When it comes to entering a recording studio, there are often so many different types of equipment and tools that you can use, that if you’re new to the world of music recording, then it can be confusing trying to decipher what each piece of equipment is used for!
So if you find yourself confused about some of the equipment you can find in a studio, then we’re here to help you!
In this article, we’ll be taking you through what a Bitcrusher is, as well as how to use it so that you can make the best use of the Bitcrusher the next time you’re in the studio!
What Is Bitcrushing?
Before we start on how to use a Bitcrusher, it’s probably best we teach you exactly what a Bitcrusher is!
In the simplest terms, bitcrushing is a way of making your songs sound incredibly unique, and is a form of digital distortion that can be added to your tracks.
In order for your computer to be able to create a digital recording of your track, loads and loads of snapshots are taken of the sound.
This is similar to the way in which films are created, which is through stringing together thousands of individual images.
Audio recording works the same way, and instead of images, it consists of multiple samples all played in a sequence.
The “Bit depth” dictates how detailed the samples are. Bitcrushing then is a way of reducing the number of samples in a recording.
In turn, the quality of the sound is lowered, the noise floor is raised, and a certain amount of distortion is added to the track.
Whilst this might seem like a bad thing, this distortion and reduction in quality can be used in creative ways, which help to add uniqueness to the track!
What Does Bitcrushing Sound Like?
Bitcrushing has an incredibly distinctive sound, and nothing comes close to the way in which it sounds.
By reducing the recording track’s fidelity, increasing the distortion, and changing the resonance, it helps to create this super unique sound.
This unique effect is quite often paired with a reduction in the sample rate. The bandwidth is also lowered too. Overall, this sound is extremely complex, but makes for an interesting addition to the track!
Of course, you want the mixing of the track to sound professional, but often too clean of a mix will mean that some listeners may find it boring.
Which is why introducing a lo-fi element to the track, such as bitcrushing, is a great way of ensuring that your track sounds interesting and exciting.
Setting Up And Using Your Bitcrusher
Just like every other plugin available, each Bitcrusher out there has some slight differences between them.
However, for the most part, they are all fairly similar to set up, so here are the main settings you need to look out for in order to get it working!
The first thing you’ll need to adjust is the resolution, which is just a fancy way of saying Bit Depth.
By default, your track will be set to either 24 or 16 bits. These are considered to be Hi-Fi resolutions, which in most cases, means that they’re likely to sound pretty boring really!
In order to try and get the absolute most of bitcrushing, the ideal sort of resolution to set your track to is going to be between 6 and 12 bits.
Essentially, the lower the bit depth, the “worse” that the track will sound.
Adjusting the drive is what lets you increase or decrease the amount of distortion present in the track.
Bitcrushing adds distortion by default, but if you want to add even more distortion to the track, then you can do this through the drive setting.
Depending on the bitcrusher, you might even be able to make changes to the intensity of the distortion too!
If you think your track still sounds too hi-fi, then there is a way of decreasing the quality even further, and that’s by downsampling!
Downsampling is simply the term for when you decrease the sample rate.
If you’re unsure what the sample rate does, allow us to explain. Essentially, the sample rate is what determines the range of frequency the recording has.
So by dividing the sample rate in half, you’ll be able to achieve the highest possible frequency of a recording.
These two things are completely tied, so if you reduce the sample rate of a recording, you will also squash the frequency range of the sound too.
As a general rule, most of the sample rates you’ll hear are 44.1kHz or even higher. So, you can also hear anywhere from 22kHz and above.
This is where you can get really creative with the way in which you use bitcrushing.
So let’s say you wanted to make something sound really old school, then you could downsample to around 32kHz, which in turn, will then low-pass everything that is above 16kHz.
The best thing about bitcrushing is the various amounts of uses that are possible with it! In this section, we’ll explore some of the best ways you can make use of a bitcrusher plugin:
Use On The Mix Bus
If you want a really distinctive and pronounced effect, then you can bitcrush the entire mix!
Whether you do this ever so subtly, which will create a more toned down, lo-fi feel. Or alternatively, you can increase the intensity, which will give your track a really flavorsome sound.
Another way you can make use of bitcrushing is by bitcrushing your drums! But there are also a few different ways of doing this too.
So whether you decide to degrade a singular drum mic, for example, crushing a mono room mic, and then mix this in incredibly subtly.
This is a lot like parallel compression, which will ensure the entirety of the drum kit will really kick throughout the track.
For a really lo-fi feeling on your track, then you can crush the entirety of the drum track.
Bitcrushing synths is an extremely common technique, this is especially true if you’re planning on making something sound like a video game!
This is because most early video game consoles had a really low bit depth due to technological limitations, which is why bitcrushing a synth can help to form a chiptune type of vibe on the track!
Finally, you can bitcrush vocals, which is especially great for experimental types of music!
Editing your vocals like this can really set you apart from the rest, so it’s a great way to be distinctive.
In summary, bitcrushing is a super simple technique and really allows you to create super unique and distinctive music which will set you apart from the rest!