When To Parallel Process Your Bass

Parallel processing in nothing new to engineers and producers. It’s a technique that’s been used on countless records; sometimes it’s used on the room mics or overheads, other times it’s using on individual instruments. The most common form of parallel processing is parallel compression, where you send signal to an Aux track (bus) and compress that signal, while leaving the original track routed to the output.

Why Use Parallel Processing?

For engineers and producers, parallel processing is a simple and efficient way to drastically process the dynamics of their audio while still leaving the impact of the performance intact. Think of it as getting the best of both worlds.

On the main track(s), you’ve got full control over the nuances of an instrument. All of your small EQ tweaks, automation & anything else you’ve inserted on the channel has its own space. You can go through and mix your entire track this way and get it to sound good, but how do you get it to pack a punch without overwhelming everything with compression?

This is where your parallel track can step in to save the day.

Your sends to the parallel track can be set to pre- or post-fader, meaning it’s up to your discretion whether you’d rather process the unaltered source audio, or process the mixed, automated signal that you’re already working on.

I tend to lean toward the pre-fader signal, simply because any adjustments I make to the track after adding my parallel processing won’t affect how those processors act on the signal. That’s not to say there’s no benefit to doing it the other way: post-fader means you’re getting an exact copy of the main track (plugins, automation, and all).

Trust your ears to be your guide – if you find yourself continuously going back to adjust the plugins on the parallel bus, flipping over to a pre-fader workflow is just a click of a button.

The Benefits for Bass?

Bass instruments are some of the most dynamic elements of a mix. The lower the frequency, the harder it is for listeners to hear changes and variations. For audio professionals, this usually means a fair amount of compression or limiting to begin with. So why would we parallel process our bass?

By parallel processing your bass, you’re able to focus on specific parts of the bass’ performance while retaining one coherent instrument. Rather than fighting your EQ for clarity and punch, what if you could achieve the same thing with a separate aux chain? How about a great, dynamic performance? Instead of stifling it with a limiter, try leaving your main track alone, heavily compress the aux track, and then mix it in underneath your main track.

Your result should be something punchy and impactful with the full dynamic range you loved to begin with.

Getting Creative with Bass Processing

There are so many different dynamic processors available today that it would be a waste not to experiment with them a bit.

Try different tools in parallel to see how they change your sound. Plugins with a Mix knob give you some built-in parallel control (bypassing the parallel bus altogether). For an example of how parallel clipping can fill out your bass guitar, check out Fluff using JST Clip on In the Studio with JST:

Have Your Own Parallel Chain?

Come share it with us! We’re suckers for a good signal chain, and parallel processing is one of the easiest ways to get crazy with dynamics.

Join the parallel processing conversation over on the Joey Sturgis Tones Forum and show us what you’ve got!