The drums in your track are the foundation for your song.
They play an important role in conveying the emotions that you are trying to capture through your song. This makes it a top priority for you to mix your drums in a way that is powerful and impactful.
But how do you add this weight, punch, and power to your drums?
In this article, I am going to go over how you can apply the New York compression technique to any of your drum tracks to create a more impactful and emotional song.
What is New York Compression?
To understand what New York compression is, we must first understand what parallel compression is.
And if you’re totally new to compression as a whole, check out this article.
Parallel compression is the process of sending a dry audio signal to a heavily compressed signal and having these two signals play at the same time or in parallel. Parallel compression is a great way to add depth to any audio signal while preserving the transients of the audio.
New York compression is a form of parallel compression. What makes New York compression unique is how we set up the compressor, which we will cover later in this article.
Applying New York Compression
The goal of New York compression is to bring out the quieter parts of your mix without having to destroy the dynamic range of the audio that it is on. Having a compression technique that thickens up your audio without destroying transients makes it the perfect technique to use on your drums as they need to retain the punch, power, and transients.
There are multiple ways to set up your New York compression routing, but I like to use a return/send track to accomplish this. The first step is to send your drum track or group of drum tracks to a return/send in your DAW.
If you are needing assistance setting up return/send tracks, please consult your DAW’s manual. Once you have sent your drums audio to a return/send track, place a compressor on this channel. Any compressor will work here. To set up New York compression all the controls you will need to change the ratio, attack, release, and threshold which most compressors will have.
The first parameter we are going to adjust is the ratio. The ratio is the strength of the compressor.
Remember, New York compression involves a heavy amount of compression and will be more compression than you would ever want to use directly on an audio signal that is not a return/send track.
Knowing this, we are going to crank the ratio all the way up to 10 to 1. This is going to make the compressors grip on the audio very strong.
Next, we are going to adjust the attack of the compressor. We want the compressor to add weight and body to the entire compressed signal, so we will want the compressor to start compressing immediately.
To do this, we will adjust the attack to be as your compressor will allow you to. Having this fast attack will destroy the transients of this audio, but this is okay as we have the uncompressed signal that will be providing these transients.
Next is the release control. The release control tells the compressor when to release its grip on the audio. We want our compressed signal to be heavily compressed but have a bit of life to it so we will place a 50 millisecond release on it. This will allow the compressor to reduce the compression enough to give the sound just enough dynamics so it does not flatten out the entire signal.
Finally we will adjust the threshold. To set the threshold correctly, you will need to listen to your audio and then make adjustments. Again, the idea with this compression is to heavily compress your audio signal.
When adjusting the threshold, look to gain reduce around 15 – 25 dB. This will require the threshold to be rather low around the -30 dB mark.
After we have set all of these controls on the compressor, it is time to blend in this processed channel with the unprocessed channel. Begin with the volume fader of the compressed signal all the way down. Then slowly bring up the audio of the compressed signal while listening to both audio tracks. A little goes a long way here, so once you start to hear the compressed signal, you have blended the signals together well enough.
There you have it!
You have just added New York compression to your drum track and have thickened up your drums.
New York compression is an incredibly powerful technique for adding weight and power to your sounds. The drums in your music require this weight and power and the mixing in your tracks must reflect this. By applying the steps outlined above, you can add this form of parallel compression to your drums and make them stand out in the mix.
Daniel is a caffeine-dependent entrepreneur, music producer, sound design junkie, and world traveler crazy about teaching modern electronic music production through his site SoundShock.