Ronan Macdonald talks analogue-style distortion
Having previously served as Editor of drummer’s bible Rhythm as well as Computer
Music, Ronan is clearly the right man for this particular gig. He’s been playing drums for over 30 years and making music with computers since the 90s. Drums and distortion go hand in hand, particularly in the electronic music arena, where drum machines and sampled sounds very often benefit from the application of analogue saturation and/or digital quality reduction. Although the immediate implication of the word ‘distortion’ might be the intense, super aggressive overdrive employed by rock guitarists, the technique has far more to offer than just that, bringing life, energy and weight to any sound when applied with a less heavy-handed approach.
There are many types of distortion effects plugins available, from analogue-modelling preamps, waveshapers and tape emulations, to guitar amps, clippers and bitcrushers, each offering its own sonic characteristics and features – this month’s software giveaway, Inferno CM, is a magnificent example that’s now yours for free (see p58 for details). Like Inferno CM, most distortion effects are very easy to use, with the all-important input gain and/or drive controls being your first (and possibly only) ports of call.
In this and next issue’s tutorials, I’ll walk you through various ways of distorting drums, both the kit as a whole and individual elements within it. This month we look at analogue-style distortion – tube preamps, tape, etc – before addressing digital alternatives next month.