This is a fun one going on with our friends at Splice. Mix “Nobody’s Gonna Love You” into a radio-ready track to win hardware and software from us, the Mixing University course from Recording Revolution, an Eyeball microphone cover, and a call with Briana Tyson.
If you’ve ever played a large venue like a sports arena, you know that reverb is a completely different animal than what the audience hears. You hear your instrument primarily, and in the spaces between your playing, you hear the reverb coming back at you from the reflections. It might seem that reverb pre-delay would produce the same kind of effect, but it doesn’t “bloom” the way reverb does when you’re center stage in a big acoustical space.
This week’s tip is inspired by the center stage sound, but taken further. The heart of the effect is the Expander, but unlike last week’s Expander-based Dynamic Brightener tip, the Expander is in Duck mode, and fed by a sidechain. Here’s the Console setup.
In the audio example, the source is a funk guitar loop from the PreSonus loop collection; but any audio with spaces in between the notes or chords works well, especially drums (if the cymbals aren’t happening a lot), vocals that aren’t overly sustained, percussion, and the like. I deliberately exaggerated the effect to get the point across, so you might want to be a little more tasteful when you apply this to your own music. Or maybe not…
The guitar’s channel has two sends. One goes to the FX Channel, which has a Room Reverb followed by an Expander. The second send goes to the Expander’s sidechain input. Both are set pre-fader so that you can turn down the main guitar sound by bringing down its fader, and that way, you can hear only the processed sound. This makes it easier to edit the following Room Reverb and Expander settings, which are a suggested point of departure. Remember to enable the Expander’s Sidechain button in the header, and click the Duck button.
The reverb time is long—almost six seconds. This is because we want it going constantly in the background, so that after the Expander finishes ducking the reverb sound, there’s plenty of reverb available to fill in the spaces.
To tweak the settings, turn down the main guitar channel so you can monitor only the processed sound. The Expander’s Threshold knob determines how much you want the reverb to go away when the instrument audio is happening. But really, there are no “wrong” settings—start with the parameters above, play around, and listen to what happens.
This is a pretty fertile field for experimentation…as the following audio example illustrates. The first part is the guitar and the reverb effect; the reverb tail shows just how long the reverb time setting is. The second part is the reverb effect in isolation, processed sound only, and without the reverb tail.
This is a whole different type of reverb effect—have fun discovering what it can do for you!
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When you play an acoustic guitar harder, it not only gets louder, but brighter. Dry, electric guitar doesn’t have that quality…by comparison, the electrified sound by itself is somewhat lifeless. But I’m not here to be negative! Let’s look at a solution that can give your dry electric guitar some more acoustic-like qualities.
How It Works
Create an FX Channel, and add a pre-fader Send to it from your electric guitar track. The FX Channel has an Expander followed by the Pro EQ. The process works by editing the Expander settings so that it passes only the peaks of your playing. Those peaks then pass through a Pro EQ, set for a bass rolloff and a high frequency boost. Therefore, only the peaks become brighter. Here’s the Console setup.
The reason for creating a pre-fader send from the guitar track is so that you can bring the guitar fader down, and monitor only the FX Channel as you adjust the settings for the Expander and Pro EQ. The Expander parameter values are rather critical, because you want to grab only the peaks, and expand the rest of the guitar signal downward. The following settings are a good point of departure, assuming the guitar track’s peaks hit close to 0.
The most important edit you’ll need to make is to the Expander’s Threshold. After it grabs only the peaks, then experiment with the Range and Ratio controls to obtain the sound you want. Finally, choose a balance of the guitar track and the brightener effect from the FX Channel.
The audio example gets the point across. It consists of guitar and drums, because having the drums in the mix underscores how the dynamically brightened guitar can “speak” better in a track. The first five measures are the guitar with the brightener, the next five measures are the guitar without the brightener, and the final five measures are the brightener channel sound only. You may be surprised at how little of the brightener is needed to make a big difference to the overall guitar sound.
Also, try this on acoustic guitar when you want the guitar to really shine through a mix. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with shedding a little brightness on the situation!
This just in from Glenn Rosenstein, a three-time Grammy-winning mix engineer whose credits include U2, Madonna, Talking Heads, The Ramones, James Brown, Miles Davis and many others. His work in film and television has landed him both an Oscar and a Golden Globe while working on projects including The Sopranos, Celebrity Circus, The Last Emperor, Blown Away, Married To The Mob, Charmed, Beverly Hills 90210, All My Children and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. We recently got in touch with him to get his perspective on all things PreSonus.
Hey Glenn. Tell us about yourself!
I’ve had a fun career that’s led me to many musical adventures. I started early on at Power Station in NYC, then as a staff engineer at Sigma Sound Studio. I became an independent mixer, then producer, eventually winning some Grammys and selling a bunch of records, back when that was a possibility. I’m still producing both for my Sony labels, as well as independently. I partner in a number of project studios in Nashville, Muscle Shoals, and New York, as well as having a room at historic Fame Studios.
What PreSonus products have you used and which do you currently use?
I’ve always been a PreSonus user. As time goes on, PreSonus continues to release products that almost anticipate my needs. I started out with the ADL 600, a very tasty stereo mic pre from a few years back. I’ve put together a pretty cool room in my Muscle Shoals facility that’s centered around the StudioLive 64S, along with some great AVB powered PreSonus peripherals: The StudioLive 32R, the EarMix 16M, and the SW5E among them. Also to be found are the PreSonus R80 monitors and, of course, Studio One. And I always travel with my Faderport 16. Always.
For what applications are you using the products?
My PreSonus facility is very much a writing/production room that is easily convertible to a full-blown production studio. I like the creative ease and intuitive design that is integrated into all of the PreSonus cosmos of products. It’s simple to start off small—just creating some beats or a few phrases on guitar or a vocal idea—and easily push that to a bigger, more robust production without having to shift rigs.
What led you to choose these particular PreSonus products?
I had a pretty solid awareness of the PreSonus offerings for many years and was fortunate enough to meet and spend some time with Jim Odom. His backstory is steeped in music production and performance, and, ultimately, creating solutions that he wanted for himself. I liked that a lot. I still do. I totally get the narrative of PreSonus products, their evolution over the past few years, and their remarkable value. Jim and his team are always pushing the boundaries—they’re taking insane amounts of features and options and putting them in boxes that should cost five times what they’re asking. I have no idea how they get it done, but they do. And all that filters down into very usable tools that sound great and are fun to work with.
Having used the gear, what do you like most about the specific PreSonus products you use?
Let’s talk about the Faderport 16: A 16-channel control surface that fits under your arm—brilliant design and execution. Regardless of my preferred DAW, I always feel right at home. I’m in a hotel, it’s there. I’m in a rehearsal room, it’s there. Perfect combination of small footprint and functionality.
We’ve partnered with Splice, The Recording Revolution, and Briana Tyson for a mixing competition!
Practice your chops bringing stems from Briana to life and share your best mixing tips and tricks with the rest of the community! Here’s how it works. Click the link below to visit Splice and download the project files and stems for Once all the mixes are in, Graham from Recording Revolution will listen through the mixes and choose the one he thinks is radio ready to win his premiere mixing course Mixing University, a pair of Eris E66 Monitors and a copy of Studio One 4 Professional, an Eyeball microphone cover from Kaotica, a video call with Briana Tyson, and consideration from Briana Tyson for official release!
Spoons are a long-haul Canadian new wave band formed 1979 in Burlington. Jeff Carter is their longtime producer, collaborator, and husband to founding member/bassist Sandy Horne. Jeff got into Studio One after years in analog recording, including some time with PreSonus’ FireStudio interfaces when collaborating with Sandy and helping her set up her studio.
When Studio One version 1 was released, they switched from Cubase… and were able to collaborate so effortlessly together that Jeff actually credits Studio One with helping cement a relationship with Sandy—which culminated in their marriage!
On the other hand, Sandy calls this scenario the “Hire-a-Husband” program, so the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. But they’re married and happily making beautiful music together to this day. Jeff has a lot of nice things to say about why he chose Studio One and how he uses it:
What PreSonus products have you used and which do you currently use?
I’ve used all kinds of PreSonus hardware, going back to the early FireStudios, then the Firestudio Project, and then the Firestudio Tube, which I still use on our older iMac system—the new system is using a Thunderbolt interface. Static in Transmission was recorded entirely with those various FireStudio interfaces, with the help of a Presonus HP4 headphone amp. We also use a new PreSonus Studio 26 as an interface for live shows, for the keyboard player’s virtual instrument outputs and backing tracks. I’ve also had the opportunity to mix live on various versions of the StudioLive consoles, going back to the first generation, which has been a joy, as they’ve all had an intuitive layout, similar in philosophy to Studio One. I’m now using a Faderport Version 2 in the studio as well, which has been great for streamlining certain functions, like scrolling the timeline, mutes and solos, transports, and writing automation.
But overall, Studio One Professional has been far and away the most important addition to Sky Studios, and since its inception, we’ve used every subsequent version of it since the beginning. I have other DAWs… pretty much all of the major ones; I keep them around, mostly just in case clients bring files in from other systems for me to mix; but even then, I’ll bounce the stems over to Studio One, or just export the files as OMF—which is another fantastic addition to Studio One that’s made my life so much easier!
For what applications are you using Studio One Professional?
I use Studio One for almost anything audio and/or MIDI related: composing, recording, mixing, re-mixing, post-production, sound design, and mastering. Now, with Studio One, the big eye-opening moment for me happened with version 3, when the Console Shaper was first added. Finally, my mixes started to have some of that subtly-more dynamic, organic, and harmonically “gelled-together” sound that I had been chasing ever since my days mixing on that big ol’ Trident console back in the 90s. When CTC-1 (on sale now!) came out soon after, I immediately bought it, and it’s made a stunning difference. On New Day New World, I tended to use the Tube Mode on bass and certain synth busses, because there’s a low-end warmth that it imparts that I really dig, and the Classic Mode was sometimes used on guitar or vocal busses—but the big winner was the Custom Mode, which was used on many things, but always used on drums, and on the 2 buss, boosting the “drive” and “character” parameters just enough to get the tracks into that sweet spot where things sound full, yet detailed, and open, yet tight. For all those who have Studio One Pro 3 or above, try it: you’ll know what I’m talking about as soon as you hear it.
What led you to choose Studio One? Was it the company’s reputation, audio quality, ease of use, specific features, price, other factors?
PreSonus has always had a solid reputation, but it was being shown real-world examples of how intuitive it is to work with that really sold me. With Long and McQuade, I almost always physically demonstrate Studio One, as opposed to just talking about it; the workflow sells itself. The audio quality of the 64-bit mix engine, especially with CTC-1 in use, is like nothing I’ve ever worked with, excluding large analog consoles. The Presonus Symphonic Orchestra Add-on is also great sounding, from the subtle, switchable articulation in the string sections, to the warm brass, to the orchestral timpani and percussion. You can hear it all over the opening track of New Day New World, and on the strings at the end of “Love Recall.” The pricing for Studio one is more than reasonable considering what you get; and the Artist version being included with even the least expensive PreSonus interfaces is honestly a total steal.
What Studio One features have proven particularly useful and why?
The automation mapping is so simple that it encourages me to get more creative, easily automating subtle things like synth detuning, delay mixes, and feedback, or rotary speaker speeds. I’m no longer afraid to try things like that while working with an artist in the studio with me, as it doesn’t really slow down the pace of work, or hamper the creative process, because it can be done so quickly. On previous DAWs, If it was too time-consuming or tedious, I might have to try things like that on my own time, or possibly not at all. There’s a part in the dub/soca-influenced bridge of “All the Wrong Things (In the Right Places),” off New Day New World, where the guitar track pans wildly back and forth, but still in rhythm with the song, while you can hear the Analog Delay plug-in (the long echo on Gord’s vocal) subtly deepening its modulation depth (which detunes the vocal only in the feedback loop), which were all relatively easy to do with the preset automation shapes coupled with the transform function.
Being able to cross-fade overlapping audio clips with just the press of the “x” key, and adjusting the slip points and volume offsets of clips with such easily variable curves is dynamite… something I use all the time. The VCA implementation is logical, and being able to easily write VCA automation to tracks is a real-time saver as well.
The new chord track has come in very handy too; in “Repeatable,” there’s a guitar solo that comes in around the one minute mark that I thought was too similar to the one near the end of the song, so I extracted the chords from another (rhythm) guitar track, then transposed that first solo up 5 or 6 semitones (which obviously put it out of key), but then set it to follow the rhythm guitar’s chord track, which not only put the solo back in key, but it made sure the lead part still followed the song’s changes, creating this new solo part that had the same feel as the later solo, but with a new, higher-pitched variation on the notes, making it quite distinct.
How does Studio One compare to other DAWs you have used? What does it give you that other DAWs don’t?
Like I’ve mentioned, workflow is one of the biggest reasons to use Studio One; automation assignments of almost anything that moves on-screen are only a right-click away (or a simple drag-to-track from the little hand in the top right) Clip gain offsets, slip edits, and fade-in/fade-out/crossfade edits are super easy and fast. Time-stretching clips to bar and beat lines is a similarly-simple Alt+drag. In Studio One, I use custom keyboard shortcuts for changing the note values in the drum editor; that way I can switch between painting in 8th note/16th note/and 32nd note hi-hat rolls, for example, on the fly. In most DAWs, that’s not something that’s easy to set up, if possible at all.
The new Tempo editor, with its easy to draw in curves, is a vast improvement over the previous version; I used those curves to give a subtly-increasing energy-boost to the choruses of “All the Wrong Things”.
The MIDI editing is, and has always been great, and it’s not cluttered, and the automatic assignment of sample-pad names (Kick 1, Snare 2, etc.) to lanes in the drum editor is a huge time-saver, and about as easy as I could imagine it being. But I’d really like to see 1/8D and 16D (duplet) showing up by default in the quantize options, along with ⅓ and ⅔ (33.3% and 66.6%) swing values. Would be handy for the jazz and hip-hop crowds as well. Along those lines, I use the X-Trem effect a lot, like on the rhythmic guitar stutter in “Life on Demand,” and the quick, sliced-up synth in the chorus of “Snowglobes.”
Being able to extract MIDI note data from audio recordings (via the Melodyne Editor) is something I never imagined possible, and it’s so simple to do: just drag the “Melodyned” audio clip to an instrument track! I used that trick to create a sub-octave synth bass (triggering the Mai Tai analog synth plugin) that follows along with Sandy’s live electric bass all the way through “All the Wrong Things,” and in certain parts of several other tracks.
Which Studio One feature or concept doesn’t get enough spotlight (or isn’t talked about enough) in your opinion?
CTC-1 and Mix Engine effects doesn’t get near enough praise! Especially the “custom” model. Absolute magic. There’s a screen-shot here of the mixer, with lots of instances of CTC-1 open on all the busses. I’d like to try out the Softube tape shortly as well, as it looks very promising.
Mai Tai is also a fantastic-sounding yet still perhaps under-praised synth; I used it all over this record, not only for pads and sub-bass, but critically, the main, echoed synth-patch which sets the overall tone and vibe of “Landing Lights” is a Mai Tai patch (Poly-Arp3), that I modified to be a bit tighter and pluckier.
Any useful tips/tricks or interesting stories based on your experience with Studio One that would be of interest to our user base?
With Mai Tai, you can get some FM-ish (frequency modulation synthesis) tones out of it, by modulating the rate of LFO 1 (set to max speed) with the rate of LFO2 (also set fairly high, which sends LFO 1 into audio rates) and then assigning LFO1 to oscillator pitch. Then, modulating the rate or amount of LFO2 can give you some cool, edgy/grindy synth FX patches, that are somewhat controllable, but still musical. I used that trick to create the wild “CPU-freaking out” synth-madness you hear on “Perfect Exception”. Of course, I’d LOVE to see a simple, dedicated FM synth added at some point (or even straight-up FM added to Mai Tai!)
Another thing I discovered was a variation on Craig Anderton’s “Tonal Verb” concept, that he wrote about a while ago on the Presonus blog.
But instead of using two nearly identical reverbs on an FX buss, I use the same technique to create two nearly-identical, but out of phase compressors, inserted directly, just changing the attack or release on one or the other; all you end up hearing is the difference between the attack (or release) portions, and I’ve used this to get rid of excessive decay or resonance in snare and shaker parts, setting one compressor’s attack to “0”, and opening the other one up a bit, leaving only the transients. Use longer attacks on both comps to create “soft” guitar or drum parts, where the pick attacks and stick hits swell in.
Similar concept can be used with two near-identical but out-of-phase EQs, where one EQ has peak or valley points and the other doesn’t; all you hear is what’s “inside” those difference-peaks, and nothing else…sort like a multi-band bandpass filter. Great for capturing only the “ring” or resonance points of an interesting, but otherwise-messy snare sample, which can be blended in with other, cleaner snares. ( I used this on one of the drum layers in “Repeatable”, where the original loop was recorded from a drum loop in a vox amplug practice device, that had a neat character that I only wanted to capture certain parts of) The groove extraction feature came in very handy there as well, as I was able easily match up the feel of that sampled drum loop with my added Impact drum samples.
Any final comments about PreSonus and Studio One?
This is the second interview with me that PreSonus has been so kind to do; the first one came out almost eight years ago after Static in Transmission was released. I have to say that PreSonus, as a company, has not only had great support for me and thousands of other customers, but you’ve seemed to go out of your way to encourage and inspire musicians of all kinds. In the past eight years, I’ve grown more and more comfortable with Studio One, but despite that level of comfort, I’m still discovering new things I can do with it every week, partly thanks to the great articles and learning videos you post on your blog. It’s been an incredibly satisfying and exciting experience growing along with your software and your company, and I look forward to it remaining an integral part of my musical life. Thanks for making great software!
Jeff Carter and Sandy Horne—Spoons.
Keep up with Spoons:
To be a good HR manager, you need to be a good listener–and that’s one of Ashley’s number one skills! Fortunately, she doesn’t have to hear all of us PreSonus folks complain her ear off all day, she occasionally gets free time to listen to her favorite music on either her Eris 4.5 monitors or her HD9 headphones in her office. Get to know more about Ashley for PreSonus Fam Friday!
How long have you worked for PreSonus?
Two and a half years!
What’s your official job title?
Human Resources Manager.
What’s your favorite thing about your job? Why did you choose to work here?
My favorite thing about my job is occasionally being able to problem solve in a way that significantly relieves or inspires one of our employees. I chose to work for PreSonus (and move to Baton Rouge!) because I love, love, love music. The way that our company passionately contributes to the music industry is inspiring for me. We function like a big family here in a lot of ways—that’s what has kept me around!
Choose a movie title for the story of your life.
“A Series of Hilariously Unfortunate Events.”
What was the first 8-track, cassette, CD or digital download you purchased?
I can’t remember if it was Backstreet Boys’ Backstreet’s Back or Aqua’s Aquarium. I’m going to say BSB because I have tickets to their 2019 tour and they’re in my blood.
Who’s your go-to band or artist when you can’t decide on something to listen to?
Massive Attack, always.
What’s your go to Karaoke song?
“Love Song” by Sara Bareilles because it’s in my range and easy for me to sing when I’m intoxicated enough to choose karaoke.
Everyone has a side gig, what’s yours? OR when you’re not at PreSonus, what are you up to?
I assist with research in the field of psychology with former professors of mine at Southeastern Louisiana University. We actually just had an article published this year. I keep up with current research in the field, as well.
Tell us about a successful event you worked with PreSonus products.
InfoComm, NAMM, Install somewhere…. Unfortunately, I am not invited to most of these events because I have to stay on-site and do HR things. Our holiday parties and crawfish boils are fairly memorable, though!
Got any tips for us?
Eris 4.5s and the HD9s. My tips for the HD9s…
What are you currently working on at PreSonus? What’s next for you?
I am currently working on ways to maintain employee morale and make our benefits as user-friendly and relevant as possible. There have been recent shifts in the field of HR—various movements and millennial influences have challenged the field. It’s exciting to be a part of that change. I’m hoping to be a hardcore HR rockstar within the next 5 years minimum.
What’s the strangest talent you have?
I type 136 wpm and I have oddly sensitive ears. I’m a bit of an audiophile and if your sound system is too bright I’m gonna be the first one to point it out.
Anything else you want to share?
Yes! Adopt, don’t shop.
You never know where you’ll find inspiration. As I was trying not to listen to the background music in my local supermarket, “She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals—a song from over 30 years ago!—earwormed its way into my brain. Check it out at https://youtu.be/UtvmTu4zAMg.
My first thought was “they sure don’t make snare drum sounds like those any more.” But hey, we have Studio One! Surely there’s a way to do that—and there is. The basic idea is to extract a trigger from a snare, use it to drive the Mai Tai synth, then layer it to enhance the snare.
Skeptical? Check out the audio example.
ISOLATING THE SNARE
If you’re dealing with a drum loop or submix, you first need to extract the snare sound.
TWEAKING THE MAI TAI
Now the fun begins! Figure 3 shows a typical starting point for a snare-enhancing sound.
The reason for choosing Mai Tai as the sound source is because of its “Character” options that, along with the filter controls, noise Color control, and FX (particularly Reverb, EQ, and Distortion), produce a huge variety of electronic snare sounds. The Character module’s Sound and Amount controls are particularly helpful. The more you play with the controls, the more you’ll start to understand just how many sounds are possible.
BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE!
If the snare is on a separate track, then you don’t need the Pro EQ or FX Channel. Just insert a Gate in the snare track, enable the Gate’s trigger output, and adjust the Gate Threshold controls to trigger on each snare drum hit. The comments above regarding the Attack, Release, and Hold controls apply here as well.
Nor are you limited to snare. You can isolate the kick drum, and trigger a massive, low-frequency sine wave from the Mai Tai to give those car door-vibrating kick drums. Toms can sometimes be easy to isolate, depending on how they’re tuned. And don’t be afraid to venture outside of the “drum enhancement” comfort zone—sometimes the wrong Gate threshold settings, driving the wrong sound, can produce an effect that’s deliciously “right.”