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Monthly Archives: June 2021


Kisnou: Emotional Journeys Across Sonic Landscapes

Italian musician, composer, and producer Kisnou shapes the undefined chaos that was generated as consequence to profound experiences growing up as his kingdom – a place where to give complete freedom to creativity and imagination.

With masterpieces such as “Alive,” “Falling Deeper,” and “Vertigo,” people from all over the world began to feel a deep connection with Kisnou’s music, counting for more than 7 million total streams on Spotify alone in 2020. Featured on BBC, New Balance, TV commercials and countless Spotify playlists, his music is often defined as otherworldly: perfect for anyone who wants to experience a real sonic journey.

From ambient to electronic, from orchestral to indie, Kisnou is a never-ending adventure that explores worlds of atmospheric sounds and storytelling. Featuring bittersweet poetry, untold stories, cold atmospheres, field recordings, and broken song structures, each song is a deep cinematic experience you will not forget.

Kisnou began making music using FL Studio back in 2015, eventually working for years within the Ableton Live software environment before recently discovering Studio One and PreSonus Sphere’s creative workflow environment.


In his words:

So… at the beginning, I really had no knowledge, never played an instrument. I just jumped and went for it. I felt like I had some stories to tell.

I’m a self-taught producer. It’s pretty easy to learn so many things online. I also used to listen to a lot of music, every day—while drawing or doing homework, while coming home from school. It was a part of me and of my life, every day. Many people are surprised when I say that I’m self-taught, especially those who are musicians or producers as well. It makes me feel happy, but I have always been down to Earth and very respectful. For example, in 2020 an American writer sent me one of his books, as a thank you gift because he loved my music. The book is called Wounded Tiger, and the author is such a wonderful person. It is a book about World War II and the true stories of multiple people that lived through that moment of history. I can’t say much about it but the author is trying to find the right chance to make a movie out of it… and I might be a part of the soundtrack team. Fingers crossed!

I graduated in 2019 and got my Bachelor of Arts in Commercial Music, but since 2017 I have been making music for a good fan base online that has grown quite fast. I hit my first million streams on a song, and from there it started to get even better! I had an income, collaboration opportunities, and a licensing partnership with Marmoset Music that got me some really good placements! One of my songs was featured in a New Balance commercial and a Tomorrowland video. Now music is my full time job. I currently have around 150,000 monthly listeners on Spotify alone.

The first artist who actually truly inspired me to make music was Koda. He is a talented guy from Los Angeles who wrote some beautiful songs. His songs were just pure magic for me, they resonated like nothing else. I felt like the lyrics were talking to me. My favorite song from him is “Angel.” I loved the video as well, so much that I contacted the video artist a couple of years ago and we created the music video for my song “In The Origin, We Breathe.”

Other inspirations include: The Cinematic Orchestra, Bersarin Quartett, Sorrow (a great electronic/garage music producer), Pensees, and Owsey. I come from the Ableton world, so I am also very much into electronic music, future garage, and ambient. I am in love with atmospheres, long reverbs, evolving sounds, textures and so on.

Lately I have been listening to the YouTube channel Cryo Chamber. Some songs are a bit too dark sometimes, but you can find such incredible atmospheres. I find it very inspiring.

You know, I live in the countryside, so I am always spending time in nature. I feel like I am lucky to be living here, but at the same time you might feel isolated or lonely quite often. It depends on the mood I guess.

I used Ableton for 3-4 years, made great songs thanks to that DAW, but somehow… I wasn’t really feeling comfortable there. I was slowly getting sick of it, even if the creative tools, the stock plugins and workflow were amazing.

By chance I found out about Studio One and then I started to see what you could do with it and it slowly got my interest, until I finally decided to make the switch.

Currently, I just try to make Studio One adapt to my workflow and that was quite easy. The possibility to internally customize shortcuts and create macros is just wonderful in my opinion. I have many macros mapped around my keyboard, and have others on the buttons of my mouse. I have mapped CTRL + ALT as a hold command on one of the two main side buttons, then on the other one I have a Macro that activates the bend marker view, automatically swaps to the Bend Tool so that I can do my edits and then press it again to deactivate the bend view.

On the four lower side buttons I have mapped the editor, channel, inspector and browser for quick tasks. Though If I hold control and press those buttons, or ALT, I have other sets of commands to help me out.

One more functionality that I love is the Transform to Audio Track command, which prints a MIDI file into audio, but it’s better compared to what I’ve seen in other DAWs I’ve used in the past (FL Studio, Ableton, or Pro Tools) because I can print the MIDI to audio and preserve the instrument—so that If I ever want to revert back to the plug-in, I can do that at any given moment. I can choose to render the insert FX or not, which is also great.

In other DAWs, I either had to make a copy of the plug-in, print one to audio and leave the other there, just disabled. Sometimes I printed a MIDI file into audio feeling that it was perfect, then days later, I felt like I wanted to edit the plugin… and I couldn’t do it anymore because I had not copied the plug-in instance before printing.

Lastly, I’m pleased to be a featured artist on PreSonus Sphere!

The presets I created revolve around the use of white noise, layering and distortion: aspects that I have been exploring in the last months to create a sort of vintage but modern, textured sound. Warm, lush pads and pluck sounds, distorted reverbs and atmospheres were my North Star when creating these presets.

There’s 20 presets in all in this pack: FX chains, pad sounds for Presence, some Macros, Mai Tai patches, and a custom reverb of mine… enjoy!

PreSonus Sphere members can click here to get them!

 


Join PreSonus Sphere today to check out Kisnou’s exclusive Presets and from those by other featured artists!

Only $14.95 per month for Studio One Professional, Notion, and so much more.

Mid-Side Processing with Artist

This is a companion piece to last week’s tip, which described how to implement Splitter functionality in Studio One’s Artist version. The Pro version has a Splitter-based, mid-side processing FX Chain that makes it possible to drop effects for the mid and side audio right into the FX chain. However, the Splitter isn’t what does the heavy lifting for mid-side processing—it’s the Mixtool, which is included with Artist.

Mid-Side Refresher

The input to a mid-side processing system starts with stereo, but the left and right channels then go to an encoder. This sends a signal’s mid (what the left and right channels have in common) to the left channel, while the sides (what the left and right channels don’t have in common) go to the right channel.

The mid is simply both channels of a stereo track panned to center. So, the mid also includes what’s in the right and left sides, but the sides are at a somewhat lower level. This is because anything the left and right channels have in common will be a few dB louder when panned to center.

The sides also pan both channels of a stereo track to center, but one of the channels is out of phase. Therefore, whatever the two channels have in common cancels out. (This is the basis of most vocal remover software and hardware. Because vocals are usually mixed to center, cancelling out the center makes the vocal disappear.)

Separating the mid and side components lets you process them separately. This can be as simple as changing the level of one of them to alter the balance between the mid and sides, or as complex as adding signal processors (like reverb to the sides, and equalization to the mid).

After processing, the mid and sides then go to a decoder. This converts the audio back to conventional stereo.

lMid-Side Channel and Bus Layout

Fig. 1 shows what we need in Artist: the original audio track, a bus for the mid audio, a bus for the side audio, and a bus for the final, decoded audio.

Figure 1: Channel and Bus layout for mid-side processing in Artist.

Insert a Mixtool in the original audio track, and enable MS Transform (see fig. 2). Then, we need to send the encoded signal to the buses. Insert one pre-fader send, assign it to the Mid bus, and pan it full left. Then, insert another pre-fader send, assign it to the Sides bus, and pan it full right.

 

 

Figure 2: The Mixtool settings are the same for both Mixtools. The middle Dual Pan inserts in the Mid bus, while the lower Dual Pan inserts in the Sides bus.

 

 

Referring to fig. 2, the Mid bus has a Dual Pan inserted after any processing, with both controls panned full left. Similarly, the Sides bus has a Dual Pan inserted after any processing, with both controls panned full right. (The Pro EQ2 and OpenAIR inserted in fig. 1 are included just to show that you insert any effects before the Dual Pan plug-ins; they’re not needed for mid-side processing.) Pan the Mid bus pan fader left, and the Sides bus pan fader right.

Assign the bus outputs to the Decoded bus. This has a Mixtool inserted, again with MS Transform enabled. And that’s all there is to it—the Decoded bus is the same as the original audio track, but with the addition of any changes you added to the Mid or Side buses.

To make sure everything is set up correctly, remove any effects from the Mid and Sides, and set all the bus levels to 0. Copy the original audio track, insert a Mixtool into it, and enable Invert Left and Invert Right. Adjust the copied track’s level, and if there’s a setting where it cancels out the decoded track, all your routing, panning, and busing is set up correctly. Happy processing!

Make a Splitter for Studio One Artist

One of my favorite Studio One Professional features is the Splitter, and quite a few of my FX Chains use it. If you own Studio One Artist, which doesn’t have a Splitter, you may look longingly at these FX Chains and think “If only I could do that…”

Well, you can implement most splitter functions in Studio One Artist, by using buses. All the following split options are based on having a track that provides the audio to be split, along with pre-fader sends to additional buses. Note that the track’s fader should be turned all the way down.

 

Normal Split

 

The Splitter’s Normal mode sends the input to two parallel paths, which is ideal for parallel processing. For Artist, we’ll duplicate this mode with two buses, called Split 1 and Split 2 (fig. 1).

 

Figure 1: How to create a Normal split in Artist.

 

The sends to the buses are pre-fader, and panned to center. One send goes to Split 1, and the other to Split 2. Now you can insert different effects in Splits 1 and 2 to do parallel processing.

 

Channel Split

 

The Channel Split mode also splits the input into two parallel paths. One path is for the left channel, while the other path is for the right channel.

 

Figure 2: How to create a Channel Split in Artist.

 

The setup is the same as for the Normal Split (fig. 2), except that each bus has a Dual Pan inserted. The Dual Pan for the left channel has the Input Balance set to <L>, while the Dual Pan for the right channel has the Input Balance set to < R>. I recommend the -6dB Linear Pan law so that if you pan either of the buses, the level remains constant as you pan from left to right.

 

Frequency Split

 

This is tough to duplicate, because the Splitter can split incoming audio into five frequency bands. If other DAWs don’t do it, we can’t expect Artist to do it. But, we can do a three-way, tri-amped split into low, mid, and high frequencies (fig. 3).

 

Figure 3: Tri-Amp Frequency Split.

 

This split is like the Normal Split, except that there are three buses and pre-fader sends instead of two, and each bus has a Pro EQ2 inserted. Each EQ covers its own part of the frequency spectrum—low, mid, and high (fig. 4). Using 6 dB/octave slopes doesn’t provide as much separation between frequency ranges as steeper slopes, but the gentler slopes are necessary to make sure the frequency response is flat when you mix the three channels together.

 

 

Figure 4: (Top to bottom) low, mid, and high curves.

 

The only filter sections we need to use are High Cut and Low Cut—you can ignore everything else. Fig. 5 shows the settings. All bands have 6 dB/octave slopes.

 

Enable the Low band’s Pro EQ2 HC (High Cut) filter, and choose 200 Hz for frequency. Enable the Mid band’s Pro EQ2 LC (Low Cut) filter, and set it to 200 Hz; also enable the HC filter, and set it to 4.00 kHz. Finally, enable the High band’s Pro EQ2 LC filter, and set it to 4.00 kHz. These frequencies are a good starting point, but you may want to modify the split frequencies for different types of audio sources. Just make sure that the low band HC frequency is the same as the mid band’s LC frequency, and the Mid band’s HC frequency is the same as Hi band’s LC frequency.

 

 

Figure 5: Filter control settings.

Granted, setting up these splits takes more effort than dragging a Splitter plug-in into a channel, but the result is the same: cool parallel processing options.

The Dynamic Brightener—Reloaded

In April 2019, I did a Friday Tip called The Dynamic Brightener for Guitar. It’s kind of a cross between dynamic EQ and a transient shaper, and has been a useful FX Chain for me. In fact, it’s been so useful that I’ve used it a lot—and in the process, wanted to enhance it further. This “reloaded” version makes it suitable for more types of audio sources (try it with drums, bass, ukulele, piano, or anything percussive), as well as less critical to adjust. It also lessens potential high-frequency “smearing” issues—the original version applied large amounts of boost and cut, with a non-linear-phase EQ.

Although the original version could have been built using a Splitter, I did a bus-based implementation so that it would work with Studio One Artist. This new version needs to use the Splitter (sorry, Artist users), but that’s what allows for the improvements.

Another interesting aspect is that by using the effects’ expanded view in the channel inserts, you don’t even need to open the effect or Splitter interfaces, to do all the necessary tweaking. This makes the reloaded version much easier to edit for different types of tracks.

How It Works

Fig. 1 shows the FX Chain’s block diagram.

Figure 1: The Reloaded Dynamic Brightener’s block diagram.

 

Splitter 1 is a normal split. The left split provides the track’s dry sound, while the right split goes to Splitter 2, which is set up as a Frequency Split. The Frequency Split determines the cutoff for the high frequencies going into the right split. Splitter 2’s left split, which contains only the split’s lower frequencies, is attenuated completely. Basically, Splitter 2 exists solely to isolate the audio source’s very highest frequencies.

These high frequencies go to an Expander, which emphasizes the peaks. This is what gives both the transient shaping and dynamic EQ-type effects. Because the high frequencies aren’t very loud, the Mixtool allows boosting them to hit the desired level.

Fig. 2 shows the initial Expander and Mixtool settings. But, you won’t be opening the interfaces very much, if at all…you don’t even need Macro Controls.

 

Figure 2: Initial parameter settings for the Expander and Mixtool.

 

Using the Reloaded Dynamic Brightener

In the short console view, open up the “sidecar” that shows the effects. Expand the effects, and set the mixer channel high enough to see the ones shown in fig. 3.

Figure 3: The Reloaded Dynamic Brightener controls.

Here’s how to optimize the settings for your particular application:

  1. Turn off Splitter 1’s output 1 power button. This mutes the dry signal, so we can concentrate on the brightener’s settings.
  2. Adjust Splitter 2’s Frequency Split to isolate the optimum high-frequency range for brightening. This can be as low as 1 kHz or less for guitars with humbucker pickups, on up to 6 kHz (or more) to emphasize drum transients.
  3. Set the Expander’s Ratio and Threshold parameters for the desired amount of brightening and transient shaping. Higher Threshold settings pick off only the top of the boosted high-frequency peaks; the Ratio parameter controls the transient shape. The higher the ratio, the “peakier” the transient.
  4. After editing the high frequencies, re-enable the dry signal by turning on Splitter 1’s output 1 button.
  5. Mix in the desired amount of brightening with the Mixtool Gain parameter. In extreme cases you may want to increase the level control at the end of the Splitter 2 branch, or the output level from Splitter 2 output 2, but this will be needed rarely, if at all.
  6. As a reality check to determine what the brightener contributes to the sound, turn off either Splitter 1 or Splitter 2’s output 2 power button to mute the brightened signal path.

 

This is a tidier, easier-to-adjust, and better-sounding setup than the original dynamic brightener. Download the FX Chain here—the default settings are for dry guitar, and assume a normalized overall track level. With lower track levels, you’ll need to lower the Expander Threshold, or boost output 2 from Splitter 1. But feel free to tweak away, and make the Reloaded Dynamic Brightener do your bidding, for a wide variety of different audio signals.