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  • Distortion as a non-guitar effect...

    Hey all,

    I was reading about how distortion is used by producers in small amounts to give certain elements more presence. It might be a vocal, a drum, etc.

    Any thoughts on how you have done this with your own tracks?

    Any suggestions on plugins? I have my eye on Fabfilter Saturn and perhaps AudioThing's Vinyl Strip (which does more than just distortion).

    I do a decent amount of electronic music, and the overdrive and distortion plugins with Cubase 6.5 are not fantastic.

    Thanks in advance.

    Todd
    144 dB
    Just Finished: Condensation
    Working on: They Live, We Groove
    Main Axes: Kawai MP11 and Kurzweil PC361

  • #2
    It's a very common technique. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that a good percentage of what people "like" about the sound of analog tape is the slight distortion it can add.

    **********

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    "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

    - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

    "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

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    • #3
      Distortion sounds great with bass. Makes it stand out, and "toughens" it up. Also works great with kick drums and some synth sounds. My favorite type is multiband distortion, the sound is more nuanced.
      CHECK IT OUT: Lilianna!, my latest song, is now streamable from YouTube.

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      • AlamoJoe
        AlamoJoe commented
        Editing a comment
        As in a Quadrafuzz? ;(

      • Mats Nermark
        Mats Nermark commented
        Editing a comment
        When I was using Cubase, I used Quadrafuzz all the time. SInce leaving Cubase I have not found a suitable substitute. Does anyone have a suggestion?

        Cheers,

        Mats N

    • #4
      It definitely works well with bass guitars. Geddy Lee and Chris Squire, anyone?

      I've used it on my vocals in the past. Not sure it entirely worked, but that's more a comment on my stupidity...

      works | smoke | forum

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      • #5
        Didn't the Aphex Aural Exciter do that to a degree? I've still got one...All I know is it makes most things stand out a bit more.
        I seem to remember David Torn being an advocate of the use of distortion on vocal tracks..

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        • #6
          I've used a touch of distortion during live performances on piano and sax leads (from running my guitar synth thru the guitar amp dirty channel). Very effective at cutting through the mix, but must be used sparingly to avoid listener fatigue. I often blend these with the guitar pickup sound to get a sort of hybrid sound, but just for a lead break. Definitely not continuously...

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          • #7
            Originally posted by AlamoJoe View Post
            Didn't the Aphex Aural Exciter do that to a degree? I've still got one...All I know is it makes most things stand out a bit more.
            I seem to remember David Torn being an advocate of the use of distortion on vocal tracks..
            The Aural Exciter added 2nd harmonic distortion. In its day, it was used on just about every pop record released, just like AutoTune, in its day.

            Acoustic instruments are designed to blend with other acoustic instruments and - if they're good instruments, arranged and played well - they blend well together and there's no reason to make one artificially stand out. Same with singers. But the sound of James Brown is the sound of Scotch 111 tape being driven into saturation (the tape and the transformers, NOT the toobs).
            --
            "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
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            • #8
              I like hitting a hardware unit such as a tube mic preamp (I use the Peavey VMP-2), Neve Portico in "Silk Mode", or the FMR RNLA compressor a little harder during tracking. I use this largely with drum overheads or with bass, as I love the presence and/or girth it gives, and prefer it to plugins.

              For vocals, I use the latter two for girth if appropriate. You don't really listen to the vocal and say, "Oh hey, it's distorted". This is not NIN-style distortion at all. It adds girth and fatness in a beautiful way.

              If I decide after the fact to use some distortion, I'll use something like a Scheps 73 or SansAmp plugin or patch the RNLA in and add it that way.
              Ken Lee on 500px / Ken's Photo Store / Ken Lee Photography Facebook Website / Blueberry Buddha Studios / Ajanta Palace Houseboat - Kashmir / Hotel Green View - Kashmir / Eleven Shadows website / Ken Lee Photography Blog / Akai 12-track tape transfers / MY NEW ALBUM! The Mercury Seven

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              • #9
                Originally posted by UstadKhanAli View Post
                I like hitting a hardware unit such as a tube mic preamp (I use the Peavey VMP-2)
                Another VMP-2 fan! Yeah, that was a cool little box.

                CHECK IT OUT: Lilianna!, my latest song, is now streamable from YouTube.

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                • #11
                  i like adding a touch to my flute now and then... and ive found an auto wah and some delay on a mic’ed up hang will allow a convincing illusion of the mellotron in zeps, no quarter...
                  Last edited by Voltan; 12-29-2017, 09:06 AM.
                  Originally posted by isaac42;n32240445

                  Voltan is correct.

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                  • #12
                    Originally posted by 144dB View Post
                    Hey all,

                    I was reading about how distortion is used by producers in small amounts to give certain elements more presence. It might be a vocal, a drum, etc.

                    Any thoughts on how you have done this with your own tracks?

                    Any suggestions on plugins? I have my eye on Fabfilter Saturn and perhaps AudioThing's Vinyl Strip (which does more than just distortion).

                    I do a decent amount of electronic music, and the overdrive and distortion plugins with Cubase 6.5 are not fantastic.

                    Thanks in advance.

                    Todd
                    These are my top 3 when I need saturation/distortion:

                    1) Soundtoys Decapitator (The decapitator is probably the tastiest of the bunch. Sounds great on bass, drums, and lead vocals.)

                    2) Klanghelm IVGI (This one is FREE so its the best bang for the buck... works nicely on bass, drums, and vocals as well.)

                    3) Preamp-1 (This is a Digital Performer stock plug in which I love. It really can sound nasty, as in, "That`s too much distortion!" but if you put it in the subtle setting, it really sounds good on vocals. I use this a lot on my own vocals. I have a pretty clean voice so to add a little dirt to it, this is my go to.)

                    There are a bunch of other plugs I use as well but those are my first 3 choices.

                    If I`m looking to add some saturation to drums or the mix, I turn to the Waves J37 or the UAD Studer A800.

                    Back in the day, to get some bite on my bass tracks, the ART Tube MP was my go to... the best sounding $50 box I`ve ever used.
                    Last edited by Ernest Buckley; 12-29-2017, 08:59 AM.

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                    • #13
                      Originally posted by Ernest Buckley View Post

                      Back in the day, to get some bite on my bass tracks, the ART Tube MP was my go to... the best sounding $50 box I`ve ever used.
                      Wasn't that the unit that won a shootout in Sound on Sound when blind-tested against preamps costing much more?

                      CHECK IT OUT: Lilianna!, my latest song, is now streamable from YouTube.

                      Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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                      • #14
                        Not quite related to recording, but when playing the sax, I'll use my larynx to create distortion. It's controllable (with practice) and it's somewhere between a hum and clearing of the throat.

                        Heaver distortion is done with 'flutter tongue' and both can be combined.

                        I'm more of a live performer than a recorder. I let the guys in the fish tank worry about that. (they think I'm in the fish tank).

                        Notes
                        Bob "Notes" Norton
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                        • #15
                          Sausage fattener. It works on pretty much anything. Cheap, sounds good. Includes tough sausage face.

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