PreSonus Blog

Friday Tips: Create the “Barberpole” Audio Illusion

The Shepard Tone (aka Barberpole) is an audio illusion where a tone always seems to keep rising (or falling). You may have heard it before—to build tension in music by Swedish House Mafia, Beatsystem, Data Life, and Franz Ferdinand, as the sound effect for the endless staircase in Super Mario 64, for the sound of constant acceleration for the Batpod in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, at the end of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” from the Meddle album, or in the soundtrack for the film Dunkirk in sections where the goal was to produce a vibe of increasing intensity. Check out the audio example, and you’ll hear how the tone just goes on forever.

 

Thanks to Studio One’s Tone Generator, it’s easy to produce a Shepard Tone loop—just follow the step-by-step instructions, in a song with the tempo set to 120 BPM.

 

  1. Insert the Tone Generator in the Input L+R insert section so that you can record its tone, and edit the Tone Generator generator’s settings as shown in the screen shot. The goal is the longest possible sine wave sweep from 20 Hz to 22 kHz.

 

  1. Start recording, then click the Tone Generator’s On button. After recording the file, trim the beginning and end respectively to just before and just after you can hear a tone, and add a short fade in and fade out.

  1. As shown above, copy the track, and offset each track’s beginning by two measures compared to the track above it. Keep copying and offsetting until the start of the last track is at the same measure as the end of the first track.

  1. Now select all, and drag the entire group to the right so that there’s a bit of an overlap between the two groups. Select everything, then type X to turn the overlap into a crossfade with a linear curve. Next, create a loop that extends from the start of the lowest track to the end of the highest track.

 

  1. Choose Song > Export Mixdown, set the Export Range to Between Loop, and under Options, check Import to Track and Close After Export. Solo the mixed track, and play it—you’ll hear a continuously rising tone. Now we need to turn it into a loop.

 

  1. Follow the instructions in the July 27 Friday Tip of the Week on how to create pads that loop perfectly. The above screen shot shows the basic concept; Track 1 shows the first steps. Copy the clip, move the copy to the right so it overlaps the last four measures of the original clip, and then crossfade the overlap with a linear crossfade.

 

  1. Track 2 in the screen shot shows the next step. Bounce the two clips together, then split at the end of measure 4 to remove the first four measures, and at the end of the crossfade to remove everything after the crossfade. Loop the section that remains, and you have your never-ending upward Shepard Tone, as a glitchless loop. Note that when you bring it into a project, don’t stretch it to conform to tempo—there is no tempo. And if you want it to go on forever…just keep typing D!

 

Download the loop here!

 

Bonus Tips:

 

  • I recommend adding a Pro EQ—reduce the high frequencies somewhat with the HC (High Cut) filter, and boost the low frequencies with a bit of a shelf, to increase the illusion’s effectiveness.
  • The “classic” Shepard Tone requires that the tones be one octave apart. However, offsetting them by 2 measures at 120 BPM seems close enough.

 

 

The Virtual “How Does It Sound in a Car?” Tester

This tip is for those who won’t sign off on a mix until they’ve heard it in a car. There may be a scientific reason why this is beneficial: Noise tends to mask sounds, so if one instrument you want to hear gets lost in the noise and another jumps out, try a mix that raises and lowers those levels, respectively.

The ear doesn’t discriminate level differences as accurately as pitch differences, so without noise masking a sound, the level may seem okay. But as soon as you mix in noise, an important sound may disappear. If you increase the level just a bit so you can hear it, when you remove the noise there’s a very good chance you’ll like the new level setting better. Think of this as doing something similar to compression, but without applying any actual dynamics. You’re just making sure that the levels needing parity, have parity.

Of course this doesn’t mean you want everything jumping out of the noise—those tambourine and shaker parts are probably just fine as they are. The main sounds to listen to here are vocals, leads, drums, and bass, as well as their relationship to each other.

This also doesn’t mean you should mix consistently with noise, as it will bias your hearing (and besides, it’s truly annoying). I add noise in with a mix as a last diagnostic step. If the mix has sounded fine up until then and passes this final test, I consider it ready to master. And I don’t need to go driving anywhere, either.

Setup

Just follow the steps, and you’ll be good to go.

 

  1. Create a stereo audio track, and insert the Tone Generator effect. Turn the track’s fader all the way down.
  2. Choose Pink Noise as the waveform.
  3. Click On to start generating noise.
  4. Turn up the track’s fader to add noise to the mix.

One very cool aspect of the Tone Generator’s noise is that it’s true stereo where the left and right channels don’t correlate, so you don’t get any center channel buildup (as would happen with a mono noise signal).

As to how much noise to add, it’s kind of like maximizing. Set it 6 dB below the mix’s peaks, and you’ll hear what occupies the upper 6 dB of dynamic range. Set it 12 dB below the mix’s peaks, and you’ll hear what’s in the upper 12 dB of dynamic range. This isn’t an exact spec per se, but it provides a rough standard of comparison.

As crazy as this idea sounds, try it sometime and tweak your mix. Then turn off the noise, take a short break so your ears get acclimated back to normal hearing, and then check the mix again. I won’t be surprised if you hear an improvement!

 

Songwriting with Impact XT

This tip is for those of you who didn’t see my Studio One workshop at Sweetwater GearFest 2018, were turned away because of that pesky fire marshal’s rules about crowds, or who didn’t realize Studio One 4 has some pretty advanced looping capabilities—as well as the ability to trigger pitch transpositions for loops.

With Impact XT, you can load loops on pads, and then trigger them (on and off) in real time via MIDI notes. Assign each output from an Impact XT pad to a track input (in the screen shot, Track 5 is recording the output of Impact XT M4), set all the tracks to record, and you can record the results of your improvisations.

The following screen shot shows the results of recording the first part of a potential song. Note how some tracks have sounds that extend the length of the recording, while other tracks had their sounds brought in at specific times by triggering an Impact XT pad.

This by itself is pretty cool, because you can weave loops in and out to create an arrangement. The song goes longer than this, but the above shows what you’re hearing in the following audio example. Granted, it’s not much of a song—it just kinda drones on and on. But keep reading…this is just the start.

The process becomes far more interesting when you bring the chord track into play, because you can transpose the loops to create a chord progression that becomes the basis for a song. All the tracks, even the drums, were set to follow the chord track. Listen to how although some of the original loops added a fourth to the tonic, when this was synched to the chord track, all of the loops followed a tonic-to-fourth chord progression. In other words, it wasn’t just one loop adding a fourth, but the entire song transposing to the fourth. We also gained an intro; here’s the chord progression that was used.

And here’s what the chord progression sounded like after harmonic editing. The major difference is in the intro, and transposing to D to kick off the second half of each verse.

Working this way can be very inspirational because you can create a basic arrangement with loops, and then use the Chord Track to create a chord progression. Although PreSonus is careful to point out that Harmonic Editing is more for “prototyping” songs and they expect that you’ll want to replace the “scratch” parts, I’ve found that many times the scratch parts end up being keepers—and I gotta say, I love what happens when you tell drums to follow the chord track!

Back to School: Buy a PreSonus Bundle, Get a Free Copy of Notion 6!

Hate to break it to you, but it’s time to get back to school!

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Don’t worry! PreSonus has a deal to turn that frown upside down!

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Now through October 2018 get a FREE copy of Notion when you purchase a PreSonus bundle! That’s $150 value for FREE!

Offer good on…

  • Audiobox 96 Studio
  • AudioBox 96 Ultimate Studio
  • iTwo Studio
  • HP4/HD9 pack

Everyone is talking about Notion like American Songwriter!

Notion 6 has lots of other progressive features to try out, but just knowing that this software can do what the big names in music notation are doing (for a lot less) is reason enough to check it out. If you can produce professional-looking scores, get great sounds, and some amazing features from easier to use software at this price, why look any further.

This offer is valid September 1 through October 31, 2018 and is available worldwide! Purchase must be made through an EDU dealer.

Click here to find a PreSonus dealer near you!

 

Buy a StudioLive Series III Console and StageBox, Get a 150′ Digital Snake Cable for free!

New Month, new promos!

What’s better than buying a StudioLive Series III mixer?

How about buying a StudioLive mixer and getting a FREE 150 foot Digital Snake!

Now through the month of October, get a FREE Digital Snake when you purchase a StudioLive Series III Console and StageBox or Rack Mixer. All you need is to make your purchase and then fill out a simple rebate form attached below and you’re good to go!

Earlier this year, MusicTech reviewed the StudioLive Series! Here’s the gist:

PreSonus knows what producers want, and with the new Series III StudioLive, is very much trying to put it all in one box.

If you’re thinking of upgrading to a project-studio setup and want a bundle that does everything, do consider StudioLive and these new Series IIIs. Just add speakers and a DAW (or not, if you don’t want to!) and you’re away.

+ Loads of routing options (almost too many!)
+ Love those Scribble Strip screens
+ And the options for changing parameters
+ Simple to use and looks great
+ Fantastic effects and emulations
+ Lovely logical layout – easier to use than the previous version!

Read the rest of the review here!

This offer expires October 31, 2018 and is available worldwide.

Click Here to find your regional PreSonus Dealer! 

 

Click Here for the Rebate Form

 

Studio One 4 User, James Reynolds, at the Top of the Charts!

Currently sitting in the no.1 and no.2 slot on the USA iTunes Charts are two songs mixed by mix engineer, music producer and songwriter James Reynolds who also is a Studio One user!

As a huge fan of the DAW, Reynolds worked with us on the development of the new Studio One 4, and it’s his go-to DAW for many reasons.

Reynolds was recently interviewed for Sound on Sound Magazine. Check out some of the article here. Here are just a few things he had to say about Studio One:

“I was on Cubase for a while, and then I switched to Logic. I stayed in Logic for a long time, rather than moving to Pro Tools, because I found Logic more creative. But when I discovered Studio One I really liked it, and today it is absolutely perfect!”

“Pro Tools and Studio One are very similar, because Studio One is designed to make it very easy to convert to for Pro Tools users, who would find it a piece of cake. Where it differs is in the drag‐and‐drop workflow, which is super‐fast. You have a sidebar with all your plug‐ins listed in your folders, and you just pull a plug‐in on the channel or the bus, and it will set up the routing for you. It is designed to be super‐quick. It has also taken a leaf out of Ableton’s book, so all your samples can be previewed real‐time and will automatically loop in time. Plus it has gone next level, for example in that you can create splits of your plug‐in signals within your channels. So let’s say you have a lead vocal, and you want to do a parallel bus for it within that channel, you do the split inside the plug‐in, and this gives you a lot of control very easily. It is all very well thought‐out and the automation is fantastic, and so is the MIDI.”

 

Click here to read more

Here’s more on what he has to say on Studio One. He’s basically the expert.

One more thing…. BTS’s latest release “IDOL” mixed by James, now holds the record for the biggest music video debut in YouTube’s history with over 45 million views in the first 24 hours! So that’s awesome.

Huge congrats to James and we’re so stoked for your success! Keep up with his success here.

Join the Studio One family here!

Friday Tip of the Week – Trolling for Slices

So there you are, with your shiny new Impact XT virtual instrument. You want to populate the pads with some fun drum sounds, and although you like the included kits, you’re itching to get creative and come up with some kits of your own. Fortunately, it’s easy to use Audioloops to populate your Impact XT with a custom selection of drum sounds.

Open the Browser, and under Loops, look for files with the .audioloop suffix. The reason why .audioloop files stretch elegantly is because the loop is cut into slices, with each slice representing an individual “block” of sound—kick, snare, clap, kick and cymbal hitting at the same time, snare and high-hat hitting at the same time…whatever.

When you expand an .audioloop, you’ll see each slice listed individually. Some have only one or two slices, but others—for example, the Combo Beat loops under Electronic > Drums > Loop (Fig. 1)—are rich sources of slices.

 

Figure 1:  The Browser’s Loop tab is loaded with slices, just waiting to be used with Impact XT to create custom kits.

Next, open up Impact XT. To audition the slices, toward the bottom of the browser turn off the loop and metronome options, select a slice, and then click on the Play > button. Click on various slices and when you hear something you like, drag it over to an Impact XT pad (Fig. 2). You won’t have to click the Play button again to audition slices until after you drag a slice over.

 

Figure 2: Drag slices over to Impact XT pads.

The real fun begins when you start to use Impact XT’s sound-shaping options. For example in Figure 2, one of the kick slices has been dropped in pitch, truncated, filtered, and given a new Amp decay setting to sound more like an explosion. Note that the pad’s name will be the same as the .audioloop, so if you’re using multiple slices from the same .audioloop, rename the pad to avoid confusion (right-click on the pad and choose Rename).

And remember, you’re not limited to dragging over slices from the Browser—you can split any file in the Edit window at the Bend markers, and drop those slices into Impact XT.

Sure, Impact XT comes with a lot of preset, ready-to-go kits when you just want to load something and start grooving. But you might be surprised how doing a little mixing and matching with the Browser slices can create something new and different—and each new pad sound is only a click + drag away.

 

 

 

It’s #PreSonusFamFriday with Alexandra Medina!

Bringing back a blog favorite this season… #PreSonusFAMFriday! If you’re not familiar with the series, catch up here.

Up first is Alex Medina! She’s in charge of making sure everything gets paid for here at PreSonus. She’s also in charge of  baking up all kinds of tasty treats for the office. We are coworkers but we’re also her certified taste testers and let’s just say, Betty Crocker WHO?!

Here’s more on Alex and her favorite PreSonus product the Eris 3.5s!

How long have you worked for PreSonus?
8 Months.

What’s your official job title? 
Accounts Receivable and Credit Manager.

What do you love about your job? 
I love the people I work with. Also, I pretty much get to talk to everyone we do business with and its awesome when they share the latest things they are working on with our products or tell me stories about how our products made their lives easier. I enjoy checking out the youtube links they send. I get introduced to all kinds of new music.

What was the first 8 track, cassette, CD or digital download you purchased?
Salt-N-Pepa “Push It.” Odd choice maybe but I heard it in a movie and it just stuck so I downloaded it same day. Remember when ring back tones were a thing? This was totally mine.

Who’s your go to band or artist when you can’t decide on something to listen to?
When that happens I turn on Spotify and listen to the new releases. You never know what you will come across.

What’s your go to Karaoke song?
Journey, “Don’t Stop Believing.”

Everyone has a side gig, what’s yours? OR when you’re not at PreSonus, what are you up to?
I’m in the Air National Guard so sometimes I’m working there., or I’m off on some new adventure with my son. Toddlers are never boring!

What instruments do you play?
I dabble in rock band… the drums… on easy. Plus it’s color coded so…

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Why did you choose the Eris 3.5s as your favorite? 
They are very satisfying for the size and price. I just needed some small speakers that wouldn’t clutter my desk and these work great. Almost too well, the sound is crystal clear no matter how high I turn them up, which usually isn’t the case with speakers this size. I feel people always like to talk about the big flashy and fancy products, so I wanted to give the little guys some love too!

Anything else you want to share? 
Ummm PreSonus rocks and GEAUX SAINTS! #WHODAT

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Learn more about one of the best selling monitors on the market, the Eris 3.5s HERE!

Friday Tip of the Week – EZ Squeez: the One-Knob Compressor!

Sometimes you just want a compressor that’s quick and easy. Maybe you’re tracking and need to compress the vocals, or hear what the bass will sound like when you add some compression on mixdown. But you know what happens—you adjust the threshold, and then the ratio, but now realize you need to re-adjust the threshold, which means the output gain needs adjusting…and maybe the knee…

If you have a bunch of ready-to-go presets, great. But here’s another option: The EZ Squeez compressor. It uses an FX Chain macro to alter six compressor parameters at once, so that a single knob sweeps from no compression, to some compression, to compression that’s more like a guitar sustainer stompbox. Although there’s a downloadable preset, I’d recommend reverse-engineering this to learn the power of the FX Chain’s Macro Controls. The principles used in this FX Chain apply to many other processors.

 

Figure 1: Three different Macro Control settings.

Figure 1 (top) shows the compressor settings with the EZ Squeez knob turned all the way counter-clockwise (minimal compression). As you turn up the EZ Squeez control, the Ratio, Release, and Gain increase, while the Threshold, Knee, and Attack decrease. The middle image shows the EZ Squeez knob turned up about 60% of the way. Turned up all the way, the parameter values become more extreme, as shown in the lower part of the screen shot.

Figure 2: (Top) Macro Controls parameters and (bottom) Macro Controls interface.

Figure 2 shows the Macro Controls. Rather than expose the control settings, it’s easier just to download the Multipreset, and then click on the curves for yourself. Note the curves on the Gain and Release parameters. Given that there’s only one node on the curve you can’t get too sophisticated, but these are close enough to give a fairly even response as you move the knob from fully counter-clockwise to fully clockwise.

Because compressors are so dependent on the input signal level, I did cheat on the “one-knob” concept and added an input level control. This allows trimming the input level so that it falls in the compressor’s “sweet spot.” There’s also a bypass button so you can compare the compressed and uncompressed sounds.

As to applications, you’ll probably find that EZ Squeez knob settings of 30% to 65% will work for a variety of signal sources. Past that point, the compressor gets into a more extreme territory that pumps mixed drums, and acts more like a sustainer for guitar. But it’s easy enough to find what works the best—just turn the knob until the compression sounds right. After all, that’s the whole point!

Download the EZ Squeez.multipreset

 

 

 

Friday Tip: Delay-Free Stereo from Mono

After a recent tip on how to extract two mono tracks from a stereo track, one of the comments asked for how to convert mono into stereo. Well, we aim to please…so here’s one option.

A common way to create stereo from mono is by duplicating the track, delaying one of the tracks compared to the other, and panning them left and right. However, this approach has two problems. First, you might not want a delay. Second, when you collapse the signal back to mono, there will likely be partial cancellation due to phase differences. The method we’ll cover here not only produces stereo imaging from a mono source, but collapses perfectly to mono. It works with pretty much any instrument, but is most effective with instruments that play chords (for example, try this on acoustic guitar—it works well).

Console Setup

Create two buses. One of these will become the left channel, and the other, the right channel. In your mono source track, create two pre-fader sends (one for each bus). Turn down the mono source’s fader.

 

Multiband Dynamics Setup

 

Insert a Multiband Dynamics into one of the bus inserts. Solo the bus with the Multiband Dynamics. Click on “Edit All Relative” and set the Ratio control to 1.0. This will set all bands to a ratio of 1.0, which converts the Multiband Compressor into a multiband EQ.

Play the track you want to convert to stereo. Solo each band in the Multiband Compressor, and adjust the frequency sliders to divide up the frequency response evenly over the five bands (the screen shot shows frequencies selected for dry electric guitar). Mute bands 1, 3, and 5.

Next, drag the Multiband Dynamics into the other bus’s Inserts slot. For this bus, mute bands 2 and 4 instead of bands 1, 3, and 5, then pan the two buses left and right. Now the frequency responses are equal and opposite for the two buses. Voilà! Stereo! (Note that you probably don’t want to pan the buses too far to the left and right, because the stereo effect will be unrealistically exaggerated—as in the audio example. But it does get the point across.)

 

We’re not done yet, though. The levels of the two buses will be fairly low because with only two or three bands, the output level will be down quite a bit. Turning up the bus faders may be sufficient to compensate, but if not, turn up the Multiband Dynamics processors’ master Gain controls (not the per-band Gain controls). Feel free to play around with the pan and Gain controls to achieve the desired sonic balance. Also, no law says you need to mute every other band. For example, you might want a bassier sound on the left by muting the three upper bands, and a brighter sound toward the right by muting the two lower bands.

Finally, note that when you toggle the master bus from stereo to mono, the sound collapses to mono without any funky phase interactions. Done!