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Author Topic: Creative Distortion  (Read 2605 times)

Scott Helmke

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Re: Creative Distortion
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2021, 08:44:31 am »

Analog was a series of many, tiny non-linear things all going on at once in an analogue device, whether deliberate or simply the luck of component tolerances and age.  Now we spend a lot of time recreating those things because we miss them.  For whatever reasons.

Something a very wise older musician once told me:
"People know what they like, and they like what they know".
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Matthias McCready

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Re: Creative Distortion
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2021, 11:11:47 am »

There is a guitarist I really enjoy working with, who has toured with some large bands, his playing is brilliant, and I have never met another guitarist who can produce the sounds this guy can. Anyways we were talking pedals one time, specifically we were talking about an Electro Harmonix Hog, which is a harmonic synthesizer. I was expressing frustration that its tracking was not truly polyphonic and that it had weird glitches; and he turned to me and said "that is my favorite part of that pedal and why it is so fun to use."

Perspective shift.  :)

Today we have really clean sounding gear; which is incredible, and I know a lot of engineers have worked hard to make this possible, but clean is not always what is wanted for everything. We have a choice these days, for some things pristine is important, and for others it is boring.

I think there really is place for preamp emulation/distortion/drive on certain things (please note I do not understand the craze with ground hum or hiss  :o ).

As a recovering drummer, I think some level of saturation or distortion really makes a kit feel like a kit. When you are next to kit (small jazz club excluded) it is big, bombastic, and loud. If you stand next to it without earplugs (I don't recommend that!) your ears will probably be overloaded to an extent. So a little bit of dirt somewhere in a kit can help a kit feel more natural at quieter volume in a mix.

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The best way to learn? Play with some plugins and options.

If you are on a DAW I really love the KUSH Omega series plugs (they are affordable too). In the right place(s) they can really make a mix more musical, I wish I could use these live!

In Waves land (what I assume you might have access too?) the saturation in Scheps Omni Channel can work well, or the NLS is cool. NLS has 32 channels of 3 different consoles, and it does some interesting drive, EQ, and compression.

I know Waves has a lot of newer fuzz/saturation plugs, which I own with my personal rig, but work doesn't have so I haven't dove in too much, at home I prefer the KUSH ones anyways.

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I assume you already know this, but I will state it anyway. As almost all saturation/drive plugins add gobs of gain it is always important to trim down after the plugin so that the volumes (in/out) are the same, this way having it "IN" doesn't just sound better because it is louder.

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Some fun places to use saturation:

Electric Guitars: Something like the scheps Omni Channel is a very effective tool. The saturation (50% odd) can add a little. The 2x Dessers are REALLY useful for grabbing those frequencies which tend to pop out on a guitars.

Bass: A drive channel can be fun. At work I have my normal bass channel (clean and good), and a drive channel which is DIRTY (in the chain it has metal zone, a guitar amp, and finally some dynamic EQ to mitigate some of the less pleasant aspects). I do not use this channel all of the time, or even a lot when I do use it. However for the right song, it adds a lot of top end detail/clarity to the bass, and that can help it to stick out in the mix better.

Drums: adding saturation to a snare, or a bit to a whole. My favorite thing for the past year has been dirty hat mic. To the point for overheads I usually use KSM-32's live. For the hit they provide plenty of sparkle/detail. If I am wanting anything more it is some body/chunk from the hats. Some drive here can thicken things up, and compress very heavily. By the time I am done it is basically a dirty room mic. It provides chunky hats and adds some feel to the kit. This is a fader that is usually not at unity, I often use it sparingly, or if a song dictates.

Rhodes/Organ: Yes :-)

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Matthias
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Alex Cheng

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Re: Creative Distortion
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2021, 12:59:17 pm »

Today we have really clean sounding gear; which is incredible, and I know a lot of engineers have worked hard to make this possible, but clean is not always what is wanted for everything. We have a choice these days, for some things pristine is important, and for others it is boring.


IMO a clean mix can sound good, and a dirty mix can sound good. However...a mix that blends the two, or dynamically shifts from song to song (or moment to moment)? Even better. If RF has taught us anything, diversity in audio is a good thing :)
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Matthew Knischewsky

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Re: Creative Distortion
« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2021, 12:01:36 am »

I debated whether to put this here or the Basement; my apologies if I've picked wrong.

Does anyone have any good resources or suggestions for learning about the intentional use of distortion (transformers, tube preamps, tape saturation, etc.) in live audio?

My impression is that most of the people mixing Bands You've Heard Of are employing distortion as an artistic choice (from plugins all the way up to the three large transformers that live in the doghouse of Scovill's personal S6L) and I'd like to learn more.

(Note: in an effort to head off the inevitable, I want to acknowledge up front that this sort of thing is absolutely the fondant on the icing on the cake. It will not fix a bad mix or bad P.A. or a bad room. Etc.)

Thanks!

-Russ

In the bad old days we were trying to reduce distortion through the audio chain from microphone to speakers. But then when enough distortion was gone it turned out that some people wanted it back. So now that we have a more linear system we have to spend more time/money to dirty it back up. Audio is such a strange business.

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Russell Ault

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Re: Creative Distortion
« Reply #14 on: May 19, 2021, 12:58:58 am »

In the bad old days we were trying to reduce distortion through the audio chain from microphone to speakers. But then when enough distortion was gone it turned out that some people wanted it back. So now that we have a more linear system we have to spend more time/money to dirty it back up. Audio is such a strange business.

Strange, perhaps, but not unique. Still photography, for example, has being going through almost exactly the same process (and on a very similar timeline). At least now when we "dirty it back up" we get to choose what kind of dirt we're applying.

-Russ
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Art Welter

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Re: Creative Distortion
« Reply #15 on: May 19, 2021, 07:32:36 pm »

Still photography, for example, has being going through almost exactly the same process (and on a very similar timeline). At least now when we "dirty it back up" we get to choose what kind of dirt we're applying.

-Russ
Once you have learned what the various types of dirt are:

https://reverb.com/news/what-are-the-different-types-of-distortion-basic-pro-audio-concepts

The best way to learn what they do sound like is to run various individual and collective sources through the dirt, and see how it makes them sound.
The vast increases in digital processing speed and memory have allowed (good) emulations of just about any distortion produced in "classic" devices.
Most of the favored "classics" had series combinations of many different distortions- it helps to first identify what the individual dirt does to the sound.

Using sine waves and a spectrum analyzer can help associate the sound of the dirt (getting way synesthesiac now..) with a visual representation that may make it easier to remember (or learn) what a particular type of distortion does to various waveforms at different amplitudes.

Art
 

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John Roberts {JR}

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Re: Creative Distortion
« Reply #16 on: May 19, 2021, 08:58:10 pm »

It may come down to whether you are reinforcing the sound from a performance, or performing (making artistic changes to the sound).

Modern big dog digital consoles used for SR can execute many of the same studio effects, so the line may get smeared, figure out which side of the line you are on. What does the paying customer want.

JR
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Russell Ault

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Re: Creative Distortion
« Reply #17 on: May 19, 2021, 10:12:32 pm »

Once you have learned what the various types of dirt are:

https://reverb.com/news/what-are-the-different-types-of-distortion-basic-pro-audio-concepts

The best way to learn what they do sound like is to run various individual and collective sources through the dirt, and see how it makes them sound.
The vast increases in digital processing speed and memory have allowed (good) emulations of just about any distortion produced in "classic" devices.
Most of the favored "classics" had series combinations of many different distortions- it helps to first identify what the individual dirt does to the sound.

Using sine waves and a spectrum analyzer can help associate the sound of the dirt (getting way synesthesiac now..) with a visual representation that may make it easier to remember (or learn) what a particular type of distortion does to various waveforms at different amplitudes.

That link is one of the best overviews of the topic I've seen, and your point about creating a visual representation makes a lot of sense. Thanks!

It may come down to whether you are reinforcing the sound from a performance, or performing (making artistic changes to the sound). {...} What does the paying customer want.

I feel like I've been in more than a few situations (typically as the house engineer) where this line was perhaps not as clear as I'd have liked it to be (and I'm guessing I'm not alone in that regard), and, to be clear, I'm well aware that this thread isn't relevant in the former of those two scenarios. In my case, my curiosity comes from two places: first, as the long-serving (as in approaching a decade) BE for a local vocal a cappella group (who sometimes ask for my opinion on their performance, let alone their sound; it's a very special working relationship indeed!), and second, as a theatrical sound designer (where such choices would be well within my jurisdiction).

I'm not going to start throwing tape emulation on a corporate presenter's lav, I promise. :)

-Russ
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Art Welter

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Re: Creative Distortion for Talking Heads
« Reply #18 on: May 19, 2021, 11:53:04 pm »

I'm not going to start throwing tape emulation on a corporate presenter's lav, I promise. :)

-Russ
With a chest mounted lav, tape saturation would make the dull sound duller  :'(

Many corporate "talking heads" have little dynamic control.  As one's voice goes from normal to louder,  upper harmonics containing speech fricatives and sibilants become relatively less, reducing intelligibility further. When the compressor/limiter we engaged to "protect the innocent" reacts to the much louder shouty midband range, intelligibility may drop another 10dB.
A bit of tube type even order harmonics added side chain post compressor (of whatever flavor..) might be preferable to boosting the crap out of the high frequency for clarity.

Experiment with the combination with a live mic to insure feedback stability is not compromised, plug ins may "take off" suddenly and unpredictably at different thresholds.   

Art

« Last Edit: May 19, 2021, 11:58:26 pm by Art Welter »
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Jim McKeveny

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Re: Creative Distortion
« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2021, 07:58:11 am »

Modern big dog digital consoles used for SR can execute many of the same studio effects...

Huge caveats here: "We just want it to sound like the record". In a different space with a different acoustic signature. With a different noise floor. At a different SPL level.
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ProSoundWeb Community

Re: Creative Distortion
« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2021, 07:58:11 am »


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