When it comes to sub-bass, it usually consists of a basic sine waveform (See Blog: Why Waveforms?). This is because the sine often sounds deep and majestic. However, in some cases, it doesn’t fit the mix or has no presence against other elements. This is usually due to the lack of harmonic content in the spectrum of a sine wave.
One of the best treatments for this issue is introducing parallel distortion. This treatment works similarly to parallel compression – which we have covered before (See Blog: Bring Back The Impact). To summarize: it is done by making a new auxiliary (send/return) track, inserting a distortion plugin (or effects unit) of your choice on it, and sending some of the track you wish to distort to it. By pushing drive and tweaking tone, you will hear the effect generate new harmonics at higher frequencies on the bass.
This may help to thicken the sound further and make it more prominent in the mix. Nevertheless, it can potentially clash with other instruments. There is little justification for adding a lot of high-frequency harmonics from distortion only to cut them out again with an EQ when you mix.
So… let’s demonstrate the effect:
I made a short sub-bass sequence with Massive by Native Instruments, where we modulated the cutoff knob with the performer – to make it a bit more interesting.
Adding Harmonic Excitement
The next thing to do is create a new Return track in SoundBridge. On this track, I will add a distortion plugin. In this case, we have selected Saturn by Fabfilter.
By blending the processed (distorted signal) with our original signal using the send fader on the Massive track, we can hear a significant change made to the overall sound.
Keep in mind, the audio examples of this distortion effect we have presented were made in extreme settings. Using this technique in a mix with several elements typically requires more subtle amounts.