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Category Archives: Friday Tip of the Week

Friday Tip: Percussion Part Generator

Just as we can use plug-ins to process audio, Studio One’s Note FX are plug-ins for MIDI data. They tend to be overshadowed by our shiny audio plug-ins, but have a lot of uses…like generating cool percussion parts.

This may sound like a stretch (“c’mon, can it really generate a musical percussion part?”), but the audio example will convince you. The first four measures are a percussion part created by the Arpeggiator NoteFX, the second four measures combine the percussion part with a house drum loop, and the final four measures are the house drum loop by itself—so you can hear how boring the loop sounds without the added percussion part.


This part was created with three conga and two bongo samples, each assigned to its own MIDI note. The initial “part” was just those five notes, each with a duration of four measures. It doesn’t really matter how long the notes are, you just want them to be continuous for the duration of the drum part. I then added the Note FX Arpeggiator plug-in to arpeggiate the notes (Fig. 1).


Figure 1: The Note FX Arpeggiator, set up to play different drums at different velocities.

By themselves, the standard up/down and down/up patterns tend to sound overly repetitive. The Random option (outlined in red above) helps, but then you have a random percussion part, which doesn’t relate to the music. So let’s introduce the secret sauce: automation (Fig. 2).

Figure 2: The automation lanes control Note FX parameters.

The key here is automating the Play Mode and Rate. The Play Mode automation starts with up/down for a measure, then down/up, then random for a bit more than a measure, and then down/up again. This adds variety to the part, and when it repeats, the random section creates additional variations so that all the parts don’t sound the same.

But what really adds the human element is varying the Rate. It starts off as 1/16th, but then just before the third measure starts, does one beat that starts with 1/32nd notes and ramps down over the beat to 16th-note triplets. The last three beats of the four measures uses a 32nd-note Rate so that the “robot percussion” adds some tasty, faster fills to lead into the next measure. I used down/up during these faster parts, but random can sound good too.

The final touch is Swing, which is set to around 70% in the audio example. Note how even though the drum loop is metronomically correct, adding swing to the percussion part lets it “dance” on top of the drums.

Now, here’s a very important consideration: You may look at the above and think “this sounds too easy,” or maybe “but what are the exact settings I should use?” The answers are yes, it really is that easy; and the exact settings really don’t matter all that much—feel free to experiment. Studio One’s little robot percussionist is full of surprises, and the way to uncover those is to play around with the settings, and automate them to create variations.

Finally, I’d like to mention that I have a new eBook out! At 258 pages, “How to Create Compelling Mixes in Studio One” is considerably longer than my two previous Studio One books. I’ve been working on it for the past year, and it’s finally available in the eBook section of the PreSonus shop. Check it out—I sincerely hope it helps you make better mixes.






Friday Tip: EZ Multiband Processing

The February 1, 2019 tip covered a multiband processing “development system.” Instead of using the Splitter’s frequency split option, it added sends and buses to make everything accessible in the Mix view. The Multiband Dynamics processor created the bands, which made it easy to add compression or expansion to some of the bands. After creating the desired sound with this development system, I’d port it over to an FX Chain, use the Splitter, and bring out the controls to a macro.

Reader Sagi Sinai came up with a brilliant application for mixing that showed the value of the “development system” approach. But I realized that the Friday Tip has never covered a basic multiband processing application with the Splitter, which can split at up to four different frequencies to create five different bands. So, let’s correct that oversight.

Multiband processing is particularly effective with guitar distortion when you want a more defined, articulated sound, with the potential for a wide stereo image. Of course, that’s not always the desired result—sometimes a spawling, dirty sound is what you want. But a track processed with the multiband distortion can sound more focused, and often, fit better into a mix. The audio example plays through single-band distortion, then through multiband distortion. Both use the same post-distortion effects (Pro EQ, Binaural Pan, Open Air) with the same settings. Note the difference in the stereo imaging and articulation.



Let’s look at the Splitter-based FX Chain setup (Fig. 1).



Figure 1  The Splitter is set up to do multiband processing.


The Splitter is using its Frequency Split superpowers to create five bands; each band feeds an Ampire (using the Crunch Boutique amp, no stomps, and the 1 x 12 American cabinet). The Mixtool at the beginning gives about 10 dB of gain—because we’re filtering out so much sound in each band going into each Ampire, the extra gain helps hit the amp a little harder. The Pro EQ at the end (Fig. 2) produces one of my favorite amp sim curves: Rolling off the lows tightens up the sound (like going through an open-back cabinet), while shaving off the extreme highs produces a sweeter sound. The upper midrange lift adds some definition.


Figure 2: Mixtool and Pro EQ settings.

One of the Splitter’s cool features is that you can mute splits. This makes it easy to focus on, and optimize, one split at a time. For the audio example, I used the same Ampire sound for each split so you could hear the “raw” contrast between the single-band and multiband versions. You can always take this further, and optimize each band for its specific frequency range. The Dual Pans on the mids help create the stereo image; the highs and lows are centered to “anchor” the part.

Of course,  it’s possible to apply multiband processing to any effect. For example, with delay you might not want to delay all frequencies—delaying low frequencies can add “mud” that doesn’t happen when you delay only the upper mids and treble. Also, long delays on the higher frequency bands and shorter, slapback-type delays on low-frequency bands may create a delay effect that fits better in a track. And splitting an instrument into multiple bands, then chorusing each one separately, can give gorgeous, lush chorusing effects.

So give multiband processing a try—the Splitter makes it easy, and there’s a ton of potential.

10 Presence XT Techniques

September is winding down, but we still have one week left to celebrate Studio One’s 10th anniversary—so it’s time for another Friday Tip with 10 Tips! Let’s take a look at some practical, convenient techniques you can do with Presence XT. And yes, there’s a fun downloadable preset at the end.

  1. “Tighten” and “Loosen” Drum Kits

The Artist Instruments folder has a bunch of drum kits. However, I like to fine-tune drum pitches—higher pitches for a tighter, more beatbox/analog drum sound, or lower for a big rock vibe. Although the Sample Shift control can change pitch, it also changes where the drum appears on the keyboard. For example, if you Sample Shift a snare on the F key by +3, then the drum is lower in pitch, but it now plays back on D instead of F.

There’s a simpler way to tune your drums. Set Env 2 to Full Sustain, and modulate Pitch with it. Turn the modulation amount up to tighten the sound, or down to loosen.

  1. Control Presence Effects with the Mod Wheel

According to Presence, you can’t control effects parameters with the mod wheel—but there are a lot of useful techniques you can do with a mod wheel, other than control vibrato. Here’s one way to control the effects with your keyboard controller’s mod wheel.

  1. Choose Studio One > Options, and click on External Devices.
  2. Click on Add, and choose New Control Surface. Set Receive from your keyboard. You’ll get a scary message warning you “This port is already in use,” but just ignore it and click OK.
  3. Click OK on the Add Device menu, and now Studio One thinks your keyboard is a control surface.
  4. In the Mix view, click on the External button toward the left. When the External Devices column appears, double-click on New Control Surface.
  5. Click on MIDI Learn, and move your mod wheel. Name it to make it feel welcome, and then disable MIDI Learn.

Now you can link anything you want with the mod wheel, including effects. For example…

  1. Control Distortion Drive with the Mod Wheel

Adding distortion to bass is a beautiful thing, and it’s even more beautiful when you can control the distortion amount with the mod wheel.


  1. Click on the Edit Mapping button in Presence’s upper right (the somewhat inscrutable gear symbol). Now you can see the control mapping in Presence—which is really important if your monitor isn’t wide enough to show the Edit Mapping option in the toolbar.
  2. Contrary to the help, which assumes you’re rational and using a separate hardware control surface, move the Mod wheel and it should show up in the right side of the Edit Mapping section.
  3. Move the Distortion Drive control, which will show up on the left side of the Edit Mapping section.
  4. Click the “assign” triangle in the middle of the Edit Mapping section, and now the Mod Wheel will control the Drive control. (Another tip: distortion gourmets recommend “Bad Tube” as the best choice for bass distortion.)


  1. More Expressiveness

The Sample Start Mod control can add major expressiveness because it lets you control the attack’s character via velocity. Here’s how it works: when Sample Start Mod turned counter-clockwise off-center,  with low velocities playback starts further into the sample, past the initial attack. But higher velocities trigger the full attack sound. For example, with an instrument like Slap Bass, this technique can emphasize the slap component with high velocities, while lower velocities bypass the slap. However, Sample Start Mod can affect any instrument with a defined attack.

Because a sample may not start at a zero-crossing, you may hear a click with some velocity values. Adding a little bit of Amp Env attack (usually only a millisecond or two) fixes this.

  1. Change the Female Choir into Monks


Call up the Vox > Choir > Choir Full preset. Set Transpose to -12, and Sample Shift to Semi-Tone: 12. You might also want to slather on some more reverb by turning up the Size and Mix, but regardless, you’re ready for your next moody movie soundtrack, or Gregorian chants dance remix.

  1. Get Saxy

Let’s face it, John Coltrane fans—a sampler will never replace a sax player. However, the Winds > Baritone Sax >  Baritone Sax Full preset is pretty good, so it seemed like a useful starting point for something a little more expressive. There are several treaks, but the main action is with the modulation.


  1. Set Sample Start Mod to -7000. If you play softly, this starts playback further into the sample, so you don’t hear the attack. However, as mentioned previously, modulating sample start can produce clicks because playback may not start on a zero crossing, so…
  2. Set the Amp Env Attack to 83 ms. This gets rid of any clicks. However, we want a fast attack with high velocities, so…
  3. In the Mod section, use Velocity to apply negative modulation to the Amp Env attack (you don’t need much) so that hitting the keys harder gives a faster attack.
  4. We also want to have notes bend up to pitch somewhat, so set the Decay for Env 2 to 153 ms. Again in the Mod section, use it to apply negative modulation to pitch. This causes the pitch to start off somewhat flat, then slide up to the correct pitch.


The penultimate touch is some vibrato by modulating Pitch. I used LFO set to about 4.5 Hz, with 680 ms of Delay time, controlled by the Mod Wheel (although I think Aftertouch is an even better choice, if your controller supports it). And of course, we want some reverb. The existing reverb is okay, but push the Size to 2.45 seconds, and Mix to 45%. Yeah, that’s the ticket! You might also want to choose Mono, unless you know any saxes that play chords. And yes, I’ve provided a downloadable preset for your playing pleasure—scroll down to the end.

  1. Foolproof Bass Slides

Set the bend to +7 for bend up, and 0 for bend down. Now when you want to slide down to a note, start at the top of the mod wheel, and then bring it down at whatever rate you want. It’s impossible to “overshoot” the target note, even when using the virtual mod wheel on the instrument GUI, with bend down set to 0.

  1. Add Analog Synth “Drift”

The pitch of analog synths drifts over time. Although Presence XT has a random LFO waveform, it’s stepped, and there’s no way you can “round off” the corners to create smooth variations. But there’s a solution (isn’t there always…). Use the sine waveform for LFO 1 and set it to a low rate, like 0.1 Hz. Select the random waveform for LFO 2, set to a slightly faster rate (like 0.4 Hz), and use it to modulate LFO 1. Meanwhile, use LFO 1 to modulate pitch; you don’t need to use much modulation to obtain a useful effect. Try this with Artist Instruments > Synths > Analog Fifths—you’ll be impressed.

  1. The Presence XT Editor Is Worth It

There might be a tendency to overlook the editor because Presence XT does enough on its own. And yes, I know the editor is $79.99. But, it’s cheaper than getting another sampler, and the capabilities are impressive. It’s easy to figure out, and it doesn’t take long to add samples—for example, you can specify the root note, high note, and low note by hitting keys. When using per-note samples, you can do fine-tuning, as well as add expressive features like sample start. Presence XT Editor is also a development system, so if you come up with some amazing presets, you can put them into a saleable bundle, and even password-protect it. If you’re into sound design and creating sample-based instruments, I highly recommend unlocking Presence XT’s Editor page.

  1. But Wait—There’s More!


Presence XT can load sounds from other formats—EXS, Giga, Kontakt version 4 (and below), and Sound Fonts. Finally, check out Tip 1 in the September 13 Friday Tip on using ATOM as an auxiliary keyboard. This makes it easy to access the keyswitching in Presence XT presets that contain this feature, even if you have only a four-octave keyboard.

I hope y’all enjoyed this month’s special editions of the Friday Tip. Happy birthday, Studio One!


Download the saxy sax preset, CA Baritone Sax Full

10 Mai Tai Percussion Presets

We’re still in September, it’s still Studio One’s 10th anniversary, and so once again the Friday Tip is 10 Tips! This week, the accent is on percussion—which is an essential part of any decent mix. We’re going to get down and dirty in percussion-land, so load the Mai Tai synthesizer, and let’s get started.

If you just can’t stand the suspense, then scroll to the end and download the 10 presets (put them in a Drum folder under Studio One Songs and Projects\Presets\PreSonus\Mai Tai). I still recommend that you look at the text and images, and play around with the sounds—those with an adventuresome spirit will find that there are a lot of variations available in these presets.

Note: To save graphics space and make the concepts clearer, the screenshots include only the relevant modules. We’ll be starting from the Default preset for each tip, however for a clean slate, click on Mod A and de-assign all the mod sources (choose [–] for the source from the pop-up menu, or turn off the numbered modulation strip). Also, note that the default includes Reverb and Delay enabled in FX A—bypass or leave-in, according to taste.

  1. The Virtual High-Hat

Real drummers work the high-hat from open to closed, and we can do that too.

Adjust the Noise Color control for the desired timbre. Make sure you experiment with the filter; I prefer the HP mode, with some Drive and Punch…but tailor to suit. The only relevant Amp Env control is Decay. Adjust the decay time to give the closed hi-hat sound; turn up Velocity for more dynamics.

The key to getting the most out of this preset is modulation. Click on Mod A, and for modulation source, select Mod Wheel. For the modulation destination, choose the ENV Main – Decay parameter. Turn the Mod Wheel  up full, hit some keys, and set the ENV Main – Decay slider in the modulation sectoin for the open hi-hat decay time.

Now you can use the Mod wheel to open and close the high-hat—just remember to “open” the high-hat before you hit the note. Bonus: There’s an additional amount of expressiveness based on how long you hold your finger down on the key.

  1. Disco Drums




Doooo-doooo-dooo! I probably can’t use the drum company’s name without getting lawyers on my case, but if you like persimmons, you’ll know the drums I’m talking about. For this tip, we only need one oscillator. Set the Amp Env and Env 3 parameters to no Attack, Sustain, or Release and no Delay for Env 3. The Decay controls are all that matter, and they should be identical.

For the modulation, Env 3 controls OSC 1 – Pitch. Set the modulation slider for the desired frequency range covered by the dooo-dooo-dooo.


  1. Shaker

This is something you’ll probably want to use with 1/8 note-based rhythmic patterns.

Load the default, then turn off both oscillators, Filter, and Character…all we want is Noise. For the Amp Env, set an Attack time around 40 to 100 ms, and the Decay around 125 ms, but adjust to taste.


  1. Talking Drums

After loading the default preset and resetting the modulators, nuke every module except Osc 1. For this effect, although velocity is tied to pitch to make life easier, you’ll need some manual dexterity: the only way to emulate the true talking drum effect is by working the pitch bend wheel after you hit the drum.


  1. Ode to Kraftwerk


Let’s face it, Kraftwerk is one of the most influential bands ever. They jettisoned guitars and drums in favor of drum machines and synths long before it was fashionable. Bowie, Depeche Mode, and Aphex Twin were influenced by them. Electro and several variants of club music wouldn’t even exist without them. U2 recorded a version of “Neon Lights” and so did Simple Minds. They’ve been sampled by R.E.M., Coldplay, and Jay-Z. The sound they created is the sound of pop 30 years ago…and today.

Okay, enough about the awesomely amazing and innovative Kraftwerk. They made a lot of their own instruments, and had some cool percussive sounds. This is a tribute to one of those sounds, and it’s also a little more complex than the previous ones.

Load the default preset, and after de-assigning the modulation sources, turn off everything except Osc 1 and Filter. Env 2 influences the Osc 1  pitch, while Velocity controls Filter Cutoff.

  1. Electronic Snare


Mai Tai’s Character option is a gold mine for electronic snares, from the 80s and beyond. Pump some noise into the filter with its controls as shown, give the Amp Env a short decay, turn up the Character section’s Sound and Amount controls all the way, and then try out the different characters from the Character drop-down menu. Expect to be surprised—and also experiment with turning up Punch.

  1. Hum Drum Kick

And here’s the sound that makes sure you don’t fall asleep when you’re stopped at an intersection: the infamous hum drum kick, as immortalized in hip-hop and dance music.

It’s very simple: a low-frequency sine wave oscillator with a Filter and Amp Env. The Filter settings are the crucial ones here, because they determine the attack’s aggressiveness. Experiment with the Drive and Punch control for the best results…a little distortion probably won’t hurt, either.


  1. Clave

It’s ironic that the simplest sound gets the most complicated preset, but life is full of twists and turns, isn’t it? Also, this one wants a fairly specific pitch: hit C4 for the most clave-like sound using the downloaded preset. However, once you get a feel for this preset, there’s much room for experimentation. Perhaps surprisingly, altering the LFO control parameters, or enabling/disabling them, has a major effect on the sound.

  1. Giant Thud Explosion


This gives the sound of distant cannon fire, an explosion, impressionistic thunder, or other low, large sounds. It’s based on using white noise with the filter pulled way back, and there are two articulations: hold a key down to have the sound run through the more percussive decay envelope, or tap a key to trigger the longer release time. Use this as a cinematic-type effect sound when transitioning from one song section to another—and you want to start the next section off with a bang. Or a thud. 

  1. Ethic Percussion


This is kind of a tuned, log, bongo kind of thing. Both oscillators and noise are in play, and the filter settings are somewhat crucial because they depend on Drive, Punch, and Res for their sound. Only the Amp Env is needed, and there are no modulation sources—velocity for the filter does all the needed modulation.


Download the 10 presets here!

10 Not-Hitting-Drums ATOM Tips

It’s easy to assume ATOM is an MPC-type pad controller, and ignore it if that’s not of interest. But ATOM is tightly integrated with Studio One for navigation, editing, and more, and also works with third-party software—which even applies to third-party software (like virtual instruments) running inside Studio One.

1. The Auxiliary Keyswitch Keyboard

The problem: you have a 4-octave keyboard, but you’re using a program like SampleTank or Kontakt that uses lower-octave keys for keyswitching. The solution: Add ATOM as an auxiliary keyboard for triggering keyswitches (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: IK SampleTank’s lower keys trigger loops (as identified with arrows), while the upper keys play one-shots. You can set up ATOM to play the lower, keyswitched notes, and play the one-shots from your main keyboard.

1. Select the Instrument track and set it to All Inputs, so it receives notes from the main keyboard and from ATOM.

Figure 2: Use Pads 15 and 16 to cover the desired keyboard range for keyswitching.


2. Tap Pad 15 to transpose down an octave (Fig. 2). Each tap transposes down another octave. To keep track of how far down you’ve transposed, Pad 15 is orange at the default octave, tan = -1 octave, purple = -2 octaves, and red = -3 octaves.

3. Tap Pad 16 to transpose up an octave. Each tap transposes up another octave.

Considerate Bonus Feature: ATOM remembers the octave settings for different instrument tracks, even if they’re not instruments bundled with Studio One.

2. “Feel Factor” Changes

Leading or lagging rhythms by only a few milliseconds can make a major difference in the “feel,” the mix, and therefore, the music’s emotional impact (for more about the “feel factor,” please check out this article on my educational site, But how can you do that with Studio One, whose highest resolution goes to 64th notes? It’s easy with ATOM—and frankly, this feature alone justifies ATOM to me. The following works with both note and audio data.

1. In Studio One, turn off snap.

2. Select the notes (or audio Events) whose timing you want to shift.

Figure 3: You can lead or lag events in 1 millisecond increments with ATOM.


3. On ATOM, press and hold Nudge (Fig. 3).

4. Tap the Left button to move the selected notes or Events ahead (lead) by 1 ms, and the Right button to move the selected notes late (lag) by 1 ms (Fig. 4).

Figure 4: The timeline shows seconds. The note outlined in orange has been nudged 5 ms later.

This is huge. Try moving percussion a few milliseconds ahead of the beat to give a more “urgent” feel, or a snare a few milliseconds after the beat for a “bigger” sound.

3. Don’t Panic!

Stuck notes? No problem—see Fig. 5. (Note: the upper left Setup button needs to be off.)

Figure 5: It’s easy to nuke stuck notes with ATOM.

1. Press and hold the Quick Setup button, and select the track with the stuck notes.

2. Tap Pad 4 to send an All Notes Off command.

4. Tap Your Tempo

This is one of my favorite features for songwriting, because it’s a lot easier to tap a tempo (Fig. 6) than tweak it when you have a song idea.

Figure 6: It’s easy to capture a song’s “feel” when songwriting by using tap tempo.

1. Tap the Song Setup button in the upper left.

2. Tap Pad 2 at the desired song tempo; this sets the tempo in the control bar.

3. To fine-tune the tempo, turn Knob 2.

5. The Hands-On Instrument Browser

You can call up instruments and presets quickly with ATOM (Fig. 7).

Figure 7: ATOM plays well with the Browser.

1. Press Setup, and it glows orange.

2. Toggle the Browser show/hide by tapping Pad 13 (Browser).

3. When the Browser is open, use the Up  and Down buttons to go up and down through the list of instruments and presets. Use the Right button to open a preset list, and the Left button to close the list.

4. When you have the preset or instrument you want, press Select. This creates an Instrument track with the currently selected preset, or the instrument itself if no preset is selected.

6. Wicked Fast Exclusive Solo

There are many times—especially when proofing tracks before mixing–that I want to be able to select tracks quickly, and go into exclusive solo mode (i.e., only that track will be soloed—even other tracks that are soloed will be muted). It’s super fast if the Arrange View or Console has the focus (Fig. 8).

Figure 8: Step through tracks quickly, and “exclusive solo” them, with ATOM.

1. Tap Setup, and it glows orange.

2. Use the Up button or Left button to step up through tracks, and the Down or Right button to step down through tracks. (That’s kinda cool that either one Up/Down or Left/Right works, because it’s natural to use Up/Down in the Arrange view, and Left/Right on the Console).

3. Tap Pad 3 to mute the selected track.

4. Tap Pad 4 to solo the selected track, or Alt+Pad 4 for exclusive solo.

7. Control FX Chain Macro Knobs

Figure 9: Want hands-on control over the various FX Chains I’ve presented in these Friday Tips? ATOM can do it.

This is an easy one. Call up an FX Chain. Move the ATOM knob you want to assign to a Macro control. Right click on the Macro control. Assign it to the ATOM knob (Fig. 9).

8. Faking Studio One as a Third-Party Application

ATOM is happiest when playing with Studio One, because of the tight integration. But I still use Cakewalk’s Rapture Pro in a lot of tracks; I sampled a ton of Gibson basses, and made what I think are some really cool instruments with them. Unfortunately, in theory you can’t use ATOM’s aftertouch or knobs as a generic control surface when running in Studio One…but hey, we laugh at theory around here! You can, by faking Studio One into not recognizing ATOM as ATOM.

1. Go to Studio One > Options > External Devices, and remove ATOM.

Figure 10: How to fool ATOM into thinking Studio One is a third-party application.

2. Click Add, and choose New Keyboard (I named it Faux ATOM; see Fig. 10). You don’t need to Send To anything. ATOM’s status light at the top will glow green to indicate ATOM isn’t under Studio One’s control.

3. If your instrument has MIDI learn, assign the four controls or aftertouch however you want, and record as you would any automation from a control surface (Fig. 11).

Figure 11: The screen shot shows the results of recording ATOM’s Macro Knob 3 as a control source for a third-party synthesizer.


Don’t worry, you haven’t lost ATOM. Go Studio One > Options > External Devices, and remove Faux ATOM. Click on Reconnect; Studio One finds ATOM, and lists it as an external device. Another option is to close and re-open Studio One (ATOM gets added automatically).

9. Cool Event Editor Stuff

The documentation seems to imply that you can do cool event editor things only with the Instrument track, but that’s not quite true—you can do plenty with audio tracks as well.

1. Press the Editor button (in the left side, under Event). It doesn’t matter if Song Setup is on, because if it is, hitting Editor turns it off. The Edit view appears.

2. To hide the Edit view, hold Shift and tap Editor.

While in the Editor (or with audio tracks, the Arrange view):

The Left/Right buttons step through either MIDI notes or audio events.
Pad 9 Duplicate and Pad 10 Delete work as expected with notes or audio events.
If you opened Edit view from an Instrument track, then Pad 11 Velocity- and Pad 12 Velocity+ change the selected note’s velocity; Up/Down move the selected note up or down in semitones.
If you opened the Edit view from an audio track, then the Up/Down buttons step up or down through the tracks to select the track of your choice.

10. The More Ways to Undo, the Better

Figure 12: No one will ever know you made that horrible mistake if you undo.

Hold Shift and tap Undo (Fig. 12) to undo your last mistake…because there are never enough ways to undo!

Ten FX Chain Splitter Tips

Hey—September is Studio One’s 10th birthday!! It’s past the “terrible twos,” getting really good grades in school, becoming smarter with each update, and has become highly proficient at riding a bicycle. It’s a good kid.

For those who weren’t aware of its birth a decade ago, half the music industry thought the idea of PreSonus coming out with a baby DAW was ridiculous. The other half felt differently; instead, they simply thought it was stupid. There was plenty of hearty laughter around the NAMM show, as people placed their bets on how many months Studio One would last before it went away. After all, how could an upstart that didn’t even do surround compete with well-established DAWs?

Never mind.

Anyway, here we are ten years later, so I thought—why not make each Friday Tip of the Week for this month ten tips? We’ll start with one of my favorite Studio One features, the Splitter.

  1. It’s great that you can specify the number of splits. The Channel Split mode makes sense with two splits—one is left, one is right. With 4 splits, the two on the left are the left channel, the two on the right, the right channel. But what about 3 and 5 splits? With 3, the middle is the right channel, and the other two are the left channel. With 5 splits, the left-most, right-most, and center splits are the left channel; the remaining two are the right channel (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: Meatloaf says “two out of three ain’t bad.” Studio One says “two into five can be cool.”

  1. The Mute Output buttons for each split make it easy to audition individual splits (Fig. 2, outlined in red). If a split is muted, then an almost invisible little switch opens up in the split. I think this switch should be brighter, so thanks to the miracle of public-domain Paint programs, I’ve made it a lighter shade of gray in the screen shot…hopefully the developers over in Hamburg, Germany will see this and think “hey, that’s a great idea!” (or more likely, “das ist eine großartige idee!”).

Figure 2: The Mute Output buttons circled in red are a stupendous (and I don’t use that word lightly) feature for when you want to isolate what a particular split is doing to your audio.


3. The bad news: none of the split parameters are automatable. I’ve been told Studio One needs to be old enough to get its driver license before this will be possible.

4. The good news: the effects you bring into the splitter are automatable. So if you want to automate a split’s level, then bring in a Mixtool, and rock out.

5. Because you can rename the effects you bring into an FX Chain, this makes life sooooo much easier when you have a really complex setup involving multiple splits, and need to be able to identify at a glance those effects you want to edit.

6. The level controls in the splits themselves don’t respond to mouse wheel scroll, but the ones in the left panel do – you don’t even have to click on one, just hover over it and scroll your mouse (Fig. 3). This is also true with the frequency sliders in the Frequency Split mode. Bonus tip! Ctrl+click on a slider to return it to 0 dB.


Figure 3: The level controls outlined in yellow respond to the mouse scroll wheel.

7. The Frequency Split mode is ultra-cool, because now you can have up to a five-band crossover. This is the kind of gadget Q would have made for James Bond, if Q had been a Studio One programmer. It makes multiband processing so incredibly easy—those who aren’t taking advantage of this aren’t taking full advantage of Studio One.

8. When used as a Frequency Split crossover, there will always be a minimum of a 100 Hz frequency difference among bands so you can’t do something dumb (like have two frequency band split points be at the same frequency.)

9. The FX Chain window is resizeable—you can extend the right and bottom borders. This is helpful when you’ve gone crazy with a split-based FX Chain (see next).

10. Splitters can go to splitters, which can go to splitters, which can go to splitters, [cut and paste]…so not only can an FX chain have series, parallel, and parallel/series effects, it can have parallel/series+parallel+series/parallel effects. The mind boggles (Fig. 4).


Figure 4: This FX Chain doesn’t actually do anything…or maybe it does…who knows? But it shows how the Splitter can help you can go really nuts with insane combinations of effects, if you’re so inclined.



Widen Your Mono Guitar—Sans Problems

Your guitar is most likely mono. But sometimes you want a wide, full, stereo image. I can relate.

One technique is to send the guitar track to an FX channel, insert a delay set for a relatively short delay (like 25 ms), and then pan the original track and FX channel oppositely. But if you sum the signals to mono, then there’s the possibility of cancellation. In fact, I saw a guy in an internet video who said this was a terrible idea, and you should just overdub the part again and pan that oppositely if you want stereo.

Well, overdubbing is an option, assuming you can play tightly enough that the parts don’t sound sloppy. But don’t forget Studio One has that wonderful Channel Mode button on the Main output, so you can test stereo tracks in mono—simply adjust the delay time for minimum cancellation. You won’t be able to avoid cancellation entirely, but tweaking the time may keep it from being objectionable (especially once the delay time gets above 25 ms or so, because that’s more into doubling range). To make any phase issues even less noticeable, lower the delayed sound’s level a little bit to weight the sound more toward the dry guitar.

But I wouldn’t be writing this tip if I didn’t have a better option—so here it is.

  1. Pan your main guitar track to center.
  2. Send it to two FX Channels.
  3. Insert an Analog Delay in each channel, with Mix set for 100% delay, Factor to 1.00, Mod to 0.00, and Width fully counterclockwise. Pan them oppositely. Set the damping as desired. The screenshot shows a good starting point for your settings.

  1. Set different delay times, preferably somewhat far apart, for the two delays. I prefer prime number delays (3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41 ms) so the delay timings don’t interfere with each other. For example, set one delay to 11 ms, and the other to 29 ms.
  2. Bring up the levels of the two delayed channel to create a pleasing stereo spread. It won’t be as dramatic a spread as using one dry and one delayed sound panned oppositely…but frankly, that “super stereo” effect sounds gimmicky compared to a full, robust stereo image. However, if you do want a more dramatic stereo separation, drop the center channel guitar by 6 dB in relation to the FX Channels that are panned right and left—you’ll still get most of the benefits of this approach. (You may need to group all three channels, and raise their levels a bit to compensate for the drop from lowering the center channel level.)

Now, here’s where the magic happens. Set the Main output mode to mono, and you’ll hear virtually no difference between that and the “faux stereo” signal, other than the stereo imaging. The reason why is that now, we have a guitar in the center channel—so choosing mono creates a center channel buildup. This raises the main guitar’s level above the delayed sounds, so there’s virtually no chance of audible cancellation, and it balances the level better between the stereo and mono modes.

Now you have a wide guitar that sounds equally loud, and is phase-issue free, in mono or stereo—happy Friday!

The Bigness of Huge Drum Sound

So…you want some huge drum sounds? Here you go. This is super well-suited to hip-hop and EDM, but can also give a monster drum sound for rock. The star of this show is the Softube Saturation Knob and FX Chain Splitter.

Drums lend themselves well to a little crunch, but there are limitations. If you apply a bitcrusher or distortion effect, the sound will become indistinct—which may be what you want, but I prefer a monster low end and a more defined high end. This usually requires a couple tracks with a crossover (or a track/bus combo with filtering), but the Splitter module makes it easy to do this in a single FX Chain.

Here’s the overall view of the FX Chain.


The first effect is a limiter, which is optional—but it can add a nice bit of squashing. The signal then proceeds to a Splitter set for a Frequency Split, with a crossover point around 220 Hz. The low-frequency split (to the left) goes to the Saturation Knob. You have some choices here; the Keep Low setting gives a boomier bass (hip-hop fans take note), while the Neutral and Keep High settings give a tighter sound—good for rock and dance, where you’ll often want the kick to make room for the bass part.

Meanwhile, the high frequencies split off to a Pro EQ and Mixverb. The Pro EQ helps compensate for the low-frequency split’s hugeness by boosting the highs with a broad peak. The Mixverb is a cheap ’n’ cheerful reverb that’s happy to provide a bit of room ambiance.

Finally, the Mixtool at the end provides a Trim control so you can match the enabled level to the bypassed one.

The Channel Editor brings out the crucial controls and is pretty self-explanatory. There are controls for the Saturation Knob’s two parameters, Frequency/Q/Gain controls for the high-frequency EQ stage, a Squash control to push the limiter, Room level, and Trim to adjust the final output.

So is it worth the effort to construct this FX Chain? Yes! But you don’t have to…

Download the FX Chain here!

 And you probably want to hear what it sounds like, so check out the audio example. The first half is a straight acoustic drum loop from Studio One’s library, while the second half has been converted into a Bigness of Huge drum loop. They’ve been normalized to the same peak level for a fair comparison.


Filling the Pipeline

Plug-ins have changed my life, and probably yours. Yet some hardware effects have no software equivalent—like boutique guitar effects, or tube-based equalizers. And there are even unique digital effects, too, like Roger Linn’s AdrenaLinn.

I wanted to use these with Studio One’s Pipeline XT plug-in and the Studio 192 interface, but never got the combo working properly. There were feedback problems, leakage into other channels, and various issues. After hours of trying different mixer settings, and searching the net, I couldn’t find an answer.

Then it dawned on me: PreSonus support! They had the answer, so hopefully this tip will not only inspire people to take a look at Pipeline XT, but help those who haven’t quite figured out how to use it in the PreSonus mixer ecosystem.


Universal Control allows using Studio 192 (with a computer and enough I/O) as a digital mixer, but that’s not necessarily what we want with Studio One. To optimize the Studio 192 for Pipeline XT:

  1. Open Universal Control, and choose the Scenes screen (Fig. 1)

    Figure 1: How to reset Studio 192 to its default settings.


  1. Click on Studio 192 Default.
  2. Click on Recall. Now the Studio 192 has its default settings.
  3. Go to Universal Control’s System window, and choose Mixer Bypass (Fig. 2). Now, all the I/O is under Studio One’s control.

Figure 2: Universal Control’s mixer is now bypassed, so all the I/O is controlled from within Studio One instead of the mixer.

  1. When you open a project, remember to go into Song Setup and restore anything that’s not the default. For example, if the output usually goes to Headphones 1 for tracking instead of the Main out, make that assignment. Also consider saving this setup as the default.


We’ll use the AdrenaLinn as the example. It’s a mono in/stereo out device, but you can choose a mono or stereo output to feed it (I chose stereo because AdrenaLinn isn’t the only hardware device I use with Pipeline XT).

  1. Assign outputs for the hardware. Go to Song Setup, Audio I/O Setup tab, choose Add Stereo, and then click on the desired outputs in the matrix (Fig. 3). I have patch cords connected semi-permanently to these output jacks so they’re available for any hardware I want to use.


Figure 3: Interface outputs Line Out 5 and Line Out 6 are dedicated to external hardware devices.


  1. Now assign the inputs that will receive the outputs from the hardware (Fig. 4). I use inputs 1 and 2 because they’re on the front panel, so they’re easy to access—I don’t have to reach behind the rack.


Figure 4: Studio 192 inputs for Mic/Inst 1 and 2 accept the outputs from the external hardware.

Note that you can name these inputs and outputs you just added. Save this Song Setup by clicking on Make Default if you plan to interface Studio One with this same setup hardware in the future. Otherwise, you’ll need to go through the assignment process again. If the setup is saved as a default, when you want to use a hardware effect, Studio One will know where to find it.


This part’s pretty easy. Insert Pipeline Stereo as if it was a regular plug-in. Pipeline XT compensates automatically for the latency that accumulates from sending audio through the outputs, through an effect, then back into Studio One’s interface inputs. What’s more, it’s easy to assign the inputs and outputs in Pipeline XT, because you named them in Song Setup (Fig. 5). Pipeline XT will now divert the channel output to your hardware, and bring the hardware output back again into your channel.



Figure 5: Pipeline XT is ready to go—its in and out have been assigned to the AdrenaLinn I/O, and the signal path has been compensated for latency.


In my experience, Pipeline XT compensates for latency without having to anything further. However, you can click on the wrench and have Pipeline XT compensate automatically, or do so manually. You can also tune out delays by ear. For example, load a drum loop, and copy it to the track with Pipeline XT. Listen to both tracks together, and adjust the Pipeline Offset parameter until the two tracks sound synched. (Note that if you try automatic compensation, it’s best to bypass the effect. With time-based effects, Pipeline XT won’t know which is the “real” signal for which it should compensate.)


Once Pipeline XT has been configured for a particular piece of hardware, you can store the setting as a preset for later recall—just like any effects preset. For me, 90% of the time I’m using external hardware for guitar effects. They operate similarly to AdrenaLinn, so I can just recall that preset.


There are a few other considerations unique to using external hardware.


  • Most guitar effects are designed for low input levels. You’ll need to bring Pipeline’s Send control way down to avoid overloading the effect.
  • Similarly, you may need to raise the Pipeline’s Return control to bring up the effect’s low-level output.
  • You have to use real-time bounces when using external effects, because the audio is being processed in real time through the hardware.
  • We’re spoiled by being able to use multiple instances of a single plug-in, but hardware doesn’t work that way—one piece of hardware works with one track. That said, you can insert multiple instances of the same effect in different channels using Pipeline XT, but I don’t recommend it because the channels sum together.
  • You can take a picture of the external hardware’s front panel control settings, and include that image in a Pipeline plug-in preset. With AdrenaLinn that feature isn’t really relevant. But for boutique effects with knobs, this is a very useful feature.

Friday Tip: Tempo Changes for Already Mixed Songs – Reloaded

The June 22, 2018 tip covered how to make mastered songs better with tempo changes, but there was some pushback because it wasn’t easy to make these kinds of changes in Studio One. Fortunately, it seems like the developers were listening, because it’s now far easier to change tempo. I’ve been refining various tempo-changing techniques over the past year (and had a chance to gauge reactions to songs using tempo changes compared to those that didn’t), so it seemed like the time is right to re-visit this topic.


In the days before click tracks, music had tempo changes. However, with good musicians, these weren’t random. After analyzing dozens of songs, many (actually, most) of them would speed up slightly during the end of a chorus or verse, or during a solo, and then drop back down again.

For example, many people feel James Brown had one of the tightest rhythm sections ever—which is true, but not because they were a metronome. There were premeditated, conscious tempo changes throughout the song (e.g., speeding up during the run up to the phrase “papa’s got a brand new bag,” in the song of the same name, then dropping back down again—only to speed up to the next climax). Furthermore, the entire song sped up linearly over the course of the song.

Note that you didn’t hear these kinds of changes as something obvious, you felt them. They added to the “tension and release” inherent in any music, which is a key element (along with dynamics) in eliciting an emotional response from listeners.


It was easy to have natural tempo changes when musicians played together in a room. These days, it’s difficult for solo artists to plan out in advance when changes are going to happen. Also, if you use effects with tempo sync, not all of them follow tempo changes elegantly (and some can’t follow tempo changes at all). Let’s face it—it’s a lot easier to record to a click track, and have a constant tempo. However…


Fortunately, Studio One makes it easy to add tempo changes to a finished mix—so you can complete your song, and then add subtle tempo changes where appropriate. This also lets you compare a version without tempo changes, and one with tempo changes. You may not hear a difference, but you’ll feel it.

As mentioned in last year’s tip, for the highest possible fidelity choose Options > Advanced > Audio, and check “Use cache for timestretched audio files.” Next, open a new project, and bring in the mixed file. Important: you need to embed a tempo, otherwise it’s not possible to change the tempo. So, open the Inspector, and enter a tempo under File Tempo. It doesn’t have to match the original song tempo because we’re making relative, not absolute, changes. Also choose Tempo = Timestretch, and Timestretch = Sound – Elastique Pro Formant.


Working with the tempo track is now as easy as working with automation: click and drag to create ramps, and bend straight lines into curves if desired. You can set high and low tempo limits within the tempo track; the minimum difference between high and low Tempo Track values is 20 BPM, however you can change the tempo track height to increase the resolution. The bottom lines it that it’s possible to create very detailed tempo changes, quickly and easily.

So what does it sound like? Here are two examples. The first is a hard-rock cover version of “Walking on the Moon” (originally recorded by The Police, and written by Sting).


The differences are fairly significant, starting with a low of 135 BPM, going up to 141 BPM, and dropping down as low as 134 BPM.

Here’s another example, a slower song called “My Butterfly.” It covers an even greater relative range, because it goes from a low of 90 to a high of 96 BPM. You may be able to hear the speedup in the solo, not just feel it, now that you know it’s there.

Note that when possible, there’s a constant tempo at the beginning and end. It doesn’t matter so much with songs, but with dance mixes, I can add tempo changes in the track as long as there’s a constant tempo on the intro and outro so DJs don’t go crazy when they’re trying to do beat-matching.

So is it worth making these kinds of changes? All I know is that the songs I do with tempo changes get a better response than songs without tempo changes. Maybe it’s coincidence…but I don’t think so.