The July 4th weekend is approaching, so it’s time to hit the beach—but you can’t have surfing without surf music, right? So before you start scouting for the impact zone, grab your guitar, import the epic downloadable Ampire preset, and play your guitar until you have noodle arms. Surf’s up!
The Surf Sound—Axe
It starts with the guitar, and your playing technique. Ideally, your guitar will have single-coil pickups, a whammy bar, at least .010 gauge strings (preferably a little heavier), and a hard pick to go with the heavy strings. If your guitar doesn’t have single-coil pickups, no worries—check out the Pro EQ-based Friday tip from November 2018, Humbucker to Single-Coil Conversion with EQ.
The Surf Sound—Amp
As luck would have it, Ampire has exactly what we need (fig. 1). Surf music wants a clean amp (well, maybe just a hint of distortion), lots of treble, and spring reverb. Tremolo is optional. I also use a compressor before the amp, to bring up decaying strings after playing with the whammy bar.
Check out the audio example, I think it nails that mythical guitar sound. And just to be clear, this isn’t about cultural appropriation of surf music, nor is it a parody. This is a tribute—my high school band opened for the Ventures, and I still think the surf guitar sound represents a unique moment in time. Have fun!
Download the Ampire preset CA Surf Music.preset
An astute Friday Tip reader commented that while the tip on how to level the outputs of amp sim presets was indeed useful, I should also write about the importance of input levels. Well, I do take requests—and yes, input levels are crucial with amp sims.
Physical amp sims are forgiving. They soak up transients, and chop off low and high frequencies. But amp sims tend to magnify the differences between guitars and playing styles. When going through the same preset, a player who uses a thin flat pick, 0.008 strings, and single coil pickups will sound totally different compared to a player who uses a thumbpick, 0.010 strings, and humbuckers. So, let’s look at four common mistakes people make when feeding amp sims.
The first half has the input set to 5 o’clock. Not only is the sound so distorted the playing is indistinct, listen to the very beginning, before the first note hits. All that gain is picking up noise, hum, and garbage that becomes part of your guitar signal. No wonder the amp sim sounds like garbage—it has plenty of garbage mixed in. The audio example’s second half has the input at 9 o’clock. The sound is not only more focused, but stronger.
In particular, listen to the spaces between notes. The version without EQ has a sort of bassy mud between notes that detracts from the part’s focus.
The bottom line is simple: If your amp sim doesn’t sound right, the quickest fix might be as simple as turning down the input level, and rolling off some lows and highs before the amp sim.
Ampire has a User cab that can load impulse responses. You knew that, right? What you may not know is that you can load stereo cab impulses, and they magically make the User cab stereo. If you’re thinking “but creating impulses is such a hassle,” it’s not—let’s get started.
How It Works: Overview
Start by downloading the 44.1, 48, and 96 kHz stereo impulses. These are 1-sample spikes, so if you listen to them, don’t expect a thrilling audio experience. To create the impulse response, load a stereo impulse into an audio track, but no other audio—just the impulse. Send the audio to two cabs, set up in stereo (e.g., using two FX Channels, panned as desired). Don’t include any amps or effects—only the cabs. Bounce or otherwise mix/export the result. This is the stereo impulse response.
For the sake of example, we’ll assume you want a 4×12 M65 and a 2×12 VC 30 as your stereo cabs, but you can use any cabs you want, including cabs from other amp sims. Referring to fig. 1, this setup works for Artist or Pro.
Create the Impulse
Create an audio track, load Ampire, plug in your guitar, and select an amp. Choose the User cab, and then click on the + symbol in the Mic A: field. Navigate to where you saved the impulse response, load it, and kick back with your cool stereo cab.
To get you started, the folder you downloaded with the impulse also has stereo Impulse Responses for the M65+VC30 and 4x10American+2x12Boutique stereo cabs. Try them with the new High Gain and Painapple amps…you’re gonna love ‘em.
Bobby Burnette of New Orleans progressive deathcore band, Wasted Creation performs a guitar playthrough of their song “Asmodeus” at River City Studio here at PreSonus HQ in Baton Rouge.
This session was tracked in Studio One Professional through the Revelator io24 audio interface. All guitar and bass tones are straight from Ampire, our guitar amplifier, cabinet, and pedal emulation plug-in. Some sounds and models featured were from the Ampire High-Density Pack expansion for Ampire.
*The original recording of “Asmodeus”, and this playthrough were both recorded, mixed, and mastered by PreSonus’ very own Product Manager, Kyle Eroche.
Here is a breakdown of the presets used in this track. Provided by the engineer of this track, Kyle Eroche.
Tell us a bit more about “LA/NY”
“LA/NY” is a new song off my latest album, Outlier. It is a bit of a different direction for me, because I wanted to put forth a killer pop tune that also shined a light on my love of a fuzzy guitar solo.
Outlier is an album built on exquisite tension: like an endless push-and-pull between desire and resistance, determination and self-sabotage, the instinctive need to belong and the urge to strike out on your own. My songs were produced by Michael Shuman (Queens of the Stone Age and Mini Mansions) and it’s an album full of guitar-drenched sounds that’s wildly unpredictable and immediately magnetic.
What amp/pedals did you use for “LA/NY”?
It was all done within Studio One, using the PreSonus Ampire plug-in. Specifically, I used the Wild Drive, Demolition Drive, Equalizer and Delay pedals running into the Blackface Twin model amp paired with a 2×12 American Cabinet.
(NOTE: if you’re a PreSonus Sphere Member, you can download her exact Ampire Preset here)
How did you first discover PreSonus?
I first discovered PreSonus while working at a music shop in Austin, TX. They sold audio recording equipment from all different brands, but I noticed that PreSonus had the most intuitive software (Studio One Artist) included, as well as the best price point.
What was your first PreSonus product?
It was the Studio 1810c audio interface, but I have since upgraded to a Studio 1824c. I’ve got the FaderPort to the right of my computer keyboard. I also now have their Revelator io24 that you see me using in the video above, of course!
How long have you used Studio One?
About three years now.
What are your Top three favorite features about Studio One?
My favorite aspect of Studio One is how easy it is to use. The drag & drop aspect helps me work really quickly and efficiently. I also really love using Impact for drum sounds, Presence for sample-based instrument sounds, the Mai Tai polyphonic synthesizer, and Ampire for pedal FX and amp modeling.
They’re called “power chords” for a reason—that delightful mix of definition, sludge, and hugeness is hard to resist. But can we make them more huge and more powerful? Of course, we can, so let’s get started
This tip gives two options: non-real-time, and real time (using the High Density Ampire pack, although other amp sims and processors can work, too). Either technique also works well for LCR mixing fans.
After the next section, we’ll get into panning and EQ.
Follow the steps above for non-real-time hugeness, but don’t do Step 4. Instead:
Whether you chose real-time or non-real-time hugeness, you now have three tracks: Standard pitch, tuned down an octave, and tuned up an octave. Let’s do panning and levels. Here are some options.
This approach also lends itself well to automating mute on the various channels. Unmute the octave below when you want to fatten the sound, unmute the octave higher when you want a more defined sense of pitch.
Applying EQ to the transposed audio can customize the sound further. If you’re doing a duo with only drums and guitar, on the octave below track, boost the bass and trim the highs. Pan it to center, and pan the other two tracks left and right. Another possibility is giving more definition to the octave higher track by rolling off the lows and highs a bit and boosting the mids around 2 kHz or so.
Let’s check out the audio example…remember, it’s only one guitar.
Forest Whitehead hails originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, and has been based out of Nashville, TN since the fall of October of 2009.
Starting out as just a guitar player, he quickly began learning production and songwriting which led to signing his first publishing deal in 2011.
Since then, Forest has produced five #1 songs and has written four #1 songs most recognized for country superstar Kelsea Ballerini. He has a 2021 Grammy nomination for his work with Mickey Guyton for a song called “Black Like Me.”
After achieving success with his career in mainstream country radio, Whitehead has started an online presence called Music City Playbook that educates songwriters, artists, and producers on everything from songwriting, production, and publishing deals in the Nashville music industry.
With weekly production tutorials posted on his YouTube Channel, Forest’s goal is to become the go-to place online for quick success for songwriters wanting to produce their own music from home.