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.
WHY TEMPO CHANGES?
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.
THE PROBLEM WITH TEMPO CHANGES
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…
THE STUDIO ONE SOLUTION
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.
MANIPULATING THE TEMPO TRACK
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.
Mid-side (M-S) processing encodes a standard stereo track into a different type of stereo track with two separate components: the left channel contains the center of the stereo spread, or mid component, while the right channel contains the sides of the stereo spread—the difference between the original stereo file’s right and left channels (i.e., what the two channels don’t have in common). You can then process these components separately, and after processing, decode the separated components back into conventional stereo.
Is that cool, or what? It lets you get “inside the file,” sometimes to where you can almost remix a mixed stereo file. Need more kick and bass? Add some low end to the center, and it will leave the rest of the audio alone. Or bring up the level of only the sides to make the stereo image wider.
The key to M-S processing is the Mixtool plug-in, and its MS Transform button. The easiest way to get started with M-S processing is with the MS-Transform FX Chain (Fig. 1), found in the Browser’s FX Chains Mixing folder.
The upper Mixtool encodes the signal so that the left channel contains a stereo file’s center component, while the right channel contains the stereo file’s side components. This stereo signal goes to the Splitter, which separates the channels into the side and center paths. These then feed into the lower Mixtool, which decodes the M-S signal back into stereo. (The Limiter isn’t an essential part of this process, but is added for convenience.)
Even this simple implementation is useful. Turn up the post-Splitter gain slider in the Center path to boost the bass, kick, vocals, and other center components. Or, turn up the gain slider in the post-SplitterSide path to bring up the sides, for the wider stereo image we mentioned.
Fig. 2 shows a somewhat more developed FX Chain, where a Pro EQ boosts the highs on the sides. Boosting the highs adds a sense of air, which enhances the stereo image because highs are more directional.
In addition to decoding the signal back to stereo, the second Mixtool has its Output Gain control accessible to compensate for any level differences when the FX Chain is bypass/enabled. Also, you can disable the MS Decoder (last button, lower right) to prevent converting the signal back into stereo, which makes it easy to hear what’s happening in the center and sides.
And of course…you can take this concept much further. Add a second EQ in the center channel, or a compressor if you want to squash the kick/snare/vocals a bit while leaving the sides alone. Try adding reverb to the sides but not the center, to avoid muddying what’s happening in the center. Or, add some short delays to the sides to give more of a room sound….the mind boggles at the possibilities, eh?
1. How long have you worked for PreSonus?
Almost 7 years now. I started in July of 2012.
2. What’s your official job title?
“Hello… my name is Perry Tee, Artist Relations Manager at PreSonus Audio Electronics, Inc.”
3. What’s your favorite thing about your job? Why did you choose to work here?
Being able to pull from all my skillsets and talents on a daily basis to succeed at my day job.
From my training and experiences as a musician performing live onstage (starting with the cello at age 8) or in recording sessions… to my inner-nerd working in software environments (I started coding in Python around the time I got serious about the guitar, which was years before I used my first DAW Emagic Logic 4.5)… to sales/supply chain logistics (was a purchaser for major multimedia company back in the day, when we still bought DVD’s and CD’s as a society). I am also a polyglot (English, Mandarin, Portuguese, French and some Japanese) so that comes in handy in terms of communicating effectively with people from all different walks of life around the globe.
So, I moved out to Louisiana from California back in 2012 to get away; a “perspective change/sabbatical” if you will. Being the “birthplace of Jazz” New Orleans (NO) still has a vibrant live music scene compared to other cities these days, so I had enough $$$ saved up to live for at least 6 months. PreSonus is based an hour northwest of NO and they were hiring, so I applied on a whim, got hired and moved to Baton Rouge. Even though I no longer live in the 225, I’m still very lucky to be working daily with such amazing people… no other company is quite like PreSonus in terms of camaraderie and dedication to making things happen, IMO.
4. Choose a movie title for the story of your life.
“Interstellar”. I travel between many different ‘worlds’ and can access experiences from all points in the timeline of my life’s stored memory banks to find viable solutions and resolving issues effectively. Never journeyed through a wormhole, though.
5. What was the first 8-track, cassette, CD or digital download you purchased?
DEVO “Freedom Of Choice.”
6. Who’s your go-to band or artist(s) when you can’t decide on something to listen to?
Snarky Puppy, Thundercat, Bibi Bourelly, Ryan Adams & The Cardinals or just about any slide guitar solo performed by Derek Trucks.
7. What’s your go-to Karaoke song?
“Regulate Ft. Nate Dogg” by Warren G.
8. Everyone has a side gig, what’s yours? OR when you’re not at PreSonus, what are you up to?
Playing guitar/guitar synth with Eric Levy (keyboardist with Night Ranger/Garaj Mahal), Jon Cornell (bassist with Jackie Greene/SNL Band) and Jakubu Griffin (drummer with Cirque Du Soleil Zarkana/NYC jazz heavies/Vega$ show ensembles).
Check out our very first YouTube video performance (we collaborated remotely using PreSonus Studio One 4 Pro DAW) of “Pax Humana” here:
But when I’m not PreSonus’ing (which is pretty much every day!), I’m in full-on #DadMode and LOVING every moment.
9. What instruments do you play?
Guitar, guitar synthesizer, cello, bass, piano, drums, the PreSonus ATOM and PreSonus Studio One 4 Pro… which are to both be considered as creative musical instruments, IMO!
10. What do you love about the guitar?
The art of drawing out *tone* using my bare fingers on metal strings… vibrating from nut to bridge saddles, captured by the magnetic pickup and passed through a hand-wired tube amplifier which gets translated into the final sound output at the speaker cone. Just being able to make a sound and sing through this “interfacing” is a reward in an of itself. Hopefully I can keep playing guitar to the end of my journey .
What I love most about playing guitar it is that I get to engage in real-time musical conversations with other willing musicians and express myself freely without being bound by the spoken or written language construct. When those moments of true musical chemistry and magic happen, you know it’s because the people involved are actively listening to one another, putting their heart and soul into the collective effort and channeling it as a group “sonic painting” event that rarely happens exactly the same way twice.
Speaking of musical magic, did y’all see Kodi Lee’s recent audition video on “America’s Got Talent”? I was moved to especially when his Dad lifts him up onstage near the end. Maaaaan!
12. Tell us about a successful event you worked with PreSonus products. InfoComm, NAMM, or an Install somewhere.
I’ve worked so many NAMM Shows over the past decade+ demoing gear and fielding questions, it’s become an annual reference marker for me like family birthdays. I always look forward to the group dinners after a long, grueling day at Booth #18701.
13. Got any tips for working with Studio One?
Yes!!! Watch my Studio One “1-Minute” Tip videos on my Instagram feed here: https://instagram.com/da.real.
14. What are you currently working on at PreSonus? What’s next for you?
Finding more relevant product/use case resonant relationships for the company… we’re really interested in YouTubers and IG Influencers/Reviewers in addition to existing Artists, Producers, Touring Bands, Live FOH Engineers, Studio Mix Engineers, and Mastering Engineers.
15. What’s the strangest talent you have?
I used to be able to perform the Doctor Who theme (lead synth melody line) using a cello bow on the edge of a standard hand saw; all while having gulped an entire packet of grape-flavored Pop Rocks and not letting the chaos inside my mouth affect my musical performance. That talent came to an end when all the bow hair frayed out… GAME OVER.
16. Anything else you want to share?
“No amount of money ever bought a second of time” (Howard Stark, The Avengers Endgame) resonates and I hope that we all can take that quote to heart, as we make decisions that will inevitably shape the reality of what future generations will inherit from us.
Basically, choose wisely what you do with every moment of your lifetime and don’t take anything for granted!
17. What’s your social media handles and is it OK to tag you?
Of course. Follow me on Instagram @da.real.agentp and hit me up via DM anytime.
If you’ve ever played a large venue like a sports arena, you know that reverb is a completely different animal than what the audience hears. You hear your instrument primarily, and in the spaces between your playing, you hear the reverb coming back at you from the reflections. It might seem that reverb pre-delay would produce the same kind of effect, but it doesn’t “bloom” the way reverb does when you’re center stage in a big acoustical space.
This week’s tip is inspired by the center stage sound, but taken further. The heart of the effect is the Expander, but unlike last week’s Expander-based Dynamic Brightener tip, the Expander is in Duck mode, and fed by a sidechain. Here’s the Console setup.
In the audio example, the source is a funk guitar loop from the PreSonus loop collection; but any audio with spaces in between the notes or chords works well, especially drums (if the cymbals aren’t happening a lot), vocals that aren’t overly sustained, percussion, and the like. I deliberately exaggerated the effect to get the point across, so you might want to be a little more tasteful when you apply this to your own music. Or maybe not…
The guitar’s channel has two sends. One goes to the FX Channel, which has a Room Reverb followed by an Expander. The second send goes to the Expander’s sidechain input. Both are set pre-fader so that you can turn down the main guitar sound by bringing down its fader, and that way, you can hear only the processed sound. This makes it easier to edit the following Room Reverb and Expander settings, which are a suggested point of departure. Remember to enable the Expander’s Sidechain button in the header, and click the Duck button.
The reverb time is long—almost six seconds. This is because we want it going constantly in the background, so that after the Expander finishes ducking the reverb sound, there’s plenty of reverb available to fill in the spaces.
To tweak the settings, turn down the main guitar channel so you can monitor only the processed sound. The Expander’s Threshold knob determines how much you want the reverb to go away when the instrument audio is happening. But really, there are no “wrong” settings—start with the parameters above, play around, and listen to what happens.
This is a pretty fertile field for experimentation…as the following audio example illustrates. The first part is the guitar and the reverb effect; the reverb tail shows just how long the reverb time setting is. The second part is the reverb effect in isolation, processed sound only, and without the reverb tail.
This is a whole different type of reverb effect—have fun discovering what it can do for you!
When you play an acoustic guitar harder, it not only gets louder, but brighter. Dry, electric guitar doesn’t have that quality…by comparison, the electrified sound by itself is somewhat lifeless. But I’m not here to be negative! Let’s look at a solution that can give your dry electric guitar some more acoustic-like qualities.
How It Works
Create an FX Channel, and add a pre-fader Send to it from your electric guitar track. The FX Channel has an Expander followed by the Pro EQ. The process works by editing the Expander settings so that it passes only the peaks of your playing. Those peaks then pass through a Pro EQ, set for a bass rolloff and a high frequency boost. Therefore, only the peaks become brighter. Here’s the Console setup.
The reason for creating a pre-fader send from the guitar track is so that you can bring the guitar fader down, and monitor only the FX Channel as you adjust the settings for the Expander and Pro EQ. The Expander parameter values are rather critical, because you want to grab only the peaks, and expand the rest of the guitar signal downward. The following settings are a good point of departure, assuming the guitar track’s peaks hit close to 0.
The most important edit you’ll need to make is to the Expander’s Threshold. After it grabs only the peaks, then experiment with the Range and Ratio controls to obtain the sound you want. Finally, choose a balance of the guitar track and the brightener effect from the FX Channel.
The audio example gets the point across. It consists of guitar and drums, because having the drums in the mix underscores how the dynamically brightened guitar can “speak” better in a track. The first five measures are the guitar with the brightener, the next five measures are the guitar without the brightener, and the final five measures are the brightener channel sound only. You may be surprised at how little of the brightener is needed to make a big difference to the overall guitar sound.
Also, try this on acoustic guitar when you want the guitar to really shine through a mix. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with shedding a little brightness on the situation!
You never know where you’ll find inspiration. As I was trying not to listen to the background music in my local supermarket, “She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals—a song from over 30 years ago!—earwormed its way into my brain. Check it out at https://youtu.be/UtvmTu4zAMg.
My first thought was “they sure don’t make snare drum sounds like those any more.” But hey, we have Studio One! Surely there’s a way to do that—and there is. The basic idea is to extract a trigger from a snare, use it to drive the Mai Tai synth, then layer it to enhance the snare.
Skeptical? Check out the audio example.
ISOLATING THE SNARE
If you’re dealing with a drum loop or submix, you first need to extract the snare sound.
TWEAKING THE MAI TAI
Now the fun begins! Figure 3 shows a typical starting point for a snare-enhancing sound.
The reason for choosing Mai Tai as the sound source is because of its “Character” options that, along with the filter controls, noise Color control, and FX (particularly Reverb, EQ, and Distortion), produce a huge variety of electronic snare sounds. The Character module’s Sound and Amount controls are particularly helpful. The more you play with the controls, the more you’ll start to understand just how many sounds are possible.
BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE!
If the snare is on a separate track, then you don’t need the Pro EQ or FX Channel. Just insert a Gate in the snare track, enable the Gate’s trigger output, and adjust the Gate Threshold controls to trigger on each snare drum hit. The comments above regarding the Attack, Release, and Hold controls apply here as well.
Nor are you limited to snare. You can isolate the kick drum, and trigger a massive, low-frequency sine wave from the Mai Tai to give those car door-vibrating kick drums. Toms can sometimes be easy to isolate, depending on how they’re tuned. And don’t be afraid to venture outside of the “drum enhancement” comfort zone—sometimes the wrong Gate threshold settings, driving the wrong sound, can produce an effect that’s deliciously “right.”
Graham from The Recording Revolution is primarily a Pro Tools user recently got ahold of a copy of Studio One Pro. After some quick Skype tutorials with Rick, he was good to go! Here he demos how quickly you can enhance your mix at the beginning, a concept known as Top Down Mixing, all with Studio One stock plugins!
That’s a $129 USD value for FREE! Buy one of the following and score a free HP2:
Performer Magazine gave the HP2 ZERO cons and says it has “a great battery life, plenty of volume, and useful for studio or stage use.” They go on to say:
“If a set of headphones or in-ear monitors is part of your live rig, this is worth the investment for the ability to control what you hear on stage, without much FOH assistance.”
This offer is available WORLDWIDE, so click the links below to find the closes PreSonus dealer near you!
Take a trip back in time with Nori Ubukata’s 20th Century Sound Box and rediscover the legendary analog sounds of the 70s and 80s.
Famed Japanese sound designer and synth/theremin artist Nori Ubukata recreated some of the most memorable sounds by electronic music artists such as Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Wendy Carlos. The set contains a total of 111 presets and Instrument+FX presets (adding reverb, EQ and other effects). Also included are 50 Musicloops with sound elements showcasing the best presets in musical context.
You’ve got one month to take advantage of this deal so don’t waste any more time reading this blog…
Starting today and ending April 30, 2019 buy one AIR Loudspeaker and get the other for half off!
This offer includes the following:
This offer begins today and ends April 30 and is available in US and Canada ONLY!
Of course we’ll always go with PreSonus. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Watch John Tendy explain why the AIR 10s are perfect for him.