In this blog post we’ll be looking at a different way of adding harmonic excitement to enhance sounds in a mix. I’m going to show you the techniques I use to glue sounds and fatten them by using parallel tape saturation.
It is the same as parallel compression, the only difference is that you’ll be using a tape saturation effect instead of using a compressor.
You can use any saturation effect to add harmonics to your sounds. It can be distortion, amp-simulator, tube, expander, exciter or over-drive. For this example I’ll be using the Kramer Master Tape saturation plugin on a Drum Buss and Bass.
I’ll also show you how to use a harmonic plugin on an electric piano. This is to show you how powerful saturation effects are and how to use them in your mixes to add harmonics. Saturation effects are really versatile and are not only designed for guitars.
Let’s take a look at how to enhance a drum buss by using parallel distortion. You can add compression to control the dynamics of the saturation signal or EQ to shape the tone. But for this example I didn’t add any other effects, it’s just the Kramer Tape plugin.
Check out the drums below with and without the saturation. I did exaggerate the effect a bit so that you can hear the difference but you only need subtle amount of saturation to enhance the harmonics and avoid phase cancellation.
Drums Before Saturation
Drums After Saturation
If you can’t hear the difference then it’s because the processing is in parallel so the dry signal is still dominant and we’re only adding harmonics not changing the tone or timbre.
Now, let’s look at how to enhance a bass sound using parallel tape saturation. I’ll use the same plugin but with different settings, still no additional processing to the saturation signal Listen to the before and after below.
Drums & Bass (Unprocessed)
Drums & Bass (Processed)
If you listen carefully then you’ll realize that the bass volume comes up without messing up the low-end frequency range. Meaning that the tape saturation is increasing or enhancing the harmonics of the bass sound.
That’s how you enhance sounds using tape saturation. As promised, below I’ll show you how to use harmonic plugins to enhance an electric piano.
Adding Harmonics To An Electric Piano
In this part of the tutorial, I’m going to show you how to get an electric piano sound to sit well in a mix without using EQ, compression or any other effects.
For this example I’m going to use the same drum kit and there’ll be no parallel processing on this one. I’m going to be using the Maserati Harmonics plugin as an insert to enhance the sound. All I did was to increase the sensitivity, pushed the size to full and added the spread to make the sound wider because it was too monophonic.
Listen to the difference below.
Drums & Electric Piano (Unprocessed)
Drums & Electric Piano (Processed)
As you can hear, this time there’s a major difference as compared to the first examples because there’s no parallel processing this time. The plugin is directly inserted to the signal and processing at 100%. I trust by now, you can see the power of using harmonic tools to enhance sounds in a mix.
Use saturation but use it with caution and remember that less is more. Done the right way, it can add depth, color, warmth, crunch or add detail to a sound like in our first 2 examples. That’s it for now, I trust you did learn something from this tutorial. If you’re finding these music production tips helpful then let me know by leaving a comment below.