[Editor’s note, we’re publishing this “Friday Tip” on a Wednesday, since we’re closed for the holidays on Dec. 24 and 25; a Thursday and a Friday.]
The Friday Tip series started three years ago, and it’s been an honor to be part of the family of Studio One enthusiasts. Ultimately, these tips come out of doing projects, and the album I dropped last week was the first one done from start to finish in Studio One. So, I thought you might like to hear what a few of these tips sound like not as isolated SoundCloud examples in a weekly blog, but as integral parts of a musical collection.
The specific examples below include start times, so you don’t have to listen aimlessly—just drag the dot on the embedded video to the indicated place on the timeline. But first, let’s start with the tips that were used on pretty much everything.
This phrase-by-phrase normalization techniques described in How to Gain Better Vocals and Get Better Vocals with Gain Envelopes were used on every vocal—lead and background—in every song. Most vocals added light limiting, and a few added compression, but these tips were the key to consistent vocals. The appearance of Gain Envelopes in V5 became the icing on the cake.
The Streaming: Limiter2 to the Rescue technique was used when assembling songs in the Project page. If it sounds like the songs have the same perceived level throughout the album…that’s why! Anything with a fadeout uses the technique described in How to Obtain The Perfect Fadeout, and Why Overlap Correction Is Totally Cool was used on every bass part (they were all MIDI bass).
Now let’s listen to some specific examples:
The effect is applied here to cymbals and noise, not reverb, but the principle is the same—and the harmonic “tuning” provides what sounds like some strange kind of psychedelic organ behind the guitar at 08:18. This same “organ” effect occurs at 09:06, 09:38, and 10:25 (not to be confused with the obvious Farfisa organ sound). I’ll be exploring this off-the-wall harmonic editing application much more in the future…it’s very cool, and unique to Studio One.
Saturation (using the Softube Saturation Knob) was crucial on several bass and drum parts to help them cut through busy mixes, or to add drama. Saturation is on bass all the way through three songs; the bass comes in at 00:17, 03:02, and 13:59. It’s also on drums all the way through two songs, where the drums enter at 08:25 and 16:58.
The preverb effect provides the ghostly sort of sound that starts at 12:00 behind the lead vocal, as well as several other places throughout the song.
It’s easy to make your own reverb impulses, and I took advantage of that for lead vocals starting at 03:02, 08:34, 16:09 (the most obvious example), and all vocals (lead/background) starting at 18:50. Custom impulses are also on drums at 16:58, and the Mai Tai organ starting at 19:14.
I love the way the “barberpole” effect starting at 12:25 accompanies the moon in the video getting bigger and bigger. The barberpole also uses a custom Open Air impulse with a long reverb time, which enhances the illusion of a tone that never stops rising.
This is applied to the entire stereo mix at 12:49 (go big or go home, right?), but it’s also applied more subtly to the flanged guitar parts in the same song. And I didn’t write a tip about it, but you gotta love that factory preset Mai Tai bell sound…
Yes, even something done in the middle of a pandemic when you just want to de-stress can come in handy. This provides a transition between songs; the first one is at 10:45, and the second at 13:38.
The “steel guitar” sound that starts at 21.22 and goes through to the end is actually a synthesizer that uses this technique.
This doesn’t dial up the gritty blues sound as much as on my 2017 album Simplicity, but it does make the harmonica at 03:52 and 0 4:52 sound a little less wholesome. This is a good thing.
Although I converted a guitar to Nashville tuning to replace the “faux” part, it didn’t sound quite right…so I mixed some of the virtual Nashville tuning part back in at 17:02 and 17:55. It’s the kind of effect you don’t notice until you take it out.
This was used most prominently at 07:20, on the background vocals by the Nashville QTs. The goal was to create a sound like there were more people singing, but without using time-based effects.
Three hand percussion parts, processed as described in the tip, kick in at 06:04, and again at 06:40, after a brief drum solo. The odd thing about this technique is the percussion sounds like what percussion should sound like…but if you take out the tremolos and have the parts going all the time, they sound repetitive. (Oh, and I think you’ll recognize what’s providing much of the video background…)
When doing a mostly continuous mix, you’re bound to have beats that don’t quite match up. This technique was used in the two segues that start at 02:29 (the guitar carries the transition and speeds up) and 05:02 (the keyboard carries the transition, and slows down).
Of course there were plenty of other workflow and FX Chain-based tips used throughout, but I think these are arguably the most interesting ones. I’m looking forward to seeing what PreSonus comes up with in 2021 as we work our way through a new year. Stay healthy, stay optimistic—and keep making music! As Quincy Jones says, it’s food for the soul.