Electronic Composition
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What does DSP mean and should I use effects?

DSP stands for digital signal processing. It’s really a whole field of study unto itself, but in the most simple of terms it’s modifying a sound through digital means. For us this, will mean using guitar style effects to alter the sound.

Let’s start with a melody.

This is a pretty popular melody for children in some cultures.

Now let’s add some distortion (fuzz to be specific).

Distortion originated as overdrive (the sound of overloading a tube amplifier), but evolved into a few distinct categories: overdrive, distortion, fuzz, clipping distortion, and bit driving. Each style of distortion has a unique sound and should be experimented with.

Next, we filter some of the harshness out of the sound.

Filters and EQs are two sides of the same coin. Filters tend to have less parameters than EQ, but both work by boosting or cutting user specified frequencies. In this case, we’re cutting the high and mid frequencies to “smooth” out the harshness of the fuzz distortion.

Then, we add some modulation effects.

Modulation refers to a whole family of effects that change the signal at a given rate. In this example we’re combining a Auto-Wah and Vibrato effect.

Finally, we’ll add some delay and reverb.

We discussed delay some already. To refresh, a delay is like an echo that repeats at a given time and volume. Reverb is a more complicated style of delay that adds ambience to a sound. This specific reverb is a spring reverb which was traditionally produced by passing the amplified signal through a spring inside of a chamber in a guitar amp.

This is a very extreme example of how a simple sound can be transformed into something completely new through DSP.