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Singer, Beat-Maker, Producer EMMAVIE Talks Studio One!

Emmavie can be summed up in one word… COOL!

She’s also talented, brave, stylish, expressive, funny, creative, gifted, innovative, hip, original…  OK, we’ll stop now. She’s a singer, songwriter, producer, and DJ from London. Specializing in what she describes as “limitless, soulful, future R&B,” her music is an amalgamation of 90s RnB influences and her love for digital audio experimentation. Emmavie has credits with a number of artists both in the UK and internationally, including collaborations with IAMNOBODI, Budgie, ROMderful, Jarreau Vandal, Dornik, Alfa Mist, Barney Artist and Jay Prince.

We connected with her on Instagram after we noticed her love for Studio One, and she quickly became an office favorite. Read more about Emmavie, her music and career and love for Studio One here.

Give us some background on yourself. How long have you been making music?

I’ve been making beats since I was 11 years old, but I started playing around with sounds a little younger. I remember, I started teaching myself how to play basic melodies and chords on a Casio keyboard my dad bought me from Argos in primary school. I used this to play with the built-in drum sounds too, and when I moved to secondary school, I needed a way of recording this. I started teaching myself how to make beats after school. There were no YouTube tutorials back then, so it was a calamitous process. I think that would explain why my sound is so experimental now.

How has the music industry changed since your early days?

When I first decided I was confident enough to share my music, MySpace was the number one social media platform for independent artists to be seen… and even then, the only way to professionally release and sell your music was to be distributed through a record label. These days, you can top the charts with a song you’ve made in your bedroom/home studio! The days of needing a label to gain traction are dwindling. In fact, the perception of releasing independently without industry backing but gaining a lot of traction and virality is possibly an even more attractive narrative, nowadays. When I started making music, being signed and moving to a million-dollar studio was at the top of my list of goals. Now, I can make music anywhere. I make beats on the plane and outside in the park. My new focus is the groundwork: studying, practicing, becoming the best at what you do and building your own core following. Without these, a label will rarely sniff in your direction.

Describe the first time you wrote a song? Produced it?

 I wrote my first song at eight years old with my younger brother using a karaoke machine. I can’t remember how that went but we used to practice and perform it for our parents, haha! I was a quiet kid, and I discovered writing lyrics was a good guise to get my thoughts out. My dad played so much old-skool R&B and Neo soul where everyone sang about being in love, and I guess a part of me wanted to feel like that too so I started writing about love but at 11, what did I know about it? The earliest song I can remember producing was called “Are you okay?” and it was a song asking my imaginary love interest to tell me what’s up when things aren’t smooth between us. Clearly, I was listening to music beyond my years. It was an intense eight-bar R&B loop with The Neptunes-style drums and ridiculously loud synths. I recorded the vocals on a £10 Logitech microphone from Argos!

Who has been an influence in your life? 

The most influence I’ve had in my life has been from my friendships and adverse life experiences. I’ve had the same best friends for 18 years and it shocks me how much we’ve grown with each other. We both spend so much time working out all the issues of the world and working through all of thoughts together, we’re each other’s therapists. After all this intense self-analysis and critical thought, you end up in a place of understanding. And when you know something you can confidently talk, write and convert it into art; and that’s what’s kept me writing hundreds of songs over the years.

Musically, it’s been artists like Missy Elliott, Pharrell, Timbaland, Jon B, and Musiq Soulchild. I became obsessed with electronic music listening to Dorian Concept, Hudson Mohawk and Monte Booker on Soundcloud and because I couldn’t play an instrument, I learned how to manipulate samples like they do in order to get the desired effect.

Have you ever wanted to give up on music? What keeps you going? 

I’ve wanted to give up on music many times! At times, it’s difficult to stay motivated when you’re working away, making and sharing music and your bills are piling up. It’s difficult not to compare yourself to others because you need examples of success in order to set goals for yourself, but the comparison is the thief of joy. In my career, I’ve had a lot of people make me huge promises and then let me down but later on, I learned that the direction and trajectory of my life and career is no one else’s responsibility but mine. Confidence and self-belief is what keeps me going. When you have confidence, it allows you to act and send out messages of intent to others which causes them to believe and invest in you. The confidence comes from practicing and knowing that now I can make a song without difficulty.

What do you like about PreSonus? What caught your eye? 

It just works for my brain. I need to be able to work fast when inspiration hits. I have used every DAW, and so many things about the layout of other programs just didn’t lend itself well to my brain. All of the functions are so easily accessible and placed where it just makes sense. It feels like I can do everything I need to ever do by just right clicking.

When did you first hear about Studio One?

Approximately three years ago, I was introduced to Studio one by a studio engineer who was mixing and mastering a single of mine. I watched him using it and he was adamant I should try it and then a few months after that, whilst I was running a music production demonstration, two producers approached me at the end and told me that they thought I would love it. This piqued my interest.

Any tips or tricks or interesting stories based on your experience with Studio One?

One of my tricks is I automate the tempo to do a slight increase or decrease when my beat is about to do a flip. It’s so subtle and might only change by as little as 3bpm but it makes such a difference to the feel. I might make the climb/descent happen in a space of three seconds, so it’s quick… but it’s felt.

An obvious piece of advice but somebody needs to hear this because so many of us experience the devastation of losing all of our music at least once in our careers. DOUBLE BACK UP ALL OF YOUR PROJECT FILES! Make sure not just your .MP3s and .WAVs exist in three places but your entire project file. On your computer, on an external hard drive and online e.g DropBox, Google Drive.

How easy/difficult was Studio One to learn? 

In my experience, Studio One is the easiest DAW to learn. It’s been the easiest to teach on, too.

Where do you go for support?

YouTube tutorials, mostly. And luckily, I have access to producers who’s work I admire that also use Studio One so I go to them for tips.

Where do you go for inspiration? 

I go outside. Eventually, the intense pull to create will draw me back inside. I listen to and study old music – Cuban Jazz and 90s R&B are my go-tos right now.

Recent projects? What’s next for you?

I just recently released my debut album, Honeymoon. 13 songs all written, produced and recorded by me in my home studio. It’s had national and international radio play, including being played on the countries top radio station, BBC Radio 1. Next, I will be working with Native Instruments and Nike to present “School of Bop,” a workshop for young artists to learn more about music production and writing and during these demonstrations, I always use Studio One.

 

FOLLOW, LISTEN!

Join the Studio One family at a very special promo price today! 

 

PULL N WAY and the 24 hour Studio One Challenge!

Take a second and consider all the things you accomplish in 24 hours…

We’ll wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now. Think about re-writing, producing, mixing, and mastering a song in that amount of time and putting it out for the public. Sound reasonable? Oh, and be sure to book a photographer to shoot the cover art for the single.

Did we just give you an anxiety attack? Sorry.

That’s the exact challenge that was presented to PULL N WAY, a female pop duo from Central Switzerland. Fortunately, Studio One was there to help tackle the assignment.

LATTESSO is a “cold coffee to go” brand in Switzerland. They connected with PULL N WAY for the launch of their latest vegan products. LATTESSO based the 24-hour challenge on the idea to have PULL N WAY re-write one of their existing songs—which would include tracking new vocals and creating new cover art, including photography. Watch the whole challenge here:

 

We had the opportunity to chat with PULL N WAY and their producer, Andy Prinz about the challenge.

During the challenge, did you want to give up? What kept you going? 

Well to be honest, the hours between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. were the hardest. We just came back to the studio after our photoshoot in Zurich. We almost fell asleep but our passion kept us motivated to continue the challenge! We managed it to finish the song and we sang tons of other songs to stay awake.

What do you like about PreSonus? What caught your eye? 

All the gear is fantastic and affordable. We use Studio One to track all our vocal recordings, edit/comp the vocal tracks, and create basic ideas in pre-production. For monitoring, we have two Sceptre S8s and a Tremblor, and for the recording a Studio 192 USB interface with two priceless headphone outputs and latency-free monitoring. Studio One is a fantastic piece of software, for both composing and producing—and it’s super fast with all the drag & drop functionality. Plus, we love the graphical interface!

When did you first hear about Studio One?

Andy, one of our producers, is a long-time Studio One user… I think from version 1.6 on! So all our first recordings from four years ago had been done in Studio One, and with further PreSonus gear already, so it’s basically the DAW we’re introduced to from the very beginning.

What features are you most impressed with your gear? 

The drag & drop functionality, vocal comping, Melodyne & VocALign integration via ARA, new gain functions and the GUI. We totally fell in love with the ATOM controller, which we’re starting to use as a live tool to trigger samples or vocal/drum loops from our existing songs.

How easy/difficult was Studio One to learn during the 24-hour challenge?

It was super easy to record and edit all vocals in this short time, and we made it all on our own. For the final product, we had help from Andy.

Where did you go for support?

We had a basic introduction by our producer, and just learned by doing in Studio One Artist—and we used some YouTube tutorials as well.

Where did you go for inspiration? 

We worked with a really cool film crew, they are as old as we are so we had a great time together which made it easy to think about the new lyrics which represent those happy and positive vibes. So we didn‘t really need to go to a certain place to get inspired.

Any other thoughts on Studio One or PreSonus gear?

The gear is affordable and offers a huge variety of functions for semi pro’s and professionals alike! We also like that we don’t have to carry a dongle for Studio One! PreSonus is part of our musical journey for a long time and we’ll continue using it for all current and future recordings. At the moment we’re writing and producing new songs for various collaborations and new Pull N Way songs.. so stay tuned. Equipment: We just found out on Instagram that PreSonus has released some microphones! We’ll definitely try these out!

Recent projects? What’s next for you?

We have released our debut album “Colours” this year but–after several live gigs during Summer–we’ve already started working on new material for our upcoming releases, ranging from Pop to Electronic. We’ll also try to make at least 1-2 cloud trap songs… therefore we’re actually looking for a suitable French rapper. Besides that, we have loads of featuring requests, mainly from the EDM scene/DJs and we’re currently evaluating what’s best for us and what’s the best fit!

 

Follow PULL N WAY on Instagram here! 

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 Tip – Create “Virtual Mics” with EQ

I sometimes record acoustic rhythm guitars with one mic for two main reasons: no issues with phase cancellations among multiple mics, and faster setup time. Besides, rhythm guitar parts often sit in the background, so some ambiance with electronic delay and reverb can give a somewhat bigger sound. However, on an album project with the late classical guitarist Linda Cohen, the solo guitar needed to be upfront, and the lack of a stereo image due to using a single mic was problematic.

Rather than experiment with multiple mics and deal with phase issues, I decided to go for the most accurate sound possible from one high-quality, condenser mic. This was successful, in the sense that moving from the control room to the studio sounded virtually identical; but the sound lacked realism. Thinking about what you hear when sitting close to a classical guitar provided clues on how to obtain the desired sound.

If you’re facing a guitarist, your right ear picks up on some of the finger squeaks and string noise from the guitarist’s fretting hand. Meanwhile, your left ear picks up some of the body’s “bass boom.” Although not as directional as the high-frequency finger noise, it still shifts the lower part of the frequency spectrum somewhat to the left. Meanwhile, the main guitar sound fills the room, providing the acoustic equivalent of a center channel.

Sending the guitar track into two additional buses solved the imaging problem by giving one bus a drastic treble cut and panning it somewhat left. The other bus had a drastic bass cut and was panned toward the right (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: The main track (toward the left) splits into three pre-fader buses, each with its own EQ.

One send goes to bus 1. The EQ is set to around 400 Hz (but also try lower frequencies), with a 24 dB/octave slope to focus on the guitar body’s “boom.” Another send goes to bus 2, which emphasizes finger noises and high frequencies. Its EQ has a highpass filter response with a 24dB/octave slope and frequency around 1 kHz. Pan bus 1 toward the left and bus 2 toward the right, because if you’re facing a guitarist the body boom will be toward the listener’s left, and the finger and neck noises will be toward the listener’s right.

The send to bus 3 goes to the main guitar sound bus. Offset its highpass and lowpass filters a little more than an octave from the other two buses, e.g., 160 Hz for the highpass and 2.4 kHz for the lowpass (Fig. 2). This isn’t “technically correct,” but I felt it gave the best sound.

 

Figure 2: The top curve trims the response of the main guitar sound, the middle curve isolates the high frequencies, and the lower curve isolates the low frequencies. EQ controls that aren’t relevant are grayed out.

Monitor the first two buses, and set a good balance of the low and high frequencies. Then bring up the third send’s level, with its pan centered. The result should be a big guitar sound with a stereo image, but we’re not done quite yet.

The balance of the three tracks is crucial to obtaining the most realistic sound, as are the EQ frequencies. Experiment with the EQ settings, and consider reducing the frequency range of the bus with the main guitar sound. If the image is too wide, pan the low and high-frequency buses more to center. It helps to monitor the output in mono as well as stereo for a reality check.

Once you nail the right settings, you may be taken aback to hear the sound of a stereo acoustic guitar with no phase issues. The sound is stronger, more consistent, and the stereo image is rock-solid.

Video Using VocALign in Studio One Pro!

 

In this video, producer Paul Drew shows how VocALign seamlessly works inside Presonus Studio One Professional and almost instantly aligns the timing of multiple vocal tracks to a lead using ARA2, potentially saving hours of painstaking editing time.

ARA (Audio Random Access) is a pioneering extension for audio plug-in interfaces. Co-developed by Celemony and PreSonus, ARA technology enhances the communication between plug-in and DAW, and gives the plug-in and host instant access to the audio data. This video shows Studio One but the workflow is very similar in Cubase Pro & Nuendo, Cakewalk by Bandlab and Reaper.

Purchase VocALign today right out of the PreSonus Shop!

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!

Friday Tips: Synth + Sample Layering

One of my favorite techniques for larger-than-life sounds is layering a synthesizer waveform behind a sampled sound. For example, layering a sine wave along with piano or acoustic guitar, then mixing the sine wave subtly in the background, reinforces the fundamental. With either instrument, this can give a powerful low end. Layering a triangle wave with harp imparts more presence to sampled harps, and layering a triangle wave an octave lower with a female choir sounds like you’ve added a bunch of guys singing along.

Another favorite, which we’ll cover in detail with this week’s tip, is layering a sawtooth or pulse wave with strings. I like those syrupy, synthesized string sounds that were so popular back in the 70s, although I don’t like the lack of realism. On the other hand, sampled strings are realistic, but aren’t lush enough for my tastes. Combine the two, though, and you get lush realism. Here’s how.

  1. Create an instrument track with Presence, and call up the Violin Full preset.
  2. Drag Mai Tai into the same track. You’ll be asked if you want to Replace, Keep, or Combine. Choose Combine.

  1. After choosing Combine, both instruments will be layered within the Instrument Editor (see above).
  2. Program Mai Tai for a very basic sound, because it’s there solely to provide reinforcement—a slight detuning of the oscillators, no filter modulation, very basic LFO settings to add a little vibrato and prevent too static a waveform, amplitude envelope and velocity that tracks the Presence sound as closely as possible, some reverb to create a more “concert hall” sound, etc. The screen shot shows the parameters used for this example. The only semi-fancy programming tricks were making one of the oscillators a pulse wave instead of a sawtooth, and panning the two oscillators very slightly off-center.

 

  1. Adjust the Mai Tai’s volume for the right mix—enough to supplement Presence, but not overwhelm it.

 

That’s all there is to it. Listen to the audio example—first you’ll hear only the Presence sound, then the two layers for a lusher, more synthetic vibe that also incorporates some of the realism of sampling. Happy orchestrating!

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Friday Tips—Blues Harmonica FX Chain

If you’ve heard blues harmonica greats like Junior Wells, James Cotton, Jimmy Reed, and Paul Butterfield, you know there’s nothing quite like that big, brash sound. They all manage to transform the harmonica’s reedy timbre into something that seems more like a member of the horn family.

To find out more about the techniques of blues harmonica, check out the article Rediscovering Blues Harmonica. It covers why you don’t play blues harp in its default key (e.g., you typically use a harmonica in the key of A for songs in E), how to mic a harmonica, and more. However, the secret to that big sound is playing through the distortion provided by an amp, or in our software-based world, an amp sim. I don’t really find the Ampire amps suitable for this application, but we can put together an FX Chain that does the job.

Check out the demo to hear the desired goal. The first 12 bars are unprocessed harmonica (other than limiting). The second 12 bars use the FX Chain described in this week’s tip, and which you can download for your own use.


The chain starts with a Limiter to provide a more sustained, consistent sound.

 

Next up: A Pro EQ to take out all the lows and highs, which tightens up the sound and reduces intermodulation distortion. (When using an amp sim, blues harmonica is also a good candidate for multiband processing, as described in the February 1 Friday Tip.)

 

Now it’s time for the Redlight Dist to provide the distortion. For the cabinet, this FX Chain uses the Ampire solely for its 4 x 10 American cabinet—no amp or stomps.

 

After the distortion/cabinet combo, a little midrange “honk” makes the harmonica stand out more in the mix.

 

For a final touch, blues harp often plays through an amp with reverb—so a good spring reverb effect adds a vintage vibe.

You can download the Blues Harp.multipreset and use it as it, but I encourage playing around with it—try different types of distortion and amps, mess with the EQ a bit, and so on. For an example of a finished song with amp sim blues harmonica in context, check out I’ll Take You Higher on YouTube.

 

Click here to download the multipreset!

 

 

Friday Tip: MIDI Guitar Setup with Studio One

I was never a big fan of MIDI guitar, but that changed when I discovered two guitar-like controllers—the YRG1000 You Rock Guitar and Zivix Jamstik. Admittedly, the YRG1000 looks like it escaped from Guitar Hero to seek a better life, but even my guitar-playing “tubes and Telecasters forever!” compatriots are shocked by how well it works. And Jamstik, although it started as a learn-to-play guitar product for the Mac, can also serve as a MIDI guitar controller. Either one has more consistent tracking than MIDI guitar retrofits, and no detectable latency.

The tradeoff is that they’re not actual guitars, which is why they track well. So, think of them as alternate controllers that take advantage of your guitar-playing muscle memory. If you want a true guitar feel, with attributes like actual string-bending, there are MIDI retrofits like Fishman’s clever TriplePlay, and Roland’s GR-55 guitar synthesizer.

In any case, you’ll want to set up your MIDI guitar for best results in Studio One—here’s how.

Poly vs. Mono Mode

MIDI guitars usually offer Poly or Mono mode operation. With Poly mode, all data played on all strings appears over one MIDI channel. With Mono mode, each string generates data over its own channel—typically channel 1 for the high E, channel 2 for B, channel 3 for G, and so on. Mono mode’s main advantage is you can bend notes on individual strings and not bend other strings. The main advantage of Poly mode is you need only one sound generator instead of a multi-timbral instrument, or a stack of six synths.

In terms of playing, Poly mode works fine for pads and rhythm guitar, while Mono mode is best for solos, or when you want different strings to trigger different sounds (e.g., the bottom two strings trigger bass synths, and the upper four a synth pad). Here’s how to set up for both options in Studio One.

 

  1. To add your MIDI guitar controller, choose Studio One > Options > External Devices tab, and then click Add…

    Figure 1: Check “Split Channels” if you plan to use a MIDI guitar in mono mode.

    1. To use your guitar in Mono mode, check Split Channels and make sure All MIDI channels are selected (Fig. 1). This lets you choose individual MIDI channels as Instrument track inputs.

     

    1. For Poly mode, you can follow the same procedure as Mono mode but then you may need to select the desired MIDI channel for an Instrument track (although usually the default works anyway). If you’re sure you’re going to be using only Poly mode, don’t check Split Channels, and choose the MIDI channel over which the instrument transmits.

    Note that you can change these settings any time in the Options > External Devices dialog box by selecting your controller and choosing Edit.

    Choose Your Channels

    For Poly mode, you probably won’t have to do anything—just start playing. With Mono mode, you’ll need to use a multitimbral synth like SampleTank or Kontakt, or six individual synths. For example, suppose you want to use Mai Tai. Create a Mai Tai Instrument track, choose your MIDI controller, and then choose one of the six MIDI channels (Fig. 2). If Split Channels wasn’t selected, you won’t see an option to choose the MIDI channel.

    Figure 2: If you chose Split Channels when you added your controller, you’ll be able to assign your instrument’s MIDI input to a particular MIDI channel.

    Next, after choosing the desired Mai Tai sound, duplicate the Instrument track five more times, and choose the correct MIDI channel for each string. I like to Group the tracks because this simplifies removing layers, turning off record enable, and quantizing. Now record-enable all tracks, and start recording. Fig. 3 shows a recorded Mono guitar part—note how each string’s notes are in their own channel.

    Figure 3: A MIDI guitar part that was recorded in Mono mode is playing back each string’s notes through its own Mai Tai synthesizer.

    To close out, here are three more MIDI guitar tips.

    • In Mono mode with Mai Tai (or whatever synth you use), set the number of Voices to 1 for two reasons. First, this is how a real guitar works—you can play only one note at a time on a string. Second, this will often improve tracking in MIDI guitars that are picky about your picking.
    • Use a synth’s Legato mode, if available. This will prevent re-triggering on each note when sliding up and down the neck, or doing hammer-ons.
    • The Edit view is wonderful for Mono mode because you can see what all six strings are playing, while editing only one.

    MIDI guitar got a bad rap when it first came out, and not without reason. But the technology continues to improve, dedicated controllers overcome some of the limitations of retrofitting a standard guitar, and if you set up Studio One properly, MIDI guitar can open up voicings that are difficult to obtain with keyboards.

    In Mono mode with Mai Tai (or whatever synth you use), set the number of Voices to 1 for two reasons. First, this is how a real guitar works—you can play only one note at a time on a string. Second, this will often improve tracking in MIDI guitars that are picky about your picking.