Parallel compression using the Andrew Scheps “rear bus” technique is powerful. As Scheps put it, “It’s like the song starts to mix itself.” In addition to that, the push and pull of the individual tracks adds excitement when done well.
Last night I discovered a REALLY EASY way to set up this technique in Reaper.
Normally you would send all your instruments and vocals (except bass & drums) to an aux compressor the way you would set up a reverb aux. Then you squash this rear bus with a dual mono LR dual compressor and mix it back in starting at -6dB plus or minus to taste.
Reaper has track folders, though, and track folders function as busses. I recommend setting up your folders to ‘indent’ if they aren’t set up that way already. This gives you a structural view at a glance of how your submixes are routed. You can have folders in folders, and you instantly see the hierarchy. (Once you experience this structure you’ll never go back to old school routing where all submixes are on the same level.)
So in Reaper, you’d make a “rear bus” track and then drag all your instruments and vocals into it. (Not bass or drums.)
On this “rear bus” folder I used Scheps Omni Channel for its “duo” compression and simple mix knob. With the rear bus technique you want a dual-mono compressor so things panned to one side don’t trigger the other.
With the compression slammed, then I just tune the “mix” knob until the balance is right… Then I adjusted the attack & release on the compressor until the feel was right.
Suddenly my mix was tight and energetic thanks to the rear bus compression… but that’s not all:
To really bring it all together I used Waves NLS. Once you know NLS well, it’s easy to use. With a single hotkey I applied NLS Channel to every selected track and it automatically increments the channel preset. (So track 1 is preset 1, track 2 is preset 2, etc. This is critical for NLS to do its thing.)
You may notice that everything defaults to Group 1 in NLS. This lets you quickly control ALL the NLS channels at once. Add the NLS Bus plugin to your master bus and from there you can choose the console and adjust level & saturation until it sounds amazing.
With NLS you get all the benefits of individual channel variation based on the real channels of any of three modeled consoles (SSL, EMI, Neve.)
You can get really complex with NLS, but it’s FAST if you use it the way I just described.
This combination of Scheps’s rear bus parallel compression technique plus Waves NLS is incredible. You get a thick, tight, energetic mix with added interest from the individual channel variation in NLS.
PS #1: I’m going to try RS124 for the rear bus compression next. It’s a coloring compressor that offers dual channel mono (duo) and a mix knob so it should be great for this.
PS #2: On your master bus – follow NLS Bus with Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain and L1+ Ultramaximizer anniversary edition as a TruePeak limiter. All this together will add up to make your song sound “like a record” if your song is good and recorded well to begin with, and you get the settings right.
PS #3: For added fun with your Waves plugins, use Waves J37 on your individual tracks and then Kramer Master Tape on your master bus. Keep the settings minimal because this is going to add additional coloration to what NLS is doing… This kind of stuff can really add a subtle magic that makes your song “gel together.”