PreSonus Blog

The Virtual “Back of the Tape Box.”

In the 20th century, tape reels came in boxes. Engineers wrote information about tracks, running order, timing, credits, and such on the back of the box. And because it was a box, you could fold up some sheets of paper and include lyrics, notes, and other information

These days, when you open a project, it’s just like you left it. But what mics did you use? How was the tone control set on the bass? And you got those loops from…which sample library? If you ever need to re-visit a track, fix a glitch, do an overdub, or weeks pass before you can finish a project, you’ll need to know these details. Let’s talk about taking notes, and while we’re keeping track of things, let’s also create a lyrics track.


Taking Notes

To access Studio One’s virtual “back of the tape box,” choose Song > Song Information.

  • The Info tab shows selected meta data, info from the Song Notes tab, and any image you uploaded to Song Setup. The image can show an album cover, but also a miking setup, an analog processor’s control settings, or a cool picture that inspires you.
  • For developing song lyrics, I keep the Song Notes tab open, and do my writing/editing there. Saving lyrics with a song is convenient. However, it’s also useful for other notes—session personnel, web site URLs with reference info, and so on.
  • Track Notes (fig. 1) is where you can include all track-related information. It’s ideal for info that’s not included in a preset, like the vocal mic of choice, analog processor control settings, and which pickup you used on a guitar.


Figure 1: Track notes are key to documenting a session.




Track Notes Access Shortcuts

In addition to accessing track notes in the Song Information menu, you can scroll down in the Inspector to the field below automation, and click on it to open the corresponding Track Notes (fig. 2). Or, right-click anywhere within a Console channel, and select Edit Note from the context menu. This is the fastest way to view or edit Track Notes, compared to going to Song Information, selecting a tab, and then clicking on the track label.

Figure 2: Open track notes from within the Inspector by clicking, or in a mixer Channel by right-clicking.



Furthermore, you can supplement Track Notes by entering information in the track name itself. Hovering over the name in the Arrange window or a mixer Channel (fig. 3) shows whatever you entered, which can be quite long if needed. This is useful for temporary notes, like if you recorded several similar parts, and need to differentiate among them.

Figure 3: You can see long track names by hovering over them.

Pipeline Docs

Analog processors…you love ‘em, right? But when they don’t have presets, and you’re using them with Pipeline, you’ll want to know how the controls were set. Pipeline’s image icon (lower left) allows uploading an image of control settings, while the pencil icon allows adding a note (fig. 4).


Figure 4: The rack of effects from my book “Electronic Projects for Musicians,” being used with Pipeline.


A photo larger than 1200 x 1200 will be scaled to fit the image space, but click on the image, and it expands to the original size. You may even be able to see all the controls on a rack-mount piece of gear.

If you have an analog synthesizer with so many controls they won’t fit in a picture, no problem. Pipeline doesn’t have to be used for its intended purpose. You can take a picture of the synth’s oscillators, another of the filters, another of the envelopes, Then, stack multiple Pipelines within a track, to be used solely as a picture gallery. However, each instance does add latency—when you don’t need to see the pictures, disable the track, and hide it to reduce clutter.

Of course, you could always put the images in a folder, and include that folder in your song folder. But it’s kinda cool that everything you need to know about a song can be stored within that song.


The Lyrics Track

A lyrics track is helpful, because you always know where you are in the song—not just in the “chorus” or “verse.” It can be located right above a vocal, so it’s easy to find and select a particular part that needs editing, overdubbing, deleting, etc. Although Studio One doesn’t have a lyric track per se, you can put one together in two ways (fig. 5). There are pros and cons to each approach.


Figure 5: Lyric track made with markers (top) and with a dedicated “lyrics track.”



Marker-based lyric track. Lyric markers are quite readable, and have useful songwriting functions:

  • Select the Marker track, open the Inspector, and jump to a particular phrase by clicking on it. It’s a quick way to get where you want to go.
  • Right-click on any marker, select “Create Arranger Sections from Markers,” and now you have the start of an Arranger Track based on the lyrics.
  • Right-click on a marker, and choose “Stop at Marker” to make sure that playback won’t continue past that point.

Event-based lyric track. This might be best if you already have a lot of markers inserted, and don’t want to add more. Create a dummy track, and populate it with events whose lengths correspond to phrases. One advantage is that you can color-code the events to help guide you through a vocal by emphasizing certain phrases. Another advantage is that if you zoom in or out, the Event will continue to span the length of the chosen phrase. A Marker is always anchored to the beginning.