Coined by the legendary Bobby Owsinski in his 1999 Mixing Engineer’s Handbook, the New York City Compression Trick (or “NYC Drum Trick” as its known colloquially) is a trick used by many New York mixing engineers around that time, the late ’90s, and before.
Once you try this trick it’s hard to imagine not using it on every song. This technique will fatten up the rhythm section and make your mix rock socks in almost every case. So, we’ll go over this trick step by step here.
Parallel Compression, but More
At first glance, the trick is simply a parallel compression technique. But Bobby himself has pointed out that the real NYC compression trick has a little more to it. But first, what is parallel compression?
Parallel compression is a pretty simple concept. Take a track — could be drums, could be vocals, could be anything really — and either duplicate it or send it to an additional buss using an auxiliary send. This will give you two versions of the track.
Next, put a compressor on the duplicate. Compress aggressively. Now fade that compressed duplicate in to mix and combine with the original. The result is a fatter, more robust sound, but one that hasn’t lost the transient character of the original. This technique is often used for vocals, drums, bass, and even sometimes mastering.
That’s the heart of the NYC Drum Trick; but that’s not the end of it.
+ Read more on Flypaper: “Mix Buss Compression Made Easy.”
How to Achieve the “NYC Drum Trick”
Now that we defined parallel compression, let’s lay out the step-by-step for the actual NYC Drum Trick itself.
- Route all your drums to a second buss (call it “NYC” or something).
- Add a compressor to the NYC buss.
- Aggressively compress using a ratio of 8:1 to 12:1, or more.
- Use a relatively fast attack and a decently slow release.
- Set the threshold to aim for around 10 dB of gain reduction.
- Bring up the make-up gain to compensate.
- Add an EQ after the compressor.
- Add a low shelf around 100 Hz and boost that around 3 dB.
- Add a high shelf around 10 kHz and boost that around 3 dB.
- Route the bass track to the NYC buss using an aux send to control how much you send.
- Fade in the bass send to taste.
- Bring the NYC buss fader down all the way.
- Listen to the track and fade in the NYC buss fader until you’ve fattened the track to your taste.
And that’s it! The addition of the EQ and the bass send is what turns a generic parallel drum compressor into the true NYC Drum Trick which has made so many East Coast records so fat.
Some Tips for Tweaking It
And if you’re looking to spice things up a bit, here are a few tips for tweaking the trick to suit your needs even more.
- You don’t have to send all the drums. You could send just kick and snare or kick/snare and toms.
- Use aux sends to send a little less of some of the drums to the NYC buss.
- Sometimes the bass is already so fat that adding the bass gets to be too much. You could keep that out — it wouldn’t be the “real” NYC Trick then, but who cares?
- Sometimes is works better to parallel compress the bass separately.
- Adjust the post compressor EQ. Maybe a little more or less lows and highs, or a cut or two at some ugly frequencies.
- Use the same trick on other instruments.
Well, it’s time to try it out I think.
Tweak as you need to (always use your ears), and have fun with your new fat beats!
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