I’ve always been fascinated with using one instrument to modulate another—like using a vocoder on guitar or pads, but with drums as the modulator instead of voice. This kind of processing is a natural for dance music, and using a noise gate’s sidechain to gate one instrument with another (e.g., bass gated by kick drum) is a common technique.
However, the sound of gating has always seemed somewhat abrupt to me, regardless of how I tweaked a gate’s attack, decay, threshold, and range parameters. I wanted something that felt a little more natural, a little less electro, and gave more flexibility. The answer is a bit off the wall, but try it—or at least listen to the audio example.
Setup requires copying the track you want to modulate (the middle track below), and then using the Mixtool to flip the copy’s audio 180 degrees out of phase (i.e., enable Invert Phase). This causes the audio from the original track and its copy to cancel. Then, insert a compressor in the copy, and feed its sidechain with a send from the track doing the modulating. In this case, it’s the drum track at the top.
When the compressor kicks in, it reduces the gain of the audio that’s out of phase, thus reducing the amount of cancellation. However, as you’ll hear in the example, the gain changes don’t have the same character as gating.
You can also take this technique further with automation. The screen shot shows automation that’s adjusting the compressor’s threshold; the lower the threshold, the less cancellation. Raising the threshold determines when the “gating” effect occurs. Also, it’s worth experimenting with the Auto and Adaptive modes for Attack and Release, as well as leaving them both turned off and setting their parameters manually.
Using a compressor for “gating” allows for flexibility that eluded me when adjusting a standard noise gate. If you want super-tight rhythmic sync between two instruments, this is an unusual—but useful—alternative to sidechain-based gating.
Pads that Loop Perfectly—Yes, It’s Possible!
Pads are hard to loop, because their flowing, continuous sound exposes loop points that are anything less than seamless—there will often be a click, pop, or other glitch. But there is a solution, so keep reading for how to create perfect loops for just about any pad.
Step 1. Record a pad that’s one measure longer than what you want to loop. For example, record five measures to create a loopable four-measure pad. Normalize, then reduce the level by -3 dB or so to accommodate peaks that may result from later crossfading. Then, bounce the clip to itself to make this level change permanent.
Step 2. Copy the clip, and then paste it (or alt+drag the clip) so the first measure of the copy overlaps the last measure or the original clip. In this example, the overlap extends across measure 5.
Step 3. Shift+click on the original clip and the copied clip so they’re both selected, then type X to create a crossfade. Move the crossfade nodes up to create a logarithmic fade.
Step 4. With both clips still selected, bounce to create a single clip. Split at the end of the first measure and at the end of where the clips overlapped (in this case, measure 6). Delete both ends so what’s left extends from the start of measure 2 to the end of measure 6. Bounce what’s left to itself, loop it, and you’ll hear a perfect 4-bar loop.
Note: In some particularly challenging cases, you may need to overlap the clip’s first two measures over the clip’s last two measures to create a suitable crossfade. However, if the pad is relatively consistent you almost certainly won’t encounter any issues.
Reverse audio was a common technique back in the days when doing it was a challenge (flipping tape reels over, recording, flipping them back). Now that reverse audio is easy to do, it’s uncommon…go figure. But let’s revive reverse audio with preverb—reverb that swells up to a sound, instead of decaying after it. We’ll first look at a method that requires having some silence before the clip to which you want to add preverb, then cover what to do if the clip starts at the beginning of a song. Note: the screen shot shows each step, but you’ll end up with only the two yellow clips to create preverb—the other clips are for illustration only (i.e., you don’t need to keep copying the clip).
Step 1. Start by copying the clip or track to which you want to add preverb. Use the Paint tool to draw a silent section in front of the copied clip that’s equal to or longer than the anticipated reverb decay tail you’ll add in the next step, then bounce the silent part and the copied clip together. Tip: Consider rolling off some of the low end on the copy so the kick is less prominent. Kicks don’t get along with reverb all that well, and preverb is no exception.
Step 2. Select the bounced clip and type Ctrl+R, or right-click and choose Audio > Reverse Audio. Insert your reverb of choice (the Open Air 480 Hall preset from Halls > Medium Halls is a good place to start) into the copied/reversed track or clip, then set the reverb’s Mix control to 100% for an all-wet mix.
Step 3. After your reverb sound is as desired, right-click on this clip and choose Mixdown Selection. This clip contains only the reverb sound.
Step 4. Reverse this clip, and now you’ll preverb when you play it along with the original clip. You can also try nudging the preverb left or right to play with the timing—for example if the reverb has pre-delay, the kick and reverberated kick might argue with each other.
To add preverb before the entire song starts so that the preverb leads up to the first sound, select all tracks and shift them to the right to open up a few measures at the song’s beginning. Now you can extend the copy of the track or clip you want preverbed to the project start so it includes silence. Continue by copying the original track, reversing, and following the steps detailed previously to add preverb, then shift the tracks back to the their original position.
To hear preverb in a musical context, go to https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/craiganderton and click on the free preview of song 2, “The Gift of Goodbye.” The preverb is on the guitar solo toward the middle of the song and then occurs again at the end, during the fadeout.
There are several ways to convert stereo into two mono tracks with Studio One (e.g., for processing the two channels separately, reversing one channel but not the other, etc.), but those ways can be somewhat convoluted. One simple way to convert a stereo track into mono involves going into the Browser, right-clicking on the track’s filename, and selecting Split to Mono Files. But if a track consists of multiple clips from multiple files, then you first need to bounce them to create a track—yet you might not want to bounce them until later. And you’re also creating additional files.
The approach in this tip doesn’t create true mono tracks, but it treats a stereo track as two different tracks that behave exactly like mono tracks—which is probably the desired goal anyway. This method also doesn’t create any additional files, and is non-destructive.
The original track becomes the left channel and the duplicated track, the right channel. Now you can process and pan each channel individually. To avoid confusion, rename one track so it includes the letter L, and the other so it includes the letter R. In the screen shot, the right track is red and the left track is white to follow the color scheme of RCA phono jack stereo connections in consumer electronics devices. Hey, why not?
We covered tempo changes previously, with an emphasis on using tempo changes to add dramatic pauses, and also doing longer changes that are useful with DJ sets when transitioning from one song to another. This week, let’s go one step further.
In the process of researching an article for Sweetwater.com about what made classic rock sound “classic,” I analyzed tempo variations in songs without click tracks. The consistency of these changes was surprising. Although the changes did not have machine-like precision, they were far from being random or sloppy. They tended to follow particular patterns not only in different songs, but different genres.
The most prominent of these was speeding up a bit in the verse before a chorus. Sometimes there would be a slight slowdown after arriving at the chorus, and sometimes it would revert pretty close to the original tempo over the course of the chorus, but the speeding up was evident in virtually all the music I analyzed—rock, pop, R&B, soul, you name it. Also, songs often sped up imperceptibly over the course of a song.
Although you can record while Studio One is doing a tempo change, sometimes it’s a lot easier to play along with a regular click. Fortunately, there’s a way to add these tempo changes after the fact, to the final stereo mix—consider it a mastering technique done in the Song Page, not a tracking or mixing one.
Working on the mixed track requires the highest fidelity possible. Choose Options > Advanced > Audio and check “Use cache for timestretched audio files.”
This uses a higher-quality timestretch algorithm than what’s used for real-time disk playback.
Next, open up a new song and load your mixed file into a track. It won’t have tempo information embedded so Studio One won’t know how to stretch it, but that doesn’t matter. Open the Inspector (F4), and enter a tempo under File Tempo, for example 120 BPM. It doesn’t have to match the original file’s tempo because we’re just introducing changes, not dealing with absolute tempos.
While you’re in the Inspector, choose Tempo = Timestretch, and Timestretch = Sound.
I generally do a linear speed up, because the changes (e.g., 2-5%) aren’t big enough that you’d notice a log curve anyway. While holding the Alt/Opt key, click with either the Paint or Line tool where you want the tempo to start speeding up, and drag to where you want the speedup to end. Note that you can also drag up or down to fine-tune the end tempo, and if you also hold Shift while doing this, you can change tempo in 0.1 BPM increments.
While the range of tempo changes is still selected, zoom in on the very first change. It will be slightly more than the tempo before it, which is usually what you want. If not, hover over the top of the first tempo change until it turns into a double up/down arrow. Click, and drag downward to even out the first tempo change with the tempo change right before it. The selected changes will follow along to preserve the line’s slope. Remember, we’re talking about small changes here that are more felt than heard as obvious tempo shifts. You can be off by a few tenths of a BPM, or even more—no one will notice.
The screen shot shows a mastered song after having tempo changes made. I like to extend the tempo track height as much as possible so it’s easy to make fairly precise changes. Note the linear changes that happen before the two choruses about 1/3 and 2/3 through the song, and then another before the final fadeout on the main riff. In the middle, there’s also a slightly slower tempo change during the solo.
Try this technique on your finished songs—you might be surprised about how these can help a song “breathe” and flow more, even if it was recorded to a click track.
Okay, Studio One isn’t lacking for reverb. Nor is the rest of the world. But we also aren’t lacking for tools to make new kinds of reverb sounds, and that’s what this week’s tip is all about.
Note that the TonalVerb is a bus effect, so don’t insert it in a track. (Or, do insert it in a track—you never know what might happen!) As with last week’s tip there’s a preset you can download, but I recommend reading about how this preset works. FX Chains are very powerful, and once you learn what you can do with them, you can create your own signature sounds instead of sounding like everyone else.
HOW IT WORKS
A Splitter, set to Normal mode, feeds two Mixverbs in parallel. One of the parallel paths goes through a Mixtool with both channel phases (polarities) inverted, so the summed audio cancels. Except… one Mixverb has damping fixed at 50%, while the other is variable (as set by the FX Chain Tone control). With both Damp controls at 50%, there’s no audio due to cancellation. However setting damping below 50% cancels the low frequency reverb components, yet the high frequency reverb components remain. With damping set above 50%, the reverse occurs—the high frequency reverb components cancel, while the low frequency components remain. The closer Tone is to 50%, the greater the cancellation so you may need to increase the bus level under these conditions.
This effect is very different compared to altering tone via equalization for several reasons, but the main one is that damping varies over time. At the onset of the reverb, there’s more cancellation because the two parallel signals have more in common. This reduces the attack of the signal being reverberated, which has its own uses—for example, you might want the crack of a drum to be more prominent, rather than being washed in reverb. With tone set to 0% and Size at a relatively high value (e.g., 70%), it’s almost like the reverb has an attack time of its own.
Regarding the other FX Chain controls, Predelay, Size, and Width all vary their respective Mixverb controls simultaneously over their full ranges. The only one that works differently, as noted above, is the Tone (damping) control.
So… why be normal? Here’s your chance to try a different type of reverb sound that’s especially well suited to EDM productions.
Longtime friend and PreSonus advocate Brian Lorelle of OBEDIA and PC Audio Labs recently interconnected four Quantums and four DigiMax DP88s for a series of test runs in his laboratory in Nashville, taking a close look at CPU usage and latency under varying conditions including different sample rates, plug-in counts, buffer sizes, etc. If you’ve been looking for a Windows recording solution that takes advantage of the speed and power of Thunderbolt, with tons of I/O, this is a must-watch!
Back in the days of variable-speed analog tape, we often cheated and sped up the master just a bit. This had three beneficial effects: it made the tempo a bit more lively, raised the pitch for a slightly brighter sound, and tightened timing. Even a 2% change could make a significant difference. (If you ever tried to play along with an old pop tune and found your instrument had to be tuned somewhat sharp, this is probably why.)
Digital technology gave us a major advance by making it possible to change tempo without changing pitch, or change pitch without changing tempo. Curiously, though, there aren’t as many options if you want to change both simultaneously. Fortunately, Studio One can do this easily.
The key is the Inspector’s Speedup and Tune parameters. A speedup of 2% is about right for making a noticeable, but not obvious change; however many older masters were sped up a lot more than that, so don’t feel too constrained. For Tune, 20 cents works well as a general-purpose setting but again, there are no rules about this other than to use your ears.
If you enter these changes and then go back to 0 for the two settings, the song will sound less lively. However it’s important to acclimate yourself to any changes, either speeding up or “bypassed,” before making any final decisions about what sounds best.
Note that I much prefer to do any master speed/tune change processing on the finished, two-track mix instead of while working on a song. That way I don’t need to remember to set the Speedup and Tune on each track, or render loops so I can use the needed parameters.
And since we’re in old school territory, consider adding a bit of Console Shaper as well from the Mix FX drop-down. I seldom push drive above 9 o’clock for program material, and some crosstalk makes the sound a bit more speaker-like when wearing headphones (with headphones, you don’t get acoustical crosstalk like you do with speakers, where the left ear hears some of the right speaker, and vice-versa). As to noise…well I’m not a fan of noise, but with some tracks, it does add a little “glue.” Or maybe it just triggers the psychological response of working with older gear.
The audio example plays an excerpt from the remix of “To Say No Would Be a Crime” (from my album “Simplicity”). The first 19 seconds are the original version, the rest of the example speeds it up by 1.02 with a pitch increase of 40 cents. The complete song is available on YouTube/thecraiganderton.
In any case, when you want your music to be a little more lively, brighter, and tighter, try raising the Speedup and Tune parameters just a bit. It really does make a difference.
The day has arrived! Studio One 4 has been released and is available for purchase from your favorite dealer or shop.presonus.com! Version 4 adds a ton of new features (full list is available in a PDF linked below) but some of the things we’re really excited about include: