So…you want some huge drum sounds? Here you go. This is super well-suited to hip-hop and EDM, but can also give a monster drum sound for rock. The star of this show is the Softube Saturation Knob and FX Chain Splitter.
Drums lend themselves well to a little crunch, but there are limitations. If you apply a bitcrusher or distortion effect, the sound will become indistinct—which may be what you want, but I prefer a monster low end and a more defined high end. This usually requires a couple tracks with a crossover (or a track/bus combo with filtering), but the Splitter module makes it easy to do this in a single FX Chain.
Here’s the overall view of the FX Chain.
The first effect is a limiter, which is optional—but it can add a nice bit of squashing. The signal then proceeds to a Splitter set for a Frequency Split, with a crossover point around 220 Hz. The low-frequency split (to the left) goes to the Saturation Knob. You have some choices here; the Keep Low setting gives a boomier bass (hip-hop fans take note), while the Neutral and Keep High settings give a tighter sound—good for rock and dance, where you’ll often want the kick to make room for the bass part.
Meanwhile, the high frequencies split off to a Pro EQ and Mixverb. The Pro EQ helps compensate for the low-frequency split’s hugeness by boosting the highs with a broad peak. The Mixverb is a cheap ’n’ cheerful reverb that’s happy to provide a bit of room ambiance.
Finally, the Mixtool at the end provides a Trim control so you can match the enabled level to the bypassed one.
The Channel Editor brings out the crucial controls and is pretty self-explanatory. There are controls for the Saturation Knob’s two parameters, Frequency/Q/Gain controls for the high-frequency EQ stage, a Squash control to push the limiter, Room level, and Trim to adjust the final output.
So is it worth the effort to construct this FX Chain? Yes! But you don’t have to…
And you probably want to hear what it sounds like, so check out the audio example. The first half is a straight acoustic drum loop from Studio One’s library, while the second half has been converted into a Bigness of Huge drum loop. They’ve been normalized to the same peak level for a fair comparison.
This one-two knockout comes to us (and subsequently you) from GastroMusicology, a team that created a PreSonus StudioLive 16.0.2 introduction video so thorough, so detailed, and so compelling, that it had to be split up in to two entirely separate videos.
Kinda like “Kill Bill,” except with this you don’t have to pay twice to watch what is pretty much one movie.
Part 1 of 2:
Part 2 of 2:
[editor’s note: all good stories start at the beginning: Here is Part 1, here is part 2.]
Now that I’ve mentioned EQ, it seems appropriate to explain the processing of orchestra sections. I’m not that experienced in mixing, and am still learning the ropes, but I’ll try to describe my workflow as best as I can. My motto is “If it sounds good already, don’t touch it.” I told you that I like Symphobia because it has that “film sound” that us composers are going for… and to be honest, I do not EQ Symphobia patches at all. But, I’m tampering a bit with LA Scoring Strings. I like the way they are recorded dry and up close, so it gives me room to EQ them nicely.
What I have noticed is that LA Scoring Strings violin patches are rather harsh in the upper register, and sometimes it really hurts my ears. So, I like to roll off the harsh frequencies (and some low frequencies) with Studio One Pro EQ.
If you are familiar with using other parametric and graphic EQs, you’ll feel at home with Pro EQ. I like to boost a couple of dBs in low-mids and high-mids to give a sense of air to the violins. In the picture below you can see how my EQ graphic chart looks like for the violin. Of course, if you have your own way of doing this, feel free to experiment.
Some people like to solo tracks and listen to them individually before processing them. That’s cool, but if you’re going to achieve a proper mix of the instruments you will have to monitor them in the entire section. Feel free to monitor your string section instruments together and try to hear where you should apply your EQ. Every string section instrument has its own frequency range and you should pay great attention to all of them. Roll off the frequencies that you don’t hear normally in the instrument group, and pay attention to those that are relevant to the instrument. Like you saw on the EQ chart for the violins: violins don’t have low frequencies, so cut them, otherwise you’ll have chaos in your mix. Double basses don’t have high frequencies, so cut those, too… and so on.
I use the same approach to my brass section as well. I monitor the entire section and roll off the frequencies that I don’t need and concentrate on those that are relevant. Tuba is in lows, of course, trombones occupy low mids and high mids, most horns are also in low and high mids, and trumpets are in the high mids and highs.
Here’s an example of my Horns section being processed with Studio One Pro EQ.
It’s the same as with the strings. I don’t process the Symphobia patch, but I pay attention to close setup of individual brass in Orchestral Brass Classic. Sometimes I even notch some of the peaking frequencies, because brass can get very loud.
I rarely use woodwinds in my pieces, so all I can say about them is that I rarely EQ them, and when I do, I notch the peaks and roll off the lows on flutes, clarinets and english horns. I don’t use bassoon that much, but I would treat it similar to double bass. If you have ideas about them, feel free to share.
As far as the percussion goes, I like to layer them as well. Some would say that it’s a bit unnecessary, but for achieving a fuller sound, you have to blend mic positions on them as well. Most of the time I use True Strike library for percussions. What I like about it is that it has three different mic positions: Close, Stage and Far. When using all three of those patches for a single instrument, you can achieve pretty nice results. A while ago I got a great tip from my friend composer Jason Graves, whose game composition credits include Dead Space, Command & Conquer: Tiberium Twilight, and Blazing Angels. He says:
“Pick a single track to have the low energy, and put a high-pass filter on the rest at, say, 300-500HZ. Try using EQ on the different instruments and see what you can scoop out of each one, preferably different freq for each inst, in the 500-5k range. Also pan them to give them space, but the really low stuff needs to be centered.”
So, if it works for him, it sure does work for me, and it will work for you as well! 🙂
Now, as far as that layering goes with True Strike, feel free to experiment with different level blends of those three mic position patches.
When it comes to choirs and vocals, I am treating them as any pop or rock producer would treat them. I like to use the presets for vocals in Studio One and tweak them a bit.
That pretty much covers the basics of orchestral EQ processing in Studio One. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for part 4, which is a more detailed topic than you may at first think: orchestral reverb!
[Update! For your convenience, here’s the rest of the blogs in this series: