1. Music & Audio
  2. Sound Design

Distortion Masterclass for Ableton Suite: Part 2

Scroll to top
Read Time: 6 min

In the first part of the series I introduced distortion, its types and categories. I also showed you the Ableton plugins and examples on several intrument types.

In this lesson I'll give some  examples and additional tips and tricks.


I made a heavy sound with a lot of distortion. I cut the low end with an EQ to focus the mid range.

I added a great amount of distortion to Piano1

Piano1 before

Piano1 after

Saturator: curve type analog clip, drive 18 dB, freq 1 kHz, base 0, width 30%, depth 0, output -16 dB, dry wet 100%

EQ Three: low -2 dB, mid 0 dB, high 0 dB


This is a complex distortion, strange and very textured. Weak but still interesting.

With a waveshaper Saturator I made the sound a bit weird

Piano2 before

Piano2 after

Saturator: curve type waveshaper, drive 9 dB, freq 1 kHz, base 0, width 30%, depth 0, output -8.5 dB, dry wet 73%, drive 100%, curve 40%, depth 0%, lin 50%, damp 0, period 0%


With the bit reduction I made the piano a bit synth bell like.

Redux made the Piano3 track a bit bell sounding

Piano3 before

Piano3 after

Redux: downsample soft, 5.83


This is a heavier version of the previous one. Sounds very ringy and metallic.

I used a heavy distortion with Redux

Piano4 before

Piano4 after

Redux: downsample soft, 14.4


I applied a medium distortion with a different character than then Overdrive plugin.

I added a medium large distortion to Piano5

Piano5 before

Piano5 after

Dynamic tube: dry wet 41%, output 6.4 dB, drive 15 dB, tone 0.22, bias 26%, tube mode A


I made the sound to be more grainy, textured and unfocused. It is like a carpet covering a wall.

With Dynamic tube I made the sound grainy

Piano6 before

Piano6 after

Dynamic tube: dry wet 79%, output 15 dB, drive 15 dB, tone 0.51, bias 91%, tube mode C


I made this guitar very pointy and weak sounding with an interesting texture. I cut out the mid range with EQ.

GuitarX1 before

GuitarX1 after

Amp: amp type boost, volume 3.81, dry wet 33%, others are default

EQ Three: mid range killed


This is a bright sound with a focused top end. I modified further with EQ Eight low and high shelves and a mid range boost.

GuitarX2 before

GuitarX2 after

Amp: amp type clean, volume 5.9, dry wet 42%, others are default

EQ Eight: -6 dB cut at 200 Hz (low shelf), +1.8 dB boost at 601 Hz, -8.3 dB cut at 7.4 kHz (high shelf)


I made a thick and dense distorted guitar sound with Amp, then I colored it with EQ to focus on the mid range with a low cut and a mid boost. I also cut 2 decibels on the top end.

GuitarX3 before

GuitarX3 after

Amp: amp type heavy, volume 3.97, dry wet 34%, others are default

EQ Three: low -11 dB, mid +2 dB, high -2 dB

Creative Use

This means using distortion creatively within a specific sound or musical style. 

For example, a rock band uses a different distortion than a metal band. This is also different from an electronic musician spicing up the drum group with a bit of saturation.

You can do anything you want in this method, but make sure you stay in the musical genre.

Corrective Use

This method is in harmony with enhancing. For example I can add top end to a dull piano track.

Using Equalizers Together With Distortion

It is an old trick to use EQ with distortion. There are three ways to do that:

1. Pre EQ

Put an EQ before the distortion to control what goes in.

2. Post EQ

Put an EQ after the distortion to control the output sound.

3. Pre and Post EQ

Pre and Post EQPre and Post EQPre and Post EQ
I can have more control over the sound with pre and post EQ

Use both Pre and Post EQ to shape the input and output sound. You will shape the sound with more control in this version compared to the previous ones.

Parallel Distortion

Basically, parallel processing for distortion is a simple dry-wet knob. With dry-wet I can set the ratio of the clean and effected signals.

It is a nice trick to use heavy processing then blending it in with a very little ratio, like 10% or 20%. This is like creating a balance of them. You also do the opposite: using a high dry wet with a subtle distortion.


Be careful when doing distortion.! Our ears can get very tired if listening to a distorted sound in isolation, or one that is not balanced with other instruments.

Two important aspects are:

  • loudness level can cause hearing loss and fatigue
  • distortion character can cause fatigue

Extreme distortion can pierce through the mental sensation of it. Ears get hurt by spiky and metallic sounds. It is a good tip to set distortion settings and then dial back a bit after some break.

Effect Rack for Distortion

A quick way to simplify Saturator's complexity is to create an effect rack from it.

Distortion RackDistortion RackDistortion Rack
I created a simple effect rack, simplifying Saturator's controls

Creating a rack in six steps:

  1. Load an empty Audio Effect Rack from the Audio Effects section
  2. Enable Macros and Chains List
  3. Add Saturator to the chain
  4. Seconday-click on Curve Type, Map to Macro 1
  5. Seconday-click on Drive, Map to Macro 2
  6. Seconday-click on Drive Wet, Map to Macro 3

You can do this with any effect and there are more settings for detailed parameter handling. For more settings click on the Map button in the title of the rack.


In this tutorial I demonstrated more distortion plugins and gave you some tips on using distortion effectively.

Finally, I gave an example on creating a distortion rack. This is the second and last part of this tutorial series.

Did you find this post useful?
Want a weekly email summary?
Subscribe below and we’ll send you a weekly email summary of all new Music & Audio tutorials. Never miss out on learning about the next big thing.
Looking for something to help kick start your next project?
Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.