PreSonus Blog

Music is Medicine: JST DAVID Tells All

PreSonus is honored to support all efforts by first responders and health care workers across the globe during this odd, hard time.

We recently had the opportunity to help out locally with an event called “Music Is Medicine” hosted by the Baton Rouge General Foundation and the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. It was a small gesture, but our hope is that it leaves a lasting impact. Our friend JST DAVID was our connection to the event, and he did an incredible job producing, videoing, organizing, AND performing for the live-streamed event. This seems like a daunting task, but… as is the case in all things, hard work plus creative energy made for something awesome. He used a StudioLive AR12c to record each performance. We wanted to take some time and hear from David about how the experience was for him and how the StudioLive ARc performed. Read more from JST DAVID below.

JST DAVID says:

The “Music Is Medicine” event was an online benefit concert to raise funds for front-line health care workers, done in joint with the Baton Rouge General Foundation and the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. I was initially asked to participate as an artist, and ended up producing the entire initiative. It was a thrill to be a part of such an incredible cause during these unprecedented times, and to play a small role in sharing God’s love with folks who are risking their lives to save others.

I honestly didn’t realize the number of limitations COVID-19 would pose in pulling together a production like this! The turnaround from start to finish was less than two weeks for a 90-minute, pre-recorded broadcast, along with a web platform that could display the broadcast stream and securely collect donations for the cause. Even though that’s incredibly ambitious, I’ve actually been responsible for executing projects with even tighter timeframes. Still, that was all pre-COVID, you know? Social distancing requirements forced us to either film and record these performances outside, or within venues that required a high level of health precautions for myself, my second shooter, and the talent. It was exhausting, to say the least. You can’t show up with a huge crew to these shoots, so I stepped in as the director, producer, audio engineer, and primary cameraman for all the performances.

 

On two of the shoots, we had to literally juice the AR12c from extension cords that were powered from our vehicle. Oh, and then I also had to figure out a way to record my own performance as well. I laugh thinking about it all, mainly because it all ended up being a success (we raised nearly $4000 for the hospital during the online event), and also laughing a bit at myself for thinking it would all be easier to pull off than it was.

And real talk, there’s absolutely NO WAY that we pull these off without that AR12c mixer provided by PreSonus. Lifesaver. After dialing in the levels and just the right amount of effects, I was able to record all of the performances straight from the mixer into my SD card. I didn’t even have to edit the audio once I was done! The time it saved me, and the utility of it being lightweight, portable, while still having so much to offer with effects and such, made the event happen. I basically had to stay up for 2 days straight to get this thing to the finish line and didn’t make it on-site with the final file to broadcast until an hour before. No way this thing gets completed if the AR12c doesn’t do such an incredible job of speeding up my workflow.

As a lot of artists and creatives are finding out, live streaming is tough. Sure, anyone can flip open their phone camera and “start streaming.” But in order to bring your fans or followers something of quality, it takes a combination of having the right gear and a really well-coordinated plan. Thankfully I had enough sense to pre-record the entire “Music Is Medicine” event, and it was also what Baton Rouge General Foundation and the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge wanted to do. Once the final video file was rendered, we streamed the entire performance via OBS to Facebook LIVE, and it all went off smoothly. But yea, for those who are desiring to up the quality of their live streams or do a combination of pre-recorded and live within the same broadcast, it’s not that simple.

Having a great mic and interface would be my basic prerequisites (I personally own the PX-1 and Studio 26c combo from PreSonus), and there are several other great video and audio switchers and controllers that could really get you in a great space to be creative and make your broadcasts really engaging. OBS is a free, open-sourced software that’s incredibly stable and useful for powering your live streams, and I’d just encourage anyone looking to take their broadcasts to the next level to do as much research as possible on what’s out there. That’s what I had to do and it paid off.

 

Connect with JST DAVID

 

WATCH the livestream here! 

 

Stay connected with JST DAVID here! 

Ben Honeycutt Talks Career, Life in the RV and Studio One

Singer, songwriter, husband, father and RV driver Ben Honeycutt recently added Studio One Professional to his workflow, and let’s just say he’s having some fun! We partnered with him for his social series “Lyrical Content in the Comments,” and it was awesome.

We thought it would be cool to hear how one of the newest Studio One users is doing with the DAW and more about Ben’s career. Read all about it here.

Get to know Ben on his Instagram!

Give us some background on yourself. How long have you been making music?
Well, I was born in the south (Tennessee), was raised in the south (Alabama), and lived in the south (Georgia) until recently. Thought I was gonna grow up and pitch for the Atlanta Braves, but that didn’t quite work out. I come from a pretty musical family, so I’ve always been around music in some way and had an interest in it, as well. Started playing guitar and singing when I was 13ish, and I was in a band for about 10 years after that. Currently, I live and travel full-time in an RV with my wife, Ashley, and our 3 kiddos, Trinity (9), Rhodes (7), and Canaan (2)! 

How’s that RV life treating you?
It’s been an experience, to say the least! We started traveling at the start of 2020, and I think we were just starting to get the hang of it when we had to press pause for a minute due to the current pandemic. It was obviously a big decision for our family to sell everything and hit the road, but we were all ready for a change from the “norm,” while being more intentional about the time we have together and how we spend it. It’s had its challenges like anything else, but we’re really enjoying it so far!

How has the music industry changed since your early days? 

Oh man. I remember when the be-all and end-all was to get a record deal if you wanted to make a career out of music. And that was definitely a goal of ours in the early days. It almost happened, but in hindsight, I’m glad it didn’t. Today, with the advance of technology and the rise of social media, you can basically distribute your own music everywhere with a click of a button. Of course, that’s over-simplified a bit, but you get the idea. No better time than now to be a self-employed creative/artist! 

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

Was anybody’s first song good? Haha! Mine definitely wasn’t. The first “real” song I remember writing was called, “Little Seed.” The melody wasn’t great, and I just took the lyrics almost verbatim from a story in the Bible. It even had the word epilepsy in it. Sooooo, we never recorded that one…

Who has been a musical influence in your life? 

As I mentioned earlier, I grew up around music. Both my mom and dad have influenced me in my own musical journey. My dad played the fiddle and the banjo, and my mom had a beautiful singing voice. Unfortunately, they have both passed away now, but I’d like to say there’s still a little bit of them in my music and who I am today. As far as established artists as influences, it’s a pretty long list. But a few would be Ryan Tedder, U2, Ed Sheeran, and Jason Mraz.  

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

I can’t recall a time where I flat out wanted to give up, but I’ve definitely hit some “walls” and seasons where I didn’t find as much joy in it. Like I said earlier, I grew up playing and singing in church, and as a Christian, I believe music is a gift from God. So when I hit those walls sometimes, I just have to take a step back and remember the reason I started.   

When was the first time you heard of PreSonus?

I grew up and even honed my talent in the church world. So I remember being introduced to the live audio side of PreSonus products first, primarily the mixers/consoles. I probably know just enough about live mixing to be dangerous, so I left that to the more experienced. But even back then, I remember PreSonus being one of our go-to brands.  

BUY STUDIO ONE NOW!

So you’re new to Studio One. When did you first hear about it?
Yeah, pretty much brand new! Again, I knew PreSonus more for the live audio equipment, but I wasn’t as in tune with the recording and production side of things. I think I just stumbled across some Studio One videos on YouTube as I was searching home studio tips and tutorials. Found a guy named Joe Gilder, who had some really good content on stuff I needed to learn and get better at. And it just so happened he used Studio One as his DAW of choice.  

What DAW were you using?
I was actually just using Garageband. Which was pretty great, especially for the price of “free.” It helped me learn the basics of tracking and editing audio. But it was a bit limited in features, so eventually, I knew I needed to upgrade to something more professional to be able to achieve a better quality audio recording. 

What features are you most impressed with the DAW?
So far, I really like the Auto Punch feature, as well as the Loop Record feature. Neither of which I could do in Garageband. Since I’m recording myself most of the time, it’s made tracking multiple takes and comping vocals much more time and energy-efficient. 

How easy/difficult was Studio One to learn?
Well, I’m still learning, and I’m sure I haven’t even scratched the surface of all it can do. But for me, it was really easy to get started. The layout and aesthetic is pleasing to the eye, and it’s also pretty intuitive. I’m also taking advantage of the custom keyboard shortcuts. I do a lot of video editing in Adobe Premiere Pro, so it’s been nice to be able to match up some of those that I’m already used to with the similar functions used in audio editing, too.

Any other thoughts on Studio One or PreSonus gear?
Nothin’ but good stuff so far! I also use the dual-channel Studio 26c interface, and it’s performed like a champ. Customer service and resources online are top-notch, as well. I appreciate what you guys do!

Can you give us a rundown of your live stream set up?
That’s another thing that I (as many others during this time) have been trying to level up a bit, my setup has been a little different for the past few I’ve done. But in a nutshell, here’s my setup:

Rode NT1-A microphone > Bose ToneMatch Mixer (compression, eq, and reverb)  > Studio 26c audio interface + iPhone 7+ >  OBS (streaming software)
I also just recently added a Shure SM7B and a Canon M50 that I hope to be able to integrate soon to up the quality even more. 

What’s next for you?
We’re looking forward to getting back out on the road and making some memories in the RV for sure! And musically, I can’t wait to play live gigs again. I’m also close to launching a custom song-writing service, which will include jingles for businesses/brands, as well as personal songs for people who want their own story in a well-written and produced song. Perfect for weddings and anniversaries!

WATCH Ben’s latest viral video here:

 

What’s the best advice you would give to yourself 10 years ago?

Tough one. But maybe something along the lines of, “Don’t obsess so much about what other people think about you or what you do.” That’s still something I struggle with today. I just want everybody to like me! But I’m learning that if you live for the applause of other people, you’ll also die from their criticism.   

Seriously, he’s so cool.

 

Studio One is on sale for a few more weeks! Join the family today.

 

Learn more about Ben here! 

Four VCA Channel Applications

A VCA Channel has a fader, but it doesn’t pass audio. Instead, the fader acts like a gain control for other channels, or groups of channels. In some ways, you can think of a VCA Channel as “remote control” for other channels. If you assign a VCA to control a channel, you can adjust the channel gain, without having to move the associated channel’s fader. The VCA Channel fader does it for you.

Inserting a VCA channel works the same way as inserting any other kind of channel or bus. (However, there’s a convenient shortcut for grouping, as described later.) To place a channel’s gain under VCA control, choose the VCA Channel from the drop-down menu just below a channel’s fader…and let’s get started with the applications.

APPLICATION #1: EASY AUTOMATION TRIM

Sometimes when mixing, you’ll create detailed level automation where all the moves and changes are perfect. But as the mix develops, you may find you want to increase or decrease the overall level. There are several ways to do this, like inserting a Mixtool and adjusting the level independently of the automation, or using the automation’s Trim control. However, a VCA control is sometimes easier, and besides, it can control several channels at once if desired, without having to feed them to a bus. The VCA fader can even offset automation for multiple tracks that are located within a Folder Track (Fig. 1)

  • Figure 1: Note how the label below each fader says VCA 1. This means each channel’s gain is being controlled by the VCA 1 fader on the right. If all these tracks have their own automation, VCA 1 can bring the overall level up or down, without altering the automation shape, and without needing to send all their outputs to the same bus.

 

If the automation changes are exactly as desired, but the overall level needs to increase or decrease, offset the gain by adjusting the VCA Channel’s fader. This can be simpler and faster than trying to raise or lower an entire automation curve using the automation Trim control. Furthermore, after making the appropriate adjustments, you can hide the VCA Channel to reduce mixer clutter, and show it only if future adjustments are necessary.

APPLICATION #2: NESTED GROUPING

One of the most common grouping applications involves drums—when you group a drum kit’s individual drums, once you get the right balance, you can bring their collective levels up or down without upsetting the balance. Studio One offers multiple ways to group channels. The traditional option is to feed all the outputs you want to group to a bus, and vary the level with the bus fader. For quick changes, a more modern option is to select the channels you want to group, so that moving one fader moves all the faders.

But VCAs take this further, because VCA groups can be nested. This means groups can be subsets of other groups.

A classic example of why this is useful involves orchestral scoring. The first violins could be assigned to VCA group 1st Violins, the second violins to VCA group 2nd Violins, violas to VCA group Violas, and cellos and double basses to VCA group Cellos+Basses.

You could assign the 1st Violins and 2nd Violins VCA groups to a Violins Group, and then assign the Violins group, Violas group, and Cellos+Basses group to a Strings group. Now you can vary the level of the first violins, the second violins, both violin sections (with the Violins Group), the violas, the cellos and double basses, and/or the entire string section (Fig. 2). This kind of nested grouping is also useful with choirs, percussion ensembles, drum machines with multiple outputs, background singers, multitracked drum libraries, and more.

 

Figure 2: The 1st Violins and 2nd Violins have their own group, which are in turn controlled by the Violins group. Furthermore, the Violins, Violas, and Cellos+Basses groups are all controlled by the Strings group.

Although it may seem traditional grouping with buses would offer the same functionality, note that all the channel outputs would need to go through the same audio bus. Because VCA faders don’t pass audio, any audio output assignments for the channels controlled by the VCA remain independent. You’re “busing” gain, not audio outputs—that’s significant.

If you create a group, then all the faders within that group remain independent. Although with Studio One you can temporarily exclude a fader from a group to adjust it, that’s not necessary with VCA grouping—you can move a fader independently that’s controlled by a VCA, and it will still be linked to the other members of a VCA group when you move the VCA fader.

Bottom line: The easiest way to work with large numbers of groups is with VCA faders.

APPLICATION #3: GROUPS AND SEND EFFECTS

A classic reason for using a VCA fader involves send effects. Suppose several channels (e.g., individual drums) go to a submix bus fader, and the channels also have post-fader Send controls going to an effect, such as reverb. With a conventional submix bus, as you pull down the bus fader, the faders for the individual tracks haven’t changed—so the post-fader send from those tracks is still sending a signal to the reverb bus. Even with the bus fader down all the way, you’ll still hear the reverb.

A VCA Channel solves this because it controls the gain of the individual channels. Less gain means less signal going into the channel’s Send control, regardless of the channel fader’s position. So with the VCA fader all the way down, there’s no signal going to the reverb (Fig. 3)

 

 

  • Figure 3: The VCA Channel controls the amount of post-fader Send going to a reverb, because the VCA fader affects the gain regardless of fader position. If the drum channels went to a conventional bus, reducing the bus volume would have no effect on the post-fader Sends.

APPLICATION #4: BUS VS. VCA

There’s a fine point of using VCAs to control channel faders. Suppose individual drums feed a bus with a compressor or saturation effect. As you change the channel gain, the input to the compression or saturation changes, which alters the effect. If this is a problem, then you’re better off sending the channels to a standard bus. But this can also be an advantage, because pushing the levels could create a more intense sound by increasing the amount of compression or saturation. The VCA fader would determine the group’s “character,” while the bus control acts like a master volume control for the overall group level.

And because a VCA fader can control bus levels, some drums could go to an audio bus with a compressor, and some drums to a bus without compression. Then you could use the VCA fader to control the levels of both buses. This allows for tricks like raising the level of the drums and compressing the high-hats, cymbals, and toms more, while leaving the kick and snare uncompressed…or increasing saturation on the kick and snare, while leaving other drum sounds untouched.

Granted, VCA Channels may not be essential to all workflows. But if you know what they can do, a VCA Channel may be able to solve a problem that would otherwise require a complex workaround with any other option.

 

#PreSonusFamFriday: Company Wide Quarantine Edition!

It’s inspiring to see what our customers have created during these strange days of quarantine and isolation. As soon as you open your social media accounts, one thing is certain: Creativity has thrived over the last few months. We wanted to take a minute and share some of the after-hours projects and live streams PreSonus employees have been a part of during this time. Enjoy!

 

Product Specialist and Home Studio Guru Joe Gilder recently wrote this song simply titled “April.”

 

Several PreSonus team members collaborated on this performance. Hear all about it from EVP of Product Management, John Bastianelli.

“My PreSonus family is so awesome, please check out the first of the “PreSonus Isolation Jams” – Gregor Beyerle, who lives in Germany and is our Software Product Specialist started this track and sent it to me. I was immediately excited about what he created which inspired me to add some synth effects and saxophones. I then passed it to Rick Naqvi, our SVP of sales who added those awesome guitars. Next, the track was sent to Ben Livingston who works in our inside sales department who added his funky drums. Finally, we punted the track over to Richard Gaspard, who’s in charge of our worship market, he added his “rockin'” bass guitar… and sent the files back. I then doubled this really cool riff Richard played with horns and Rick and I mixed the music and sent the final mix to Gregor who created this awesome video. Oh, this was all done remotely, in our home studios on all PreSonus recording gear. I have to say I’m really proud to work for this company especially with all the talented people! Nothing can keep us from creating music, not even this virus! I hope you all enjoy our jam!”

 

Richard Gaspard is PreSonus’ House of Worship Market Manager. He’s been at PreSonus since November 2017, and been a PreSonus user since 2002.

“My wife and I formed the duo Highs and Lows, a musical experiment of arranging iconic songs as just bass (upright and electric) and vocals (mostly her on lead and the two of us on backgrounds). The point is to create very sparse arrangements, but also songs that feature the six-string bass as a solo instrument, covering any instrumental solos as part of the recorded performance. All mics used are either PreSonus PM-2 or PX-1, and everything is recorded through either a PreSonus Studio 26 or AudioBox 22VSL. All audio is edited and mixed in Studio One 4 Professional and video shot on iPhone 11 and edited in Adobe Premier using a shot template I created in Adobe Photoshop.”

Watch their performance here and subscribe to their YouTube channel:

 

Perry Tee (aka the.real.agent.p) is PreSonus’ Artist Relations Manager and has worked for PreSonus going on eight years.

“Some guys meet their buddies on the weekend to play golf or poker. We make music while practicing Social Distancing… remotely from our separate homes using Studio One.”

Eric Levy (keyboards): Night Ranger, Garaj Mahal
Jakubu Griffin (drums): Cirque Du Soleil Zarkana, Chaka Khan, Peabo Bryson, Melissa Manchester, Pearcy Sledge, David Cassidy, Pharez Whitted
Jon Cornell (bass): SNL Band, Jackie Greene, Grand Canyon
Alex Painter (voice): Life On Mars Tribute To David Bowie, Solo Artist

 

How to Use a Game Controller as a MIDI Device In Studio One!

Most of us who work here at PreSonus are musicians ???????or audio engineers ?.

And some of us are also gamers ?in addition to that.

For those of you who can relate, check out this interesting and fun video that PreSonus Artist/Endorser Nik Jeremić just created and shared with us recently. He’s using an Xbox One game controller to trigger samples in Studio One:

[Nik’s Official Website]

Tremolo: Why Be Normal?

Tremolo (not to be confused with vibrato, which is what Fender amps call tremolo), was big in the 50s and 60s, especially in surf music—so it has a pretty stereotyped sound. But why be normal? Studio One’s X-Trem goes beyond what antique tremolos did, so this week’s Friday Tip delves into the cool rhythmic effects that X-Trem can create.

TREMOLOS IN SERIES

The biggest improvement in today’s tremolos is the sync-to-tempo function. One of my favorite techniques for EDM-type music is to insert two tremolos in series (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: These effects provide the sound in Audio Example 1. Note the automation track, which is varying the first X-Trem’s Depth parameter.

The first X-Trem runs at a fast rate, like 1/16th notes. Square wave modulation works well for this if you want a “chopped” sound, but I usually prefer sine waves, because they give a smoother, more pulsing effect. The second X-Trem runs at a slower rate. For example, if it syncs to half-notes, X-Trem lets through a string of pulses for a half-note, then attenuates the pulses for the next half-note. Using a sine wave for the second tremolo gives a rhythmic, pulsing sound that’s effective on big synth chords—check out the audio example.

 

BUILD YOUR OWN WAVEFORM

X-Trem’s waveforms are the usual suspects: Triangle, Sine, Upward Sawtooth, and Square. But what if you want a downward sawtooth, a more exponential wave (Fig. 2), or an entirely off-the-wall waveform?

 

Figure 2: Let’s have a big cheer for X-Trem’s 16 Steps option.

This is where the 16 Steps option becomes the star (Fig. 2) because you can draw pretty much any waveform you want. It’s a particularly effective technique with longer notes because you can hear the changes distinctly.

But for me, the coolest part is X-Trem’s “Etch-a-Sketch” mode, because you can automate each step individually, choose X-Trem’s Automation Write, and go crazy. Just unfold X-Trem’s automation options, choose all the steps, add them to the track’s automation, and draw away (Fig. 3).

 

Figure 3: Drawing automated step changes in real-time takes X-Trem beyond “why be normal” into something that may be illegal in some states.

Of course, if you just draw kind of randomly, then really, all you’re doing is level automation. Where this option really comes into its own is when you have a basic waveform for one section, change a few steps in a different section and let that repeat, draw a different waveform for another section and let that repeat, and so on. Another application is trying out different waveforms as a song plays, and capturing the results as automation. If you particularly like a pattern, cut and paste the automation to use it repetitively.

And just think, we haven’t even gotten into X-Trem’s panning mode—similarly to its overachieving tremolo functions, the panning can do a lot more than just audio ping-pong effects. Hmmm…seems like another Friday Tip might be in order.

25 Years of WHABAM!

If there’s one word to sum up the man, the myth, the legend, Rick Naqvi… it’s: WHABAM!

Rick is as much of a staple to PreSonus as drag and drop is to Studio One. He loves his team, music, and his job! After spending a quarter-century serving the PreSonus family, he is the expert when it comes to selling PreSonus with passion and enthusiasm.  If you’ve met him, you love him (and you’re probably still hypnotized by the Rick Effect.) And if you haven’t met him, here’s your chance to get to know him better.

 

How long have you worked for PreSonus?

This coming October will be my 25th year at PreSonus. I was employee #5 or #6 I believe.

What was your job title when you started? What is your job title now?

Well, I was the first guy in sales so I guess my title would have been “Rick Naqvi, Sales Guy.” Today my role is Senior Vice President of Global Sales.

What were you doing before working at PreSonus?

In my early 20s, I was playing in two bands (Zaemon and Chris LeBlanc Band), running a recording studio and working in a music store called BeBop Music Shop. I was finishing a Marketing degree at LSU at that time as well.

What about PreSonus made you want to work here at the time?

I knew Jim Odom from the local music scene. He was one of our hometown guitar heroes and although he was a few years older than me, we went to the same high school and even took guitar lessons from the same guy. I did a recording session with him in the early ’90s and he used to come into the music store I worked at. I remember him bringing in the prototype of the very first PreSonus product, the DCP-8, about a year before PreSonus started. When Jim approached me about being a part of a startup company, it was a no-brainer for me.

Let’s talk about the Rick Naqvi Effect. People LOVE you and recognize you as the face of PreSonus. How did this come to be? How has it helped you?

Haha!! LOL. Well, I guess since this year will be my 25th year of working at PreSonus, I’m definitely one of the blessed people that found something to do with their lives that has spanned pretty much my entire adulthood. I’ve always been passionate about music and technology and I love people. So PreSonus has been the perfect place for me. I’m in awe of the fact that people use our products to share and experience music together with each other. That’s the part of this job that never gets old. I love being part of a team whose mission is to help people make music.

The FirePod was one of PreSonus’ first major products. What need was the FirePod supposed to meet?

The Firepod was the first recording interface with eight microphone preamps in 1U. So you could basically mic an entire drumkit at once. Or record a small rhythm section. It was also one of the first interfaces that allowed for multiple units to be used at the same time. So if you needed 16 simultaneous inputs, you could chain two of them together, and so on.

Any fun stories about the FirePod?

Here’s a true story. The original design for the FirePod had eight inputs but only two mic preamps. Jim Odom was beta testing one of the early prototypes and took it home to record his son’s band. When he realized it was going to be a hassle to hook up additional outboard preamps, he came to work the next day and changed the design of the Firepod to include the other six preamps. We literally had to reshoot images for a tradeshow launch that was happening a few months later. However, putting eight preamps on the Firepod solved a huge need, not only for Jim but for tons of customers. It was one of our most successful products without a doubt.

What has been one of the biggest challenges of working at PreSonus? Major roadblocks?

Working for a technology company has its ups and downs. There have been good years and not so good ones too. Sometimes you create a product that really resonates with people and other times there are challenges that keep a product from its full potential. There’s nothing more important to us than delighting our customers. And when we can’t do that, it is a major bummer for us. Thankfully, our mistakes give us the experience to get better and that’s what we strive to do every day.

In 1995, how did you define success?

One of my first job tasks was to contact dealers and try to tell them about our product. I had a copy of Music Trades that had a list of the Top 100 US Dealers. So I literally picked up the phone and started cold calling people!  It was so hard to tell people about a brand new product from a brand new company that they had never heard of. It was amazing just to get someone on the phone who would give me the time of day. Amazingly a bunch of people that got called by a 25-year-old Rick Naqvi are still in the business and are some of our most trusted dealers and life-long friends.

Tell us a cool NAMM story. Or any other PreSonus story.

One time at a NAMM Show I had to give a DigiMax demo to Steven Seagal. Turns out he’s a musician and had a studio at the time. It might have been one of the strangest demos of my life. He was super serious and never cracked a smile. When I told him you could only do 96k using AES outputs, not ADAT, I thought he might judo chop me or something.

 

When you think about the last 25 years, how does it make you feel seeing how far PreSonus has come?

It really doesn’t seem like I’ve worked for one company. It seems like I’ve worked for about 5 different companies. I’ve been through three building moves and I’ve seen tons of people come and go. I’ve seen kids of our employees grow up and start families of their own. It’s truly humbling to have been a part of this great journey.

Read more about the last 25 years with PreSonus

 

 

The “Double-Decker” Pre-Main Bus

This Friday tip has multiple applications—consider the following scenarios.

You like to mix with mastering processors in the Main bus to approximate the eventual mastered sound, but ultimately, you want to add (or update) an unprocessed file for serious mastering in the Project page. However, reality checks are tough. When you disable the master bus processors so you can hear the unprocessed sound you’ll be exporting, the level will usually change. So then you have to re-balance the levels, but you might not get them quite to where they were. And unfortunately, one of the biggest enemies of consistent mixing and mastering is varying monitoring levels. (Shameless plug alert: my book How to Create Compelling Mixes in Studio One, which is also available in Spanish, tells how to obtain consistent levels when mixing.)

Or, suppose you want to use the Tricomp or a similar “maximizing” program in the master bus. Although these can make a mix “pop,” there may be an unfair advantage if they make the music louder—after all, our brains tend to think that “louder is better.” The only way to get a realistic idea of how much difference the processor really makes is if you balance the processed and unprocessed levels so they’re the same.

Or, maybe you use the cool Sonarworks program to flatten your headphone or speaker’s response, so you can do more translatable mixes. But Sonarworks should be enabled only when monitoring; you don’t want to export a file with a correction curve applied. Bypassing the Sonarworks plug-in when updating the Project page, or exporting a master file, is essential. But in the heat of the creative moment, you might forget to do that, and then need to re-export.

THE “DOUBLE-DECKER,” PRE-MAIN BUS SOLUTION

The Pre-Main bus essentially doubles up the Main bus, to create an alternate destination for all your channels. The Pre-Main bus, whose output feeds the Main bus, serves as a “sandbox” for the Main bus. You can insert whatever processors you want into the Pre-Main bus for monitoring, without affecting what’s ultimately exported from the Main bus.

Here’s how it works.

 

  1. Create a bus, and call it the Pre-Main bus.
  2. In the Pre-Main bus’s output field just above the pan slider, assign the bus output to the Main bus. If you don’t see the output field, raise the channel’s height until the output field appears.
  3. Insert the Level Meter plug-in in the Main bus. We’ll use this for LUFS level comparisons (check out the blog post Easy Level Matching, or the section on LUFS in my mixing book, as to why this matters).

Figure 1: The Pre-Main bus, outlined in white, has the Tricomp and Sonarworks plug-ins inserted. Note that all the channels have their outputs assigned to the Pre-Main bus.

  1. Insert the mastering processors in the Pre-Main bus that you want to use while monitoring. Fig. 1 shows the Pre-Main bus with the Tricomp and Sonarworks plug-ins inserted.
  2. Select all your channels. An easy way to do this is to click on the first channel in the Channel List, then shift+click on the last channel in the list. Or, click on the channel to the immediate left of the Main channel, and then shift+click on the first mixer channel.

With all channels selected, changing the output field for one channel changes the output field for all channels. Assign the outputs to the Main bus, play some music, and look at the Level Meter to check the LUFS reading.

Now assign the channel outputs to the Pre-Main bus. Again, observe the Level Meter in the Master bus. Adjust the Pre-Main bus’s level for the best level match when switching the output fields between the Main and Pre-Main bus. By matching the levels, you can be sure you’re listening to a fair comparison of the processed audio (the Pre-Main bus) and the unprocessed audio that will be exported from the Main bus.

The only caution is that when all your channels are selected, if you change a channel’s fader, the faders for all the channels will change. Sometimes, this is a good thing—if you experience “fader level creep” while mixing, instead of lowering the master fader, you can lower the channel levels. But you also need to be careful not to reflexively adjust a channel’s level, and end up adjusting all of them by mistake. Remember to click on the channel whose fader you want to adjust, before doing any editing.

Doubling up the Main bus can be really convenient when mixing—check it out when you want to audition processors in the master bus, but also, be able to do a quick reality check with the unprocessed sound to find out the difference any processors really make to the overall output.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Steve Cook, who devised a similar technique to accommodate using Sonarworks in Cakewalk, for providing the inspiration for this post.

Starpoint Gemini 3 With Nikola Jeremić

For those of you who are not familiar with Nikola (Nik) Jeremić’s work on the previous iteration of the Starpoint Gemini videogame soundtrack, you can find out about that here.

This will be a “deep dive” into how Nik used Studio One Professional along with the ATOM and our Studio 1824c interface to route audio and MIDI data to and from external hardware synths… his own words!

 

ATOM Controller

The most important thing about ATOM in this production is that it is used both as a playable instrument, as well as editing and mixing controller.

The layout was very simple in terms that it already integrates itself perfectly with Studio One, and I didn’t have to do much with tweaking it.

So far it completely replaced my old Classic FaderPort (which I still own and use it from time to time) in regards to transport commands, writing automation for track levels, panning, and the amount of signal being sent to FX tracks. I will surely upgrade myself with the current FaderPort pretty soon because I have worn out the buttons on the old one from years of usage. 

I used small sticky tags in order to label the four knobs, so I always know which knob controls which parameter.

After the transport tab buttons, the ones I used the most are Song Setup, Editor and instrument Show/Hide. It really speeds up my workflow, and it was especially helpful on this game. Since 80% of the game’s soundtrack was done in the box, browsing through instruments and editing their MIDI data was really easy and fast. 

One of the things that really amazed me regarding ATOM was the fact that every pad is labeled with the corresponding default control in Studio One Editor. I rarely touched my computer keyboard for editing.

Whenever I wanted to make a quick edit of my parameters in Impact, or any other instrument that matter, I just hit that Show/Hide instrument button, and… voila! Everything is right there at my fingertips! I will talk more about ATOM and Impact XT later.

 

Studio 1824c Interface

I used FireStudio Project for over eight years, and it has been a solid workhorse of an interface for me throughout my career. It worked flawlessly until I had a power surge at my home, which fried some of my gear, including the interface, so THAT was the only reason I had to replace it.

It actually happened in the middle of my work on Starpoint Gemini 3, so I researched a little and decided to go with Studio 1824c as an upgrade. To be honest, it’s as if I never replaced my old interface, because PreSonus hardware is really great when it comes to communication with Studio One, so the only thing I had to do was to plug it in my PC and install the latest drivers, and that was it. My production of this soundtrack hasn’t stopped at all, because everything was so compatible, so I just had to re-connect a few audio cables. It took me only minutes and I was back on track.

Since 20% of the soundtrack to Starpoint Gemini 3 is done on hardware synths and instruments, Studio 1824C is a Godsend for connecting all four of my hardware synths:

My Yamaha DX7 was connected via splitter cable as a stereo unit to my inputs 5 and 6.

I also used my three analogue KORG synths: (Volca Bass, Volca Keys, Volca Kick) in stereo via another splitter cable which was connected to inputs 1 and 2, because these Volcas were used the most for this soundtrack. 

All of the synths received their MIDI data via MIDI In/Out from Studio 1824c, and I am really happy I didn’t have to buy an external MIDI interface for this. The only thing I had to do was to plug and unplug the midi cables from one synth to another, depending which one I was using at that time, but it’s not a mood killer.

My inputs 3 and 4 were set up as mono. Input 3 has an external 1073 clone mic preamp attached to it, and Input 4 has an external DI for recording and re-amping guitars and bass.

Inputs 7&8 together with Outputs 7&8 were used as stereo FX loop send/return for my FX pedal chain with Pipeline Stereo plugin:

I also used sticky tags to label my front panel of Studio 1824C, and I mapped out my ins and outs inside song setup window, so I could save it as a default setting for all of my tracks for this game.

Regarding my FX chain loop, I used delay, chorus and shimmer reverb pedals in series, and I set them up to be used with Pipeline XT stereo plugin (which comes bundled with Studio One Pro) on an FX track. The reason I opted for this approach instead of connecting my synth output directly to pedals, is because I wanted to have an overall control of the amount of synth signal I am sending to any FX chain. Sometimes I wanted to automate the amount of signal being sent, and that is where those mapped knobs from ATOM came in handy.

I am pretty amazed by the build quality of Studio 1824c, having in mind the price of the unit. I absolutely love the front panel metering and big level knob for main out. Having two headphone outputs is really handy when I invite a session musician to record, because I don’t have a booth, then we both use headphones in the same room. Studio 1824c is a workhorse of an interface and it has improved my workflow ten times better than before.

I amhave yet to build my own Eurorack modular synth, so I can send CV signals via Studio 1824c outs to my synth. That is an AMAZING feature, and I am really looking forward to using it in the future.

 

Impact XT

Impact XT was an essential part of my beats and percussive materials for both action and exploration tracks, and the way ATOM integrates with Impact XT has been really helpful to my workflow throughout the course of this entire soundtrack.

I used two instances of Impact XT:

One was for triggering 80s synth drums and transition fills that you can hear in synthwave all the time. The first bank (BLUE) was for elements of the drum kit, and the second bank (GREEN) was for triggering drum fills for transitions between parts.

I love the fact I can trigger loops and audio clips inside Impact XT and sync them to the BPM of my track. All you have to do is to quantize each trigger pad to Follow Tempo and Beats, and no matter what tempo you’re in, it will work flawlessly.

One more thing I like about Impact XT and ATOM is that all the pads can be color-coded the way you like for each bank, because it really helps during the performance to know which pad corresponds to which sound or loop. The bank button on the ATOM itself responds to the bank color of Impact XT, which is really cool.

My second instance of Impact XT was for deep ambient hits and various atonal noises and synth FX for background. I mean, you can’t have a space exploration soundtrack without some weird alien sounds in the background, right??

 

I love the option of multiple stereo and mono outputs in Impact, so that was really helpful for me to have different FX chains for various drum sounds.

 

SampleOne XT

SampleOne XT is featuring my main piano sounds for the entire Starpoint Gemini 3 soundtrack. I haven’t recorded actual piano samples, instead I re-sampled a piano VST I am using most of the time for my work. The thing is that this sampled piano uses up a lot of RAM and CPU, so I couldn’t use it in real-time with my other instruments inside my template, because the piano was processed with a lot of plugins, and then it was introducing latency after I had to increase the buffer size.

In order to use the sounds that I wanted, I re-sampled this piano in two octaves note by note with the processing included. It was more convenient for me, and it saved me a lot of loading time of the template itself.

SampleOne XT proved to be a great choice because it’s really user-friendly and convenient.

First, I had to edit and cut all of the individual notes and label them. That is the only tedious work I had to do here.

After that, all I had to do was to drag the sampled notes to their corresponding key inside Sample One XT. But… I opted for the faster and better solution of sample recording inside SampleOne XT.

Basically what I did was to place all of the samples on the grid, select the audio input inside Sample One XT, choose the starting note and Play, Stop, and Record buttons in order to tell the engine to separate notes. After that, I only renamed the files, and that was it.

After that was done, I was able to play my piano instantly. I saved the patch as a preset, so I could recall it any time.

It doesn’t get any simpler than that, and this is the reason I love Studio One.

 

Pattern Editor

As I said, ATOM and Impact XT are all over my percussive tracks and beats on this soundtrack, but I also used another drum VST plug-in here in order to make things sound a little bit organic, and I used my 80s synth drum kit as a layer on top of those organic drum parts. Call it some sort of a kick and snare drum sample trigger like you have in metal production.

The option that really inspired me and got my creative juices flowing is the pattern editor in Studio One 4.6.

The way I sequenced my drums and percussion was to play them in at first, and get the most humanization out of them based on velocity, sample offset etc… But then I took those performances and improved them inside Pattern Editor, changed a hit here and there, modify the rhythm, etc… 

Basically, I had a drum performance on a midi piano roll with all the notes labeled properly, and then I right-clicked on the midi clip to select the option to convert it to drum pattern for editing.

Editing note data inside Pattern Editor is a breeze.

I could easily replace notes, create new performances, shift the beats and add some swing to them in order to make them sound more natural. The option for half-lane resolution is a really cool feature to add triplets and some odd hits, but it allows me to follow the pattern with precision. This is just one example of a pre-chorus pattern inside the action track, and you can clearly see the name of all the notes properly, and I love the way it integrates properly with third party drum VSTs.

It really is a beatmaking workhorse for electronic music. I have yet to test in on cinematic percussion with big drums and more elements.

 

MIDI FX

MIDI FX in Studio One (the arpeggiator especially) can come in handy if you don’t like the fuss of setting up some complex sequences.

I used arpeggiator mostly on action cues where I wanted to create running sequences in order to have that sense of tension going on during combat. It was mostly set up in 8th or 16th notes, and then I played wide chords on percussive synths in order to get them running and the results were stunning! The arpeggiator is really easy to use, and it was my go-to MIDI effect on this soundtrack.

Repeater is a whole different beast, and this one is for people who actually like working with complex sequences of scales and melodies. I used Repeater also mostly on action cues for the same reason as the Arpeggiator, but I programmed it to play some aggressive melodies that would counter the chords of the Arpeggiator. I actually have a hardware analogue sequencer, but this was easier and faster to use.

The real fun starts when you place a Chorder in front of Repeater!

What I did with Chorder was to make it play intervals like fifths or octaves, and then sequence those with either Repeater or Arpeggiator.

The results I got were some really complex action sequences which made the game developers smile from ear to ear! I highly recommend trying this approach.

Play Starpoint Gemini 3 here on Steam!

 

[ Nik’s Official Website | Starpoint Gemini 3 Soundtrack (Bandcamp) ]

Mixing the Killers in Studio One

There’s perhaps never been a better time to focus on your mixing craft—we’re all being encouraged to stay home, and Studio One is on sale. Why not try your hand at mixing an established hit?

Good ol’ Joe Gilder has just wrapped up his incredible three-episode series on Mixing The Killers in Studio One.  Yeah, The Killers, as in “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me.” In fact, “Somebody Told Me” is the song that Joe dissects and re-builds right before your eyes and ears.

Note that this is a deeeeeeep dive. You’re going to want to check your Instagram-influenced attention span at the door and spend some quality time with this; there’s three episodes here that range from a half-hour to an hour and a half long… but come on, it’s Joe Gilder. So you know it’s gonna be All The Killers and no The Fillers.

Ready? Let’s roll onto something new. Because Mixing The Killers is way more fun than killing the mixers.

 

Also, didja know how Joe got the multi-tracks for this song? From none other than Mix The Music. Mix The Music offers a unique .multitrack audio project format that can only be opened in Studio One. You can purchase the stems to your favorite hit songs, re-mix, and play along! And right now, PreSonus fans can get 20% off any purchase at Mix The Music using promo code: KillerDeal.

Furthermore, don’t forget that Studio One and Notion are both 30% off in April, including upgrades!