Vocals are the most direct form of communication with your audience—so of course, you want your vocal to be a kind of tractor beam that draws people in. Many engineers give a more intimate feel to vocals by using dynamics control, like limiting or compression. While that has its uses, the downside is often tell-tale artifacts that sound unnatural.
The following technique of phrase-by-phrase gain edits can provide much of the intimacy and presence associated with compression—but with a natural, artifact-free sound. Furthermore, if you do want to compress the vocal further, you won’t need to use very much dynamics control because the phrase-by-phrase gain edits will have done the majority of the work the compressor would have needed to do.
The top track shows the original vocal. In the second track, I used the split tool to isolate sections of the vocal with varying levels (snap to grid needs to be off for this). The next step was clicking on the volume box in the center of the envelope, and dragging up to increase the level on the sections with lower levels. Although you can make a rough adjustment visually, it’s crucial to listen to the edited event in context with what comes before and after to make sure there aren’t any continuity issues—sometimes soft parts are supposed to be soft.
The third track shows the finished vocal after bouncing all the bits back together. Compared to the top track, it’s clear that the vocal levels are much more consistent.
There are a few more tricks involved in using this technique. For example, suppose there’s a fairly loud inhale before a word. A compressor would bring up the inhale, but by splitting and changing gain, you can split just after the inhale and bring up the word or phrase without bringing up the inhale. Also, I found that it was often possible to raise the level on one side of a split but not on the other, and not hear a click from the level change. Whether this was because of being careful to split on zero crossings, dumb luck, or Studio One having some special automatic crossfading mojo, I don’t know…but it just works and if it doesn’t, you can always add crossfades.
That’s all there is to it. If you want to hear this technique in action, here’s a link to a song on my YouTube channel that uses this vocal normalization technique.
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Sound Mob Live Edition Vol. 2 is here from MVPLoops! Following up on the huge success of the Sound Mob series, this version boasts 2.51 gigs of sounds containing 1,449 loops, riffs, one-shots and samples in an incredible package. Recorded at our facility in Los Angeles using the best musicians and gear, Sound Mob Live Edition Vol. 2 is a special product. Whether you are looking to create a hit like “It’s a Vibe” from 2 Chainz, Jhene Aiko, Trey Songz, and Ty Dollar Sign or a classic sample-based Jay-Z style hit like “Show Me What You Got,” Sound Mob Live Edition Vol. 2 has what you need.
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One of the main differences between guitar and keyboard is chord voicing. Guitar chords typically have six widely separated notes, whereas keyboard notes tend cluster around two areas accessible by each hand. For example, check out the notes that make up an E major chord on guitar.
If you’re a keyboard player using chords to define a chord progression, it’s easy enough to have chords hit on, for example, the beginning of a measure. But “strumming” the chord can add interest and a more guitar-like quality. Although you can edit the notes in a chord so that successively higher notes of the chord have increasing delay compared to the start of the measure, that’s pretty time-consuming. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to do guitar voicings—and strum them.
Stepping Out. The core of this technique is step recording, which is easy to do in Studio One once you’ve inserted a virtual instrument. Steps are keyed to numbers on the screen shot. This assumes the strummed chord will start on the beat.
The moral of the story is that chord notes don’t always need to hit right on the beat—try some strumming, and add variety to your music.
VocALign Project 3 provides the latest version of the basic and legendary VocALign program that has been available since 1995, providing instant tight alignment of one audio signal to another. Simply capture a Guide signal with the right timing, capture a Dub signal to be aligned, press one button, and a new aligned Dub is generated and returned to your DAW.
Quietly legendary, VocALign’s early life included use in music production ranging from Shania Twain and Steely Dan to Black Eyed Peas; as well as in popular TV shows such as Friends and Seinfeld and in blockbuster films including Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.
ARA (Audio Random Access) is a pioneering extension for audio plug-in interfaces. Co-developed by Celemony and PreSonus, ARA technology enhances the communication between plug-in and DAW, and gives the plug-in and host instant access to the audio data. Synchro Arts and PreSonus have worked together to integrate VocALign tightly into Studio One with a simple, streamlined workflow to provide automatic, instantaneous time alignment of the selected audio signals.
Editors can save hours in the studio and let VocALign do the fine re-timing work automatically. Users simply select Guide and Dub audio events and drag and drop them into VocALign which instantly edits the Dub audio to match the timing of the Guide.
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The Pro EQ isn’t the only equalizer in Studio One: there’s also a very flexible graphic equalizer, but it’s traveling incognito. Although the Pro EQ can create typical graphic equalizer responses, there are still situations where a good graphic equalizer can be the quickest and easiest way to dial in the sound you want—and the one in Studio One has some attributes you won’t find in standard graphic EQs. Once you start realizing the benefits of this technique, you just may wish you had discovered it sooner.
The secret is the Multiband Dynamics processor. A multiband dynamics processor is basically a graphic EQ with individual dynamics control for each band, but we can ignore the dynamics control aspect and use just the equalization.
The reason why setting up this EQ can be so fast is because of being able to solo and mute individual bands, and move the band’s upper and lower limits around freely to focus precisely on the part of the spectrum you want to affect. Of course you can enable/disable individual bands in the Pro EQ, but you’ll still hear the unprocessed sound at all times. With the Multiband Dynamics serving as a graphic EQ, the ability to focus on a specific band of frequencies is something that’s not possible with standard parametric-based EQs.
The first step is to defeat the compression, so set the Ratio for all bands to 1.0. Attack, Release, Knee, and Thresholds don’t matter because there’s no compression.
Now you can adjust the frequency ranges and level for individual bands, and this is where being able to mute and solo bands is incredibly helpful. For example, suppose you want to zero in on the part of a vocal that adds intelligibility. With a parametric EQ you would need to go back and forth between the frequency, bandwidth, and gain to find the “sweet spot.” With the Multiband Dynamics processor, just solo the HM band and move the range dividers until you focus on the vocal frequencies with the most articulation, then boost that band’s gain. Simple.
Even better, the Multiband Dynamics processor has a Mix control so you can blend the processed and unprocessed sound to make the overall effect of the EQ more or less drastic. And speaking of drastic, the Gain control does ±36 dB so you have more control over level than most parametric EQs.
Being able to define individual bands, solo them, and adjust their gain and frequency ranges precisely can be a very useful technique that supplements what you can do with the Pro EQ. For general tone-shaping, try the Multiband Dynamics processor—you might be surprised at how fast you can dial in just the right sound.
Convolving white noise with audio produces reverb but frankly, the results aren’t all that inspiring compared to the impulses obtained from “sampling” real rooms. However, there are ways to make white noise impulses that provide a unique, “idealized” sound compared to standard impulses.
Now bring the WAV file you just saved into Open Air, and check out the clarity and smoothness of the sustain—it has an “idealized” quality, sort of like how CGI is an idealized version of an image. Listen to the audio example processing some percussive sounds from Impulse, and you’ll hear what I mean.
Here are a few other hints:
The bottom line is this is an incredibly flexible way to come up with reverb sounds…and you can end up with different reverb sounds than any other reverb processor on your hard drive. Have fun!
Watch him open and set up his new StudioLive and then make music with a Hockey Stick… yep!
We’ll use a fairly basic example of sidechaining to create this tightness. While most people understand the principles behind sidechaining, I haven’t heard very many people actually use this particular application. But with electric bass, using a drum sidechain signal to gate the bass adds a percussive overlay to the bass’s melodic character that fits perfectly with drums.
For the bass sound, in this example I’m using my bass expansion pack for Cakewalk’s Rapture Pro (I’ll be porting the samples over to Presence XT soon). The drum loop track has a send that drives a Gate inserted in the bass track, with the Gate’s sidechain set to External so it’s triggered by the drum’s audio.
Although different situations call for different Gate settings, I find the key to getting good results with electric bass is the Gate’s Release control. Because bass has a natural decay, a little release time prevents the bass from sounding too percussive—the attacks are all properly in place, but the bass note trails off gracefully, even though the drum transient may be long gone.
However with more electro-oriented material, using a sharp decay with an electric bass provides an unusual type of effect—you have the organic, natural sound of the electric bass modulated by the clipped, percussive decays caused by gating with the drums. As always, experimentation can yield interesting—and sometimes delightfully unexpected—results. Try it!
We’ve updated Studio Magic Plug-in Suite for Mac and Windows! Worth more than $400 but provided free to new and existing registered owners of any currently available PreSonus audio interface or mixer, the 2018 Studio Magic Plug-in Suite software bundle includes seven popular plug-ins in VST, AU (Mac), and AAX formats. All you have to do to get Studio Magic 2018 is register your qualifying hardware at my.presonus.com!
Learn more about Studio Magic 2018 here:
Take a closer look at each plug-in in the YouTube playlist below!