Are you ever mixing a song, and the vocal just won’t cut through? You try to EQ out some lows or boost some highs. Nothing. You try to compress the daylights out of it. Still not cutting through enough. Try using distortion.

I’m not talking about distorted vocals. I’m talking about using distortion to help the vocals cut through. Check out this video, then leave a comment!

  • Erahgon

    Hey! This is a neat tip! Thanks a lot!
    Which song is this by the way? The little I heard sounds awesome!

  • Rockinmoroccan

    Hey Joe,

    It’s been a while :). I’m about to start recording my album. Almost done with my friend’s. It’s taking forEVER. I was wondering if the drums on this song are real or if that’s EZdrummer. They sound real to me.

  • Jamboni

    Very interesting; however, I was a bit confused on the section whereby you duplicated the track and talked briefly about the Time Adjuster (delay). Can you please direct me to information that I can get more detailed explanation?

    As always, great site and thanks!

    PS: Downloaded your free Album tracks – Fantastic and look forward to full album release.

  • Hey Joe, that was some really great advice. I’ve been using DaTube, a simple tube distortion emulator that comes with Cubase, after a compressor, to help blend some instruments together for a folk/jam band. But I’ve been using them serial. It didn’t occur to me that a distorted parallel signal could do so much for apparent volume. Thanks! I may need to try it before this album is finished.

    I’ve been using this DaTube, a nice warm plugin, for a number of purposes. The album is a follow-up to Must Stash Hat’s Live And Local ( and the new one was also recorded live. The bass signal is clipping all the time (I wasn’t there), so I used DaTube to soften and blend those peaks and it’s working quite well.

    On one song, I use distortion, as I mentioned above, on a group buss channel after a compressor to blend the instruments together a little. On another track, I do the same with the vocals when three band members sing in harmony.

    Stay funky!

  • Ricky

    I really enjoyed this video. It was a great idea and great execution. I am a little surprise that you couldn’t get that vocal to pop by using one of your compressors. never the less it was a great idea.

    On a side note, I absolutely love these videos. It’s really on of the reasons I love your site…Ricky

  • Preshan

    Great tip, Joe!

    For a big rock mix, it sounds cool if you don’t compress the parallel distortion track, but compress the main vocal track hard. Then when the singer gets loud (usually high notes), the distortion track pops out a bit more and gives the voice an edge. But during the soft, more intimate parts, the distortion doesn’t show up as much because of the compressed lead vocal track. This worked quite well for me on a song I was mixing – I was using Massey Tapehead with the drive almost at max for the distortion track.

  • christopher [chrisw92]

    I have heard about this before, works great on a bass guitar as well as vocals.