Step 2: Distortion, Compression, & EQ
Now that we have a piano key loaded up and ready to go in the piano roll let’s get to business! We’re going to start off with adding some light distortion here to drive up those frequencies.
Here for simplicity I’m using Studio One’s default, free plugin RedLightDist (any distortion VST should do). No science here really I just know I wanted a subtle distortion so I went through the presets found one that was close and tweaked the settings a bit. I brought the drive down a bit as again we’re not trying to drive this crazily, just looking to add a nice fuzz!
Example of raw piano ran through RedlightDist plugin by Sonimus
Compression + EQ Time:
Next we’re using Studio One’s default compressor & EQ channel strip FatChannel. You’ll notice here this is a channel strip (e.g. Gate, Compressor, and EQ in the same plugin), but this would 100% work using individual, standalone compressor & EQ plugins. For compression we’re looking to have light reduction around 3-5db (again find a sound that suits you!). After we get that within reduction range we’re boosting the gain to match the prior audio levels for the piano. I normally do this by adding a Level Meter plugin on the master track and reviewing the audio db level with plugin on/off.
Moving over to EQ within the channel strip, I’m using a passive EQ here just as it is my favorite type of EQ when I want to do some boost in the low end. You can learn more about passive EQs here although this is modeled off the classic Pultec EQP-1. Again, any EQ will do the trick here so don’t feel overwhelmed if you don’t have one! All we’re doing here is giving a slight boost around 100Hz while also using attenuating the same 100Hz a little. Moving over to the high end, we have the frequency set at 8kHz and are boosting that a bit more to exaggerate the highs. We are similarly attenuating the 8kHz frequency by about the same amount.
Example of Piano being compressed