All Aboard the Phat Bus! 🚌

So you’ve learned the in’s and out’s of parallel compression and you’re ready to take it to the next level? Or maybe you’re just getting started with parallel processing and you’d like to see what could be done when pushed to the max.

Either way, the “Fat Fader” trick is one that can be applied to almost any track, and is frequently used by some of the biggest producers and engineers in our industry.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

Start With Your Normal Processing

There’s no reason to change your mixing strategy to accommodate the Fat Fader trick. Everything that you’d normally do to treat your drums, bass, guitars, vocals & everything in between can still be applied.

The reason for this is just as much for consistency as it is for effectiveness. When mixing, you should be striving for a consistent, even sound. We don’t want to automate in more of our Fat Fader audio just to find that it sounds completely out of place with the rest of the mix.

By following your traditional mix approach and “sweetening” it with this trick, you’ll be better able to manage its effectiveness when applied.

Pre-Fader & Unity Gain

As your preparing your tracks for parallel processing using this technique, there are two things you’ll need to focus on: pre-fader & unity gain.

You’ll want to send all of the instruments being processed on the Fat Fader bus to their own aux track. When doing this, be sure to set the Send to “pre-fader” (in most DAWs, this can be accomplished by right clicking on the Send and selecting it from a menu).

Combining the pre-fader setting with unity gain (0.0 dB) we’re further eliminating any natural mixing from affecting our parallel processing.

Most mixers will apply some amount of automation to their tracks to avoid a static, dull sounding mix. By removing the fader from the equation, your Fat Fader can be operated independently.

Crush It 

Once you’ve got all of the sends you’d like to include routed to the Fat Fader, it’s time to crush it.

Find your favorite aggressive limiter – for this to work best you’ll need something with a fast attack, plenty of color and something that sweetens the low end a bit (after all, we’re not looking for “fatness” in our higher frequencies).

Our go-to limiter for this trick is Finality, and for good reason – it’s got an Aggro & Color switch built right into it.

On top of that, the Look Ahead feature is a great little tool when trying to add a bit more speed to the attack of the limiter.

Blending It In

As you’ll immediately hear when listening to this effect, it’s an aggressive, crushed tone. It’s not something you’ll want to mix in at full volume, but something that should be blended to taste.

As Fluff describes in his walkthrough of the technique, it’s something to fatten up the sparse parts of a song like a soft bridge in an otherwise fast-paced song:

The Fat Fader trick is one that should be used as needed to enhance your song - a slight variation from traditional parallel compression, which might get used for the entirety of the song.

How Could You Use This Trick?

Are the wheels in your head already turning on how you could use this technique? Would you approach it on just the snare, kick & bass like Fluff did, or would you add something else to the mix?

Share your thoughts with us over on the Joey Sturgis Tones Forum and let us know how you plan to use the Fat Fader trick on your next session.