Logic Pro X – Distortion Tutorial

As a Logic Pro X user, you’ll already be well aware of the fact there’s a seemingly infinite number of plugins that you can use to help you create the ideal sounds that you’re looking for. It’s safe to say that we really are spoilt for choice.

However, while you may have your tried and tested plugins that you’re used to using, this can force us to get stuck in our ways, resulting in us forgetting a huge number of plugins that could be holding you back from that perfect tone or effect.

With this in mind, one of the most popular plugin ranges that Logic Pro X has is the distortion plugins. In fact, there are eight of them to choose from, but do you have the knowledge the unlock them all and use them to their full potential?

Today, we’re going to explore these plugins, teaching you everything you need to know about them in order to take your audio production process to the next level!

Why Use a Distortion Plugin?

One of the most typical uses of a distortion effect is to add a ‘drive’ effect to your samples. While the actual effect itself can be relatively subtle, there’s no reason why you can’t use it aggressively to create a very unique and satisfying sound; a sound with bite.

More often than not, you’ll want to apply these distortion effects to drum sounds, again adding drive or overdrive effects, but Logic Pro X does have other virtual instrument-friendly distortion effects, such as Pedalboard for your guitar sounds.

However, with such a variety of sounds and plugins to choose from, learning how to use each tool effectively is essential. Otherwise, you’ll be unable to enjoy the benefits from them.

Breaking Down the Plugins

So, with all this in mind, let’s see what Logic Pro X has to offer.

If you’re looking for some of the more basic distortion effects, which is ideal if you’re new to the distortion plug-in collection or you’re looking to make the subtle changes we spoke about above, you’ll want to focus your attention on the Distortion, Overdrive, Distortion II or Bitcrusher plug-ins.

The controls that you’ll find on these plug-ins are relatively simple and allow you to add tiny changes or aggressive effects, depending on the nature of the sound you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a well-rounded plug-in that will give you the best of both worlds, we highly recommend the Overdrive plug-in.

Balancing Out Your Distortion

If you’ve used a distortion effect in the past, you’ll know that applying the effect adds extra input to your overall sound, especially towards the higher end of the scale. This is more commonly referred to as ‘harmonic input.’

However, this can be easily countered using any of the plug-ins we’ve mentioned above which can add a low-pass filter which uses a post-distortion tone to balance out the sound after you’ve applied the effect.

There are multiple techniques on how you can apply this low-pass filter and, of course, the more intense your filter, the more unique your sample will sound so, in most cases, this will simply be a case of trial and error until you find the sound that you’re looking for.

That being said, it’s probably best to increase the levels of the filter slowly as even the tiniest change can make your sample sound completely different to what it was before.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Adding Distortion Effects

Now that you know the science behind using a distortion effect, we’re going to talk you through exactly how you can go about adding your effects and what it can do for your sounds.

Step #1 – Activate Your Plugin
Let’s say you’ve opened a new track and blank screen. Add a drum sound to your track, and we’ll work with this sample to create the distortion effect. Of course, you can use any sample you please and can implement this technique into a track that you’ve already created.

Add an instance to your track and load up your preferred distortion plugin. For this example, we’re going to set the Output setting to about -6dB, turn on your Level Compensation and then you’re free to play around with your drive setting until you create the sound you want to hear.

Step #2 – Adjust Your Tone
As we mentioned above, adding drive to your sound is going to increase the Tone, the sounds at the higher ranges, so you’ll want to see if you can tame these slightly. If you’ve added a lot of drive to your sounds, you’ll need to add more Tone.

Try turning your Tone setting all the way up to 20,000hz and then bring it down slowly until you find the sound you’re happy with, and you’ll be ready to go!

Step #3 – Using the Overdrive Plugin
If you decide that you, in fact, want to use the Overdrive plugin, you can do so on the same channel, or by adding the plug-in to your sample from scratch. Match the settings from the two steps above, so you’re creating the same sound.

However, you’ll notice the difference as the Overdrive plug-in creates a much warmer sound compared with the traditional distortion plugin.

Step #4 – Using Clip Distortion
Clip Distortion is another plugin you can use with similar settings but a few extras that you’re free to play around with. You can start by putting the sounds into the ‘default’ setting (Mix at 100%, Drive at 0dB and both low-pass filters, Tone and Clip Filter at 20,000).

You can now play around with your sounds using the Drive, Input Gain, and High Shelving settings until you find that exact sound that you’ve been looking for.

Conclusion

This is the very basics you can use when it comes to using the foundation distortion plugins and how they work. The same logic and techniques apply when you’re using the other distortion and compressor plug-ins, each one creating a unique sound or style of Tone.
Now that you know the fundamental basics, it’s now down to you to use trial and error to figure out which plug-ins work best for the sound you’re trying to create, but it’s safe to say your opportunities are limitless.

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