006 – distorting reality

Continuing on with the theme from last week, let’s dive into some distortion. This is another incredibly important aspect of sound design and mixing.

When used to excess, distortion and saturation can be used to create entirely new sounds. This. for me, is where waveshapers and convolvers come in. These are distortion plugins that allow the user to determine how they want the original sound to be distorted. Ableton has some of this functionality built into Saturator, and other included effects are useful for certain sounds, but I usually go for the sheer control and power of iZotope’s Trash 2. This particular software allows for extraordinarily specific control of what type of distortion you would like, and where you want it. If you haven’t yet explored Trash 2, it will absolutely help you up your distortion game.

Trash allows you to distort your sound with customisable waveshapers, as well as a convolving effect, some resonant filter banks, a few delay models, and a very nice sounding compressor. Ableton has some of these capabilities built into the stock plugins as well. By shaping the way the original wave is processed, the output levels, distortion areas, and added frequency content is all adjustable. Interesting effects can also be created by adjusting any of these parameters in time.

When used to excess, distortion often sounds absolutely terrible. When used in proper amounts, and with the proper setting as adjusted for the sound and the particular effect desired, it will really improve how your tracks sound and feel. What works for you is entirely dependent on style and how you like to work. I do most of my mixing as I compose, so my use of distortion tools is built into my creative process. Experiment with what you like, and try all sorts of plugins for different sounding distortion. Combining multiple effects, whether that is in series or parallel, can be used to make all sorts of wonderfully thick and gritty sounds only you can make. Sounds don’t have to be clean to sound great.

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