Future Music - - FEATURE -

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.

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