FUN WITH DRUM DISTORTION
In their raw states, drum machine sounds can sound rather wimpy within a modern production. Luckily, it’s easy to add harmonics and beef with a healthy application of saturation or distortion. At subtle levels, a bit of drive will keep the original character intact, but will add the required weight and colour – electronic beats just sound ‘right’ when distorted. For more retro applications, analogue preamps or drive stages will bring out low-level noise and dull everything a touch to remove digital harshness and spikiness. And at the extreme end of the spectrum, completely obliterating drum machine hits and loops with strong digital distortion or overdrive will transform them into pumping, breathing blocks of flavour and noise.
For a more customisable ‘3D’ effect, mix this distortion in parallel to fill in missing gaps in the frequency and dynamic spectrum. Guitar amps are particularly good for this task, providing an extreme ‘bloat’ and push that’s too much in one go, but provides character in subtle doses. And don’t forget harsh digital distortion and bitcrushing, that can ruin other more finessed elements of a mix, but give that fizz you need for sterile hi-hats and claps.
Keeping with our hardware theme for this feature, you can’t go far wrong with guitar distortion pedals or outboard drive units. Listen to our audio examples to hear the tasty effect of Moogerfooger drive stages; get tweaking with Elektron’s Analog Heat; or coat beats in the perfect combo of insane filtering and distortion with the famous Sherman Filterbank. In the software realm, try more characterful distortion plugins such as NI’s Driver, iZotope Trash 2 or FabFilter Saturn: the former is great for overdriven weirdness, while the latter two provide multiband options for supreme customisation and shaping.