One of the many uses of disortion

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deeplink
Posts: 117
Joined: 08 Jul 2020
Location: Dubai

Post 08 Oct 2020

Had a light bulb moment last night, and subsequently changed the way I thought of distortion and its use.
Perhaps the below story will give you some insight, or perhaps you don't agree and would like to share your view.
  • As a note, what came to mind when thinking of distortion - is the classic distorted electrical guitar, or hardstyle kick. In general, using distortion to get that distortion sound.
  • On another note, working in SOLO if find if I like a synth sound and then add distortion to it, what I originally like about it completely falls away (usually the lower frequencies and its character) and I am left with something that does not resemeble what I enjoyed in the first place.
  • So basically, distortion isnt something I tend to go towards.
At a some point during my production -last night i hit a brickwall. I had a kick, bass, atmosphere, hihats and kicks. Right, time for the synth parts. But unfortunately nothing 'fit' in. Synths felt either too loud, or too soft or just didnt gel well with what i had so far. "Is it my synth devices or patches that are all shitty or is the rest of my mix shitty?". So as a last resort I decicded to randomly adjust and add things. First I put distortion on the hihat buss - namely the 'distortion' setting on the Scream4 (the most gentle out of all them, besides tape mode - I think). Suddenly these hihats just glued together nicely. Bizarre. Okay, what about the atmosphere? Let me put some distortion on the atmosphere. Bang, they pop out quite nicely.

Soon enough I put a little amount of distortion on everything. And when finally looking for a synth part, I just had some distortion on that too - suddenly i had TOO many options for a synth part.

Funny thing is, if you solo the track you can probably here some distortion in each of the channel, but all together its not that noticable (i hope!) - and the whole mix seems to open up more / get more life. It no longer sounds weak or far away.

I wonder if others have considered the above, already do this. Perhaps there's a better way to go about it? Would love to hear your input.
  • TL;DR - Didn't quite like distortion. Now I think I may use distortion on everything, with the idea that it opens the mix up/gives it life and helps sounds sit with each other while at the same you can barely notice any distortion has actually been applied. Atleast not that classic 'hard distortion' sound.

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miscend
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Post 08 Oct 2020

Yes that's a very effective method for getting tracks to sit well together. You can also achieve glue and cohesion by layering subtle amounts of noise to each track.

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aeox
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Post 08 Oct 2020

Saturation :thumbs_up:

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Loque
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Post 08 Oct 2020

Yep, glueing works. I just found out too, that it works nice on hihats. Can give some more presence and soften some spikes/transients.
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selig
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Post 08 Oct 2020

This makes me think of two things.
One is that I often remind myself no one at home has a solo button. So it doesn't matter how it sounds in solo. First time in a pro studio as assistant engineer I was quite surprised to hear what the individual tracks actually sounded like when soloed, and it wasn't what I expected - great first lesson in the studio!
The other is (shameless self promotion, the Selig ColoringEQ was specifically designed for this) the idea that a little saturation/distortion, when added in parallel and when the spectrum can be easily controlled, can go a LONG way to bringing your mix together. Not that it's the ONLY way to achieve this effect, but the keys for me to keeping from loosing low end or just sounding distorted was to add saturation in parallel and to control which frequencies are being saturated. :)

So it turns out we are "dirty" engineers…[explanation: long ago my friends at Blackbird Rentals (audio rentals in Nashville) told me the first thing they do when suggesting gear is to determine if the engineer is a "clean" engineer or a "dirty" engineer - they don't suggest clean gear to a dirty engineers, and vice versa! They said making that one determination has reduced returns on rented gear that didn't meet expectations, go figure! So color me "dirty".]
Selig Audio, LLC

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Boombastix
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Post 08 Oct 2020

When adding saturation or distortion as a track enhancer the following is paramount:
* LP and HP filtering of original signal.
* Wet/Dry mix knob.

Then it is just a matter of dialing in the levels to taste and try different algorithms.
Heavy compression of the pre-distorted sound is very useful too.
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deeplink
Posts: 117
Joined: 08 Jul 2020
Location: Dubai

Post 12 Oct 2020

Boombastix wrote:
08 Oct 2020
When adding saturation or distortion as a track enhancer the following is paramount:
* LP and HP filtering of original signal.
* Wet/Dry mix knob.

Then it is just a matter of dialing in the levels to taste and try different algorithms.
Heavy compression of the pre-distorted sound is very useful too.
How would you best achieve a wet/dry knob?
- Split the audio into seperate dry and wet chains and then use say Morphin Crossfader?
- OR use the distortion on an Aux Send/Return?

Doesn't some of the Scream4 algorithms cause phase cancellation or comb filtering when applying both dry and wet signals together?

PhillipOrdonez
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Post 12 Oct 2020

Overdrive on hats is pretty standard.

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