First, some news: If you own The Huge Book of Studio One Tips and Tricks, the free update to version 1.2 is available from the PreSonus shop. Just go to your account and re-download the book. Also, my 2021 album project was recorded entirely in Studio One, and the playlist is posted on YouTube. You’ll probably find the song “I Hope” of particular interest, because the keyboard part was created automatically (yes, it really was) using the tip about the “Fill Notes” function, and the guitar and keyboard parts use the Shimmer Reverb tip. Okay, on to this week’s tip…
We all know how important vocals are, and the Fat Channel is an excellent channel strip for creating vocal presets. So, let’s go step-by-step on how to create your own Fat Channel preset. We’ll cover the reasons for choosing the parameters in fig. 1, and the order in which you want to edit them. More importantly, we’ll describe how to customize parameters for your mic type and voice.
The HPF can reduce pops, as well as excessive bass from singing too close to the mic. Choose a frequency that tightens up the low end, but doesn’t thin the sound. With a ribbon mic, you might want a higher frequency.
To keep low-level noise out of a vocal, try setting the Expander threshold to -55 dB. This should be high enough to get rid of residual hiss and room noise, but low enough to retain vocal nuances.
EQ settings are like a combination lock—get them right, and your vocal opens up. As to signal chain placement, equalizer before compressor is more forgiving of substantial EQ boosts that create “character.” Let’s run through the order for adjusting the edits.
HS (High Shelf). This gives the vocal “air.” Freq will be in the 8 to 10 kHz range, but Gain depends on your mic. Some mics have a high-frequency lift, so you don’t need much gain. A ribbon mic might sound dull, and need more gain. Turn up the Gain to where you get sibilance problems, and then back off until the sibilance issues go away.
HMF. The frequency range from 2 to 5 kHz is all about intelligibility. A broad boost helps the vocal stand out in a mix. Turn up the Gain until you hear more definition and greater intelligibility, then back off just a bit. The ear is most sensitive in this range, so too much boost can sound harsh.
LMF. A broad cut in the lower mids between 200 and 500 Hz can reduce “muddiness.” This isn’t always necessary, but reducing the lower mid response leaves more room for other instruments. Besides, with the HMF and High Shelf boosts, the vocal should come through just fine. An easy way to adjust LMF is to temporarily increase the Gain in this range, and sweep the frequency for the most “boxy” sound. That’s where you want to cut.
LF. With the HPF active and LMF cutting, a slight boost here re-introduces a little more warmth into the vocal. With a ribbon mic, or if the vocal was recorded with a significant bass proximity effect from singing too close, you might want to cut here instead.
The Tube Comp is a favorite for vocals, and it’s blissfully easy to adjust: Set Peak Reduction for the desired amount of compression, then use Gain to make up for any decrease in level caused by compression. I usually aim for 6 to 8 dB compression on peaks, but a lot of engineers like to slam the compression harder, especially for rock vocals.
Setting this to -3.0 provides insurance against stray peaks going higher than desired.
The downloadable preset has the parameters shown in fig. 1. Although it can serve as a point of departure, I strongly encourage you to tweak the parameters to perfection for your own voice and microphone. You’ll find the effort is worth it!
Download the Fat Channel preset here:
Version 5.5 introduced Chord Stack and Strum features, which are pretty cool (for the basics on how they work, check out Gregor Beyerle’s YouTube video). We’ll warp these functions in some novel ways.
Chord Stack Meets Arpeggio
You can combine creating a Chord Stack and arpeggiating it at the same time.
Past a certain point, some notes will repeat before moving on to the next note. The repeating is most likely to happen when using scales with few notes, like a Major Triad. The repeating notes can be a fun effect with sounds that have a fast decay.
When doing arpeggios, I like to drag up to the scale note just before the octave, and then create a second, downward arpeggio (fig. 2). You can turn this into an Event, and hit D to create as many iterations of the arpeggio as you want.
Let’s turn our attention to strumming. One of my favorite alternatives to a conventional strum is that you don’t have to strum from the top or bottom of a chord, you can strum from the “inside out.” It sounds more like fingerstyle picking than strumming.
Even better, we can take advantage of another new 5.5 editing feature. Set the end of the Event to where you want the notes to end. Select all the notes, right-click on one of them, and choose Musical Functions > Process > Extend to Note End. Now you’ll have a lovely, strummed attack, and all the notes will end at the same time.
More strum fun tips:
Finally, it gets even better when you combine these techniques. For example, in fig. 4, you could strum the octave notes from outside in, and the lower notes from the inside out…or make one a downstroke, and one an upstroke.
Are we having fun yet?
Wouldn’t it be cool to add a harmonic element to beats? Well, thanks to Harmonic Editing and a little pink noise, you can. The goal is to have your beat or drum loop follow a chord progression, embed the percussive qualities into the chords, and then mix the desired blend of beats and chords. First, you need to do a little prep work:
How to Create a Pink Noise Track
Next, let’s have fun by blending the chords generated by the pink noise (from the Harmonic Editing) with the drums. Here are some examples.
Gate the Chords
Insert a Gate in the pink noise track. Send a sidechain from the drum track to the Gate. Adjust the Gate parameters so it triggers in sync with the drums (fig. 3).
Here’s what it sounds like—fun stuff!
Automating the Gate parameters can be useful, too (especially Release and Threshold).
X-Trem the Chords
This sound inserts two X-Trems (fig. 4) in series in the pink noise track, and syncs them to tempo.
And here’s what they do to the beat…it sounds very reggae.
This is another application where automation can add a lot of variety—particularly by varying the LFO Speed parameter in the second X-Trem.
X-Trem + AutoFilter the Chords
Now try replacing the second X-Trem with an AutoFilter, set as follows (fig. 5).
This audio example plays only the chord part, and doesn’t mix in the drums. You can introduce a lot of mileage in a song by varying the mix of drums only, chords only, and drum+chords.