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Friday Tips: The Center Stage Reverb

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!

Friday Tips: The Dynamic Brightener for Guitar

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!

Friday Tips: Crazee Snare Enhancements!

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.

  1. Create an FX Channel, and insert a Pro EQ followed by a Gate.
  2. Add a pre-fader send from your mixed drums to the FX Channel. Aside from providing a more consistent level for triggering, a pre-fader send lets you turn down the main drum track. This way you hear only the FX Channel, which makes it easier to tweak the EQ and isolate the snare.
  3. With the Gate bypassed, tune the Pro EQ to the snare frequency. Use the LC and HC with a 48 dB/octave slope to provide the preliminary isolation, then use a super-sharp bandpass setting to zero in on the snare frequency (Figure 1). The EQ’s background spectrum analyzer can help by making sure the bar in the range you’re boosting goes as high as possible. In stubborn cases, you may need to double up the bandpass filter with a second sharp bandpass filter.

 

Figure 1: Use the Pro EQ and Gate to extract a snare drum trigger.

 

  1. Enable the gate, and click on Active to enable the trigger output. Set the Note and Velocity as desired (however when using noise with Mai Tai, the specific Note isn’t that critical). Adjust the Gate’s settings so that it triggers on the snare hits. Like the Pro EQ, the controls here are critical as well.
  • A short attack is usually best.
  • Keep release relatively short (e.g., 10 ms), unless you want to mix in some of the peaked/gated sound from this channel along with the Mai Tai and drums.
  • Hold times around 50 ms can help prevent false triggering. But you can also get creative with this control. If you don’t want to trigger on hits that are close together (e.g., fills), a long Hold time will trigger on the first snare of the series, but ignore subsequent ones that fall within the hold time.
  1. Insert the Mai Tai. Set its input to Gate, and enable the mixer’s Monitor button. Figure 2 shows the finished track layout.

Figure 2: Track layout for snare drum extraction.

 

TWEAKING THE MAI TAI

Now the fun begins! Figure 3 shows a typical starting point for a snare-enhancing sound.

 

Figure 3: Starting point for a cool snare drum sound with Mai Tai.

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.”

 

Watch Graham from The Recording Revolution Demo His Favorite Way to Mix

 

Graham from The Recording Revolution is primarily a Pro Tools user recently got ahold of a copy of Studio One Pro. After some quick Skype tutorials with Rick, he was good to go! Here he demos how quickly you can enhance your mix at the beginning, a concept known as Top Down Mixing, all with Studio One stock plugins!

 

 

FREE HP2 When You Buy a StudioLive Series III Rack Mixer or NSB Stage Box!

This is not a joke – Get a FREE HP2 headphone amplifier when you buy a StudioLive Series III Rack Mixer or NSB Stage Box starting NOW through June 2019!

That’s a $129 USD value for FREE! Buy one of the following and score a free HP2:

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Performer Magazine gave the HP2 ZERO cons and says it has “a great battery life, plenty of volume, and useful for studio or stage use.” They go on to say:

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This offer is available WORLDWIDE, so click the links below to find the closes PreSonus dealer near you!

 

Save 30% on Nori Ubukata Mai Tai Preset Collection!

Starting today SAVE 30% on the Nori Ubukata Mai Tai preset collection right out of the PreSonus Shop!

Take a trip back in time with Nori Ubukata’s 20th Century Sound Box and rediscover the legendary analog sounds of the 70s and 80s.

Famed Japanese sound designer and synth/theremin artist Nori Ubukata recreated some of the most memorable sounds by electronic music artists such as Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Wendy Carlos. The set contains a total of 111 presets and Instrument+FX presets (adding reverb, EQ and other effects). Also included are 50 Musicloops with sound elements showcasing the best presets in musical context.

You’ve got one month to take advantage of this deal so don’t waste any more time reading this blog…

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Buy One AIR Loudspeaker and Get the Second for Half Price!

New Month, New Promos!

Starting today and ending April 30, 2019 buy one AIR Loudspeaker and get the other for half off!

This offer includes the following:

  • AIR 10
  • AIR 12
  • AIR 15
  • AIR 15s
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This offer begins today and ends April 30 and is available in US and Canada ONLY!

 

Of course we’ll always go with PreSonus. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Watch John Tendy explain why the AIR 10s are perfect for him.

 


 

 

Click here to learn more about the AIR Loudspeaker family!

Click here to find a dealer in the US. 

Click here to find a dealer outside to the US. 

 

30% OFF Tom Brechtlein Drum Library – March 2019 ONLY!

A new month of HUGE savings! 

Starting today SAVE 30% on Tom Brechtlein Drum Library! Both the Multitrack and Stereo library are on sale right out of the PreSonus Shop – available WORLDWIDE!

Tom Brechtlein is a drummer’s drummer—a seasoned vet with a versatile skill set that is evidenced by the broad array of talent that has chosen to work with him. Tom’s client list boasts names like Chick Corea, Kenny Loggins, Wayne Shorter, Jean-Luc Ponty, Christopher Cross, and Robben Ford. So when it came time for us to make a diverse drum library that could serve nearly any need of our user base, Tom was our first call. The result of Tom’s sessions? He pulled out all the stops and delivered everything but the crawfish pot: Delivering brutal rock grooves, sludgy blues, Louisiana-worthy funk, and tasty jazz and fusion licks that will quickly make this library your secret weapon.

Click here to buy the Drum Library here! 

 

Hear more from Tom below!

Friday Tips: Studio One’s Amazing Robot Bassist

When Harmonic Editing was announced, I was interested. When I used it for the first time, I was intrigued. When I discovered what it could do for songwriting…I became addicted.

Everyone creates songs differently, but for me, speed is the priority—I record scratch tracks as fast as possible to capture a song’s essence while it’s hot. But if the tracks aren’t any good, they don’t inspire the songwriting process. Sure, they’ll get replaced with final versions later, but you don’t want boring tracks while writing.

For scratch drums on rock projects, I have a good collection of loops. Guitar is my primary instrument, so the rhythm and lead parts will be at least okay. I also drag the rhythm guitar part up to the Chord Track to create the song’s “chord chart.”

Then things slow down…or at least they did before Harmonic Editing came along. Although I double on keyboards, I’m not as proficient as on guitar but also, prefer keyboard bass over electric bass—because I’ve sampled a ton of basses, I can find the sound I want instantly. And that’s where Harmonic Editing comes in.

The following is going to sound ridiculously easy…because it is. Here’s how to put Studio One’s Robot Bassist to work. This assumes you’ve set the key (use the Key button in the transport, or select an Instrument part and choose Event > Detect Key Signature), and have a Chord Track that defines the song’s chord progression.

 

  1. Play the bass part by playing the note on a MIDI keyboard that corresponds to the song’s key. Yes, the note—not notes. For example, if the song is in the key of A, hit an A wherever you want a bass note.
  2. Quantize what you played. It’s important to quantize because presumably, the chord changes are quantized, and the note attack needs to fall squarely at the beginning of, or within, the chord change. You can always humanize later.
  3. Open the Inspector, unfold the Follow Chords options, and then choose Bass (Fig. 1).

 

Figure 1: Choose the Bass option to create a bass part when following chords.

  1. Now you have a bass part! If the bass part works, choose the Edit tab, select all the notes, and choose Action > Freeze Pitch. This is important, because the underlying endless-string-of-notes remains the actual MIDI data. So if you copy the Event and paste it, unless you then ask the pasted clip to follow chords, you have the original boring part instead of the robotized one.
  2. After freezing, turn off Follow Chords, because you’ve already followed the chords. Now is the time to make any edits. (Asking the followed chords to follow chords can confuse matters, and may modify your edits.)

The bottom line: with one take, a few clicks, and (maybe) a couple quick edits—instant bass part (Fig. 2).

Figure 2: The top image is the original part, and yes, it sounds as bad as it looks. The lower image is what happened after it got robotized via Harmonic Editing, and amazingly, it sounds pretty good.

Don’t believe me? Well, listen to the following.

 

You’ll hear the bass part shown in Fig. 2, which was generated in the early stages of writing my latest music video (I mixed the bass up a little on the demo so you can hear it easily). Note how the part works equally well for the sustained notes toward the beginning, and well as the staccato parts at the end. To hear the final bass part, click the link for Puzzle of Love [https://youtu.be/HgMF-HBMrks]. You’ll hear I didn’t need to do much to tweak what Harmonic Editing did.

But Wait! There’s More!

Not only that, but most of the backing keyboard parts for Puzzle of Love (yes, including the piano intro) were generated in essentially the same way. That requires a somewhat different skill set than robotizing the bass, and a bit more editing. If you want to know more (use the Comments section), we’ll cover Studio One’s Robot Keyboardist in a future Friday Tip.

Friday Tips: The Melodyne Envelope Flanger

This isn’t a joke—there really is an envelope-controlled flanger hidden inside Melodyne Essential that sounds particularly good with drums, but also works well with program material. The flanging is not your basic, boring “whoosh-whoosh-whoosh” LFO-driven flanging, but follows the amplitude envelope of the track being flanged. It’s all done with Melodyne Essential, although of course you can also do this with more advanced Melodyne versions. Here’s how simple it is to do envelope-followed flanging in Studio One.

  1. Duplicate the track or Event you want to flange.

  1. Select the copied Event, then type Ctrl+M (or right-click on the Event and choose Edit with Melodyne)
  2. In Melodyne, under Algorithm, choose Percussive and let Melodyne re-detect the pitches.

  1. “Select all” in Melodyne so that all the blobs are red, then start playback.
  2. Click in the “Pitch deviation (in cents) of selected note” field.
  3. Drag up or down a few cents to introduce flanging. I tend to like dragging down about -14 cents.

As with any flanging effect, you can regulate the mix of the flanged and dry sounds by altering the balance of the two tracks.

Note that altering the Pitch Deviation parameter indicates an offset from the current Pitch Deviation, not an absolute value. For example if you drag down to -10 cents,  release the mouse button, and click on the parameter again, the display will show 0 instead of -10. So if you drag up by +4 cents, the pitch deviation will now be at -6 cents, not +4. If you get too lost, just select all the blobs, choose the Percussion algorithm again, and Melodyne will set everything back to 0 cents after re-detecting the blobs.

And of course, I don’t expect you to believe that something this seemingly odd actually works, so check out the audio example. The first part is envelope-flanged drums, and the second part applies envelope flanging to program material from my [shameless plug] Joie de Vivre album. So next time you need envelope-controlled flanging, don’t reach for a stompbox—edit with Melodyne.