PreSonus Blog

Tighten Mixes with the “Tightener” FX Chain

 

Sometimes when you’re mixing, sounds conflict because they have too much energy in the same part of the spectrum. The usual solutions are to lower the level of the sound deemed less important, or use EQ to try to ensure that each sound carves out its own part of the spectrum. This week’s tip presents an entirely different solution. It’s the kind of tip where people will likely go “yeah, whatever…” until they run into this problem, try the tip, and find that amazingly enough, it works.

But we’ll also take advantage of this tip to describe how to make a simple FX Chain. FX Chains are an extremely powerful Studio One feature, so if you haven’t gotten into creating your own yet, this is a good project for getting started.

HOW IT WORKS

The Tightener creates four sharp, narrow notches in a Pro EQ, at frequencies related to the musical key. For example in the key of A, the notches are at 110 Hz, 220 Hz, 440 Hz, and 880 Hz. If you have, for example, a song in the key of A where the guitar conflicts with the piano, to have less piano and more guitar, insert the Tightener FX Chain for the key of A into the piano track, and increase the depth of the notches. Here’s how to create a Tightener FX Chain.

  1. Insert a Pro EQ into a track, and open its interface.
  2. We’ll be using the LF, LMF, MF, and HMF stages. Set the Q for each stage to 24.00.
  3. Referring to the chart at the end, type a filter frequency into each filter stage. For example, with the key of A, choose 110 Hz for the LF stage, 220 Hz for the LMF stage, 440 Hz for the MF stage, and 880 Hz for the HMF stage (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: The filter settings for the key of A Tightener, with the notches set to maximum depth.

  1. Click on the knob icon in the effect’s upper left corner (just above the enable/bypass “power” button; it’s circled in red in Fig. 1). This opens the FX Chain Macro Controls interface. Then, click on the interface’s Wrench icon to open the Macro Controls editor.
  2. In the right-hand pane, unfold the Pro EQ folder, then unfold the Low Frequency, Low-Mid Frequency, Mid Frequency, and High-Mid Frequency folders.

6. Ctrl+click on LF-Gain, LMF-Gain, MF-Gain, and HMF-Gain to select all four parameters. The FX Chain Editor should now look like Fig.

Figure 2: The FX Chain Editor shows the Pro EQ parameters used for the tightener.

  1. Now click on Add Targets. The Gain control parameters will appear in the middle pane. They’ll all be controlled by the one knob at the bottom.
  2. I wanted the knobs to work so that when the control is full up, there’s no notch and the EQ works normally. Then to reduce the energy at a particular key, turning down the control increases the notch depth, producing more of a cut. However, if you turn the Macro control at the bottom of the window and watch the filter response, you’ll see it goes from full notch at minimum, to full boost when turned up. We don’t want the boost.
  3. Click on one of the Trans graphs, and drag the node in the upper-right-hand corner down to 0. This ensures that when the knob is up all the way, its filter gain is zero. Then, click on Copy (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: Adjust one of the graphs so that the maximum value is 0, then copy and paste to the other graphs.

 

  1. Click on the other three graphs, and choose Paste. Now all the Gain controls will track each other.
  2. Look at the filter, and vary the knob at the bottom of the FX Chain Editor. All the notches will go from maximum notch with the control fully counter-clockwise, to minimum notch with the control clockwise.
  3. Now double-click on the knob label, and type a name like “Tightener A” or “Tightener C#” or whatever, depending on the filter frequencies.
  4. Click on the wrench to close the Editor. To save the FX Chain, click the downward arrow in the Macro Control panel’s upper left, and choose where to store your preset (Fig. 4).

 

 

Figure 4: Don’t forget to store your FX Chains, so you can use them again.

 

And now you have a Tightener FX Chain! But you’ll want one for each key. It’s easy enough to do—type new frequencies into the four EQ bands, rename the control for the appropriate key, and then save the FX Chain under the name of the new key. For example, if you change the frequencies to 147 Hz, 294 Hz, 587 Hz, and 1175 Hz, you now have a key of D tightener. Here are the frequencies for all the keys (Fig. 5).

 

 

Figure 5: Frequencies for an octave’s worth of tighteners.

You need to be a little strategic about applying this FX Chain; it’s needed only when you want to help keep instruments from stepping on each other.

So that you can get started experimenting with this as easily as possible, all the Tightener FX Chains are available for download. After downloading, place them in the folder Studio One Songs and Projects\Presets\PreSonus\FX Chains\Tighteners, or wherever you specified the location for presets in Studio One > Options > Locations > User Data.

But even if you download them, try your hand at creating an FX Chain if you haven’t done so already. They’re really handy.

Download ALL 12 Tighteners Here! 

 

  • Learned something new. Very helpful tutorial/trick. Thanky you.

  • Yes, which is why I didn’t mention it! Good point, though 🙂 I do have companion “resonator” FX Chains that are based on delay instead of EQ that can be a bit more subtle…hmmm…that might make a good follow-up at some point. It helps “pitch” unpitched signals, like percussion. Harmonic Editing can do that, but the FX Chain has more variables.

  • Navid Lancaster

    Will do. Already stated using it on a mix and I like what I am hearing.

  • Peter Baird

    This feels like a good way to sort of hack one of the functions in the harmonics window in Melodyne Studio. Really useful when you have a distortion guitar part that’s essential to the song but mushes down everything else in its path. You can also approach this from the opposite direction–instead of notches, try all peaks on the harmonics–but you have to be even more careful with how much you apply!

  • It’s something you want to use sparingly. Often, using one tightener one instrument is all that’s needed to help clean up a mix.

  • Navid Lancaster

    I see my life in mixing getting a lot easier with this. Thank you,
    #presonusonestrong #presonusoneforlife