As the quest for expressive electronic instruments continues, many virtual instruments incorporate keyswitching to provide different articulations. A keyswitch doesn’t play an actual note, but alters what you’re playing in some manner—for example, Presence’s Viola preset dedicates the lowest five white keys (Fig. 1) to articulations like pizzicato, tremolo, and martelé.
This is very helpful—as long as you have a keyboard with enough keys. Articulations typically are on the lowest keys, so if you have a 49-key keyboard (or even a 61-note keyboard) and want to play over its full range (or use something like a two-octave keyboard for mobile applications), the only way to add articulations are as overdubs. Since the point of articulations is to allow for spontaneous expressiveness, this isn’t the best solution. An 88-note keyboard is ideal, but it may not fit in your budget, and it also might not fit physically in your studio.
Fortunately, there’s a convenient alternative: a mini-keyboard like the Korg nanoKEY2 or Akai LPK25. These typically have a street price around $60-$70, so they won’t make too big a dent in your wallet. You really don’t care about the feel or action, because all you want is switches.
Regarding setup, just make sure that both your main keyboard and the mini-keyboard are set up under External Devices—this “just works” because the instrument will listen to whatever controllers are sending in data via USB (note that keyboards with 5-pin DIN MIDI connectors require a way to merge the two outputs into a single data stream, or merging capabilities within the MIDI interface you’re using). You’ll need to drop the mini-keyboard down a few octaves to reach the keyswitch range, but aside from that, you’re covered.
To dedicate a separate track to keyswitching, call up the Add Track menu, specify the desired input, and give it a suitable name (Fig. 2). I find it more convenient not to mix articulation notes in with the musical notes because if I cut, copy, or move a passage of notes, I may accidentally edit an articulation that wasn’t supposed to be edited.
So until you have that 88-note, semi-weighted, hammer-action keyboard you’ve always dreamed about, now you have an easy way take full advantage of Presence’s built-in expressiveness—as well as any other instrument with keyswitching.
This just in from Craftmaster Productions—a good look at the PreSonus ATOM workflow using SampleOne XT in Studio One.
CMP has been producing excellent Studio One content for years. Head on over to YouTube and give him a Subscribe for more!
As you’ve probably figured out, these tips document something I needed, and the solution. If you’ve ever put together an album or collection of songs, you know how difficult it can be to match levels—which I was reminded of all too clearly while preparing the album Joie de Vivre for upload to my YouTube channel. It’s rock-meets-EDM, and is done as a continuous mix that includes not just songs, but transitions. So, all the levels had to be matched very carefully. Fortunately, Studio One’s Project Page made it easy.
The key was using the Project Page’s LUFS meter readings; for a complete explanation of LUFS, please check out the article I wrote for inSync magazine. In a nutshell, it’s a way to measure audio’s perceived level that’s more sophisticated than the usual average, VU, or peak readings. If two songs have the same LUFS reading, they’ll be perceived as having a similar (if not the same) level.
This measurement standard was created in response to issues involved in broadcasting and streaming services, and also in part as a backlash against “the loudness wars.” For example, YouTube doesn’t want you to have to change the level every time a video changes, so they’ve standardized on making all audio -13 LUFS. It doesn’t matter if you squash your master recording until it looks like a sausage, YouTube will adjust the perceived level so that it can slip into a playlist with something like a live acoustic jazz recording.
In Studio One’s Project Page, the Loudness Information section for each song (Fig. 1) shows a song’s LUFS as well as readings for the RMS average level (somewhat like a VU meter) and True Peak, which indicates not just peaks, but whether any peaks are exceeding the maximum headroom on playback, and by how much. The Loudness Information can come from before or after the track’s effects, so to see how editing these alters the LUFS reading, choose the Post FX tab.
Now that we know how to measure levels, here’s one way to tweak them for consistency. We’ll assume you want something fairly compressed/limited, but not enough to become collateral damage in the loudness wars.
For each track (likely all of them) that needs to be set to a certain LUFS measurement, insert the Tricomp compressor followed by the Limiter. The screen shot shows my preferred Tricomp settings, but note that the optimum Compress knob setting depends on the material. You don’t want to compress too much, because the limiter will do most of the leveling anyway. If the gain reduction peaks reach the last “s” in “Compress” on the Limiter’s Reduction meter, you probably won’t hear too many artifacts, but you might not want to go any higher.
Next, decide what your target LUFS reading should be. As a very general rule of thumb, most rock songs are around -8 to -10 LUFS. -11 to -14 LUFS is considered as having a decent amount of dynamics, while classical music hangs out around -23 LUFS. Of course, this is all subjective—you can choose whatever level sounds “right.”
Now turn up the Limiter’s input control. The Loudness Information label will change to “Update Loudness.” Click on this; Studio One will analyze the track, and show the LUFS reading. (Note: You can force a reading by right-clicking on the song in the track column, and choosing “Detect Loudness.”)
Adjust the limiter Input level, then update the loudness. If the LUFS is below your target, turn up the Input. If the result is higher than the desired LUFS, turn down the Input. It takes a little trial and error, but eventually you’ll hit the target.
With the Tricomp and Limiter, once you get much above -13 LUFS you can “hear” the limiter because it’s stereo. With a phase-linear multiband maximizer like the Waves L3 Multimaximizer, you can push for higher LUFS readings while still sounding reasonably free of artifacts. Still, I wouldn’t want to go much above -10 LUFS—but as always, that’s a subjective call and there are no rules. If you like the way it sounds, that’s what matters.
However, be aware that even slight tweaks can make a difference, especially with the Tricomp. The Tricomp and the Limiter work together, and you can fine-tune the sound by fine-tuning each processor. For example, having Knee up all the way on the Tricomp gives more perceived loudness, and a narrower dynamic range…which may or may not be what you want. Turning on Autospeed also makes a difference.
When you listen to Joie de Vivre, I think you’ll hear that it benefited considerably by being adjusted in Studio One to a consistent LUFS reading. There’s a decent amount of dynamics, but the average perceived level of all the cuts is very consistent…and that’s what this tip all about.
The PreSonus Symphonic Orchestra is something of a secret weapon over at shop.presonus.com. With over 14 gigs of samples and musicloops, it combines a complete symphonic orchestra instrument library with ready-to-use Studio One Musicloops for lightning-fast arranging and production. The instruments not only comprise a full symphony orchestra, but also a contemporary strings library. More than 1,200 Musicloops allow for creating full arrangements on the fly while retaining complete control over tempo, key, chords and sound character.
If you’re currently running Studio One 4 and have passed on the PSO before, now is a great time to give it another look—because with the release of the new Chord Track and Harmonic Editing features, the PSO becomes a lot more versatile and powerful with no increase in price!
PreSonus beta tester and content creator Lukas Ruschitzka recently created some new videos and audio demos showcasing not only the PSO’s sound quality and ease-of-use, but also how much stronger it has become when paired with Studio One’s new Chord Track and Harmonic editing. Check out these videos below, and…
PSO Construction Kits
PreSonus Symphonic Orchestra contains more than 1,200 Musicloops organized into 28 Construction Kits that cover various musical styles like classical film music but also contemporary genres like ambient, pop, groove and hip-hop. This video provides a short overview of the included Construction Kits.
Working with PSO Construction Kits
Being creative with the PSO Construction Kits is pretty straightforward. Just drag some Musicloops into your own songs and take advantage of Studio One’s Chord Track to change chords and try different harmonic patterns with just a few clicks. This video shows how easy it is to access PSO Construction Kits, preview different Musicloops in the song tempo and adapt them to the song via Harmonic Editing.
New PSO Audio Demos
If you’ve been on the fence about getting a StudioLive Series III Mixer, you should know there’s never been a better time than now. Until the end of 2018, StudioLive Series III Mixers (both console and rack versions) include the Classic Studio Fat Channel Bundle, a $249 USD value.
StudioLive Fat Channel Plug-ins work in both your StudioLive Series III mixers AND Studio One. They’re state-space modeled after real vintage hardware and sound like the genuine article. The only thing you miss out on is paying eBay prices for old dusty hardware that will likely have a few expensive issues to work out.
All you have to do is buy a mixer and register it to your account at my.presonus.com, and we’ll add the downloadable Fat Channel Plug-ins to your account.
Here’s what you get:
Check out this video series to see and hear the Fat Channel Plug-ins in action!
MVP Loops from Los Angeles has released a steady stream of killer hip-hop, EDM, and instrumental loop content for producers since 2009, and we’re ecstatic to offer all of them for 30% off for the month of November right from the PreSonus Shop!
Here’s a little more about MVP Loops:
November 2018 only… Save 30% on Fat Channel Plug-ins for StudioLive Series III mixers and Studio One!
Fat Channel Plug-ins work in both StudioLive Mixers AND Studio One. These plug-ins are virtual signal processors that load in your StudioLive Series III console or rack mixer’s Fat Channel, expanding your Fat Channel processor library much like plug-ins do in a DAW. Each plug-in comes in both StudioLive Series III format and Studio One format so you can use your new processor in both mixer and DAW Fat Channels.
PreSonus Fat Channel plug-ins are state-space modeled by world-class engineers with Ph.D.’s in analog signal processing to faithfully produce the sound and response of the original hardware processors. Now you can have a wide variety of fresh DSP for live and studio sound. No other mixer anywhere near this price class has expandable processing—only PreSonus StudioLive Series III.
zplane is a provider of audio processing and music analysis technology operating out of Berlin. Studio One takes advantage of several powerful zplane technologies—our new Chord Detection feature takes advantage of zplane’s KORT, and our Harmonic Editing features leverage a combination of KORT and reTune. Furthermore, their élastiquePro time stretch has been in Studio One since the very beginning!
We were able to get some time with Tim Flohrer, CTO and founder, and ask him a few questions about zplane.
How and when did zplane come to be?
We started off as a three-man company in 2000 directly from University. Martin, Alexander and me, we all studied electronic engineering but we were always into music. Our start was kind of naive to say the least: our business plan was basically ‘let’s have a company that offers development services for something with computer and music’. So, as you might imagine, it took us a while to find our business model. Back in 2003 we had a customer who needed a high quality and performant time stretching but didn’t want to pay the whole development costs. So, we developed the time stretching for him at a much lower rate but kept the rights for the algorithm. That could be considered the start of our current licensing business. We still had to learn a lot about the business but the foundation was laid back then. From that point on we continued to develop more and more audio algorithms for licensing such as beat tracking, key and chord recognition, auto segmentation and monophonic as well as polyphonic pitch manipulation.
Later we started our own consumer product line so we could make our algorithms available in a way that we thought they should be used.
Tell me a bit about the current zplane team.
In 2013 Alexander retired from the active business at zplane since he was offered a professorship at Georgia Tech, Atlanta and moved to the USA. Now, there is Martin and me left as original founders, 4 employees and currently one intern.
Martin mainly handles the business side of things while I keep track of the technical stuff. Maik and Daniel do the hardcore programming and application development. Holger and Till take care of the research and science. Jonas – our current intern – helps the latter two. And everybody does customer support and internal testing.
All our employees did either do their master thesis at our company or at least had an internship before.
The Partner List on zplane.de is quite impressive. I see a few names of companies that a musician or producer using Studio One may not immediately associate with music, like Konami and Vinyl Dreams. What do you feel are some of the lesser-known applications of zplane technology that some users might not expect? I can see a use case for audio restoration in forensic audio, for example.
Thanks! It certainly took a while to grow this partner list. The first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about the less obvious applications is games – board games to be precise. Last year Harmonix and Hasbro released a board game using ELASTIQUE called Dropmix. It lets you construct music played by your smartphone by dropping playing cards on a game board. So, as you might guess elastique is running on the smartphone – but still the use case is kind of unusual.
Concerning forensic audio we currently have no customer using it for something comparable but we’re certainly open for that. Besides audio restoration even time stretching or pitch shifting may be very useful in that area.
Electronic music in particular is rife with happy accidents, where a technology developed for one purpose eventually finds its home in another. The most notable example being perhaps the Roland TB-303, or Auto-Tune’s obtuse origins in interpreting seismic data. Have the zplane team experienced anything like this in the development and subsequent application of their own technologies? Any surprising uses of the technologies that were not in mind in the development cycle?
Well, to be honest, I was always waiting for something like this to happen: people doing something completely different than what they were supposed to do. It didn’t happen as in the mentioned examples so far. But I was seriously impressed when I saw what people did with the chord tracks in Studio One: they applied the chord progressions to the reverb tail of other tracks. Obviously really didn’t expect that use case. However, it is truly amazing how musicians adapt new technology and convert it creatively into some new kind of expression.
How has your experience been working with the PreSonus Software team?
We’ve been working with the PreSonus Software team already for a long time even before they belonged to PreSonus. So, we have a very good and open relationship. Especially when implementing new technologies you need a lot of communication in order to get the most out of the technology but also to explain the limits of what is possible technology-wise. This communication back and forth does not only help on the implementation side but also gives us a lot of feedback and in the end improves the technology. So, especially with the implementation of the chord track and the harmonic editing this has been a very fruitful co-operation and it doesn’t end here. We’re working on the future already.
Can you talk about the difference between élastique as a plug-in and the different versions of élastique used in DAWs? Anything special in Studio One?
In fact, as long as the DAWs are using the latest version of ELASTIQUE PRO they are all using the same algorithm. Sometimes people still think that it sounds different in different hosts. This is partly voodoo and partly due to implementation differences: so in one host you have a fixed time stretch factor in others this is adapted continuously which will obviously cause audible differences. But still the base algorithm is the same everywhere. Our plugin Elastique Pitch takes the algorithm to only do pitch shifting which is mostly due to the limitations of a real-time plugin interface which is unable to handle time stretching.
Where do you see audio chord detection and harmonic editing go in the future?
Of course, I see that the accuracy of the chord detection will go up as well as the quality of the polyphonic pitch manipulation. It’s all already in the making. We’re currently moving away from classic signal processing and experimenting with modern deep learning and artificial intelligence approaches. And our first results for the chord detection look very promising. Currently, we see the most potential in the chord detection to improve the overall performance of the harmonic editing – wrong assumptions on the original chord have a major negative impact on the result. That being said, one should always be aware that this will never be perfect – even professional musicians disagree on certain chord transcriptions and so will computers generate debatable results from time to time.
Also, the RETUNE algorithm still has a long way to go but improving the internal pitch detection using the above-mentioned techniques will most probably take us giant steps ahead. But we haven’t started to work on this yet.
One should never forget though that all of this is just a tool to help people to get creative.
There was a time when making edits to pitch and length independently of one another seemed impossible. The same could be said about isolating a single voice from a chord for independent editing. As barriers like these continue to be broken down… what’s the next big sonic quandary for a company like zplane to solve?
The holy grail of music signal processing has always been ‘demixing’ and that hasn’t been solved yet. There are new approaches but all of them don’t get close to studio quality. So that’ll stay on our roadmap.
However, we think that taking it step by step rather than only searching for the holy grail is the way to go. So, we’ll continue to improve the existing algorithms using new techniques and learn from that ourselves.
Also, it is not always about the new algorithm, sometimes it’s ‘just’ combining existing algorithms to something new. Similar to what we did with PreSonus in Studio One: we had the chord detection and the RETUNE algorithm and put it to together to create harmonic editing.
Similarly, we’re currently working on a new product combining a lot of our technologies to support musicians with their daily practice, train their ear and eventually help them become better musicians. So, keep your eyes and ears open for that next year.
Big thanks to Tim for taking the time for this interview! Learn more about zplane at the following links: