PreSonus Blog

Friday Tips—Blues Harmonica FX Chain

If you’ve heard blues harmonica greats like Junior Wells, James Cotton, Jimmy Reed, and Paul Butterfield, you know there’s nothing quite like that big, brash sound. They all manage to transform the harmonica’s reedy timbre into something that seems more like a member of the horn family.

To find out more about the techniques of blues harmonica, check out the article Rediscovering Blues Harmonica. It covers why you don’t play blues harp in its default key (e.g., you typically use a harmonica in the key of A for songs in E), how to mic a harmonica, and more. However, the secret to that big sound is playing through the distortion provided by an amp, or in our software-based world, an amp sim. I don’t really find the Ampire amps suitable for this application, but we can put together an FX Chain that does the job.

Check out the demo to hear the desired goal. The first 12 bars are unprocessed harmonica (other than limiting). The second 12 bars use the FX Chain described in this week’s tip, and which you can download for your own use.


The chain starts with a Limiter to provide a more sustained, consistent sound.

 

Next up: A Pro EQ to take out all the lows and highs, which tightens up the sound and reduces intermodulation distortion. (When using an amp sim, blues harmonica is also a good candidate for multiband processing, as described in the February 1 Friday Tip.)

 

Now it’s time for the Redlight Dist to provide the distortion. For the cabinet, this FX Chain uses the Ampire solely for its 4 x 10 American cabinet—no amp or stomps.

 

After the distortion/cabinet combo, a little midrange “honk” makes the harmonica stand out more in the mix.

 

For a final touch, blues harp often plays through an amp with reverb—so a good spring reverb effect adds a vintage vibe.

You can download the Blues Harp.multipreset and use it as it, but I encourage playing around with it—try different types of distortion and amps, mess with the EQ a bit, and so on. For an example of a finished song with amp sim blues harmonica in context, check out I’ll Take You Higher on YouTube.

 

Click here to download the multipreset!

 

 

Friday Tips—Studio One Meets Vinyl

Although vinyl represents a tiny fraction of the media people use to listen to music, you, or a client, may want to do a vinyl release someday. Conventional wisdom is split between “you don’t dare master for vinyl” and “sure, you can master for vinyl if you know certain rules.”

Both miss the point that the engineer using the lathe to do the cutting will make the ultimate decisions. You can provide something mastered for CD, and the engineer will do what’s possible to make it vinyl-friendly—but then the vinyl version may sound very different from the CD, because of the compromises needed to accommodate vinyl. Conversely, you can “prep for vinyl” and if you do a good job, the engineer running the cutting lathe will have an easier time, and there won’t be as much difference between the vinyl and CD release.

But before going any further, let’s explore why vinyl is different.

 

TRADEOFFS

A stylus moves side to side, and up and down, to create stereo. Louder levels mean wide and deeper grooves; if too loud, the needle can jump out of the groove. Lower frequencies hog “groove space” more than high frequencies, but also, a stylus has a difficult time moving fast enough to track high frequencies, which leads to distortion.

To compensate, the RIAA initiated an EQ curve that cuts bass up to -20 dB at low frequencies before the audio gets turned into a master lacquer, and boosts highs by an equally dramatic amount to help overcome surface noise. On playback, an inverse curve boosts the bass to restore its original level; cutting highs restores the proper high-frequency balance to reduce surface noise and encourage better tracking (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: RIAA equalization record and playback curves for vinyl records.

 

PREPARATION IN THE SONG PAGE

There are four main ways to make more vinyl-friendly mixes in the Song Page.

  1. Avoid excessive high frequencies. Use de-essing on vocals, but de-essing can also tame distorted guitar, cymbals, and other high-frequency sound sources (Fig. 2). Excess sibilance or brightness translates to splattering distortion with vinyl.

 

Figure 2: Studio One’s compressor can do de-essing and other frequency-selective compression.

 

  1. Trim the lows and highs, as appropriate for the program material. Use a 48 dB/octave Pro EQ LC filter to cut everything below 20 to 40 Hz. Back in the vinyl days, sharp cuts above 15 kHz or even 10 kHz were also the norm (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: Sharp LC and HC filters trim out vinyl-hostile frequencies.

 

  1. Center the bass. The worst-case audio for a stylus to track is out-of-phase bass in the left and right channels. Besides, low frequencies aren’t very directional, so any stereo is more or less pointless unless you’re listening on headphones. The easiest way to center bass in Studio One is to place a Splitter in the master bus, and split by frequency. There is no “rule” for the correct crossover frequency; too low, and potentially problematic frequencies can get through. Too high, and you’ll start interfering with the lower end of guitar and other instruments. That said, 70 to 170 Hz is a good place to start. Then, follow that low split with the Dual Pan, and center both channels (Fig. 4). Also consider avoiding hard left/right panning for lower-frequency instruments, like toms.

 

Figure 4: Using a Splitter as a crossover, with a Dual Pan, can center low frequencies in the stereo spread.

 

  1. Check your mix in mono. Phase issues, whether accidental or deliberate (i.e., psycho-acoustic processors) can really mess with the cutting lathe. Use Studio One’s Correlation meter to confirm there aren’t major phase issues (see the Friday Tip for September 28, 2018).

 

PREPARATION IN THE PROJECT PAGE

You can take matters only so far in the Project Page before taking your mixes to a mastering engineer who knows how to prep for, and cut, vinyl. But there are steps you should take to assist the process of creating a vinyl-friendly master for duplication.

  1. Follow the rules for album length. The two sides should be of approximately equal length, and for a 12” record, should not exceed 20 minutes. Longer sides mean narrower grooves, lower levels, and more issues with surface noise. There’s a reason why many classic albums were 30-40 minutes long total.
  2. Follow the rules for album order. Fidelity deteriorates as the stylus works its way toward the inner grooves. Place your loudest songs, with the most complex spectra, at the beginning of a side, and the quieter songs toward the end. This may require choosing whether you want to compromise your art, or the sound quality.
  3. Don’t try to win the loudness wars. You can ask the engineer cutting the vinyl to put as loud a level as possible on vinyl, but don’t try it yourself. Loud, distorted or partially clipped audio only sounds worse when translated to vinyl because the stylus can’t follow clipped waveforms easily. Think about it—a mechanical object can’t snap to a maximum value and then back down to a lower value instantly. What matters is the average, not peak, level; I master to around -10 or -11 LUFS these days, and that works for vinyl. You can maybe stretch that to -8 with some material, but the louder you go, the greater the chance of distortion.
  4. Create a complete, continuous disc image file (Fig. 5) that represents exactly what you want each side to sound like. The process of transferring from a final mix to a cutting lathe is done in real time. The image should include the desired silence between cuts, crossfades, and song order. Of course you can have a mastering engineer assemble the album from individual cuts, but you’ll pay extra.

 

Figure 5: I mastered my 2017 album project, Simplicity, with vinyl in mind “just in case.” The total length is about 31 minutes, and the project splits into two sides of almost equal length between songs 6 and 7 (shown with an orange line). An image of the entire project is about to be created.

 

  1. Get a reference lacquer. You’ll pay extra for this, but it lets you “proof” the settings the mastering engineer uses to create the final master lacquer. You can play the reference at least a dozen or more times before the quality starts to deteriorate audibly. If changes need to be made, the mastering engineer will have written down the settings used to make the reference, and re-adjust them as needed.

 

SO THAT’S WHY VINYL SOUNDS BETTER!!

Yes. Properly mastered vinyl releases didn’t have harsh high frequencies, they had dynamic range because you couldn’t limit the crap out of them without having them sound distorted, and the bass coalesced around the stereo image’s center, where it belongs. In fact, if you master with vinyl in mind, you just might find that those masters make CDs sound a whole lot better as well!

PreSonus 2018 Rep and Distributor of the Year Awards!

Every year at NAMM, we like to recognize distribution partners and reps who have gone above and beyond in their support of PreSonus. Thanks to the below for leading by example, and for setting the bar so very high.

 

 

30% off Presence XT Editor – February 2018 only!

Unlock the true power of Presence XT in Studio One

Presence XT Editor unlocks the Edit Page of Presence XT, the built-in sample player instrument of Studio One. This add-on turns a great-sounding instrument into a powerful sound design tool for musicians, producers, and sound-designers. With direct support for all major sampler formats, it’s the perfect host for any custom sampler sound library.

Import samples via drag & drop, supporting popular formats such as WAV, Kontakt (unprotected), Giga, SoundFont and EXS24. Edit mappings, layers, and various trigger options. Assign articulations to key switches with just a few clicks. Then add additional realism to sounds with manual or automated sound shaping and sample playback variations using the powerful JavaScript based script editor and create effects like fret noise, key-clicks, or legato via scripts. In addition, 8 assignable knobs and buttons are available as custom script controls.

Finished sounds can be saved as Presence XT presets or exported in a compact sampler file containing all samples, mappings, scripts, and settings for convenient file sharing and exchange.

Get the Presence XT Editor for 30% less by clicking here and buying direct from shop.presonus.com! 

 

 

 

Brass Section Bundle for Notion 30% off!

Save 30% on the Brass Section Bundle for Notion, this month only!

Click here to get it!

This bundle includes the following:

Horn section

Ensemble comprised of four horns.

Legato, Vibrato, Staccato, Trills, Flutter Tongue, Straight Mute Legato, Straight Mute Staccato, Straight Mute Trills, Straight Mute Flutter Tongue, Stopped Legato, Stopped Staccato, Stopped Trills, Stopped Flutter Tongue.
(212 MB download)

Trombone Section

Ensemble comprised of two tenor and one bass trombone.
Legato and Staccato.
(57 MB download)

Trumpet Section

Ensemble consists of three trumpets.

Legato, Vibrato, Staccato, Trills, Flutter Tongue, Straight Mute Legato, Straight Mute Staccato, Straight Mute Trills, Straight Mute Flutter Tongue, Harmon Mute Legato, Harmon Mute Staccato, Harmon Mute Trills, Harmon Mute Flutter Tongue.
(156.6 MB download)

Friday Tips: Multiband Processing Development System

I’m a big fan of multiband processing. This technique divides a signal into bands (I generally choose lows, low mids, mids, and high mids), processes each band independently, then sums the bands’ outputs back together again.

I first used multiband processing in the early 80s, with the Quadrafuzz distortion unit (later virtualized by both Steinberg and MOTU). This produces a “cleaner” distortion sound because you didn’t have the intermodulation distortion caused by low strings and high strings interacting with each other. However, multiband processing is also useful with delay, like using shorter delays on lower frequencies, and longer delays on higher frequencies…or chorus, if you want a super-lush sound. But there are other cool surprises, like using different effects in the different bands, or using envelope filters.

So for Studio One, I’ve created a multiband processing “development system” for creating new multiband effects—and that’s the subject of this tip.When I find an effect I like, it gets turned into a fixed FX chain that uses the Splitter module’s multi-band capabilities instead of buses to create four parallel signal paths.

Band Splitting

Figure 1: The Multiband Processing Development System, set to evaluate multiband processing with analog delay.

Start by creating four pre-fader sends to feed four buses (fig. 1). Each bus handles a specific frequency range. The simplest way to create splits is with the Multiband Dynamics set to no compression, so it can serve as a crossover.

To create the bands, insert a Multiband Dynamics processor in one of the buses, open it, and set the compression Ratio for all Multiband Dynamics bands to 1:1. This prevents any compression from occurring.

Referring to fig. 2, as you play your instrument (or other signal source you want to process), solo the Low band. Then adjust the Low / Low-Mid X-Over Frequency control to set the dividing frequency between the low- and low-mid band.

Figure 2: Use the Multiband Dynamics processor to create the individual band in each bus.

 

Next, solo the Low Mid band and adjust its frequency control. Use a similar procedure on each band until you’ve chosen the frequencies you want each band to cover. For guitar, having more than four bands isn’t all that necessary, so I normally set the frequency splits to around 250 Hz, 500 Hz, and 1 kHz. The resulting bands are:

  • Below 250 Hz
  • 250 – 500 Hz
  • 500 – 1,000 Hz
  • Above 1,000 Hz

Setting the Mid-High / High X-Over Frequency to Max essentially removes the Multiband Dynamics’  top band.

After choosing the frequency bands, copy the Multiband Dynamics processor to the other three buses. Solo the Low band for one bus, the Low Mid in the next bus, the Mid in the next bus, and finally, the High Mids in the fourth bus. Now each bus covers its assigned frequency range.

At this point, all that’s left is to insert your processor(s) of choice into each band. Don’t forget that you can experiment with panning the different bands, changing levels, altering sends to the buses to affect distortion drive, and more. This type of setup allows for a ton of options…so get creative!

Buy One ULT Loudspeaker and get the second for half price!

“No matter what we sent through these speakers, from the spoken word to electronic dance music, it all sounded great!”

You read that right! Church Production goes on to share more about the awarding winning loudspeakers–read the rest of the article here!

Starting this month buy one ULT Loudspeaker and get another one 50% off!

Buy any pair of ULT Loudspeakers and get one 50% off. This includes the following:

  • ULT 10s
  • ULT 12s
  • ULT 15s
  • ULT 18s

This offer is available in the US only. Offer ends April 30, 2019.

Bill “The Buddha” Dickens receives NAMM Believe in Music Award!

“The Buddha” in his studio

 

Bill “The Buddha” Dickens, legendary electric bass guitarist, has been bestowed the 2019 NAMM Believe in Music Award!

This special award recognizes Bill’s work in supporting the music community and the role he has played in helping grow the NAMM Oral History program. Bill Dickens has been on the scene since 1971, and has played with many legendary performers, all of whom have added their genius to the history of American music. The Oral History Program archives the sights, sounds and creative art of many inventive musicians, past and present.

Bill is a pioneer in the music business. He is a composer, having written numerous #1 hits including, “Don’t Lose the Magic,” with Shawn Christopher and “In Case You Forgot” with Aretha Franklin. He is a performer, having played with many legendary performers, from Ramsey Lewis to Questlove, Leo Nocentelli to Chet Baker.

Bill recently added acting to his resume, and features in I Am Your Keeper, due to be released in 2019. “The Buddha” is also teacher and mentor to emerging artists having released a video and book with Alfred Publishing. Bill designed and invented the nine-string bass guitar and has developed the lowest playable note on the bass.

We’re proud of Bill and thankful to count him among our users!

Bill says:

“PreSonus has been a part of my productions for many years. I am currently using StudioOne 4 and The FaderPort. Both of these products make working in the studio easier. The amazing support provided by PreSonus staff is a big part of why I use their gear. Thank you PreSonus, you’re the best!”

Billthebuddhadickens.com

Friday Tip: MIDI Guitar Setup with Studio One

I was never a big fan of MIDI guitar, but that changed when I discovered two guitar-like controllers—the YRG1000 You Rock Guitar and Zivix Jamstik. Admittedly, the YRG1000 looks like it escaped from Guitar Hero to seek a better life, but even my guitar-playing “tubes and Telecasters forever!” compatriots are shocked by how well it works. And Jamstik, although it started as a learn-to-play guitar product for the Mac, can also serve as a MIDI guitar controller. Either one has more consistent tracking than MIDI guitar retrofits, and no detectable latency.

The tradeoff is that they’re not actual guitars, which is why they track well. So, think of them as alternate controllers that take advantage of your guitar-playing muscle memory. If you want a true guitar feel, with attributes like actual string-bending, there are MIDI retrofits like Fishman’s clever TriplePlay, and Roland’s GR-55 guitar synthesizer.

In any case, you’ll want to set up your MIDI guitar for best results in Studio One—here’s how.

Poly vs. Mono Mode

MIDI guitars usually offer Poly or Mono mode operation. With Poly mode, all data played on all strings appears over one MIDI channel. With Mono mode, each string generates data over its own channel—typically channel 1 for the high E, channel 2 for B, channel 3 for G, and so on. Mono mode’s main advantage is you can bend notes on individual strings and not bend other strings. The main advantage of Poly mode is you need only one sound generator instead of a multi-timbral instrument, or a stack of six synths.

In terms of playing, Poly mode works fine for pads and rhythm guitar, while Mono mode is best for solos, or when you want different strings to trigger different sounds (e.g., the bottom two strings trigger bass synths, and the upper four a synth pad). Here’s how to set up for both options in Studio One.

 

  1. To add your MIDI guitar controller, choose Studio One > Options > External Devices tab, and then click Add…

    Figure 1: Check “Split Channels” if you plan to use a MIDI guitar in mono mode.

    1. To use your guitar in Mono mode, check Split Channels and make sure All MIDI channels are selected (Fig. 1). This lets you choose individual MIDI channels as Instrument track inputs.

     

    1. For Poly mode, you can follow the same procedure as Mono mode but then you may need to select the desired MIDI channel for an Instrument track (although usually the default works anyway). If you’re sure you’re going to be using only Poly mode, don’t check Split Channels, and choose the MIDI channel over which the instrument transmits.

    Note that you can change these settings any time in the Options > External Devices dialog box by selecting your controller and choosing Edit.

    Choose Your Channels

    For Poly mode, you probably won’t have to do anything—just start playing. With Mono mode, you’ll need to use a multitimbral synth like SampleTank or Kontakt, or six individual synths. For example, suppose you want to use Mai Tai. Create a Mai Tai Instrument track, choose your MIDI controller, and then choose one of the six MIDI channels (Fig. 2). If Split Channels wasn’t selected, you won’t see an option to choose the MIDI channel.

    Figure 2: If you chose Split Channels when you added your controller, you’ll be able to assign your instrument’s MIDI input to a particular MIDI channel.

    Next, after choosing the desired Mai Tai sound, duplicate the Instrument track five more times, and choose the correct MIDI channel for each string. I like to Group the tracks because this simplifies removing layers, turning off record enable, and quantizing. Now record-enable all tracks, and start recording. Fig. 3 shows a recorded Mono guitar part—note how each string’s notes are in their own channel.

    Figure 3: A MIDI guitar part that was recorded in Mono mode is playing back each string’s notes through its own Mai Tai synthesizer.

    To close out, here are three more MIDI guitar tips.

    • In Mono mode with Mai Tai (or whatever synth you use), set the number of Voices to 1 for two reasons. First, this is how a real guitar works—you can play only one note at a time on a string. Second, this will often improve tracking in MIDI guitars that are picky about your picking.
    • Use a synth’s Legato mode, if available. This will prevent re-triggering on each note when sliding up and down the neck, or doing hammer-ons.
    • The Edit view is wonderful for Mono mode because you can see what all six strings are playing, while editing only one.

    MIDI guitar got a bad rap when it first came out, and not without reason. But the technology continues to improve, dedicated controllers overcome some of the limitations of retrofitting a standard guitar, and if you set up Studio One properly, MIDI guitar can open up voicings that are difficult to obtain with keyboards.

    In Mono mode with Mai Tai (or whatever synth you use), set the number of Voices to 1 for two reasons. First, this is how a real guitar works—you can play only one note at a time on a string. Second, this will often improve tracking in MIDI guitars that are picky about your picking.

Universal Control 2.10 available now!

We’ve had quite a few software and firmware updates in public beta for a while, and now all of those updates are part of our Universal Control 2.10 public release… available now! This update adds 44.1 hKz sample rate support for Studiolive Series III Rack and Console mixers. We’ve also enabled HUI/MCU DAW Modes in the Console mixers—HUI for Pro Tools and MCU optimized for Logic.

Get Universal Control 2.10 here!

Additionally, this Universal Control update adds support for the just-announced Studio Series USB-C interfaces, a firmware update for the ATOM pad controller.

Be sure to update your StudioLive mixer to the latest firmware. You can get product-specific firmware updates by logging into your My.PreSonus accountInstructions for updating SW5E, NSB, or EarMix 16M firmware will be displayed when downloading the firmware file for each product from your account.

 
New In This Release:
  • MCU/HUI support for Series III Consoles
  • 44.1kHz support for all Series III mixers
  • NSB and EarMix 16M firmware update – Adds 44.1kHz support, as well as indicator light workflow improvements (light will no longer change from green to blue unless AVB clock is locked)
  • Adds support for Studio 1824c, Studio 1810c, Studio 68c, Studio 26c, Studio 24c
  • Firmware update for ATOM

Version Information

Firmware:

  • StudioLive Series III (all models) – v1.10.15552
  • NSB 16.8 – v1.1.0.15533
  • NSB 8.8 – v1.1.0.15534
  • EarMix – v1.1.0.15533
  • SW5E – v1.0.0.15447

Supporting Software:

  • Universal Control (Mac/PC) – v2.10.0.50756
  • UC Surface (iOS/Android) – v2.10.0.50756
  • QMix-UC (iOS/Android) –  v2.6.0.49920
  • Capture (Mac/PC) – v2.4.0.50756

Notable Bug Fixes In This Release:

  • Android permission issues for UC Surface and QMix-UC now fixed
  • UC Surface – Series III mixer Aux Ins, Tape In, and Digital Return now show up in all Mix Views
  • StudioLive Series III – Rack Mixer now gets Dig Gain Trim when another network mixer has exclusive preamp permission over the Rack Mixer
Please see the UC 2.10 Release Notes for further details.
As mentioned above, there is a new workflow for the indicator light on our NSB and EarMix products:
   Red – Unit is powering on
   Green – Unit has booted up, but is not synced to an AVB clock
   Blue – Unit is synced to an AVB clock
This new workflow should aid in troubleshooting clocking issues on an AVB network with NSB and EarMix by indicating not only when the unit has AVB stream(s) connected to it, but also if its AVB clock is synced.