We covered tempo changes previously, with an emphasis on using tempo changes to add dramatic pauses, and also doing longer changes that are useful with DJ sets when transitioning from one song to another. This week, let’s go one step further.
In the process of researching an article for Sweetwater.com about what made classic rock sound “classic,” I analyzed tempo variations in songs without click tracks. The consistency of these changes was surprising. Although the changes did not have machine-like precision, they were far from being random or sloppy. They tended to follow particular patterns not only in different songs, but different genres.
The most prominent of these was speeding up a bit in the verse before a chorus. Sometimes there would be a slight slowdown after arriving at the chorus, and sometimes it would revert pretty close to the original tempo over the course of the chorus, but the speeding up was evident in virtually all the music I analyzed—rock, pop, R&B, soul, you name it. Also, songs often sped up imperceptibly over the course of a song.
Although you can record while Studio One is doing a tempo change, sometimes it’s a lot easier to play along with a regular click. Fortunately, there’s a way to add these tempo changes after the fact, to the final stereo mix—consider it a mastering technique done in the Song Page, not a tracking or mixing one.
Working on the mixed track requires the highest fidelity possible. Choose Options > Advanced > Audio and check “Use cache for timestretched audio files.”
This uses a higher-quality timestretch algorithm than what’s used for real-time disk playback.
Next, open up a new song and load your mixed file into a track. It won’t have tempo information embedded so Studio One won’t know how to stretch it, but that doesn’t matter. Open the Inspector (F4), and enter a tempo under File Tempo, for example 120 BPM. It doesn’t have to match the original file’s tempo because we’re just introducing changes, not dealing with absolute tempos.
While you’re in the Inspector, choose Tempo = Timestretch, and Timestretch = Sound.
I generally do a linear speed up, because the changes (e.g., 2-5%) aren’t big enough that you’d notice a log curve anyway. While holding the Alt/Opt key, click with either the Paint or Line tool where you want the tempo to start speeding up, and drag to where you want the speedup to end. Note that you can also drag up or down to fine-tune the end tempo, and if you also hold Shift while doing this, you can change tempo in 0.1 BPM increments.
While the range of tempo changes is still selected, zoom in on the very first change. It will be slightly more than the tempo before it, which is usually what you want. If not, hover over the top of the first tempo change until it turns into a double up/down arrow. Click, and drag downward to even out the first tempo change with the tempo change right before it. The selected changes will follow along to preserve the line’s slope. Remember, we’re talking about small changes here that are more felt than heard as obvious tempo shifts. You can be off by a few tenths of a BPM, or even more—no one will notice.
The screen shot shows a mastered song after having tempo changes made. I like to extend the tempo track height as much as possible so it’s easy to make fairly precise changes. Note the linear changes that happen before the two choruses about 1/3 and 2/3 through the song, and then another before the final fadeout on the main riff. In the middle, there’s also a slightly slower tempo change during the solo.
Try this technique on your finished songs—you might be surprised about how these can help a song “breathe” and flow more, even if it was recorded to a click track.
Okay, Studio One isn’t lacking for reverb. Nor is the rest of the world. But we also aren’t lacking for tools to make new kinds of reverb sounds, and that’s what this week’s tip is all about.
Note that the TonalVerb is a bus effect, so don’t insert it in a track. (Or, do insert it in a track—you never know what might happen!) As with last week’s tip there’s a preset you can download, but I recommend reading about how this preset works. FX Chains are very powerful, and once you learn what you can do with them, you can create your own signature sounds instead of sounding like everyone else.
HOW IT WORKS
A Splitter, set to Normal mode, feeds two Mixverbs in parallel. One of the parallel paths goes through a Mixtool with both channel phases (polarities) inverted, so the summed audio cancels. Except… one Mixverb has damping fixed at 50%, while the other is variable (as set by the FX Chain Tone control). With both Damp controls at 50%, there’s no audio due to cancellation. However setting damping below 50% cancels the low frequency reverb components, yet the high frequency reverb components remain. With damping set above 50%, the reverse occurs—the high frequency reverb components cancel, while the low frequency components remain. The closer Tone is to 50%, the greater the cancellation so you may need to increase the bus level under these conditions.
This effect is very different compared to altering tone via equalization for several reasons, but the main one is that damping varies over time. At the onset of the reverb, there’s more cancellation because the two parallel signals have more in common. This reduces the attack of the signal being reverberated, which has its own uses—for example, you might want the crack of a drum to be more prominent, rather than being washed in reverb. With tone set to 0% and Size at a relatively high value (e.g., 70%), it’s almost like the reverb has an attack time of its own.
Regarding the other FX Chain controls, Predelay, Size, and Width all vary their respective Mixverb controls simultaneously over their full ranges. The only one that works differently, as noted above, is the Tone (damping) control.
So… why be normal? Here’s your chance to try a different type of reverb sound that’s especially well suited to EDM productions.
Longtime friend and PreSonus advocate Brian Lorelle of OBEDIA and PC Audio Labs recently interconnected four Quantums and four DigiMax DP88s for a series of test runs in his laboratory in Nashville, taking a close look at CPU usage and latency under varying conditions including different sample rates, plug-in counts, buffer sizes, etc. If you’ve been looking for a Windows recording solution that takes advantage of the speed and power of Thunderbolt, with tons of I/O, this is a must-watch!
Back in the days of variable-speed analog tape, we often cheated and sped up the master just a bit. This had three beneficial effects: it made the tempo a bit more lively, raised the pitch for a slightly brighter sound, and tightened timing. Even a 2% change could make a significant difference. (If you ever tried to play along with an old pop tune and found your instrument had to be tuned somewhat sharp, this is probably why.)
Digital technology gave us a major advance by making it possible to change tempo without changing pitch, or change pitch without changing tempo. Curiously, though, there aren’t as many options if you want to change both simultaneously. Fortunately, Studio One can do this easily.
The key is the Inspector’s Speedup and Tune parameters. A speedup of 2% is about right for making a noticeable, but not obvious change; however many older masters were sped up a lot more than that, so don’t feel too constrained. For Tune, 20 cents works well as a general-purpose setting but again, there are no rules about this other than to use your ears.
If you enter these changes and then go back to 0 for the two settings, the song will sound less lively. However it’s important to acclimate yourself to any changes, either speeding up or “bypassed,” before making any final decisions about what sounds best.
Note that I much prefer to do any master speed/tune change processing on the finished, two-track mix instead of while working on a song. That way I don’t need to remember to set the Speedup and Tune on each track, or render loops so I can use the needed parameters.
And since we’re in old school territory, consider adding a bit of Console Shaper as well from the Mix FX drop-down. I seldom push drive above 9 o’clock for program material, and some crosstalk makes the sound a bit more speaker-like when wearing headphones (with headphones, you don’t get acoustical crosstalk like you do with speakers, where the left ear hears some of the right speaker, and vice-versa). As to noise…well I’m not a fan of noise, but with some tracks, it does add a little “glue.” Or maybe it just triggers the psychological response of working with older gear.
The audio example plays an excerpt from the remix of “To Say No Would Be a Crime” (from my album “Simplicity”). The first 19 seconds are the original version, the rest of the example speeds it up by 1.02 with a pitch increase of 40 cents. The complete song is available on YouTube/thecraiganderton.
In any case, when you want your music to be a little more lively, brighter, and tighter, try raising the Speedup and Tune parameters just a bit. It really does make a difference.
Some people see “Pattern” and think “step sequencing—not useful for anything other than EDM.” This tip shows how to use Patterns in a rock drum context to add humanized percussion easily and effectively.
First, let’s subject ourselves to a 16th-note pattern of shaker hits, which is the kind of sound that shows why people don’t like step sequencers. Someone who would use this in a musical context is either not a nice person, or perhaps a pharmaceutical company executive who wants to increase sales of headache remedies.
Let’s start improving matters by copying the shaker to two more pads, and creating some sonic variations.
One copy is transposed down two semitones, and has a shorter decay. The other is transposed down three semitones. All three have slightly different filter settings. By alternating the different sounds, we have something that’s better. Well, at least slightly better.
Let’s make it a lot better. We’ll make sure the original shaker sound hits at maximum velocity on every beat to establish a rhythm.
The second row uses a different shaker sound. Because this is a busier part, we’ll create some velocity variations.
Let’s also introduce some repeats so that two of the hits “stutter” a little bit.
However having repeats happen the same way every time doesn’t sound very realistic, and this is where the Pattern’s coolest feature (well, at least in my opinion) comes into play—Probability. The notes with repeats have a fairly low probability, so they’ll show up from time to time but not overstay their welcome. A few of the other notes have lower probability as well. Also, there’s some added swing—not only are Patterns not just for EDM, swing isn’t only for hip-hop.
Now we have a much more interesting shaker part.
If this is too inconsistent for you, it’s easy to make the velocity more similar, increase probabilities…whatever. And of course, we can create variations on these Patterns, make a few changes here and there, and have them sound similar yet different throughout the song.
Thankfully, Patterns don’t have to sound repetitive and boring…unless of course you want them to sound repetitive or boring. But that’s a whole other topic.