How It Works: What Is the Difference Between Overdrive, Distortion, and Fuzz Effects?

Getting into the world of music takes more than just learning music theory and proper technique.

Whatever is the instrument of your choice – guitar, piano, violin, or even your vocal cords – there are so many aspects that you’ll first need to get into in order to get your tone right.

Especially with an instrument like an electric guitar where setting up your tone requires extensive research and sometimes even years of experience.

In fact, many have literally turned this into a scientific field, and there are actual engineers working on designing and tweaking pedals, rack-mounted units, and other effects.

We could easily say that being a good musician these days, especially a guitar player, is a combination of music theory knowledge, tight technique, knowledge of how pedals work, and experience.

With all these traits checked out, you’ll be able to know when to apply which effect for a particular genre or a situation.

With all this being said, we’ll be getting into some “secrets” about one of the most important effects in the world of modern music – distortion.

The iconic Boss DS-2 Turbo distortion pedal

Although often associated with guitars and rock music, you can find the effect used, one way or another, with other instruments and various genres.

Of course, EDM musicians will also use distortion, mostly as vst plugins, although it’s not uncommon for some DJs to even implement guitar distortion pedals in their setup.

The same could be said for some solo string players, like violinists or cellists, who like to mingle and experiment with these effects.

The particular issue that we’re getting into has caused confusion among many musicians over the years.

We all know about overdrive, distortion, and fuzz pedals. We’re also somewhat aware of their sonic properties.

But there must have been at least one moment where you wondered about what are the actual distinctions between these three effects.

If you’re having trouble understanding the difference between overdrive, distortion, and fuzz – worry not! After this guide, you’ll get familiar with some of the technical details and will also know how to implement these effects the proper way and in required situations to perfectly fit your style. So let’s get into it.

What you need to know first

Before jumping into the technical details of how these three effects work, there are a few things you need to know first.

We don’t want you to end up with more questions than answers.

The first important thing you need to know is that all of these three effects are actually distortion by definition.

Look at it as an umbrella term for these three distinct types of effects. Yes, this might get a bit confusing since among these three we also have an effect labeled as “distortion.”

This subcategory of distortion, that’s also named “distortion,” is just a widely accepted (dare we say commercial?) name for an effect that’s achieved by heavy clipping.

We’ll get into all these details in a few moments, but what you now need to know first is that distortion, as an audio signal processing effect, is divided into three widely accepted commercial categories – overdrive, distortion, and fuzz.

Now that we have this part covered, a few other things you need to know. Below, we’ll be explaining a thing or two about the clean signal, what headroom means, what’s clipping, and how the musicians back in the old days achieved.

Clean signal

Let’s take the ordinary unprocessed clean guitar tone.

This kind of signal can be represented as one smooth continuous sine curve.

Now we get into a physics aspect of it.

The signal has its wavelength, which is the length of one peak of the sine curve to the next one, and peak-to-peak amplitude, which is the height of the curve from one peak to the other.

What we’re interested here is the amplitude.

The more you push the volume, the “wider” the peak-to-peak amplitude gets.

This means that a louder signal will have a bigger amplitude compared to a quieter one.

To fully grasp this, here’s a graphic representation of a continuous sine curve with all the important elements marked on it.

source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sinus_amplitude_en.svg

Clipping

The next thing we’ll be explaining here is the process of clipping.

Every device that you play through – be it an amp, pedal, or a mixing console – has its limitations.

You can’t just increase the amplitude to infinity and beyond and expect it to sound the same, only louder.

At one point, the signal going from your instrument will get too loud for the device that you’re playing through and it will ultimately get “clipped.”

This means that both the top and the bottom of the wave get cut or “clipped” and you end up with that broken-sounding tone.

Instead of getting louder and louder, the amplifier or a pedal cuts the signal and turns into that “buzzing” mess.

Below, you can see a graphic representation of what clipping looks like:

source: https://lithiumgrim.jouwweb.nl/blog/319712_headroom-say-what

As you can see, by increasing the amplitude, the signal eventually reached the limitations of a certain device – let’s say a pedal.

It appears almost as if someone literally clipped off the top and the bottom ends of the otherwise perfect-looking smooth sine curve.

Now we get to the most important part.

By doing this “clipping,” the resulting tone gets distorted. Most of the distortion pedals achieve the effect through a 2-step process.

  • Step 1- the original signal is amplified through the so-called operational amplifiers (or op-amps for short) which are integrated within the circuit.

  • Step 2- this amplified signal is clipped using the transistors or diodes, depending on the type of pedal. The whole point of these components is to bring the threshold down and clip off the signal.

We should also mention that there are symmetrical and asymmetrical types of clipping.

The clipping is usually done by two diodes or two transistors, one clipping the bottom end of the sine curve, and the other one the top end.

If you have two different types of diodes and transistors, they cut the signal unequally on top and the bottom, causing irregular wave shapes.

This is referred to as asymmetrical clipping and can be found with some overdrives these days, usually as a switchable mode.

Headroom

What you also need to understand is the concept of “headroom.”

In the above section, we explained how the limitations, or a threshold, of a certain device, like an amp or a pedal, cause clipping and distortion.

The headroom represents the “space” between the peak of your clean signal and your amp’s or pedal’s threshold.

In this area, the signal will be “safe” from any clipping or distortions. Depending on the device’s purpose and design, they can either have larger all smaller headroom.

How they did it in the old days

Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and get into the history of the distortion effect.

Back in the old days, the late 1940s and the early 1950s, it wasn’t exactly easy to achieve any kind of distortion.

What’s more, there was somewhat of a disagreement between guitar players and engineers. The first group loved that dirty distorted tone and always did their best to find any means to achieve it.

The latter group, the engineers, looked down upon clipping and distortion as if these were their arch enemies. To them, the distortion was an error.

Since all of the guitar amps in that era were tube-based, the guitar players noticed that by pushing the volume control to some “dangerous” territories, the tone would get all distorted.

But it wasn’t exactly the kind of distortion we hear today. It was more of an ambitious competition between the guitar players and bands to sound louder and more unique. It was just a slight coloration, something like a milder yet ear-piercing overdrive these days.

There are a few early examples from the late 1940s of distortion being used in popular songs at the time.

But arguably one of the best-known examples is “Bob Wills Boogie” by Bob Willis. His guitar player at the time, Robert Junior Barnard, pushed the amp over its limits and got that “hot” and slightly distorted tone. Maybe not exactly heavy by today’s standards, but it was still pretty exciting for the era. You can listen to the song below:

As time went by, guitar players found more and more ways to distort their tone.

However, some of the distorted tones on singles and records were a result of happy accidents.

One of the most prominent of those accidents comes from 1951 and it happened to a guitarist named Willie Kizart.

Playing with Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm, the group was all set to record a tune named “Rocket 88” in the studio.

Unfortunately, Kizart’s amp got damaged in transport and, of course, the tone suffered. He was left with no choice but to record using what he had at the moment. But surprisingly enough, the resulting tone turned the song into a hit.

After this, everyone was trying to replicate the buzzing sound, marking the beginning of a true revolution in modern music.

As a result, many began deliberately damaging their amplifiers to achieve the effect, making it a trend that continued well into the mid-1960s.

In 1960, Marty Robins and his band entered the studio to record a song called “Don’t Worry.” It’s not certain whether it was the idea of the engineer there or Marty’s guitar player Grady Martin, but the guitar was recorded through a faulty channel on the mixer.

The resulting solo was pretty heavy for that era. The song was released in 1961 to critical acclaim.

Going further, there were some other examples of distorted guitar in popular music, with some musicians even getting in touch with engineers to help them create distortion devices.

However, the first commercially available distortion pedal was FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone, released in 1962 by Gibson under their subsidiary brand Maestro.

This device, initially marketed as some sort of a proto “multi-effects” piece, only got more attention after Keith Richards implemented it for The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction“, which was released in 1965.

The iconic FZ-1 Fuzz Tone pedal by Gibson

It’s too bad that no one told the guys from The Kinks about the pedal since they resorted to slashing the speaker of an innocent amp to record 1964’s “You Really Got Me.”

Well, at least they achieved a great distorted tone and went down in history for being one of the pioneers of modern rock and hard rock music.

Later in the 1960s and the early 1970s, guitar players used the potential and properties of their tube amps to get a distorted tone, with companies deliberately making it easier for them.

Some guys like Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore or Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi used a clean booster, Dallas Arbiter’s Rangemaster.

This way, they pushed the signal and made it hit the threshold of their amplifiers more easily, achieving more clipping and distortion in the process. This particular method is being used even to this day, mostly by those who are fans of vintage-oriented tones.

The 1970s saw the rise of guitar pedals as we know them today.

Thanks to the invention of transistors and their implementation in the music equipment, the distortion became easier to achieve.

Of course, there’s the unavoidable mention of the piece like Fuzz Face by Dallas Arbiter from the late 1960s, a pedal that’s being produced to this day by Dunlop Manufacturing Inc.

Fuzz Face by Dallas Arbiter. source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FuzzFace_Effect_Pedal.jpg

And this was really the golden age for guitar distortion.

Some of these same circuits, with some components improved or altered, are still being made.

There’s the Boss DS-1 Distortion that made its debut in the late 1970s, as well as the revolutionary Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi from the early 1970s. Another piece that also changed the game was Ibanez’s iconic Tube Screamer, developed from Maxon’s old OD808.

These are just some of the examples of pedals that came into the spotlight and helped guitar players change the course of history.

During the 1970s and the 1980s, we got the final distinction between the three types of distortion that we’ll be discussing today.

So how are they different? Let’s find out.

Overdrive

First, we start with the overdrive, the “mildest” of the three.

Many beginners, or even novice players, look down upon overdrives as distortions with less gain.

However, this is far from an exact definition of overdrives and how they work.

In fact, their tone has very little to do with the amount of saturation but rather how it is achieved.

The difference comes down to the type of clipping.

First, with overdrive, we have the so-called “soft” clipping. The sine curve of the clean signal is cut in a softer manner and the shape of this new clipped waveform has no rough edges. The resulting tone often resembles what you would get by pushing the old amplifiers over their limits. The only difference here is that you usually don’t get any kind of dynamic response with just the overdrive pedal.

Here’s a simplified example of the difference between soft and hard clipping.

source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clipping_waveform.svg

The soft clipping in overdrive pedals is usually achieved through diodes, while the classic distortion or fuzz pedals use transistors. There are three types of diodes – silicone, germanium, and LED-based.

Overdrive pedals can often be seen used in pair with tube amplifiers.

This way, the overdrive pedals serve as a boost that will further push the limits of the tube amp and cause its own “organic” clipping.

In addition, there’s clipping going on in the pedal itself, which will add some coloration to the overall tone.

Overdrive pedals can even be used paired with dirty channels of tube amps to create natural-sounding tones in the high gain areas. This is exactly why many metal players have been using Ibanez Tube Screamer or Maxon OD808. Another great example would be Zakk Wylde and his signature MXR ZW-44 Overdrive pedal.

As for those milder tones, a piece like Boss OD-1 or BD-2 Blues Driver works well with clean channels of both tube and solid-state amplifiers. Their soft clipping and a somewhat muffled tone come as a great solution for vintage-inspired bluesy tones.

Distortion

What guitar players and other musicians often refer to as “distortion” is the distortion effect with hard clipping.

This nomenclature might cause some confusion since the subcategory of the effect bears the same name. However, we can clearly hear the distinction and tell it apart from overdrives.

The classic guitar distortion effect has that “fried” or “scorched” tone, going into more “dangerous” territories while keeping the tightness.

The clean signal gets processed through operational amplifiers and transistors, just like with overdrive pedals. However, the signal here gets cut abruptly, causing the wave to get sharply distorted.

While there is certainly an abundance of different distortions, this particular effect is usually associated with hard rock and heavy metal music, along with most of the subdivisions of these genres.

Famous pedals that come to mind are Boss DS-1, Boss MT-2, MXR Distortion Plus, TC Electronic Dark Matter, Pro Co RAT, just to name a few.

Compared to overdrives, hard clipping of distortion pedals is most often achieved using transistors.

The most often type of a transistor you can find these days is silicon-based, although there are some rare instances of germanium ones.

Fuzz

If you really want to go off the charts and have a psychedelic-drenched tone, then get yourself a fuzz pedal.

The closest thing we can find to describe the fuzz effect is a broken amplifier, similar to the tone achieved in the above mentioned “Don’t Worry” by Marty Robbins.

The main distinction that makes fuzz different from other types of distortions is pretty simple – it features extreme clipping.

The waveform is so distorted that it resembles a square shape. This way, you not only get a very “disfigured” tone, but also a very rich harmonic content. This effect is usually achieved without the use of operational amplifiers, but rather just transistors doing extreme clipping.

However, fuzz is not for everyone’s liking. It’s mostly present in psychedelic rock, blues rock, or stoner and doom rock music, and is usually not the favorite choice of classic virtuoso shred-type guitar players. Nonetheless, the effect requires very tight technique and great control over your playing. You don’t want to get anything wrong with the fuzz effect turned on.

The first commercial fuzz pedal was the Maestro FZ-1. Other famous examples include the well-known Big Muff Pi, the legendary and very rare Univox Super-Fuzz, as well as the Fuzz Face which was originally produced by Dallas Arbiter.

The Big Muff Pi. source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:EHPi.jpg

The Fuzz Face got some significant popularity due to the fact that Jimi Hendrix used it back in the day.

This same model, with some changes in the circuit (the inclusion of silicone instead of a germanium transistor) and the overall design, is now manufactured by Dunlop.

What about boost?

You should not confuse boost with distortion pedals.

Boosters just amplify the signal without any clipping done inside the pedal.

They come in handy paired with tube amps, letting them do all the organic-sounding clipping and helping them achieve distortion on their own.

They’re not exactly the most exciting devices, but they have their purpose.

What you should also know

Technically speaking, a clipped signal is pretty close to a dynamically compressed one.

Compressors increase the volume of quiet parts and decrease the volume of louder parts, making the overall output dynamically more even.

The distortion itself comes with some compression with it, ultimately making an impact on the dynamic response of your guitar tone.

The harsher the distortion and the harder the clipping, the more compressed your tone will get.

What’s the best option for me?

The choice of the right distortion comes down to your personal preferences, the style of music, and the types of guitars and amplifiers that you have.

Overdrives usually work best for old school type of stuff, although you’ll find them in pedalboards of modern metal players who use them for enhancing the tone of their tube amps. Giving the softer, mellow, yet mid-range oriented tone, they’re a great option if you use clean channels of tube amplifiers.

Distortions are a classic choice for any hard rock and metal player. Whether you’re playing through a solid-state or a tube amplifier, they’ll always be able to create those scorched yet controlled tight tones for both rhythm and lead playing. They’re the most popular choice for most of the genres these days.

Fuzz effect is a bit tricky and is for those with very specific tastes. First off, it’s not easy to have things under control with a fuzz pedal on, and it’s mostly useful for single notes. Having a rich harmonic content, playing power chords with a fuzz pedal might not be the best choice, especially if there is more than one guitar in the band. It’s mostly a choice for stoner, doom, psychedelic, and blues-rock guitar players.

But at the end of the day, we are not bound by any laws and written rules.

You’re always free to experiment and go outside of the conventional boundaries of any genre.

However, knowing some of the rules and old trends will help you in your creative endeavors and you’ll be able to create a better tone for a given situation.

How to Make FL Studio Run Faster

FL Studio is, without any doubt, one of the best digital audio workstations that you can use for the recording of pretty much any genre of music.

Of course, it’s especially known for its compatibility with various plugins for different synths and effects, making it one of the best options for electronic music.

Developed by the Belgian company Image-Line Software and released originally as Fruity Loops back in 1997, it has now become a go-to DAW for countless creative music makers.

However, just like with any great piece of software you find in 2021, you might have some performance issues due to certain compatibilities or just inadequate hardware components of your computer.

If this is the case with you and FL Studio don’t worry, you’re not alone in this.

👉 CHECK OUT THE LATEST DEALS AND DISCOUNTS ON VST PLUGINS AND DAWS

If something is running slow, or just not as fast as it is supposed to, there’s always a solution.

With this being said, let us look at the different ways on how to make FL Studio run faster.

And if you still can’t make FL run smoothly, maybe it’s time to buy a new laptop. We have a very good comparison and review set on the best music production laptops on the market today.

Monitoring your CPU

The first thing you need to do is to check out the CPU load directly in the FL Studio.

In the top screen of the FL Studio, you’ll see a small window tracking down CPU usage and RAM memory usage.

In case any of these values are getting too high, it means something’s not right.

Symptoms might include unwanted clicks and glitches in the audio. If you’re experiencing poor performance or any other issues, keep your eyes on the memory and CPU usage window.

Configuring audio settings for FL Studio

Poor performance sometimes might be due to the inadequate settings for the hardware you have.

For instance, if you set the buffer size to the minimum, or somewhere close to it, but your computer can’t handle it, you should consider raising it to the spot where it stops being an issue.

The bigger the buffer size, the easier your computer will respond to all the things going on in the program.

However, a larger buffer size increases latency, which can be an issue with the real-time instrument or vocal recording.

In case you’re not doing any kind of recording but just mixing, there’s no need to keep buffers at a lower level. But if you’re recording, try and find that sweet spot that doesn’t make it impossible for you to perform and that still allows normal operation.

For this, you’ll need to go to Options, Audio Setting, and then select the “Asio4ALL” or “FL Studio Asio” in the “Device” menu.

You can increase the buffer length to where it works best for you. Try and set the sample rate to 44100 Hz and the “Priority” to “highest.”

There are a few other switchable options in the audio settings, including the “Triple buffer” and “Mix in buffer switch”. Try stitching them on and off and see if there’s any change in the overall performance. If nothing happens, set them back the way they were.

Enable the “Smart Disable” feature in FL Studio

Another option you’ll find in the Audio Settings is the “Smart Disable” feature.

You can then enable it and go to Tools Menus, Macros, and then select the “Switch smart disable for all plugins.”

This way, all the instruments and effects plugins will be turned off when they’re not making any sounds. Depending on the type of project, this feature can significantly decrease your CPU usage.

You should also know that the Smart Disable feature is only active during playback. It will be disabled during any rendering.

Look at how many channels are you rooting in the FL Studio mixer

What you also need to be paying attention to is the number of channels you’re routing to in the FL Studio mixer. The larger the number of channels, the higher the chances that CPU load will rise faster than usual. In order to prevent this issue, you might want to plan everything out in advance before starting a project.

Look whether your plugins are 32 or 64 bit

Whenever you’re using any kind of plugins in the FL Studio, it is important to see whether they are the correct VST version.

For instance, if you have a 64 bit FL Studio version, then you should use only 64-bit versions of VST plugins.

Using the 32-bit plugin versions on the 64 bit FL Studio, there’s a high chance your CPU usage will skyrocket. This is because your computer will need to adjust to the same version. This whole process is referred to as “bridging.”

Check whether your CPU is running at full speed

There are also things you need to check outside of the FL Studio itself.

For instance, you might have a certain power saving setting on that is preventing your CPU from running at its full speed.

If you’re using Windows, then open up the settings (can be accessed via Start menu), go to the Control Panel, System and Maintenance, and then select Power Options. You should then select your power management to the “High Performance Mode.” If you’re using a laptop, always make sure that you’re plugged in and not running solely on the battery.

As for macOS, go to System Preferences, then Energy Saver, and then find the “Computer Sleep” slider and select it to “Never” mode.

Or, instead, you can check the box labeled as “Prevent computer from sleeping automatically when the display is off.”

There are a few other power-related features in the settings that might help you use your computer’s full CPU potential.

Final Thoughts

We hope this guide has helped you in making FL Studio run great. If you still encounter issues with your studio, maybe your laptop is too old and needs an upgrade. In this direction, we would like to point you in the right direction, to our article on the best music production laptops on the market in 2021.

The BEST Online Music Production Masterclass Course [2022]

Investing in an online music production “masterclass” course is one of the best decisions you will make this year.

This might seem like a pretty bold statement, specially for those of you who have previously tried free courses or dabble around some youtube videos on production, but it’s the truth: Knowledge is more important than any piece of gear in your studio. Furthermore, enrolling in one of the below courses is nothing like doing a free course or watching youtube videos.

These online music production masterclass courses allow you to follow a tried and tested structure devised by top producers and engineers, plus incentivises you to follow through, as you have money invested.

Anyways, if you’re looking for a summarized version of this article, check out the below table with our favorite online music production courses, including our very own choice for the best online music production course. And if you are also looking for a music production laptop, we have a comparrison and test article with the top models here.

Note: if you are on a mobile device, scroll left and right in the table to see all the entries, and up and down in the cells to see all the content.

Summarizing Table

Course Name Cost Duration Main Focus Our Rating
Editor’s Choice – Best Value
Groove3
Starts at under 50$
– Over 20 000 hours of video,
– Over 20 books.
– Workflow,
– Plug-Ins + DAWs,
– Recording,
– Production,
– Mixing + Mastering.
9.5/10
Deadmau5 Masterclass
Starts at under 20$ / month or under 100$ total
– 6 hours of video,
– Assignments
– Electronic Music Production,
– Synths,
– Music Business,
– Mixing and Mastering,
– Workflow.
9.3/10
Hans Zimmer Masterclass
Starts at under 20$ / month or under 100$ total$
– 4.5 hours of video – Film Scoring,
– Soundscapes,
– Composing,
– Industry, and More.
8.7/10
Timbaland Masterclass
Starts at under 20$ / month or under 100$ total$
– 3 hours of video – Hip-hop Production,
– Beat Making,
– Inspiration and Workflow,
– Industry and Motivation.
8.5/10
Point Blank Music School Online
Under 150$
CHECK PRICE
– Huge subject diversity
– Mixing/Mastering
– Dj
– Music Business
9.6/10
Udemy Music Production Courses
Under 150$
CHECK PRICE
– 38 hours of video
– each DAW has it’s own course
– other specific topics have dedicated courses
9/10
EQ Fundamentals
Under 50$
CHECK PRICE
– 2.5 hours of video,
– PDRs,
– Assignments
– EQ,
– Mixing + Mastering,
– All Musical Genres
9.2/10
Berklee Online- Electronic Music Production
Under 150$
CHECK PRICE
– 16 weeks – Electronic Music Production,
– Vocal Recording,
– Ableton Live.
9.3/10

Groove3 Online Music Production Course Review – Editor’s Choice

  • Music style: All
  • Financial Investment: Low
  • Duration: Over 20 000 hours of video + over 20 books. 1 077 Courses 17 979 Individual Tutorials.
  • Main DAW used: All DAWs available.
  • Our Rating: 9.5/10
  • Skill Level: Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced
  • Certificate upon completion: No

PROS:

  1. High quality of content
  2. Content available on all formats and platforms: Video, books, Desktop, iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku.
  3. Very affordable on a month-to-month basis
  4. High quality instructors
  5. Most comprehensive library of learning resources

CONS:

  1. Lack of focus
  2. Can be overwhelming

We’ll start with our favorite online music production course: Groove3. What an absolute gold mine of music production knowledge.

If you watched all of groove3’s videos back-to-back you’d take over 2 years to finish, probably much more, given that they update the content regularly.

There’s tutorials on all topics you can image, including all DAWs, Plugins, and musical styles. If you search around the forums, it’s often mentioned as a student favorite, along with some of the masterclass courses we’ll review below.

When it comes to price, an all-access pass costs only 89$, with b&hphoto. This represents without a doubt the best value of all courses.

We’ve found this to be a great way to stay focused for idle studio time. Simply browse around their website, find an interesting video, watch it, then apply it to your current project.

MORE INFO

Deadmau5 Masterclass Review

The first course we’ve had a chance to review is Deadmau5’s Masterclass Course.

  • Music style: EDM / Electronic
  • Financial Investment: Low / Moderate
  • Duration: 6 hours of video + assignments
  • Main DAW used: Ableton, though teachings can be applied to any DAW.
  • Our Rating: 9.3/10
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Certificate upon completion: No

Pros:

  1. Very entertaining, huge production value. Very easy to follow through with the teachings.
  2. Very well-rounded. All major topics are discussed (mastering, mixing, synths, drums, music business, live performance, and more).
  3. Composed of videos, assignments, and discussions.
  4. Great community if you’re willing to engage.

Cons:

  1. This 6 hour course will set you back 90$. It’s not a cheap course by any means, but we found the cost/quality relation to be quite good.
  2. It’s a short course. It could benefit from going more in-depth into certain topics.

Course Structure

The course has 23 lessons, all delivered through video classes. It also has assignments and discussions.

The classes touch upon the following topics:

  • The Deadmau5 Production Process
  • Building Your Home Studio
  • Melodic Structures
  • Arrangements
  • Synthesized Sounds
  • Modular Synths
  • Digital Vs. Analog Synths
  • Sound Design with Effects And Processing
  • Drums / Beats
  • Song Structure
  • Remixed
  • Mixing
  • Mastering (includes case study)
  • Starting a Career
  • Music Business
  • On Stage Performance

Our Thoughts

Overall, this is a solid and very well rounded online music production masterclass course. It won’t hold your hand and automatically offer you a career in audio engineering or music production, but if you follow through with all the tips shared, your chances of making it will increase exponentially.

Furthermore, if you take your time to network and reach out to the community, you’ll likely make some useful connections out of this online music production masterclass course.

This is a great course for anyone looking for a well-balanced course on electronic / pop / hip-hop / digital music production, with no specific focus on any are of the music production process, but rather a wholistic approach. It gives you a framework, the one used by deadmau5, to produce a song. It is not a case study, i.e- it won’t show you how deadmau5 produces a song from scratch, but it will show you every single step of the process. We recommend deadmau5’s online music production masterclass course to people that are starting out and want something a bit lighter (shorter) and more fun.

LEARN MORE

Hans Zimmer Masterclass Review

Up next is Hans Zimmer’s online music production masterclass course.

  • Music style: Film Scoring / Soundtrack / Sound Design
  • Financial Investment: Low / Moderate
  • Duration: 4.5 hours of video + assignments
  • Main DAW used: N/A.
  • Our Rating: 8.5/10
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Course Structure

  • Themes
  • Story
  • Directors
  • Sound Palettes
  • Creating with Synths
  • Scoring to Picture
  • Scoring Under Dialogue
  • Tempo
  • Music Diary
  • Character
  • Case Study: Frost/Nixon
  • Working With Musicians
  • Feedback & Revisions
  • Audience Feedback
  • Writing Tips
  • Hans’ Journey
  • Learning by Listening
  • Life of a Composer
  • Closing

Our Thoughts

This is a very interesting course. The simple fact that you get to hear Hans Zimmer talk on the first person about stuff that he has never revealed on interviews is worth the cost of the program.

However, we found the structure a bit random.

Unlike deadmau5’s course, this program kind of jumped around topics, with one class being solely about Hans’ career and progression in the industry. To be honest, if we wanted to learn about that, we could just check one of the hundreds of interviews that he’s given.

Having said that, there are loads of golden nuggets there about his process, inspiration, and process. It is packed loads of synthesiser tips as well as general aesthetic in sound design.

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Timbaland Masterclass Review

To finish off our selection of Masterclass courses, we’ll have a look at Timbaland’s online music production course.

  • Music style: Hip-Hop / Pop
  • Financial Investment: Low / Moderate
  • Duration: 3.5 hours of video + assignments
  • Main DAW used: Ableton
  • Our Rating: 8.5/10
  • Skill Level: Beginner / Intermediate

Course Structure:

  • Studio Session: Making a Beatbox Beat
  • Building Beats: Tim’s Process
  • Making a Beat: Getting Warmed Up
  • Song Origins: “Dirt Off Your Shoulder”
  • Making a Beat: Starting With a Chord Progression
  • Making a Beat: Tweaking and Layering Drums
  • Song Origins: “Pony”
  • Making a Beat: Manipulating Vocal Samples
  • Making a Beat: Creating a Breakdown
  • Song Origins: “Gossip Folks”
  • Making a Beat: Adding a Topline
  • Song Origins: “Are You That Somebody?”
  • Tim’s Influences
  • How to Persevere

Our Thoughts

We found this masterclass to be the least technical of all online muic production masterclass courses reviewed. Perhaps on purpose, as Timbaland’s production process seems to be based a lot around feeling, leaning on his team to fill in the more technical gaps.

We still found it very useful and inspiring, with some pretty straight forward but useful tips such as thinking about drums through beatbox.

His team of “co-producers” also share some gems on drums layering, chord progression and more.

If you’re a hip hop head, you’ll love this course. You’ll learn about how Timba produced hits for Missy Elliot, Jay-z, and others, as well as some inspiring tips on how to succeed in the industry. If you’re not a hip hop nerd, then you might find it not that inspiring. Though we still recommend purchasing it as part of the masterclass bundle of classes.

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Point Blank Music School Online

Point Blank is an well established English music school, which has opened it’s expertise to the online sector. The sheer diversity of courses that they offer, including Music Business courses, is practically unmatched. This Online Music Production Masterclass Course set is both formal and fun.

  • Music style: None in Specific
  • Financial Investment: Medium-high
  • Duration: Depends on the subject of choice.
  • Main DAW used: Ableton
  • Our Rating: 9.5/10.
  • Skill Level: Intermediate-High

The “Online” courses of Point Blank Music School are actual real-time/live lecture by teachers, customised to you as a student. You get to ask questions and interact with your teacher via webcam. Each course thus has it’s own structure.

Our thoughts:

So this is clearly something different. Theere are no pre-recorded sessions, like the others. This would also explain the high price point compared to the others. As a drawback, their online music production courses are not instant, you have to enroll like you would to a school. Only that the school location is your home, if you cannot access the offline schools Point Blank Music School has running in London, L.A., Mumbai, Ibiza and China.

We feel like this product is for the more advanced music production, since asking questions is key here.

If you feel like you have run out of material to study on your own and feel like it’s time to get 1:1 with a teacher who can guide you further then look no further and click the button below to access the Point Blank Music School website.

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Producertech EQ Fundamentals Review

Producertech is a well established music course provider. It was founded in 2009 by Rob Jones. Of all their online music production courses, EQ fundamentals is one of our favourites. Here’s why:

  • Music style: None in Specific
  • Financial Investment: Low
  • Duration: 2.5 hours of video + assignments +
  • Main DAW used: Ableton
  • Our Rating: 9/10.
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Course Structure:

  • Introduction to Frequencies
  • EQ Controls 
  • EQ in Isolation
  • Frequency Demo #3 – Combining the Piano and Sine Wave 
  • The Frequency Spectrum Explained
  • EQ with respect to other parts
  • EQ’ing Drums 
  • Common EQ Practices
  • EQ’ing Kick and Bass
  • EQ on the Master Channel
  • EQ In The Mix

Our thoughts:

This course is, in our opinion, a must do for all aspiring producers. Having a solid grasp of EQ can be the difference between an amateur sounding song and a commercial grade end product.

Producertech’s EQ Fundamentals online music production masterclass course will give you the foundation you need to make clean sounding mixed, at a very accessible cost (25$).

It doesn’t have a rock star teacher or cover 10 different topics, but that is, in our opinion, a strength. There is no magic pill that will make you a successful musician. Instead, the path to success is continued investment in small courses on different topics. This laser focused course will give you a very complete foundation on one of the most important skills in the game: EQing.

It also comes with the EXPOSE software, which allows you to “test” your final mix for any potential issues. We were positively surprised by the production quality of the course. Here’s a sample video from the course:

There is a special focus on bass and kick mixing, thus making it slightly more relevant to electronic, hip-hop, and pop producers, though it really suits any kind of music style.

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Berklee Online Review- Electronic Music Production

Berklee is one of the most famous music schools in the world. This institution is a pioneer in online music production courses, having started in 2002! They still are an industry leader and offer the most formal type of education you’ll find in this list.

  • Music style: Electronic
  • Financial Investment: Moderate
  • Duration: Around 6 months (4 hours / week recommended)
  • Main DAW used: Ableton, though teachings can be applied to any DAW.
  • Our Rating: 9.5/10.
  • Skill Level: Beginner / Intermediate
  • Certificate upon completion: Yes

Course Structure:

  • The Technology of Music Production
  • Introduction to Ableton Live
  • Creating Sounds for Electronic Music
  • The Art of Vocal Production

Our Thoughts:

This is a solid course for students looking for a serious commitment and some degree of credibility. It teaches all the theoretic background + gives you a solid foundation in ableton production and recording / mastering vocals.

If you’re looking for some credibility in the industry, the Beerklee is something to stick in your CV that can also teach you some good theory.

However, there are more advanced and complete courses in this list in terms of knowledge.

Finally, one of the main advantages is that coursera offers financial aid to certain students.

All in all, it is pretty inexpensive, at 39$/month, and if you’re feeling motivated, you can knock it off in a couple of months, getting a “mini” degree for a very affordable price.

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Udemy Music Production Courses review

Next up, we have a couple of udemy courses. We’ll start with probably the most popular music course in the platform, “Music Production in Logic Pro X”.

Udemy has a lot of online music production course programs on it’s website, they mostly have a similar structure to the Logic X one which is our reference.

This course was developed by Digital Music Masters, a well established music school.

  • Music style: None in Specific
  • Financial Investment: Low
  • Duration: 38 hours of video + articles and resources
  • Main DAW used: Logic Pro X
  • Our Rating: 9/10.
  • Skill Level: Beginner / Intermediate

Our Thoughts

This is mostly for those more advanced. What we like is that you can just pay for one “topic” and not buy the whole online music production masterclass course package like with the others. You just get to Udemy, shop for what you want to know and that’s it.

These courses are mostly focused on daw workflows, with some specific items covering hardware gear like the Maschine and others focusing on specific sub-genres like music for games. All in all we think it is good product if you just want to fill some specific empty spaces in your skill arsenal.

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Final Thoughts

We hope that the above suggestions help you kickstart your music production career/hobby.

This article is in constant update as we try new courses, so if you have any recommendations, please post them below in the comments section!

Additive vs Reductive EQ

Steven Slate has posted a nice explanation of when you should cut or boost EQ.

I would add here that having a proper mixing workflow is something that improves sound dramatically.
Right order of using reductive, additive EQ and other mixing processing (limiting, compressing, saturating) is equally important to understand.
The workflow I learned from professional mixing and mastering engineers is to start with filtering unnecessary frequencies (do you really need low end on your hi-hats?) then saturate, then reductive EQ, then compress, then do additive eq (otherwise it would fight with compressor). Make sense?

Now watch Slate’s new video:

Maschine Ideas View Explored

In what seems to be preparation for their much anticipated Song Layer feature, Native Instruments recently released the Maschine 2.6.5 update. Although this is merely a point release, this update brings a pair of notable features that have been requested by Maschine users for quite a while: Ideas View (shown in the screenshot above) and the ability to load new Groups on the fly while the audio and MIDI routings stay preserved with Maschine in plugin mode.

Ideas View

With Ideas View we can now audition different patterns that are independent of the timeline. For many, this should speed up your workflow especially if you don’t want to concern yourself with making an arrangement right out of the gate. The layout of Ideas View is similar to the Maschine Jam hardware layout in which all your patterns can be seen and accessed more easily than on the other Maschine 4×4 controllers. Groups are now displayed along the bottom of Ideas View the software you can add Groups by clicking on the “+” button, delete by selecting a Group and clicking “Delete” in the drop-down menu, mute by left clicking the letter of a Group and solo by right clicking a Group letter. On the hardware, these actions can still be done the same way they always have. Also by default, Maschine now starts up in Ideas View.

 

We can get back to the Arranger View on the Maschine hardware by hitting SHIFT+SCENE or by hitting the NAVIGATE button and selecting the Arranger or Ideas View tab from the top left . This behavior is the same for all Maschine controllers.

In the software you can click the new odd looking button you see on the left side of the Arranger where the Mixer button used to be to alternate between Ideas View and Arranger View:

Once you develop the patterns you like in Ideas View, you can place them in the Arranger View to create what Native Instruments now calls Sections. Sections can either be empty or they can contain Scenes. Note that you can still record your patterns the “old way” by adding them to a Scene in the Arranger. Ideas View is merely an option for speeding up your workflow while keeping the Arranger more organized.

If you are a Studio One user, this functionality is basically like Scratch Pads where you can add an edit patterns in one place (Ideas View) without affecting them in another place (the Arranger).

Preserve MIDI Routings in Your DAW

I can’t even remember how long this feature has been requested, but we finally have it! Now we can load Maschine as a plugin in our DAW, our MIDI and audio routings and preserve them while auditioning different Groups. This feature is significant because Native Instruments have researched to find that most people use Maschine in their DAW.

So now when you load Maschine either in standalone or in your DAW and click the Group button, you will see a +ROUTING button in the bottom left corner of the GUI:

Keeping the +ROUTING button disabled (now the default behavior) allows you to change a Group without changing the routing while enabling it will change your each time you load a new Group. This behavior works the same in Maschine standalone. Those who have DAW or Maschine templates setup are now free to change groups to your heart’s content without having to go through the headache of resetting your each time you change a group. Whew!

To see these new features in action, check out these helpful videos by Matt Cellitti for ADSR Sounds:

Go check out Native Instruments Summer Of Sound sale to get great deals on bundles, software updates, and crossgrades. These offers are valid from June 1 until July 2, at the NI Online Shop and participating retailers.

Reaktor Blocks Kodiak Explained

Matt Cellitti has posted excellent series explaining recently updated Reaktor Blocks that bring new Oscillator, morphing vowel filter, new step and curve sequencer. I was particularly impressed by the last one – curve sequencer was an essential part of Massive synth and now you can modulate other Reaktor modules with it.

Bryan Eno shows his music production tricks

In this video shot by BBC Bryan Eno talks about different things but you can find really cool techniques and ideas on how you can use randomizers in your music.
At around 10:30 he is showing Logic Pro Scripter and his custom MIDI scripts he has programmed.
Logic Scripter was introduced in Logic Pro X and it is powerful environment where you can process or generate MIDI events by programming on JavaScript. And some nice useful script like Drum Probability Sequencer shown by Bryan in the video comes with Logic. You should definitely check it out and play with it if you have not already.

NI Maschine Tips: Build Your Own Multi-Effect Units

This week we continue our Maschine Tips series (read our first tutorial here – NI Maschine Tips: Record Mutes and Solos)

Maschine doesn’t have any multi-effect units internally, but what’s to stop you from building your own. I mean, sometimes you just don’t want to buy a new plugin. Building your own multi-effect won’t cost you anything except for a few extra pads on your hardware and you might learn something about multi-effects processing along the way. 

Let’s say you have a kick drum that’s lacking a good attack phase. You could always layer it with a different kick and slap on Maschine’s internal Transient Shaper, but it’s not multiband. Meaning that you wouldn’t have any control over the frequency ranges that will be affected. Here I’ll show you how you can make your own custom multiband transient shaper and maybe save a couple of bucks.

NI Maschine Tips: Record Mutes and Solos

Let’s be honest. As much as we longtime Maschine users complain about its shortcomings, it’s still the first tool we reach for whenever we want to lay down a quick idea, do sound design or even make a complete song. We know that if you experiment in Maschine long enough, you’ll eventually discover something it can do that you never thought was possible. In this series of articles I show best work-arounds I’ve found through experimentation and forum lurking. Hope you enjoy and use them on your next masterpiece.

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