Dim solo is a variation on the standard solo function. With dim solo, non-soloed tracks are still audible, but at a lower level than any soloed track or tracks. This is great for many applications, including comping. Often, when auditioning comps, you want to hear them in context with the mix, but with the mix at a lower level. Dim solo is also helpful when checking out a track’s processing in isolation, or listening to a pair of tracks (like bass and drums) in context with the mix.
Studio One’s Listen bus offers a comprehensive dim solo function, but this tip is about a fast, easy way to add dim solo functionality, without needing the listen bus—or even having to actually solo tracks.
1. Select all the tracks in your project (e.g., click on the first track and shift+click on the last one).
2. De-select the track(s) you want to solo. You also need to de-select any channels that are already assigned to a VCA Channel. However, the VCA Channel that controls them should remain selected, so it can be dimmed along with the other tracks.
3. Choose Track > Add VCA for Selected Channels, or right-click on one of the selected tracks to add a VCA Channel for the selected channels (fig. 1).
4. All the selected tracks now show VCA1 under their faders (or a different number if there are already VCA Channels in the project), to confirm that their gain is being controlled by the VCA Channel. When first added, the VCA Channel’s initial level will be 0.0.
5. Now, vary the VCA Channel level to set the dimmed level for the selected tracks. The level for the unselected track (or tracks) will stay the same. Turning the VCA Channel all the way down provides the traditional solo function that mutes, rather than dims, the other tracks.
6. Do your edits on the soloed track(s). When you’re done, ctrl+click on the VCA Channel’s fader to return the VCA Channel to its initial value (0.0). After that, the levels of all the selected tracks and buses will return to what they were prior to step 1.
Once you use dim solo functionality, you’ll wonder how you got along without it.
Errata (fancy author word for “I messed up”): In The Huge Book of Studio One tips and Tricks, version 1.3, Chapter 2, page 181, fig. 2.77, the right-most panpot of the Dual Panpot should pan fully to the right, not to center. This is corrected in version 1.4, which is being updated for Studio One version 6. The update will be free to owners of any previous version of the book. Estimated publication date is early 1st quarter, 2023.
In June 2021, the blog post Metal Guitar Attack! described how to create a big sound for guitar power chords using Studio One Artist. Since then, I’ve ended up using this technique quite a bit. So, I wanted a version for Studio One Pro with an FX Chain that could fit in a single track, have a Macro Controls panel, and include some quick tone switches. Fig. 1 shows the FX Chain signal flow, which you can download at the end of this post. (Note that you need the High Intensity Pack for this tip.)
First of all, set the guitar channel’s mode to stereo, even if you recorded the guitar in mono. The Splitter will turn the mono into stereo anyway, which is necessary for the various Dual Pan modules. I also recommend using the neck pickup and rolling down your tone control, but see what works best for you.
The Splitter splits into three Ampires. In this FX Chain, all three use the default MCM 800 amp and 4×12 M65 cab. Feel free to substitute whatever amp/cab you want, but note that the Macro Controls for Dynamics on/off, Comp/Limit, OD on, Reverb On, Reverb Mix, and Preamp Gain all tie in to the main Ampire in Split 2. You’ll need to re-assign the macros if you substitute different stomp boxes. However, if you leave the stomp boxes in place, you can change the cab without altering the macro controls. For the amp itself, you’ll need only to re-connect the macro’s Preamp Gain control to the new amp’s preamp gain.
Split 1 goes to an Ampire with two pre-amp effects. The first is a 10-band EQ to condition the audio going into a Pitch Shifter, which transposes the audio -12 semitones. Split 3 goes to an identical setup, except that the EQ settings are different, and the Pitch Shifter transposes +12 semitones. All three splits then go to Dual Pans, so you can place the splits anywhere in the stereo field. The Pro EQ at the chain’s end connects to four Macro switches for Bass Cut, Bass Boost, Scoop, and Bright.
Speaking of the Macro Controls, fig. 2 shows how they’re laid out.
Because this FX Chain uses three Ampires and two Pitch Shifters, it eats up a lot of processing power. You’ll probably want to Transform to Rendered Audio after nailing your settings. (By the way, someone commented in a previous tip that transforming Ampire to save CPU doesn’t work, because it doesn’t return to your settings if you later decide it needs editing. This is not true! As long as you remember to check “Preserve Realtime State,” you can transform and return to real-time audio as many times as you want.)
The same tips apply here as in the June 2021 blog post. We’ll close out with an audio example that has panning set for the biggest sound—standard pitch full left, +12 center, -12 full right. The first half is chords, the second half is more single-note oriented. Remember, this is only one guitar—no overdubs
download Metal Guitar Attack Pro.multipreset
Maybe you’ve seen food done as a deconstructed dish, where ingredients typically put together are served separately. For example, a deconstructed spring roll would plate all the ingredients inside it separately, with a dipping sauce on the side. You could wrap up the ingredients in whatever way you liked to construct your spring roll.
Wait—what does this have to do with guitar? Well, I had an opportunity to talk with Chris Jenkins, who won an Academy Award for the sound in “Mad Max – Fury Road” and worked on the documentary “The Beatles: Eight Days A Week — The Touring Years.” He mentioned how for the surround mix of ancient Beatles concert footage, instead of upmixing, they deconstructed it by sending pre-equalized sound into special-purpose, acoustical spaces optimized for different instruments. Re-recording the ”acoustified” sounds created the 5.1 mix. This is why footage from the 60s could sound natural and organic in 5.1 surround.
Sound effects sometimes use a related approach. If they don’t sound right laid into a film’s soundtrack, they’re sometimes played back in an acoustic space, re-recorded, and then added to the film. This makes them sound more “real world.”
So…what if you took a dry guitar sound, pre-equalized the sound, split it into stereo, and fed it into two virtual cabinets from Ampire (no amps, no effects) for a deconstructed guitar sound? Listen to the audio example, and judge for yourself. Audio Example 1 is direct-injected, dry Tele.
Audio Example 2 is also DI Tele, but split into two cabs. Note how the deconstructed guitar opens up space in the center, and no longer has that flat “DI sound.” What’s more, every time you change one of the cabs, you end up with a totally different tone. This approach is also ideal for LCR mixes, and the stereo image collapses well to mono.
Let’s look at how to set this up in Artist, and then how to make an FX Chain in Professional (go to the end to download the FX Chain).
Fig. 1 shows the setup for Artist. The dry guitar track’s Pro EQ3 pre-conditions the sound going into the cabs. This is done to taste; there’s no specific “desirable” curve. Just create a curve that sounds good with the cabs you use.
Each of the dry guitar track’s pre-fader sends goes to a bus. Each bus has an Ampire inserted, but with no amp or effects—only a cab. One bus has a 1×12 American cab, while the other has a 4×12 American cab. But there’s nothing magic about those particular cabs, they just gave a sound I liked. In developing this tip, I tried a lot of cab combinations, and there were plenty of great-sounding options. Pre-conditioning with the EQ extended the options even further. For example, if a cab emphasized the bass too much, just trim the EQ’s low frequencies.
The Bus panpots are set to the Dual Pan option. That gives more imaging choices, although in the screen shot, they’re panned oppositely (hard left and hard right). To bring up the center, mix in some of the dry guitar track.
Pro Version FX Chain
With the Pro version, all this can fit into an FX Chain (fig. 2).
The Splitter uses Normal mode. The comments above about the Pro EQ3 and Ampires apply here. The Dual Pans are set to pan hard left for one cab and hard right for the other one, but you can use these plug-ins to “weight” the sound more to one side or the other. For example, in one Dual Pan, the left panpot could go could full left, and the right panpot to center. The other Dual Pan could pan the left panpot to center, and the right panpot hard right.
The Chorus at the end is just an extra little goodie. The .multipreset has it turned off, but feel free to enable it. So, simply download the .multipreset, insert it in your dry guitar track of choice…and have fun with deconstructing your guitar.
Some guitarists feel amp sims don’t sound “warm” or “smooth,” but that can also be an issue with physical amps. This is why guitar players often turn down a guitar’s tone control to reduce highs. Distortion adds harmonics, so distorting highs just piles on more highs.
Single-coil pickups have a naturally brighter sound than humbuckers, so they tend to highlight potential high-frequency issues. One fix is a narrow, sharp cut at a specific frequency to sweeten the sound, as described in The Ampire Sweetener. However, now that version 6 has a De-Esser, we can use its dynamic response for “intelligent” sweetening.
How the De-Esser Works
A de-esser reduces excessive vocal sibilants (“s” sounds) by compressing only high frequencies. This lowers the sibilants’ level, while leaving the rest of the vocal relatively untouched.
Although the EQ3’s dynamic EQ can produce this effect, for guitar the De-Esser is more plug-and-play. The controls that narrow in on “ess” sounds make it easy to narrow in on the guitar sounds you want to tame.
How to Set the Controls
The de-esser can go either before or after an amp sim. Placing the de-esser after the sim can clean up the highs that the sim generates, but pre-amp sim placement lets you suppress high frequencies before they’re distorted (fig. 1). Try both options—the effect is quite different.
To zero in on the best pre-amp sim De-Esser settings:
1. Loop your guitar, and listen to the amp sim output.
2. Set Range = Full, Shape = Narrow, and S-Reduction to 0.00.
3. Enable Listen, and vary the Frequency control. The sound will be nasty, because you’re trying to highlight where an amp sim performs at its worst. Find the most objectionable-sounding frequency, which will likely be around 4 to 7 kHz.
4. Turn off Listen, and turn S-Reduction counter-clockwise to reduce the highs feeding the amp.
In the audio example, the first part doesn’t have the De-Esser inserted. The second part does. Remember that the De-Esser functions dynamically, so the effect will be most obvious on the loudest chords. In this example, compare the last two measures of each part. You’ll hear how the de-esser in the second part removes that slight high-frequency “edge.”
Post-Amp Sim De-Essing
When inserted after the amp sim, the De-Esser becomes more of an effect that can modify the amp sim sound. I’d recommend the following to become familiar with this effect:
1. Loop your guitar, and listen to the amp sim output.
2. Start with Range = Full, Shape = Narrow, and S-Reduction at -60.00.
3. Use the Frequency control to dial in the high-frequency range you want to reduce.
4. Vary the S-Reduction control for the amount of attenuation.
For more of a humbucker character with single-coil pickups, choose Wide instead of Narrow. Wide splits the audio into two bands, and reduces levels above the Frequency setting. Narrow splits the audio into three bands, and reduces levels in the middle band. Then, vary the Frequency control. The optimum setting will likely be at 6 kHz and below (fig. 2). Again, choose the amount of high-frequency attenuation with the S-Reduction control.
Whether to insert the De-Esser pre- or post-amp sim depends on the amp sim. The audio example uses Ampire, which is one of the better amp sims. Inserting the De-Esser before the amp is really all that’s needed. Sims with “nastier” high frequencies benefit more from post-amp placement, because the De-Esser can give a more drastic effect.
In any case, the above suggested settings are starting points. The best approach is to loop your guitar, enable your amp sim, and play with the controls. You might be surprised at how the De-Esser can add the extra touch that’s needed to turn an amp sim from good to great.