They are helpful techniques.. Bitches need to learn to do something without straight copying what they see others do.. Experiment.. Find what you feel is right.. Experiment again.. eat your greens.. Don’t vote Tory.. It’s just music..

  39. MacINtyre


    Good stuff as always !
    : )

    An insightful soul up here pointed out the possibility of running into phase problems when SEND-ing out to the PMIX bus. In your video, that doesn’t appear to be an issue.. How are you compensating for it ? Are you just blending in the return level underneath a certain threshold ?



    • Graham

      If you have delay compensation in your DAW I don’t think there is an issue.


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