Future Music

Distortion and saturation in the mix

Add glue and power to a mix with the ‘increased harmonic footprint’ given by saturation and distortion


01 >

We start with a tense, underscore track made from five elements. The first is a modified bass sequence from Zebra 2. A second Zebra sequence provides slow, pulsing movement, whilst a third provides a pitched, background tap. We’re also using two sounds from Spitfire Audio’s Albion Neo – a low pedal string part and a Segla synth texture.

02 >

We start with the bass sequence. We want some overtones to glue this sound to the rest of the mix. We add SoundToys’ Decapitato­r, roll out low end and set the tone balance a little towards ‘Bright’, before setting drive to taste. The mix dial is automated to introduce a balance between the dry and wet signals after four bars.

03 >

For the slow pulse, we create a parallel distortion treatment by adding FXpansion’s Maul to an auxiliary bus. We find a Dirty Bass Distortion preset which works well, but tweak the low band to avoid overloadin­g the bottom end. We automate the auxiliary return level so the volume of the distortion musically follows the track. 04 >

To the pitched taps, we add SoundToys’ Devil-Loc Audio Level Destroyer plugin. We dial in a lot of Crush and a little Crunch and automate the mix dial so that the amount varies throughout. This gives the taps a ‘screaming’ quality which helps give the track edge and creates more enriching overtones too. 05 >

Low strings always respond well to saturation and, with extreme settings, can almost be reimagined as new instrument­s. We add an extreme Decapitato­r setting, with huge amounts of drive, before using mix dial automation to ride the amount of this throughout. At times, we hear a sound more like a distorted guitar. 06

The synth ‘cloud’ which appears in the second half is getting lost. We want it to ‘bloom’ out of the low string part, so we find and modify a preset called Tigress from iZotope’s Trash 2 plugin. This provides fizzy, high-end distortion, to which we add delay. The whole mix is so much thicker now.

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