An operation that allows us to manipulate an audio signal's amplitude, adding additional frequency "overtones" for further coloration of timbre.

Distortion is when the output signal of an audio effect differs from the input signal. More specifically, it can be described as non-linear changes to a waveform’s amplitude, which ultimately introduces harmonic and/or inharmonic overtones.

In this video, I explore terms such as soft clipping, hard clipping, saturation, overdrive, waveshaping, etc. I walk you through a few examples of distortion and show you how each type is affecting your incoming waveform. By the end of this video, you’ll be able to use Ableton’s Saturator as I go through each parameter, explaining what each knob and button do. I also leave you with some knowledge about transfer functions, which is directly applicable when approaching other third party distortion plugins.

Towards the end of the video I walk you through when you should be using distortion within your productions. I describe how you can use it to change the timbre of dull or uninteresting sounds. I also describe some reasons why using distortion, or saturation, on mix-down channels is also an effective technique. I also recommend my favorite third party distortion plugin outside of Ableton Live’s stock ones, which is iZotope’s Trash.

Hopefully this video is of great use to you. Good luck with your distortion endeavors!


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