Using Distortion to De-Sterilize Your In-The-Box Mix


Distortion. It’s not just for metal, guys.  When you mix 100% in-the-box (ITB, all inside of yer computer), you are at a significant disadvantage compared to those guys with all the fun outboard toys.  Those deliciously expensive boxes and consoles that a traditional mix goes through adds oodles of gooey harmonic distortion.  Your computer doesn’t.

Does that mean that you need to invest thousands of dollars to even compete with them?  At the risk of opening a very large can of worms here, I say: HELL NO.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I love the sound of outboard gear and consoles.  They definitely do some magical things to the sound; adding a certain mojo.  And it’s just fun to physically turn knobs.  But the price tag of a decent full-on out-of-the-box mix can be staggering.  And the gap between ITB and OTB mixes is fast closing.

So, let’s fake it ’til we make it.

We want to mix ITB, but it can be so damn sterile.  “Clinical” and “precise” aren’t two words that jive with a good mix.  We want to smear stuff.  We want to rough up some edges.  We want to distort.

Really.  Any genre.  This isn’t just for the rock world.  Of course, you can go a bit more nuts with distortion when mixing rock, but a little fuzz around the edges will work just as well in blues, jazz, that Mexican Mariachi band that’s been paying your bills the last month; anything.

My favorite thing of all time to distort is the bass guitar.  I don’t remember the last mix I did that didn’t have at least a little distortion on the bass.  You want a bass to cut through a dense mix?  To take up a bit more space?  Distort.

Snare?  Definitely!  Properly done distortion on a snare can add body and length to an otherwise anemic snare.  Get some fuzz on a parallel snare track and sneak it back underneath the original snare.  Instant awesomesauce.  Or get tricky with adding white noise and distortion like in my previous post.

Vocals can really use an extra dose of delicious, delicious distortion.  Get a parallel track going and fuzz it up and then tuck it back underneath your main track.  Instant gooey goodness.

Mixing in-the-box doesn’t have to be a dirty concept.  If you do a decent job of it, most listeners aren’t going to be able to tell the difference.  No more excuses: “If only I had X piece of gear, my mixes would be killer!”.

BS, use what you have now and kick some ass.

2 thoughts on “Using Distortion to De-Sterilize Your In-The-Box Mix

  1. Pingback: My Top 7 Favorite ProTools Plugins | Make Your Mixes Not Suck

  2. Pingback: The Ultimate Guide: Mixing Aggressive Rock Vocals | Make Your Mixes Not Suck

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