PreSonus Blog

Neil Citron Weighs in on Studio One 2

Neil Citron

I know what you're thinking, but the fact is that this Grammy was awarded a Citron.

Hello to all fellow Artists and Producer/Engineers:

My name is Neil Citron and I’m most known for working with Steve Vai for about 14 years. I’m also an Independent Producer and Engineer for my own company, Citron Musical Services. I’ve worked on every DVD that Steve Vai has done, which all either went Gold or Platinum. Other projects have included No Substitutions by Larry Carlton and Steve Lukather, I Mixed Michael Jackson’s Striped Mixes for Universal, and recorded John Waite’s last CD Rough and Tumble, just to name a few.

I’m a guitar player who became an engineer and then became a producer. I’ve worked in film and TV as well, but my first love is making CDs. I taught the actors in Tom Hanks’ That Thing You Do to play for the film and did some of the guitar in the film as well. These are just some of the things I’ve been happy to be a part of and I’m always looking for the next exciting thing around every corner.

I recently got a copy of Studio One 2, and I wanted to see what it could do. I was pleased with it and would like to share my thoughts. I usually record a whole song to audition new software so I can get a good idea of its strengths and weaknesses. In this case I started with my friend, and great drummer, Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot, W.A.S.P., and many others) and went into the Doghouse Studio in

Woodland Hills. We mic’d up the set and had Frankie record to a click. I didn’t really have a song written, so I asked Frankie to wing it; a fill into something and a fill out etc. You can always work with more than less, but Frankie has such great song sense, I never did have to edit anything.

Next, I brought the tracks home and started trying out the MIDI and soft synths and was very pleased with the sounds. I found a Studio Piano I liked and started there. Next I used Omnisphere because I wanted to see how third party things worked. Painless is the word that comes to mind. MIDI in, MIDI out, and all is well. I then send some MIDI to my Giga Studio, (Yes I’m one of those guys who still uses Giga!) and again: painless!

Now, on to some guitar, my main instrument. I started with a clean sound, just mapping out the song as I go and trying to get things in perspective. Again easy as pie, and sounding good so far. Very happy at this point which brings me to this: the thing about DAWs is that there are a lot of them out there, and almost any of them you can record a track or two and really like the results. The difference between the men and the boys is when you start stacking things up and your sound stays clear and you hear all the nuances of each instrument.

This is where the software for me lives or dies. I’m sure a lot of you have tried stacking a Hammond and a guitar and some strings and a few horns and then held your ears from all the fighting that was going on.Then you have to start making choices of who stays and who goes. I hate that!!!! Well, I was very happy to not have that happen here. Hammond, guitar, strings, french horn and trombone all playing well together. Remember, these are synths, not 10 people sitting in a room playing, so making these work together is a hard thing to do.

I asked a country/bluegrass bass player (Joan Fraley) to come over and play bass on my song because I wanted to add a different feel in the bottom end to go with Frankie. Also she has a crazy bass collection and knew she’d bring something fun. I tried her Uke-bass first, but went with the Fender Jazz-P bass as it worked with Frankie’s drum sound the best. Next, I played some leads, bluesy in nature to fill in the blanks and finally added a few Ahh’s in the background for texture and I was done. I wanted to put enough stuff in so my mixing would tell me more about the software.

I mix from the bottom up. Drums, bass, guitar, keys, lead instruments or vocals, backgrounds and then solos. I was taught that way and it still works for me, even though I know many do it differently with great results.

After this, I started adding reverbs and delays. I use some hardware as well as plug-ins, so I started by comparing a box ‘verb and a plugin ‘verb. On the snare I put a Lexicon PCM 70 and then went to the PreSonus plug-in to compare and see what’s what. I found a nice plate to compare, and I was pleasantly surprised. Reverbs are getting better, but in the early days of plug-ins they were terrible, so I still go there first.

Then, on to compression. I used the PreSonus compressor with very good results and it was so easy to add. Drag the plug-in you want onto the track and go. That’s just brilliant. My workflow was very fast and easy. I work at a rapid pace as a rule, but I could slow down here because the software kept up. I finished the mix and went into the project section and burned a CD from there.

Usually I have to open another software to continue, so this was a very nice option. I played the CD on my home system and heard NO DIFFERENCE! Usually there’s something you want to change because it sounds a little different, i.e. vocal level, snare a little low, etc. Nothing! I was happy, needless to say. I then mastered it and I was done. All in record time, I might add, and in our business time is money.

All in all I can say that Studio One 2 works well without crashing and has no hang ups. I even tried keeping the buffer low while mixing and had no troubles—and I used a lot of plugins and hardware at the same time! I only had one issue which was answered quickly from support, and that was the Pipeline Plugin for hardware effects to stop latency. It worked well, and I never looked back.

Happy recording to all and I hope your experience with PreSonus Studio One is as good as mine!

All the best,

Neil Citron

Citron Musical Services