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Tag Archives: Craig Anderton


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, craiganderton.org). 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!

Friday Tips: The Best Flanger Plug-In?

Well…maybe it actually is, and we’ll cover both positive and negative flanging (there’s a link to download multipresets for both options). Both do true, through-zero flanging, which sounds like the vintage, tape-based flanging sound from the late 60s.

The basis of this is—surprise!—our old friend the Autofilter (see the Friday Tip for June 17, Studio One’s Secret Equalizer, for information on using its unusual filter responses for sound design). The more I use that sucker, the more uses I find for it. I’m hoping there’s a dishwashing module in there somewhere…meanwhile, for this tip we’ll use the Comb filter.

Positive Flanging

Figure 1: When set properly, the Autofilter’s comb filter can make a superb flanger.

Flanging depended on two signals playing against each other, with the time delay of one varying while the other stayed constant. Positive flanging was the result of the two signals being in phase. This gave a zinging, resonant type of flanging sound.

Fig. 1 shows the control settings for positive flanging. Turn Auto Gain off, Mix to 100%, and set both pairs of Env and LFO sliders to 0. Adding Drive gives a little saturation for more of a vintage tape sound (or follow the May 31 tip, In Praise of Saturation, for an alternate tape sound option). Resonance is to taste, but the setting shown above is a good place to start. The Gain control setting of 3 dB isn’t essential, but compensates for a volume loss when enabling/bypassing the FX Chain.

 

Varying the Cutoff controls the flanging effect. We won’t use the Autofilter’s LFO, because real tape flanging didn’t use an LFO—you controlled it by hand. Controlling the flanging process was always inexact due to tape recorder motor inertia, so a better strategy is to automate the Cutoff parameter, and create an automation curve that approximates the way flanging really varied (Fig. 2)—which was most definitely not a sine or triangle wave. A major advantage of creating an automation curve is that we can make sure that the flanging follows the music in the most fitting way.

Figure 2: The Cutoff frequency automation curve used for the audio examples.

Negative Flanging

Throwing one of the two signals used to create flanging out of phase gave negative flanging, which had a hollower, “sucking” kind of sound. Also, when the variable speed tape caught up with and matched the reference tape, the signal canceled briefly due to being out of phase. It’s a little more difficult to create negative flanging, but here’s how to do it.

  1. Set up flanging as shown in the previous example, and then Duplicate Track (Complete), including the Autofilter.
  2. Turn Resonance all the way down in both Autofilters (original and duplicated track). This is important to obtain the maximum negative flanging effect. Because of the cancellation due to the two audio paths being out of phase, there’s a level drop when flanging. You can compensate by turning up both Autofilters’ Gain controls to exactly 6.00 dB (they need to be identical). This gain increase isn’t strictly necessary, but helps maintain levels between the enabled and bypassed states of the Negative Flanging FX Chain.
  3. In the duplicated track’s Autofilter, turn off the Autofilter’s Automation Read, and turn Cutoff up all the way (Fig. 3).

 

 

Figure 3: Settings for the duplicated track’s Autofilter.

  1. Insert a Mixtool after the Autofilter in the duplicated track, and enable both Invert Left and Invert Right (Fig. 4). This throws the duplicated track out of phase.

 

 

Figure 4: Mixtool settings for the duplicated track.

  1. Temporarily bypass both Autofilters (in the original and duplicated tracks). Start playback, and you should hear nothing because the two tracks cancel. If you want to make sure, vary one of the track faders to see if you hear anything, then restore the fader to its previous position.
  2. Re-enable both Autofilters, and program your Cutoff automation for the original track (the duplicated track shouldn’t have automation). Note that if you mute the duplicate track, or bring down its fader, the sound will be positive flanging (although with less level than negative flanging, because you don’t have two tracks playing at once).

 

So is this the best flanger plug-in ever? Well if not, it’s pretty close…listen to the audio examples, and see what you think.

 

 

Both examples are adapted/excerpted from the song All Over Again (Every Day).

 

The Multipresets

If you like what you hear, download the multipresets. There are individual ones for Positive Flanging and Negative Flanging. To automate the Flange Freq knob, right-click on it and choose Edit Knob 1 Automation. This overlays an automation envelope on the track that you can edit as desired to control the flanging.

 

Download the Positive Flanging Multipresets Here! 

 

Download the Negative Flanging Multipresets Here! 

 

And here’s a fine point for the rocket scientists in the crowd. Although most flangers do flanging by delaying one signal compared to another, most delays can’t go all the way up to 0 ms of delay, which is crucial for through-zero flanging where the two signals cancel at the negative flanging’s peak. The usual workaround is to delay the dry signal somewhat, for example by 1 ms, so if the minimum delay time for the processed signal is 1 ms, the two will be identical and cancel. The advantage of using the comb filter approach is that there’s no need to add any delay to the dry signal, yet they can still cancel at the peak of the flanging.

Finally, I’d like to mention my latest eBook—More Than Compressors – The Complete Guide to Dynamics in Studio One. It’s the follow-up to the book How to Record and Mix Great Vocals in Studio One. The new book is 146 pages, covers all aspects of dynamics (not just the signal processors), and is available as a download for $9.99.

 

 

Studio One’s Percussion Part Generator

Shakers, tambourines, eggs, maracas, and the like can add life and interest to a song by complementing the drum track. But it’s not always easy to play this kind of part. It has to be consistent, but not busy; humble enough to stay in the background, but strong enough to add impact…and this sounds like a job for version 4.5’s new MIDI features.

We’ll go through the process of creating a cool, 16th-note-based percussion part, but bear in mind that this is just one approach. Although it works well, there are many ways you can modify this process (which we’ll touch on at the end).

First, Choose Your Sound

Ideally, you’ll have a couple different samples of the percussion instrument you want to use. But if you don’t, there’s a simple workaround. I use Impact for these kinds of parts, and if there’s only one sample of something like a shaker, I’ll drag it to two pads, and detune one of the pads by -1 semitone so they sound different. In the following example, we’ll call the original sample Sound 1, and detuned sample, Sound 2.

The Process

Let’s create a two-bar percussion loop to start. Grab the Draw tool, and set the Quantize value to 1/4. Drag across the two measures to create a hit at every quarter note for Sound 1 (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Having a constant series of 1/4-note hits anchors the rhythm so we can alter other hits.

Next, set the Quantize value to 1/16. Drag across the two measures to create a hit at every 16th note for Sound 2 (Fig. 2). Hit Play, so you can marvel at how totally unmusical it sounds.

Figure 2: We’ll be modifying the series of 16th notes to add interest.

Now let’s make the part sound good. The key here is not to alter the 1/4 note hits—we want them rock solid, so that the rhythm won’t get pulled too far astray when we start adding variations to the 16th notes.

Select only the 16th notes for Sound 2, and let’s use version 4.5’s new Thin Out Notes command. I’m a fan of Delete notes randomly, and we’ll delete 40% of the notes. Choose the 1/16 grid, since that matches the part. Click OK, and now the part isn’t quite so annoyingly constant (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: Dropping out the occasional random note adds interest.

But we still need to do something about the velocity, which is way too consistent—the real world doesn’t work that way. Select the string of 16th notes again, and this time, choose Humanize. Set a Velocity range and Note start range (like -40/40% and -.0015/0.0015 respectively), and then click OK (Fig. 4). Now look at the velocity strip: it’s a lot more interesting. The timing changes are also helpful, but they don’t have the “drunken percussion player” quality that you get a lot with randomized timings, because those rock-solid quarter note hits are still establishing the beat.

Figure 4: Humanizing velocity and start times for only the 16th notes adds variations that make the part more lively.

So now we have an interesting two-measure loop, but let’s not loop it—instead, we’ll create a part that lasts as long as we want, and it will still be interesting. Here’s how.

Duplicate the two measures for as long as you want. Select all the notes in the Sound B row, and choose Randomize notes. Uncheck everything except Shuffle Notes. Click on OK. All the notes will stay in the same position, and because there are no other candidate notes for shuffling, the timing won’t change. What will Shuffle is velocity. If you created a Shuffle Macro for the May 24 tip on End Boring MIDI Drum Parts, it will come in handy here—keep hitting that macro until the pattern is the way you want. After you de-select the notes, if you’ve chosen Velocity for note color, you’ll have a pretty colorful velocity strip (Fig. 5).

Figure 5: Shuffling velocity in a longer part adds more interesting dynamics.

Now you have a part that sounds pretty good, and once you become familiar with the process, you’ll find it takes less time to generate a part than it does to read this. Here are some options to this technique.

  • Instead of creating a short loop, duplicating it, and then shuffling velocity, you can start off with a much longer event using the same basic principle (a row of quarter notes and another of sixteenth notes). Then, when you drop out notes randomly, there will be more variations within the pattern compared to dropping out notes for a couple measures and duplicating them.
  • Another way to do something similar to dropping notes is with the Randomize function—set the lower end of the velocity range to 0. This can even be useful to thin out a part further after dropping random notes, for example, if there’s a lot going on with other instruments in a section.
  • Some percussion instruments have samples of multiple hits. This allows using the Shuffle function, as described in the May 24 tip, to mix up the pitches a bit.
  • A little processing can also be cool—like the Analog Delay, set for a dotted 8th-note delay, mixed in the background…or a little reverb.
  • Re-visit Humanizing, with more drastic velocity changes.

The bottom line: there are a lot of possibilities!

End Boring MIDI Drum Parts!

I like anything that kickstarts creativity and gets you out of a rut—which is what this tip is all about. And, there’s even a bonus tip about how to create a Macro to make this process as simple as invoking a key command.

Here’s the premise. You have a MIDI drum part. It’s fine, but you want to add interest with a fill in various measures. So you move hits around to create a fill, but then you realize you want fills in quite a few places…and maybe you tend to fall into doing the same kind of fills, so you want some fresh ideas.

Here’s the solution: Studio One 4.5’s new Randomize menu, which can introduce random variations in velocity, note length, and other parameters. But what’s of interest for this application is the way Shuffle can move notes around on the timeline, while retaining the same pitch. This is great for drum parts.

The following drum part has a really simple pattern in measure 4—let’s spice it up. The notes follow an 8th note rhythm; applying shuffle will retain the 8th note rhythm, but let’s suppose you want to shuffle the fills into 16th-note rhythms.

 

Here’s a cool trick for altering the rhythm. If you’re using Impact, mute a drum you’re not using, and enter a string of 16th notes for that drum (outlined in orange in the following image). Then select all the notes you want to shuffle.

Go to the Action menu, and under Process, choose Randomize Notes. Next, click the box for Shuffle notes (outlined in orange).

 

 

Click on OK, and the notes will be shuffled to create a new pattern. You won’t hear the “ghost” 16th notes triggering the silent drum, but they’ll affect the shuffle. Here’s the pattern after shuffling.

 

If you like what you hear from the randomization, great. But if not, adding a couple more hits manually might do what you need. However, you can also make the randomizing process really efficient by creating a Macro to Undo/Shuffle/hit Enter.

 

Create the Macro by clicking on Edit|Undo in the left column, and then choose Add. Next, add Musical Functions|Randomize. For the Argument, check Shuffle notes; I also like to randomize Velocity between 40% and 100%. The last step in the Macro is Navigation|Enter. Finally, assign the Macro to a keyboard shortcut. I assigned it to Ctrl+Alt+E (as in, End Boring Drum Parts).

With the Macro, if you don’t like the results of the shuffle, then just hit the keyboard shortcut to initiate another shuffle…listen, decide, repeat as needed. (Note that you need to do the first in a series of shuffles manually because the Macro starts with an Undo command.) It usually doesn’t take too many tries to come up with something cool, or that with minimum modifications will do what you want. Once you have a fill you like, you can erase the ghost notes.

If the fill isn’t “dense” enough, no problem. Just add some extra kick, snare, etc. hits, do the first Randomize process, and then keep hitting the Macro keyboard shortcut until you hear a fill you like. Sometimes, drum hits will end up on the same note—this can actually be useful, by adding unanticipated dynamics.

Perhaps this sounds too good to be true, but try it. It’s never been easier to generate a bunch of fills—and then keep the ones you like best.

 

Friday Tips: Testing, Testing!

Studio One has several analysis tools, and you can use them to learn a lot about how effects work. One of my favorite test setups is inserting the Tone Generator at the beginning of the Insert Device Rack to generate white noise (a test signal with equal energy throughout the audio spectrum), the Spectrum Meter at the end of the Rack, and the device under test in between them. Here’s the Tone Generator, set to generate white noise.

As one example of the benefits of testing gear, a lot of engineers like the gentle tone-shaping qualities of Pultec’s MEQ-5 midrange equalizer. So you need an MEQ-5 plug-in, or the hardware, to obtain that effect with Studio One…right? Maybe not.

One reason for the “sound” of Pultec equalizers is that they used passive circuitry, so the EQ curves were broad. But the Pro EQ can do gentle curves as well, simply by choosing a low Q setting. The screen shot shows Pro EQ settings for a “Pultec-like” curve, with a considerable amount of boost and cut.

But how much is it really like a Pultec? Let’s find out. Choose the same settings on the Pro EQ and on an MEQ-5, then run some white noise through both, using the Spectrum Meter’s FFT analysis.

 

The white, smoothed line shows the average frequency response (white noise is changing constantly because it’s random, so in this case we want a smoothed, average reading). The top graph is the Pro EQ, and the bottom graph is the MEQ-5. Sure, there may be some subtle sonic differences due to the use of different filter topologies. But if you’re looking for those gentle, tone-shaping curves, the Pro EQ does just fine.

You can also find out exactly what’s going on with some effects. For example, Studio One has a phase shifter effect, and you probably know that phase shifting produces notches in the audio. But how deep are the notches? And how far apart are they? Let’s take a look.

The Phaser is set to 8 stages, so there are 4 notches. For this measurement, we want to know the instantaneous value of the notches, so the average isn’t smoothed. With depth up full, the notches are around -35 dB or so.

While we’re at it, let’s check the frequency response of guitar cabinets, so we can find out why they sound so different from each other.

The upper image shows the response for a Mesa Boogie Mark IV cabinet. Note the prominent peak in the 3 kHz range, and the rolloff below 200 Hz—now you know why those solos can really cut through a mix. Compare that with the lower image of a 1965 Fender Princeton. It has a low end bump to give a full sound, a bit of a notch around 1.5 kHz, and has more high end above 5 kHz than the Mark IV.

As to why these readings matter, suppose you recorded a guitar part, and want it to have more of a Mesa Boogie vibe. Just tweak your EQ accordingly to approximate the curve.

Using white noise for testing can also show why SSL E-series and G-series EQ curves are different, the differences between standard and constant-Q parametric stages, what really happens when you move graphic EQ sliders around, and more. If you’re curious about scratching beneath the GUI of your effects, Studio One’s analysis tools can reveal quite a bit.

 

 

 

Friday Tips: The Air Machine

Boosting the highs a bit is a time-honored mixing and mastering technique. You don’t want to overdo it, but a little brightness can give a song a lift, increase vocal intelligibility, articulate instruments better, and add some welcome “ear candy.” If you look at the spectral energy of a lot of hit records going back decades, you’ll often find a few extra dB of boost in the 7 to 10 kHz range, to add some “air” and sweetness.

So just boost the EQ a little bit, right? Well, that’s one option…but we can do better. The Air Machine FX Chain (Fig. 1) is equally at home on individual tracks in the Song page (try it judiciously on drums, drum room mics, acoustic guitar, piano, vocals, etc.), or on finished mixes in the Project page. And yes, there’s a download at the end so you don’t even have to create this yourself.

Figure 1: The Air Machine modules.

Here’s how it works. By choosing the Splitter’s Frequency Split mode (outlined in orange), the Splitter acts as a crossover that sends the high frequencies through the right-hand split. The default crossover frequency is 7 kHz, but we’ll have more to say about this later.

The high frequencies then go through the Binaural Pan processor, which spreads out the stereo imaging. Because high frequencies are very directional, this not only increases the sense of “air,” but the feeling of space. Then, the Mixtool adds the appropriate amount of high-frequency boost.

As to assigning controls to the FX Chain, see Fig. 2.

 

Figure 2: Under the hood of the Air Machine FX Chain.

 

The Air Width parameter alters the Binaural Pan Width parameter over its full range. The Air Boost control sweeps from no boost (0 dB Gain on the Mixtool) up to a maximum of about 6 dB. You really don’t want to go any higher than that.

The one control I couldn’t put in the FX Chain was the Splitter’s crossover frequency, so you may want to open up the FX Chain to alter this. The higher the frequency, the more boost you can apply without the high frequencies becoming overbearing. Sometimes, though, you might want to bring the crossover frequency down to 5 kHz or so if you want a more pronounced effect…or even up to 10 kHz for just a light dusting of high frequencies.

Yes, it really is that simple. And yes, the effect is best when used subtly. But try it—I think there’s a chance this may end up becoming one of your favorite FX Chains.

Download the Air Machine FX Chain here.

 

 

Friday Tips: Attack that Autofilter!!

Studio One’s Autofilter has a sidechain, which is a good thing—because you can get some really tight, funky sounds by feeding a drum track’s send into the Autofilter’s sidechain. Then, use the Autofilter’s sidechain to modulate a track’s audio in time with the beat. Funky guitar, anyone?

But (there’s always a “but,” or there wouldn’t be a Friday Tip of the Week!), although this is a cool effect, a real wah pedal doesn’t start instantly in the toe-down position before sliding back to the heel-down position. Your foot moves the pedal forward, then back, and it takes a finite amount of time to do both.

The “decay-only” nature of autofilters in general is certainly useful with drums. After all, drums are a percussive instrument, and a percussive filter sweep is usually what you want. But the other day I was working on a song, and really wanted an attack/decay filter effect that was more like a real wah pedal—where the filter moved up to the peak, before moving back down again. Here’s the result.

 

On the Autofilter, ctrl+click on the LFO sliders to zero them out, so that the LFO isn’t adding its own signal (although of course, you can do that if you want—the 16 Step option is particularly useful if you do). The screen shot gives a good idea of a typical initial setting.

The dark blue track is the guitar, and the green track, the drum part. I often cut up tracks are that modulating other tracks, and Track 3—a copy of the main drum track—is no exception. This track’s pre-fader send goes to the Autofilter’s sidechain input. The track’s channel fader is down, so that the audio doesn’t go through the mixer. We’re using this track only to provide a signal to the Autofilter’s sidechain.

Track 2 is a reversed version of the drum part. It also has a pre-fader send that goes to the Autofilter sidechain (conveniently, you don’t need to bus signals together to send signals from multiple tracks into a Studio One effect’s sidechain). Like Track 3, the track’s channel fader is down, so that the audio doesn’t go through the mixer

The end result is that the reversed drums provide an attack time that sweeps the filter up, while the forward drums provide a decay that sweeps the filter down. So is the sound more animated than using only the forward drum part? Listen to the audio example, and decide for yourself. The first section uses the forward trigger only, while the second section adds in the attack trigger—the effect is particularly noticeable toward the end.

Friday Tips: How to Normalize Comped Takes

Comping’s goal is to piece together the best parts of multiple Takes (vocals, guitar, etc.) into a single, cohesive part. This involves Studio One’s loop recording, which repeats a section of music over and over during a looped section. You record another Take during each pass, while previous Takes are muted. Doing multiple takes without having to stop lets you get comfortable, and try different approaches. Once you have multiple versions, you audition and select the best sections.

However, when auditioning the Takes to decide which sections are best, it’s helpful to compare levels that are as similar as possible. Normalization is the right tool for this—but while it’s not yet possible to normalize individual Takes, there’s a simple solution.

  1. Right-click on the main, parent Track for the Takes and choose Unpack Layers to Tracks (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: The four Takes right immediately below the parent vocal have been unpacked into four Tracks (color-coded blue).

 

  1. Next, select all the audio in the new Tracks.
  2. Type Ctrl+B and then Alt+N. This normalizes all the Tracks.
  3. Right-click on each Take’s audio and choose Delete (do not delete the Take itself; see Fig. 2).

Figure 2: The Takes have been deleted. The four normalized tracks are below.

 

  1. Select the audio in the new Tracks.
  2. Drag the audio from the new Tracks up, so that they replace where the Takes were (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: The normalized Track audio now occupies the Take Lanes.

 

  1. The empty Tracks are no longer needed, so remove them.

 

  • And that’s all there is to it—now you can take advantage of Studio One’s Take-oriented comping tools, as well as the Listen tool (keyboard shortcut 8), with normalized audio.

Friday Tips: The Center Stage Reverb

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!

Friday Tips: The Dynamic Brightener for Guitar

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!