A touch of distortion and saturation can be the difference between a flat and uninspiring mix and one that leaps out of your speakers with dimension and energy.
In my view, the concept of distortion is often misunderstood and underutilized in the context of mixing. For some reason, there are many “purists” who categorize various techniques and equipment as either “good” or “bad,” often based on technical rather than artistic considerations.
To these individuals, distortion is often perceived as something that is “bad.” So, if you have some reservations about the topic, I don’t blame you. However, I want to change your perception.
Distortion occurs, and it has been a part of audio history. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why we love what we hear. Have you ever heard about engineers who appreciate the sound that tubes impart to their signal? Or those who enjoy the warmth of a two-inch tape? What they’re describing is the distortion they enjoy hearing.
Controlled saturation or subtle distortion can sometimes be applied to certain frequency ranges to introduce harmonics and warmth, adding perceived brightness without causing harshness.
Distortion can be thought of as an enrichment of harmonics!
Harmonics are the components of a sound that define its timbre. They are what make the same note sound different on a piano, a guitar, and a trumpet.
By using distortion as an enhancer, we can highlight instrument characteristics to play within a psychoacoustic framework. This allows us to make the bass sound rich even on small speakers, such as those on a cell phone, for example. Or we can extend the decay perception of a reverb without increasing the volume.
We can achieve different dimensions and textures with various forms of distortion. Try using different saturations and distortions on individual tracks, subgroups, and your master fader. Often, the equalization and compression needed afterward will be more creative, meaning less corrective.
In the upcoming blog posts, I’ll share some ways I use distortion in my mixes and how a touch of saturation at each stage achieves cohesion among all the tracks in the mix.
I also recommend subscribing to the Song Mix Master for more mixing, mastering, and production tips and tools. As a token of appreciation, I’ll provide you with a drum sample library I’ve worked on during many productions, which I believe will enhance your sound.
If you need us to mix or master a song for you, upload your audio files and get a completely free demo.