My mastering specialty is salvage jobs, which has become easier to do with Studio One. But this gig was something else.
Martha Davis’s last solo album (I Have My Standards, whose mastering challenges were covered in this blog post) has done really well. Since the pandemic has sidelined her from touring as Martha Davis and the Motels or going into the studio, she’s releasing a new song every month online. These involve excellent, but unreleased, material.
That’s THE good news. The bad news is that her latest song choice, “In the Meantime,” had the drum machine kick mixed so loud the song should have been credited as “Solo Kick Drum with Vocal Accompaniment.” With a vocalist like Martha (listen to any of her many hits from the 80s), that’s a crime. She was hoping I could fix it.
Don’t tune out, EDM/hip-hop fans. What about those TR-808 “toms” that are always mixed way too high? When I was given a Boy George song to remix, those toms were like sonic kryptonite before I figured out how to deal with them. And let’s not get into those clichéd 808 claps, okay? But we have a solution.
I tried everything to deal with the kick, including EQ, iZotope RX7 spectral reduction, mid-side processing using the Mixtool, and more. The mix was mostly mono, and the kick was full-frequency—from low-frequency boom to a nasty click that was louder than the lead vocal. Multiband dynamics didn’t work because the kick covered too wide a frequency range.
In desperation, I thought maybe I could find an isolated kick sound, throw it out of phase, and cancel the kick wherever it appeared in the song. Very fortunately, the song intro had a kick sound that could be isolated as an individual sample. So instead of going directly to Studio One’s mastering page, I went into the Song page, imported the stereo mix into one track, created a second track for only the kick, and dragged the copied kick to match up with every kick instance in the song (yes, this did take some time…). It wasn’t difficult to line up the copied kicks with sample- (or at least near-sample) accuracy (Fig. 1).
Figure 1: The top track is from the original song, while the lower track is an isolated kick. After lining the sounds up with respect to timing, flipping the kick track phase removed the kick sound from the mixed tracks.
The payoff was inserting Mixtool in the kicks-only track and flipping its phase 180 degrees. It canceled the kick! Wow—this physics stuff actually works.
But now there was no kick. So, I added the Waves LinEQ Broadband linear-phase equalizer (a non-linear-phase EQ can’t work in this context) in the kick drum track. This filtered out some of the kick drum’s lower frequencies so there was less cancellation while leaving the highs intact so they would still cancel as much as possible. Adjusting the shelving frequency and attenuation let in just enough of the original kick, without overwhelming the track. Even better, because the kick level was lower, I could bring up the low end to resurrect the bass part that had been overshadowed by the kick.
The mix traveled to the mastering page for a little more processing (Studio One’s Pro EQ and Binaural Pan, IK Multimedia’s Stealth maximizer, and Studio One’s metering). After hitting the desired readings of -13.0 LUFS with -0.2 True Peak readings, the mastering was done. Sure, I would much rather have had the individual tracks to do a remix, but it was what it was—a 28-year-old two-track mix.
To hear how this ended up, the audio example first plays an excerpt from the mastered version. Then there’s a brief pause, followed by the same section with the original file. I’m sure you’ll hear the difference in the kick drum.
Listen to an audio example from In the Meantime here:
Full disclosure: I’m not a big fan of chorusing. In general, I think it’s best relegated to wherever snares with gated reverbs, orchestral hits, DX7 bass presets, Fairlight pan pipes, and other 80s artifacts go to reminisce about the good old days.
But sometimes it’s great to be wrong, and multiband chorusing has changed my mind. This FX Chain (which works in Studio One Version 4 as well as Version 5) takes advantage of the Splitter, three Chorus plug-ins, Binaural panning, and a bit of limiting to produce a chorus effect that covers the range from subtle and shimmering, to rich and creamy.
There’s a downloadable .multipreset file, so feel free to download it, click on this window’s close button, bring the FX Chain into Studio One, and start playing. (Just remember to set the channel mode for guitar tracks to stereo, even with a mono guitar track.) However, it’s best to read the following on what the controls do, so you can take full advantage of the Multiband Chorus’s talents.
The Splitter creates three splits based on frequency, which in this case, are optimized for guitar with humbucking pickups. These frequencies work fine with other instruments, but tweak as needed. The first band covers up to 700 Hz, the second from 700 Hz to 1.36 kHz, and the third band, from 1.36 kHz on up (Fig. 1).
Figure 1. FX Chain block diagram and Macro Controls panel for the Multiband Chorus.
Each split goes to a Chorus. The mixed output from the three splits goes to a Binaural Pan to enhance the stereo imaging, and a Limiter to make the signal “pop” a little more.
Regarding the control panel, the Delay, Depth, LFO Width, and 1/2 Voices controls affect all three Choruses. Each Chorus also has its own on/off switch (C1, C2, and C3), Chorus/Double button (turning on the button enables the Double mode), and LFO Speed control. You’ll also find on/off buttons for the Binaural Pan and Limiter, as well as a Width control for the Binaural Pan. Fig. 2 shows the initial Chorus settings when you call up the FX Chain.
Figure 2. Initial FX Chain Chorus settings.
Because chorusing occurs in different frequency bands, the sound is more even and has a lusher sound than conventional chorusing. Furthermore, setting asynchronous LFO Speeds for the three bands can give a more randomized effect (at least until there’s an option for smoothed, randomized waveform shapes in Studio One).
A major multiband advantage comes into play when you set one of the bands to Doubler mode instead of Chorus. You may need to readjust the Delay and Width controls, but using Doubler mode in the mid- or high-frequency band, and chorusing for the other bands, gives a unique sound you won’t find anywhere else. Give it a try, and you’ll hear why it’s worth resurrecting the chorus effect—but with a multiband twist.
Ampire is a guitar rig simulator that leverages State Space Modeling for uncannily realistic re-creations of classic (expensive and heavy) guitar amplifiers, cabinets, and pedals. State Space Modeling is the surgical measuring and digital re-creation of analog hardware on a per-component level. Each capacitor, every resistor, all the diodes, and every circuitry element of the complete hardware schematics have their behavior measured, modeled, and re-created… including even component-specific non-linearities.
All Fat Channel Plug-ins are state-modeled to accurately produce the sound and response of the original hardware processors. The following plug-ins are included in this bundle:
This EQ offers the world’s most popular EQ curve. Using gently sweeping treble and bass EQ shelves, it allows you to make subtle, yet effective, changes over wide swaths of the frequency spectrum.
Comp 160 Compressor
With simple controls, yet capable of extreme compression traits, the Comp 160 provides VCA character with a personality all its own. Try it on drums—you’ll be glad you did!
Everest C100A Compressor
Based on a classic design focused on gentle, natural-sounding gain reduction, the Everest C100A helps control dynamics while still letting the signal breathe.
The smooth character of this compressor allows you to create transparent or extreme color changes to your audio, making it a workhorse for just about any application.
Vintage 3-band EQ
With its distinct filter shaping, sheen, and bite, this three-band active EQ includes both high and low shelving filters, providing enhanced tone-shaping possibilities.
The Tube CB Compressor
In general, the response time of optical compressors tends to soften the attack and release, which can smooth out uneven volume fluctuations. Emulating an all-tube, optical design, the Tube CB compressor delivers musicality, preserving the clarity of the signal even at the most extreme settings.
The Tube EQ
The Tube EQ is based on a passive, all-tube design for ultra-smooth and musical equalization, making it ideal for any midrange source material.
This model of an iconic compressor/limiter of the 1950s imparts an unmistakable silky warmth on just about any signal.
Capturing the unique sound of a twin VCA gain-reduction amplifier design, the Brit Comp is ideal for taming piano dynamics or adding punch to drums and percussion.
The 1960s-vintage EQ provides consistent, repeatable equalization using three overlapping bands, divided into seven fixed frequency points, each with five steps of boost or cut. Its selectable peaking or shelving filters for the high and low band, along with an independently insertable bandpass filter, provide an easy path to creating acoustically superior equalization.
Solar 69 EQ
The sound of classic British EQ is absolutely legendary and has enhanced many a great recording. Emulating this classic British design, the Solar 69 EQ adds definition to kick drums, shapes electric guitars, and adds shimmer to acoustic guitars and vocals without sacrificing body.
Studio One’s Overlap Correction feature for Note data isn’t new, but it can save you hours of boring work. The basic principle is that if Note data overlaps so that the end of one note extends long enough to overlap the beginning of the next note, selecting them both, and then applying overlap correction, moves the overlapping note’s end earlier so that it no longer overlaps with the next note.
My main use is with keyboard bass. Although I play electric bass, I often prefer keyboard bass because of the sonic consistency, and being able to choose from various sampled basses as well as synth bass sounds. However, it’s important to avoid overlapping notes with keyboard bass for two main reasons:
One option for fixing this is to zoom in on a bass part’s note data, check every note to make sure there aren’t overlaps, and shorten notes as needed. However, Overlap Correction is much easier. Simply:
Normally I’m reluctant to Select All and do an editing function, but any notes that don’t overlap are left alone, and I haven’t yet run into any problems with single-note lines. Fig. 1 shows a before-and-after of the note data.
Figure 1: The notes circled in white have overlaps; the lower copy of the notes fixes the overlaps with the Length menu’s Overlap Correction feature.
Problem solved! The reason for setting overlap to -00.00.01 instead of 00.00.00 is because with older hardware synthesizers or congested data streams, that very slight pause ensures a note-off before the next note-on appears. This prevents the previous note from “hanging” (i.e., never turning off). You can specify a larger number for a longer pause—or live dangerously, and specify no pause by entering 0.
Also, although I referenced using this with keyboard bass, it’s useful for any single-note lines such as brass, woodwind, single-note MIDI guitar solos, etc. It can also help with hardware instruments, including electronic drums, that have a limited number of voices. By removing overlaps, it’s less likely that the instrument will run out polyphony.
There’s some intelligence built into the overlap correction function. If a note extends past another note, there won’t be any correction. It also seems to be able to recognize pedal points (Fig. 2).
Figure 2: Overlap Correction is careful about applying correction with polyphonic lines.
Selecting all notes in the top group of notes and selecting Overlap Correction didn’t make any changes. As shown in the bottom group of notes, preventing the pedal point from overlapping the final chord requires selecting the pedal point, and any of the notes in the last chord with which the pedal point overlaps.
It’s easy to overlook this gem of a feature, but it can really help with instrumental parts—particularly with keyboard bass and solo brass parts.
You send a drum or percussion track to three buses, each with an EQ covering a different frequency range—e.g., kick, snare, and cymbals. These provide three control signals…and here’s what we do with them.
A guitar track feeds an FX Chain with Ampire, which goes into a Splitter that splits by frequency. There’s a gate in each split, and they’re driven by the control signals. So when the kick hits, the guitar’s low frequencies come through. When snare and upper toms hit, the mids come through and when there are high-frequency sounds like percussion, they trigger the highs. You can think of the effect as similar to a mini-vocoder.
The audio example has some Brazilian rhythms triggering the gates, and you can hear the kind of animation this technique adds to the guitar part. The first four measures have the drums mixed with the processed guitar, while the second four measures are processed guitar only.
Fig. 1: The track layout for multiband gating.
The Drums track has three pre-fader sends, which go to the Lo, Mid, and Hi frequency buses. Each bus has a Pro EQ to emphasize the desired low, mid, and high frequencies. Then, each bus has a send that goes to its associated Gate sidechain in the Guitar track (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2: Splitter and Gate setup for multiband gating.
The guitar goes to Ampire, which splits into three frequencies bands thanks ot the Splitter’s Frequency Split magical powers. Each split goes to a Gate, and the sends from the Lo, Mid, and Hi buses feed their respective gate sidechains.
Inserting a Dual Pan after the Mid and Hi gates can enhance the sound further, by spreading these frequencies a bit to the left or right to give more of a stereo spread. You’ll probably want to keep the low frequencies centered.
You don’t have to get too precise about tuning the EQs in the buses, or setting the Splitter frequencies. I set up the Splitter frequencies by playing guitar through the Splitter, and adjusting the bands so that the guitar’s various frequency ranges seemed balanced. As for the Pro EQs in the buses, I just tuned those to the drum sounds until the guitar rhythm was rockin’ along.
This takes a little effort to set up, but multiband gating can add a unique rhythmic kick to your music. Interestingly, you may also find that you don’t need as much instrumentation when one of them is blurring the line between melody and rhythm.
You’re forgiven if you scoot down to something more interesting in this blog, but here’s the deal. I always archive finished projects, because remixing older projects can sometimes give them a second life—for example, I’ve stripped vocals from some songs, and remixed the instrument tracks for video backgrounds. Some have been remixed for other purposes. Some really ancient songs have been remixed because I know more than I did when I mixed them originally.
You can archive to hard drives, SSDs, the cloud…your choice. I prefer Blu-Ray optical media, because it’s more robust than conventional DVDs, has a rated minimum shelf life that will outlive me (at which point my kid can use the discs as coasters), and can be stored in a bank’s safe deposit box.
Superficially, archiving may seem to be the same process as collaboration, because you’re exporting tracks. However, collaboration often occurs during the recording process, and may involve exporting stems—a single track that contains a submix of drums, background vocals, or whatever. Archiving occurs after a song is complete, finished, and mixed. This matters for dealing with details like Event FX and instruments with multiple outputs. By the time I’m doing a final mix, Event FX (and Melodyne pitch correction, which is treated like an Event FX) have been rendered into a file, because I want those edits to be permanent. When collaborating, you might want to not render these edits, in case your collaborator has different ideas of how a track should sound.
With multiple-output instruments, while recording I’m fine with having all the outputs appear over a single channel—but for the final mix, I want each output to be on its own channel for individual processing. Similarly, I want tracks in a Folder track to be exposed and archived individually, not submixed.
So, it’s important to consider why you want to archive, and what you will need in the future. My biggest problem when trying to open really old songs is that some plug-ins may no longer be functional, due to OS incompatibilities, not being installed, being replaced with an update that doesn’t load automatically in place of an older version, different preset formats, etc. Another problem may be some glitch or issue in the audio itself, at which point I need a raw, unprocessed file for fixing the issue before re-applying the processing.
Because I can’t predict exactly what I’ll need years into the future, I have three different archives.
In this week’s tip, we’ll look at exporting raw WAV files. We’ll cover exporting files with processing (effects and automation), and exporting virtual instruments as audio, in next week’s tip.
Studio One’s audio files use the Broadcast Wave Format. This format time-stamps a file with its location on the timeline. When using any of the options we’ll describe, raw (unprocessed) audio files are saved with the following characteristics:
Important: When you drag Broadcast WAV Files back into an empty Song, they won’t be aligned to their time stamp. You need to select them all, and choose Edit > Move to Origin.
The easiest way to save files is by dragging them into a Browser folder. When the files hover over the Browser folder (Fig. 1), select one of three options—Wave File, Wave File with rendered Insert FX, or Audioloop—by cycling through the three options with the QWERTY keyboard’s Shift key. We’ll be archiving raw WAV files, so choose Wave File for the options we’re covering.
Figure 1: The three file options available when dragging to a folder in the Browser are Wave File, Wave File with rendered Insert FX, or Audioloop.
As an example, Fig. 2 shows the basic Song we’ll be archiving. Note that there are multiple Events, and they’re non-contiguous—they’ve been split, muted, etc.
Figure 2: This shows the Events in the Song being archived, for comparison with how they look when saving, or reloading into an empty Song.
Select all the audio Events in your Song, and then drag them into the Browser’s Raw Tracks folder you created (or whatever you named it). The files take up minimal storage space, because nothing is saved that isn’t data in a Song. However, I don’t recommend this option, because when you drag the stored Events back into a Song, each Event ends up on its own track (Fig. 3). So if a Song has 60 different Events, you’ll have 60 tracks. It takes time to consolidate all the original track Events into their original tracks, and then delete the empty tracks that result from moving so many Events into individual tracks.
Figure 3: These files have all been moved to their origin, so they line up properly on the timeline. However, exporting all audio Events as WAV files makes it time-consuming to reconstruct a Song, especially if the tracks were named ambiguously.
Figure 4: Before archiving, the Events in individual tracks have now been joined into a single track Event by selecting the track’s Events, and typing Ctrl+B.
After dragging the files back into an empty Song, select all the files, and then after choosing Edit > Move to Origin, all the files will line up according to their time stamps, and look like they did in Fig. 4. Compare this to Fig. 3, where the individual, non-bounced Events were exported.
When collaborating with someone whose program can’t read Broadcast WAV Files, all imported audio files need to start at the beginning of the Song so that after importing, they’re synched on the timeline. For collaborations it’s more likely you’ll export Stems, as we’ll cover in Part 2, but sometimes the following file type is handy to have around.
Figure 5: All tracks now consist of a single Event, which starts at the Song’s beginning.
When you bring them back into an empty Song, they look like Fig. 5. Extending all audio tracks to the beginning and end is why they take up more memory than the previous options. Note that you will probably need to include the tempo when exchanging files with someone using a different program.
To give a rough idea of the memory differences among the three options, here are the results based on a typical song.
Option 1: 302 MB
Option 2: 407 MB
Option 3: 656 MB
You’re not asleep yet? Cool!! In Part 2, we’ll take this further, and conclude the archiving process.
I’m not one of those people who wants to do heavy compression all the time, but I do feel bass is an exception. Mics, speakers, and rooms tend to have response anomalies in the bass range; even if you’re using bass recorded direct, compression can help even out the response for a smoother, rounder sound.
Although stereo compressors are the usual go-to for bass, I often prefer a multiband dynamics processor because it can serve simultaneously as a compressor and EQ. Typically, I’ll apply a lot of compression to the lowest band (crossover below 200 Hz or so), light compression to the low-mid bands (as well as reduce their levels in the overall mix), and medium compression to the high-mid band (from about 1.2 kHz to 6 kHz). I often turn down the level for the band above 5-6 kHz or so (there’s not a lot happening up there with bass anyway), but sometimes I’ll set a ratio below 1.0 so that the highest band turns into an expander. If there’s any hiss in the very highest band, this will help reduce it. Another advantage of using Multiband Dynamics is that you can tweak the high and low band gain parameters so that the bass fits well with the rest of the tracks.
The preset in the following screenshot gives a sound like “Tuned Thunder,” thanks to heavy compression in the lowest band. To choose a loop that’s good for demoing this sound, choose Rock > Bass > Clean, and then select 08 02 P Ransack D riff.audioloop. Insert the Multiband Dynamics processor, and start with the default preset.
As with most dynamic processing presets, the effect is highly dependent on the input level. For this preset, normalize the bass loop. Then change the L band to 125 Hz, with a ratio of 15:1, and a Low Threshold of -30 dB. Mute the LM band.
With the Multiband Dynamics processor bypassed, observe the peak value for the bass track. Now enable Multiband Dynamics, and adjust the Low band’s Gain until the peak value matches the peak value with the Multiband Dynamics bypassed-—you’ll hear a big, fat, round sound that sort of tunnels through a mix.
Now let’s go to the other extreme. A significant treble boost can help a bass hold its own against other tracks, because the ear/brain combination will fill in the lower frequencies. The next screen shot shows settings for extreme articulation so the bass really “pops,” and cuts through a track. Again, start with the default preset but set the Low band frequency to 110 Hz or so.
The only band that’s compressed is the Mid band (320 – 1.2 kHz, with parameter settings shown in the screen shot). A bit of gain for the High Mid band emphasizes pick noise and harmonics—5 dB or so seems about right—and to compensate for the extra highs, add some gain to the low band below 110 Hz. Again, about 4-5 dB seems to work well.
When adjusting the Multiband Dynamics processor, note that you can zero in on the exact effect you want for each band by using the Solo and Mute buttons on individual stages. So next time you want to both compress and equalize bass, consider using Multiband Dynamics instead—and get the best of both worlds.