How to Play Faster—By Playing Slower covered how to slow down tempo of non-MIDI based music without changing pitch. This allows playing a difficult part at a slower speed, and then speeding the part back up to the desired tempo. However, this method may produce artifacts, because time-stretching algorithms aren’t perfect (yet…).
With tape, musicians used variable-speed recorders to implement the same technique. However, because this approach locked pitch and tempo together, slowing down the tempo also lowered pitch. So, you’d need to learn the song in a different key, or retune your instrument to match the lower pitch. Speeding the tape back up to its original tempo sped up the slower overdub, and raised its pitch as well.
Studio One’s “Tape” stretch mode works the same way as variable-speed tape, and unlike other stretch methods, produces zero artifacts. You still need to learn the part in a different key, but sometimes this is a good thing. When you play along at the slower tempo and then speed the part back up again, the instrument’s timbre becomes brighter—which might be just what a song needs. Similarly, you can record at a faster speed, and then slow back down for a sound that’s more like downtuning. What’s more, with stringed instruments, it’s possible to record with a different voicing that might be more effective, or provide additional contrast if you’re layering parts.
1. Rather than try to slow down an entire Song, position the loop markers at the beginning and end. Choose Song > Export Mixdown to create a premix of the Song. Under Export Range, choose “Between Loop.” Under Options, check “Import to Track” (fig. 1).
2. Mute all Song tracks except the imported premix.
3. Select the premix, and open its Inspector (F4).
4. For Timestretch mode, choose “Tape” (fig. 2).
5. Further down in the Inspector, locate the “Speedup” parameter.
6. Enter a Speedup value that “lands” on a key, as shown in fig. 3. For example, a Speedup setting of 0.89089 slows the tempo to 89% of its current value, and transposes pitch down 2 semitones. Enter all 6 digits for correct tuning, even though Speedup displays only 3 digits (Studio One knows the extra digits are there). Hit Return.
7. Create a new track, and record your overdub at the slower tempo, in the different key.
8. When you’re done, make sure your overdub extends to the song’s beginning. If there’s a gap, use the Paint tool to create a blank event that extends from the song’s beginning to the overdub. Select the blank clip and overdub, and then type Ctrl+B to turn them into a single event.
9. Click on the overdub event, and set Timestretch to Tape. transpose it up by as much as it was transposed down. For example, if the track was transposed down 2 semitones, enter a Speedup time of 1.12246 to transpose it back up two semitones. Hit return.
…as in, 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love.” Back in those days, to minimize tape hiss, noise reduction compressed and increased highs when recording, then expanded and reduced highs on playback. Many recordings of that era enhanced the highs on some tracks (especially vocals) by using noise reduction when they printed to tape, but then they didn’t “undo” the sound on playback. Once you’ve heard that sound, you’ll recognize it—a present, bright, yet not overbearingly trebly sound.
You may remember the “cassette,” a primitive form of audio recording invented over half-century ago, and intended for dictation. If so, you may also remember that when you turned off noise reduction, the cassette sounded brighter and more present. It’s the same principle.
How It Was Done
The early days, “studio standard” noise reduction was a broadband unit that applied the noise reduction process in four separate bands. The “hack” was to disable two of the bands, and use only the high bands (basically, shelving EQ around 3 and 9 kHz) to compress and increase highs.
But the reason why this worked so well is because lower-level, high-frequency signals were compressed the most. The higher the level, the lower the compression ratio. This is why the treble increase wasn’t overbearing when you used noise reduction to enhance the highs. Amazingly, we can obtain a very similar effect with stock plug-ins.
How to Do It
We’re not constrained to trying to sound like the original hardware unit, so we can optimize our approach for musical applications in Studio One instead of noise reduction with tape recorders. The Multiband Dynamics plug-in is well-suited for the “more-compression-at-low-levels” trick (fig. 1).
As the curve shows, there’s a lot of compression at lower levels, but as the input gets higher, the ratio approaches 1:1. That’s exactly the effect we want. A maximum Knee setting makes for a smooth transition along the compression curve.
These are not necessarily the optimum settings for your application, so feel free to experiment. My intention was to create settings that avoided having too much or too little of a compression curve.
The Mix control determines the amount of the effect. Note that the Low Threshold, High Threshold, and Ratio controls all interact. The settings shown (which are also used in the downloadable preset) worked for me and give a pretty obvious effect. For something more subtle, set the Ratio to 3.0:1, and the Low Threshold to around -63. As to the preset, after downloading, import it into the Multiband Dynamics, or just drag it on top of the plug-in’s interface.
Anyway, hearing is believing, so listen to the audio example. I’ve added a fair amount of the effect so that it’s obvious. In a full mix, you might use less. The following audio demo alternates between an unprocessed version and processed version. The sounds are choir, 12-string guitar, vocal, and piano. I dug up a scratch vocal with loud sibilants because it really gets the point across—the sibilants are not more pronounced in the processed version, even though the overall sound is much brighter. Also, the piano is interesting. The portions with soft dynamics still have increased brightness, but the brightness doesn’t get out of hand when the dynamics hit hard (which even when unprocessed, are brighter anyway). You can hear the music these came from at youtube.com/thecraiganderton.
So download the preset, drag it to your Multiband Dynamics, and…be happy you didn’t have to buy a piece of hardware to get this sound!
Download the CA_Vintage Airy preset here!
We already covered Mai Tai’s FM synthesizer secret identity—but that was the start of “fun things to do with Mai Tai,” not the end. Here are five more Mai Tai tips, along with a couple bonus presets you can import.
1. The Character section. If you didn’t get into this feature, maybe it’s because you tried the top three options, thought “whatever,” and moved on. But this section doesn’t start hitting its stride until you get to CharacterSaw, Subvox, Talky, and Voxil, with honorable mention going to the bottom five options. The associated Sound and Amount parameters are the key to creating versatile variations (the effects are most pronounced with Amount between halfway and all the way up). Do yourself a favor: loop a big fat sawtooth chord, and play around with the Character section controls to hear what they do.
2. Random Phase. Enabling RP emulates the analog synth characteristic where an oscillator doesn’t always start from the same point when you press a key. With the two oscillators panned to center, this produces some mild timbral differences—but the magic happens when you enable RP for both oscillators, and pan them hard left and right. Put on headphones, and the slight differences between the two waveforms create animated psychoacoustic motion inside your head.
3. Hard sync. The Sync button in Osc 2 produces this classic synth effect, but be aware that:
Import the preset CA Hard Sync.preset (fig. 1), which is just waiting to be customized. Change the Osc 2 octave, edit the Env 3 shape that goes to the Osc 2 Pitch, try different PWM settings, see what else the Character and Filter sections can do…there are a lot of options.
4. You can automate almost anything, including the effects. Automating the Character section’s Sound and Amount controls can add ever-changing timbral variety, although it also reminds me that I really wish Studio One’s Paint tool could draw smoothed random waveforms. However, I do like to use the Paint tool to draw square wave modulation, and automate the Osc 2 Semi parameter when doing hard sync. This flips the sound between two timbres, like a crazy sample-and-hold.
5. The Modulation Matrix. My “Faux Feedback” preset (fig. 2) depends on the modulation matrix, and emulates what happens with electric guitar as feedback starts to build up.
The interesting programming aspects are:
Import the CA Faux Feedback.preset, and play slowly at first—hold the note until the “feedback” appears, because this will give you a feel for how the sound develops. Don’t forget to include a lot of pitch-bending action when doing single-note solos (although the preset also sounds good with chords). And there are plenty of opportunities for customization…so have at it!
Download the CA Hard Sync.preset
Download the CA Faux Feedback.preset
Almost all guitars, and many vintage keyboards, have mono outputs—but when it comes to recording and mixing, it’s a stereo world. Ooops. Although you can always follow guitar with a stereo effect (like reverb or chorusing) to create a stereo image, the guitar itself is still mono. You can also do tricks with time delays or phase changes, but these usually produce comb filtering, and don’t collapse well to mono.
So, here’s a solution for giving your guitar a stereo spread that collapses back into mono without any problems. As a bonus, once you’ve converted the guitar to stereo, you’ll also get the most out of any stereo effects that follow it.
The Secret Sauce
This technique works in Studio One Artist, but at the end, we’ll also cover a tidier alternative for Studio One Professional. The stereo image comes from splitting the guitar into two parallel Ampire Blue EQs. The EQ sliders are set to equal and opposite positions so that when one EQ’s band is boosting, the same band on the other EQ is cutting, and vice-versa (fig. 1). Panning one Graphic EQ to the left and the other to the right splits the frequencies into different channels, which creates the stereo image.
If all you want is the stereo image, bypass the Ampire amps and cabinets. But wait—there’s more! If you set up different amps and cabs in the two channels, you’ll have a gorgeous stereo “stacked’ amp setup. Note that the graphic EQs will affect the amp’s tone; you’ll have a different sound depending on whether the EQs precede or follow the amp+cab. See which option you like best.
Routing and Setup
Referring to fig. 2, the guitar track has two pre-fader sends, which send the guitar’s audio to two buses (these buses become the left and right channels). Each bus has an Ampire inserted, with the graphic EQ settings shown in fig. 1.
The two buses go through their own pre-fader sends, with one send panned left and the other panned right. The sends end up at the last bus in the setup, which provides the final stereo guitar signal.
Note that with this setup, you can also “weight” the stereo image more to one side. For example, pan the left channel’s send left, but the right channel’s send to center. Now the guitar will sound like it’s coming more from the left channel. Because the panning isn’t acting like a typical stereo pan control (which is really a balance control), both channels are equally prominent—they’re just mixed together.
Studio One Professional Version
With Professional, you can build all of this into an FX Chain (fig. 3) that inserts in your guitar’s track.
The Splitter, in Channel Split mode, splits the guitar into left and right channels. Each has the same Ampire setup described earlier (only graphic EQs, or graphic EQs with amps and cabs). The Dual Pan is optional. Because we’re not using pannable sends, the Dual Pan allows the kind of weighting described previously, where you can tilt the image more to the left or right side.
And now, guitar players of the world—go forth and stereo!