This just in from Craftmaster Productions—a good look at the PreSonus ATOM workflow using SampleOne XT in Studio One.
CMP has been producing excellent Studio One content for years. Head on over to YouTube and give him a Subscribe for more!
If you’ve heard people talking about adding “glue” to a mix, this usually involves a bus compressor. But you can also “glue” tracks together in a subtle way by placing two standard compressors in series with high thresholds and low ratios. The result is dynamics control that’s so gentle, you won’t really hear that a compressor is working—but you will hear the benefits.
Start by inserting two Compressors in series. I also like adding the Level meter plug-in afterward so it’s easy to compare peak and RMS levels when enabling/bypassing the Glue Compressor. Set the controls that aren’t affected by the FX Chains as follows:
Program the FX Chain controls that affect both compressors as follows:
Program the remaining controls as follows:
As to choosing the optimum settings, this one is easy to get wrong. It’s designed for subtle effects, so keep the Input at 0.00 dB unless the incoming signal is very low or high. With an input signal that’s close to maximum, a threshold of -3.0 (as indicated by the Threshold control, because the threshold will differ for the two compressors) and a low ratio (like 1.3:1) are good starting points, with Mix set to 100%.
Adjust Attack (minimum attack clamps down harder on the signal), Knee, and Release based on the input signal characteristics and desired result. Use Gain to match peaks between the bypassed and enabled states. Bypassing and enabling is a good way to hear the difference the Glue Compressor contributes to the sound.
The Glue Compressor is not intended to work like a conventional compressor that flattens an input with a highly variable level, although you can always increase or lower the ratio or threshold for the best sound. Set the controls to give a mild, subtle lift that… well, “glues” the tracks together. You won’t hear a huge difference…and you shouldn’t. But you will hear an improvement that gives the mix a welcome “lift.”
As you’ve probably figured out, these tips document something I needed, and the solution. If you’ve ever put together an album or collection of songs, you know how difficult it can be to match levels—which I was reminded of all too clearly while preparing the album Joie de Vivre for upload to my YouTube channel. It’s rock-meets-EDM, and is done as a continuous mix that includes not just songs, but transitions. So, all the levels had to be matched very carefully. Fortunately, Studio One’s Project Page made it easy.
The key was using the Project Page’s LUFS meter readings; for a complete explanation of LUFS, please check out the article I wrote for inSync magazine. In a nutshell, it’s a way to measure audio’s perceived level that’s more sophisticated than the usual average, VU, or peak readings. If two songs have the same LUFS reading, they’ll be perceived as having a similar (if not the same) level.
This measurement standard was created in response to issues involved in broadcasting and streaming services, and also in part as a backlash against “the loudness wars.” For example, YouTube doesn’t want you to have to change the level every time a video changes, so they’ve standardized on making all audio -13 LUFS. It doesn’t matter if you squash your master recording until it looks like a sausage, YouTube will adjust the perceived level so that it can slip into a playlist with something like a live acoustic jazz recording.
In Studio One’s Project Page, the Loudness Information section for each song (Fig. 1) shows a song’s LUFS as well as readings for the RMS average level (somewhat like a VU meter) and True Peak, which indicates not just peaks, but whether any peaks are exceeding the maximum headroom on playback, and by how much. The Loudness Information can come from before or after the track’s effects, so to see how editing these alters the LUFS reading, choose the Post FX tab.
Now that we know how to measure levels, here’s one way to tweak them for consistency. We’ll assume you want something fairly compressed/limited, but not enough to become collateral damage in the loudness wars.
For each track (likely all of them) that needs to be set to a certain LUFS measurement, insert the Tricomp compressor followed by the Limiter. The screen shot shows my preferred Tricomp settings, but note that the optimum Compress knob setting depends on the material. You don’t want to compress too much, because the limiter will do most of the leveling anyway. If the gain reduction peaks reach the last “s” in “Compress” on the Limiter’s Reduction meter, you probably won’t hear too many artifacts, but you might not want to go any higher.
Next, decide what your target LUFS reading should be. As a very general rule of thumb, most rock songs are around -8 to -10 LUFS. -11 to -14 LUFS is considered as having a decent amount of dynamics, while classical music hangs out around -23 LUFS. Of course, this is all subjective—you can choose whatever level sounds “right.”
Now turn up the Limiter’s input control. The Loudness Information label will change to “Update Loudness.” Click on this; Studio One will analyze the track, and show the LUFS reading. (Note: You can force a reading by right-clicking on the song in the track column, and choosing “Detect Loudness.”)
Adjust the limiter Input level, then update the loudness. If the LUFS is below your target, turn up the Input. If the result is higher than the desired LUFS, turn down the Input. It takes a little trial and error, but eventually you’ll hit the target.
With the Tricomp and Limiter, once you get much above -13 LUFS you can “hear” the limiter because it’s stereo. With a phase-linear multiband maximizer like the Waves L3 Multimaximizer, you can push for higher LUFS readings while still sounding reasonably free of artifacts. Still, I wouldn’t want to go much above -10 LUFS—but as always, that’s a subjective call and there are no rules. If you like the way it sounds, that’s what matters.
However, be aware that even slight tweaks can make a difference, especially with the Tricomp. The Tricomp and the Limiter work together, and you can fine-tune the sound by fine-tuning each processor. For example, having Knee up all the way on the Tricomp gives more perceived loudness, and a narrower dynamic range…which may or may not be what you want. Turning on Autospeed also makes a difference.
When you listen to Joie de Vivre, I think you’ll hear that it benefited considerably by being adjusted in Studio One to a consistent LUFS reading. There’s a decent amount of dynamics, but the average perceived level of all the cuts is very consistent…and that’s what this tip all about.
Now available at shop.presonus.com: TEN new Add-ons from SonalSystem, all part of the Sonal Synth Pop family. These Add-ons are available in a complete bundle, or individually—at very low prices!
SonalSystem took on a unique approach with Sonal Synth Pop. Unlike a lot of other Add-ons, each Sonal Synth Pop construction kit is arranged as a complete multi-track Song for Studio One. Each of these songs can be used as a sonic foundation for your next project, or you can cherry-pick your favorite parts to embellish your existing songs. The choice is yours! Consider Sonal Synth Pop to be a rich palette of colors with which you can do whatever you like.
The PreSonus Symphonic Orchestra is something of a secret weapon over at shop.presonus.com. With over 14 gigs of samples and musicloops, it combines a complete symphonic orchestra instrument library with ready-to-use Studio One Musicloops for lightning-fast arranging and production. The instruments not only comprise a full symphony orchestra, but also a contemporary strings library. More than 1,200 Musicloops allow for creating full arrangements on the fly while retaining complete control over tempo, key, chords and sound character.
If you’re currently running Studio One 4 and have passed on the PSO before, now is a great time to give it another look—because with the release of the new Chord Track and Harmonic Editing features, the PSO becomes a lot more versatile and powerful with no increase in price!
PreSonus beta tester and content creator Lukas Ruschitzka recently created some new videos and audio demos showcasing not only the PSO’s sound quality and ease-of-use, but also how much stronger it has become when paired with Studio One’s new Chord Track and Harmonic editing. Check out these videos below, and…
PSO Construction Kits
PreSonus Symphonic Orchestra contains more than 1,200 Musicloops organized into 28 Construction Kits that cover various musical styles like classical film music but also contemporary genres like ambient, pop, groove and hip-hop. This video provides a short overview of the included Construction Kits.
Working with PSO Construction Kits
Being creative with the PSO Construction Kits is pretty straightforward. Just drag some Musicloops into your own songs and take advantage of Studio One’s Chord Track to change chords and try different harmonic patterns with just a few clicks. This video shows how easy it is to access PSO Construction Kits, preview different Musicloops in the song tempo and adapt them to the song via Harmonic Editing.
New PSO Audio Demos
“In 2017, I was invited by Pierpaolo Guerrini of PPG Studios to be a part of the preproduction of Sí alongside guitarist Daniele Bonaviri,” he continues. “The album production was given to the great producer Bob Ezrin who’s worked with Pink Floyd, KISS and Peter Gabriel.”
“We met several times in my studio—JGRStudio in Rome—and Pierpaolo’s Studio PPGStudio in Tuscany for the sound design process with Studio One and Pro Tools. During these sessions, I recorded all the acoustic guitars and sound design for the pre-production process of several tracks on the record. I also used Studio One for drum editing for some yet-unreleased acoustic versions… and we were quite impressed by how fast and accurate drum editing with Studio One is.”
“So now, Studio One is officially our DAW of choice and the most active in PPGStudio—Andrea’s main recording studio. It’s been an honor to work with Bob Ezrin, and I’m so proud to work with Andrea Bocelli, the most famous singer ever.”
Humbuckers are known for a big, beefy sound, while single-coil pickups are more about clarity and definition. If you want the best of both worlds, you can warm up a soldering iron, ground the junction of the humbucker’s two coils, and voilà—a single coil pickup. But there’s an easier way: use the Pro EQ, which gives the added benefit of not losing the pickup’s humbucking characteristics.
The main difference between humbucker and single coil pickups is the frequency response. The blue line in Fig. 1 shows a humbucker’s spectral response, while the yellow line shows the same humbucker split for single-coil operation. Unlike the single-coil’s response, which is essentially flat from 150 Hz to 3 kHz, the humbucker has a bump in the 500 Hz to 2 kHz range that contributes to the “beefy” sound. Starting at 3 kHz the humbucker response drops off rapidly, while the single coil produces more high-frequencies than the humbucker from 3 kHz to 9 kHz.
Fig. 2 shows an equalizer curve that modifies a bridge humbucker for more of a single-coil response. Of course different humbucker and different single-coil pickups sound different, so this kind of EQ-based “modeling” is an inexact science. However, I think you’ll find that the faux single-coil sound delivers the distinctive, glassy character you want from a single-coil pickup. Feel free to tweak the EQ further—you can come up with variations on the single-coil sound, or “morph” between the humbucker and single-coil characteristics.
The difference between a neck humbucker and single-coil response isn’t as dramatic, but the curve in Fig. 3 replicates the neck single-coil character, and provides yet another useful variation for your guitar tone.
The bottom line is that you don’t need to break out a soldering (or void your guitar’s warranty) to make your humbucker sound more like a single-coil type—all you need is the right kind of EQ.
Jonathan Penson is the Norwegian Refugee Council Regional Education Adviser for East Africa and Yemen. We recently learned about his experience with the Mtendeli refugee camp in Tanzania, where a youth music program is using Studio One Prime to teach digital music skills to young Burundian refugees. Jonathan was able to spend some time with us to answer some questions about Mtendeli, its beneficiaries, and the students involved in this incredible story.
First of all, for readers not familiar with the situation affecting the youth in your program, please tell us how Music for Mtendeli came to be.
Mtendeli refugee camp in western Tanzania hosts close to forty thousand refugees fleeing political violence in Burundi. A high proportion of the refugees are youth. But, without the opportunity to work or leave the camp, there is very little to do, and frustrations run high. In addition, many youths experienced traumatic events in their home country. So we started a music project as part of a creative arts program, with the aim of providing a positive outlet for youths’ energies, and music therapy.
The Norwegian Refugee Council started the youth center in the camp in 2017. We run the creative arts program alongside vocational skills training and literacy and numeracy classes. We train youth in the creative use of ICT, as well as for business, and the youth organize clubs for music, theatre, and modern and traditional dance. We are hoping to start photography courses.
The music program combines traditional skills such as drumming – for which Burundians are famed – with cutting-edge technology. We want to nurture refugee youths’ talents, and the plan is to start a modest music studio that will help them to record and share their music.
How many of the youth are involved in the Digital Music program? How many staff? How long has the program been running?
More than 200 youths have benefited from the program since it began last year. This includes music students using virtual instruments and those who have learned to use DAW software to produce and edit music. We have one ICT instructor, Deo, who has a keen interest in digital music production.
What styles of music are the most popular for them to produce and record?
We find there are two distinct music ‘camps’ with the camp: gospel and non-gospel. In the non-gospel camp, R ‘n’ B and hip-hop are very popular, but you will also hear a lot of popular African artists, especially from Congo.
Is there any cross-pollination between the programs at Mtendeli? For example, do the music students produce music for the dance program?
There is direct cross-pollination between the producers and dancers, with the modern dance club using some music from the music class. They also use popular music downloaded from the Internet and other sources.
We would love to hear some of the music that has come from the program if you can send us links or files! Can you?
We would certainly like to do this in the future. For the moment, we need to build the skills of the students. They currently don’t have keyboards, headphones or mice to operate the DAW, making composition very difficult. We’re working on getting these to them – we’re talking to a music technology company about donating them. (The center has been generously funded by humanitarian donors, but this project might be a bit too left-field for them.)
What opportunities are there for our readers to support the program?
We currently have a fund-raising page open. We’ll use the funds to pay for shipping the music equipment to the camp. Logistically, this is complex and costly. We’d love for your readers to contribute that way
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
We asked this to the dancers and music students in Mtendeli. They’d love to produce professional-sounding music and share it, but they need more musical equipment and facilities before they can really get going. They’d also like more teaching staff, and a more comprehensive DAW–they’re currently using the free version of PreSonus Studio One. All we have at the moment is the laptops, the DAW, the space–and the energy, creativity and enthusiasm of 200 young people!
But this isn’t about the fundraising – it’s about fulfilling people’s potential, raising awareness about refugees, and linking musicians. In time, we’d like a platform for showcasing our youths’ talents–so if any readers can support that, get in touch!
With kind regards,
This signal processing setup is optimized for single-string guitar solos where you want a lot of sustain—but it has a secret ingredient that puts it ahead of typical guitar stompbox sustainers.
The compression aspect is pretty straightforward. A sustainer is all about a high compression ratio and low threshold, which are set to 20:1 and -35 dB, respectively. The sharp knee keeps the sustain going as long as possible, and a short attack time clamps down the attack. The release time isn’t too critical, although this depends on your playing style; a relatively long one (300-500 ms) usually works best.
This is one of those rare instances where you don’t want to enable the compressor’s Auto or Adaptive feature, because the goal here isn’t the most natural sound—it’s an effect. However, enable Lookahead because it helps to tame the attack.
Because of the extreme amount of compression, you’ll need about 30 dB of makeup gain to compensate for the gain reduction due to compression.
And now, the secret ingredient! With most sustainers, after the release time ends, if there’s a pause between notes you’ll hear a loud “pop” when you play a new note because of the compression kicking back in. A fast attack and lookahead helps, but it’s almost impossible to avoid some kind of nasty transient. If you follow the compressor with an amp sim, the distortion will hide the pop somewhat but it can still lead to an ugly attack.
Enter the noise gate. This doesn’t just remove hum, noise, and other low-level signals from being sustained, but the 55 ms attack time (coupled with the enabled lookahead button) means that when you hit a note after a pause, the note attack ramps up more slowly, so the compressor can “grab” the note without creating a pop (or if it does, the pop will be greatly reduced). If there’s an amp sim involved, you’ll hear a cleaner attack, and better overall sound. Note that depending on how fast you play and the compressor’s release time, you may need to shorten the Noise Gate’s Release and Hold times. In any event, when you want serious ssssssuuuuussssstttttaaaaaiiiiinnnnn for your single-note guitar solos, this is the ticket.