PreSonus Blog

Sound Design? “Commitment” Recording? Say What?

Maybe it’s not a well-known feature, but Studio One allows inserting effects or FX Chains before a track, not just in a track. Open up the Input section, and you’ll see a place to insert effects. The only significant limitation compared to inserting an effect in a track is that Input section effects can’t expose their sidechain inputs.

This feature has multiple uses, but first, let’s touch on how it allows for “commitment” recording. Consider recording electric guitar. In the days before tape recorders had enough tracks to do re-amping, you had to commit to recording the final sound on a track. If you decided you should have used a different amp, you had to re-record the part because the track already had that amp sound, and it was unchangeable.

Amp sims (and re-amping) changed all that. You could record a dry guitar track and change the sound at any time, even up to the final mix. While that certainly offers possibilities, it can also cause “analysis paralysis” because some folks can’t just leave a track alone—so they tweak constantly in the hopes of finding something “better.” I’ve spoken with quite a few musicians who are nostalgic for the days when you had to commit to a part because not being tempted by endless tweaking accelerated the songwriting or recording process. Ultimately, some of them felt that the benefits of spontaneity outweighed the benefits of flexibility.

It’s easy to do commitment recording with your amp sim: put the amp sim in Studio One’s input section, not the track. You can also use the Input section’s Input Controls to adjust the gain and phase going in. Record-enable the track, and you’ll record the processed guitar sound into the track (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: Click on Inputs (outlined in red) to see the input sections prior to the tracks. In this example, a Helix Native amp sim has been inserted into the L+R input. Track 1 is set to record from Input L+R (outlined in yellow), so it will record the processed sound.

 

This has other uses, like inserting the Virtual Pop Filter into the input section when recording vocal tracks. Of course, you can always insert the virtual pop filter in the track itself after recording, and render the changes. But it can save time and effort to nuke those stoopid pops before they’re recorded.

RE-AMPING MEETS TRACK-TO-TRACK RECORDING

Some amp sims use a lot of CPU, which can be problematic with projects that include tons of tracks. Of course, with Studio One you can always bounce or transform a track, which saves CPU—and you even have the option to revert and re-edit. However, an alternative technique, track-to-track (TTT) recording, allows one track to record the output of another track. For example, in Fig. 2 the guitar is going through AMR/Peavey’s ReValver amp sim in track 1, while track 2 is recording the processed output from track 1.

Figure 2: The dry and processed guitar sounds are being recorded simultaneously with this setup.

So, after doing your recording, track 2 will have recorded the sound of the guitar going through ReValver, not the dry sound. Meanwhile, track 1 will have recorded the dry sound. You can simply bypass the amp sim in track 1 to save CPU (instead of bouncing or transforming), and listen to the amp sim sound from track 2 instead of the dry sound from track 1.

If you want to experiment with different amp sounds in track 1, you know that you always have the recorded sound in track 2 as a fallback. Or, try a different amp sim, pan tracks 1 and 2 somewhat off-center with respect to each other, and now you’ll have a “stack” with a bigger stereo image.

INSTRUMENT TRACKS WITH TTT RECORDING

Here’s perhaps an even more important application for the TTT approach. Some synths have randomizing functions; you can also wire up a modular synth-like Voltage to do all kinds of randomized and sequenced effects. And of course, it’s possible to apply randomized modulation effects to almost any synth. By recording the instrument track’s output, you can capture the randomization of that moment in a track. If you don’t like the randomized effects, then just try again by re-recording the track.

SOUND DESIGN WITH TTT RECORDING

Sound design is all about creating novel, unusual sounds, and you often want real-time control over these sounds while you create them, especially if you’re using external hardware. This is another use for TTT recording. For example, I create a lot of FX sounds and sweeps for transitions and emphasis. Many of them involve the Tone Generator effect generating white or pink noise, followed by plug-in processing, and sometimes hardware effects inserted via Pipeline.

The workflow is simple: insert the white noise generator and plug-ins in the input section, as described above for commitment recording, and record the results in a track. Or, insert the white noise in a track, and use the TTT recording technique—the results are the same, except that TTT creates two tracks instead of one.

But wait—there’s more! The Tone Generator isn’t the only effect capable of making sounds you can record into a track. Several effects, when properly abused, can generate sounds. The internal noise and artifacts generated by these effects are often very low-level, but you can always add a maxed-out Compressor and a few Mixtools after the effect to boost their outputs. And of course, once you’ve recorded the effect on a track, you can normalize it to bring up the level.

 

  • Flanger. Turn up the resonance, and boost the output level, for a variety of cool sci-fi effects.
  • Rotor. Turn all the controls to maximum, and turn the power on and off for strange psycho-acoustic panning FX.
  • Redlight Dist. This is the most versatile noise generator in Studio One. Oceans, rain, torrential storms…you got it.
  • Tone Generator. We mentioned using this for noise, but super-low and super-high frequencies can have merit for sound design, especially when followed by other effects. I’ve gotten some great engine sounds with this and X-Trem.
  • Bitcrusher. Think of this as a white noise generator currently serving multiple life sentences. It’s even nastier if you max out a couple Mixtools afterwards, and overdrive them.

 

 

 

 

 

  • *Excellent* point. Along those same lines, I’ve learned not to uninstall older versions of programs, unless they’re overwritten. For example is you used AmpliTube 3 or Kontakt 5 in a project, and upgraded to AT4 and Kontakt 6 but didn’t keep the old program versions, the older plug-ins will be reported as missing. Fortunately, both IK and Native let you download older versions if you had them on your system, but not all companies do.

  • Andrew Sinclair, fuaim

    Thanks for this article. I’ll be incorporating the TTT process into my standard workflow for one another reason which has become frustratingly clear to me this very morning.

    Like many of us I use amp sim pug-ins. I went to open an old (about 9 months) session for another listen to it and it tells me that it can’t find the plug-ins I used at that time on my system any more. (Yeah I know – I ought to always render every track down, but I’m still learning and I didn’t.) So I’ve not got the sounds that I used on those sessions anymore because the plug-in has been updated. If I’d recorded additional tracks using the TTT process this wouldn’t really be a problem as I’d have tracks with the commited sounds on them. So there’s another reason for using the TTT process. To preserve the sounds you record.