PreSonus Blog

Friday Tips in the Real World: the Sequel

This is a follow-up to the Friday Tips in the Real World blog post that appeared in 2020. It was well-received, so I figured it was time for an update.

Although many of the Friday Tips include an audio example of how a tip affects the sound, that’s different from the real-world context of a musical production. So, this blog post highlights how selected tips were used in my recent music/video project, Unconstrained. The project was recorded, mixed, and mastered entirely in Studio One.

As you might expect, the workflow-related tips were used throughout, as were some of the audio tips. For example, all the vocals used the Better Vocals with Phrase-by-Phrase Normalization technique, and all the guitar parts followed the Amp Sims: Garbage In, Garbage Out tip. The Chords Track and Project Page updates were crucial to the entire project as well.

The links take you to specific parts of the songs that showcase the tips, accompanied by links to the relevant Friday Tip blog post. If you’re curious about specific production techniques used in the project, whether they’re included in this post or not, feel free to ask questions in the comments section.

One reader’s comment for the Lead Guitar Editing Hack blog post mentioned how useful this technique is. If you missed it the first time, here’s what it sounds like applied to a solo. Attenuating the attack gives the melody line a synth-like, otherworldly sound. Incidentally, if you back up the video to 6:20, the cello sounds are from Presence. I tried the “industry standard” orchestra programs, but I liked the Presence cellos more. Also, I used the “time trap” technique from the Fun with Tempo Tracks post to slow the cellos slightly before going full tilt into the solo.

The Magic Stereo blog post described a novel way to add motion to rhythm parts, like piano and guitar. This excerpt uses that technique to move the guitar in stereo, but without conventional panning. Later on in the song, the drums use Harmonic Editing to give a sense of pitch. The post Melodify Your Beats describes this technique. But in this song, the white noise wasn’t needed because the drums had enough of a frequency range so that harmonic editing worked well.

I wrote about the EDM-style “pumping” effect in the post “Pump” Your Pads and Power Chords, and it goes most of the way through this song. The reason why I chose this section is because the solo uses Presence, which I think may be underrated by some people.

Another topic that’s dear to my heart is blues harmonica, and it loves distortion—as described in the blog post Blues Harmonic FX Chain. It’s wonderful how amp sims can turn the thin, reedy sound of a harmonica into something with so much power it’s almost like a brass section. However, note that this example uses a revised version of the original FX Chain, based on Ampire. (The revised version is described in The Huge Book of Studio One Tips and Tricks.)

The blog post Studio One’s Session Bass Player generated a lot of comments. But does the technique really work? Well, listen to this example and decide for yourself. I needed a scratch bass part but it ended up being so much like what I wanted that I made only a couple tweaks…done. For a guitar solo in the same song, I tried a bunch of wah pedals but the one that worked best was Ampire’s.

I still think Studio One’s ability to do polyphonic MIDI guitar courtesy of Melodyne (even the Essential version) is underrated. This “keyboard” part uses Mai Tai driven by MIDI guitar. The MIDI part was derived from the guitar track that’s doubling the Mai Tai. For more information, see the blog post Melodyne Essential = Polyphonic MIDI Guitar. Incidentally, except for the sampled bass and choir, all the keyboard sounds were from Mai Tai. If you’ve mostly been using third-party synths, spend some time re-acquainting yourself with Mai Tai and Presence. They can really deliver.

As the post Synthesize OpenAIR Reverb Impulses in Studio One showed, it’s easy to create your own reverb impulses for OpenAIR. In this excerpt, the female background vocals, male harmony, and harmonica solo all used impulses I created using this technique. (The only ambience on the lead vocal was the Analog Delay). Custom impulses are also used throughout Vortex and the subsequent song, What Really Matters (which also uses the Lead Guitar Hack for the solo).

I’m just getting started with my project for 2023, and it’s already generating some new tips that you’ll be seeing in the weeks ahead. I hope you find them helpful! Meanwhile, here’s the link to the complete Unconstrained project.