A fundamental difference between Pro Tools and Studio One is effects handling, which can be confusing for Pro Tools users switching to Studio One (and yes, this tip is based on a true story). When you add an effect with Pro Tools’ mixer insert, you’ll see options for Multichannel and Multi-Mono effects—which Studio One doesn’t have.
Or does it? Actually, not only can Studio One emulate the Pro Tools Multi-Mono mode for people who’ve switched, but there are some advantages that are relevant to Studio One users.
In Pro Tools, Multichannel effects are like what we’re used to in Studio One (and other programs), where the effect processes a mono or stereo track. However, Multi-Mono effects insert separate effects for a stereo track’s left and right channels. Normally this is transparent to the user because the effects are linked, and have a single interface, so they seem like a Multichannel effect. However, Multi-Mono’s particular talent is that you can unlink the effects from each other, switch between the two channels in the interface, and process the two channels (or more, for surround) separately.
My Pro Tools friend was disappointed, because he would often use this feature when mastering, restoring tracks, working with two-track audio sources, and the like. For example, when prepping a file for mastering, he sometimes limited one channel to tame peaks, left the other channel with minimal limiting, then added a master limiter at the output to provide overall limiting (this isn’t the same as using a conventional stereo limiter, and unlinking the two channels). On occasion, the different channels needed different EQ as well.
He knew about my Stereo to Virtual Mono blog post, but wanted to have everything in a single track, like Pro Tools. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution (Fig. 1). As an example, let’s use his scenario of wanting different limiters in each channel.
Figure 1: How to implement Pro Tools’ Multi-Mono effects functionality in Studio One.
Done! Now the left and right channels have their own limiters. But the Pro Tools guy also realized there was an advantage to Studio One’s pseudo-Multi-Mono mode: he didn’t have to switch between Limiter interfaces. Instead, he could pin them, and see both at the same time. When I reminded him he could bring out the Gain, Threshold, Ceiling, and Release controls for each Limiter to Macro knobs, save that as an FX chain, and use less screen real estate…let’s just say he was a happy camper.
This isn’t to diss Pro Tools, which (like any DAW) does some things well, and some things not so well. But it does show that when switching from one program to another, concerns you may have about needing to give up a favorite feature could be irrelevant.
IR-driven cabs are often the weak link with amp sims Fortunately, cab emulations have improved dramatically over the years. Yet like samples, they remain “frozen” to a particular cab—they have their sound, and that’s it.
Although some guitar players think that a cab is a magical device, it’s really just a filter. To be sure, it can be a magical filter…but it’s still a filter. So, we can use filters to create our own cabs. They won’t be able to replicate a specific cabinet down to the smallest detail, but that’s not the point. Using the Pro EQ2 filter to create your own cabinet can give responses that IRs can’t give, with a different sound that can be satisfyingly smooth, and…well, “analog.”
I analyzed the frequency response of several cabs, using the Tone Generator’s pink noise along with the Spectrum Analyzer plug-in, then tried to replicate the response as closely as possible with the Pro EQ2. Although sometimes I was shocked at how close this could come to the cab, more often than not I couldn’t help but make some tweaks—it’s almost like I had taken that cab, brought it into a woodworking shop, and made specific changes for my needs.
If you want to experiment…be my guest! Insert Ampire, choose your amp (I particularly like the following curves with the VC30), select no cab in Ampire (important!), insert the ProEQ2 afterward, and rock out. Here are some ideas to get you started. Note that the white curve is the sum of all the other curves, so that’s the curve you actually hear.
This curve is based on a 1 x12 cabinet that’s designed for leads, but works with rhythm parts as well (Fig. 1).
Here’s a curve that’s more “Tweedish” (Fig. 2)
This curve (Fig. 3) is based on an amp by a company that no longer makes amps, but whose name I better not mention so that I don’t have to deal with lawyers. Suffice it to say they’re known mostly for making guitars that are popular with rock guitarists.
And here’s one more…just because we can (Fig. 4)! It’s based on a 2 x 12 cab.
These all have two elements in common: high-frequency rolloffs, and interesting resonances. Although “EQ cabs” may not replace IRs, they’re not supposed to—this is about augmenting your options. Nonetheless, in many of my current productions, I prefer using the Pro EQ2-based cabs because it’s easier to tailor them to fit in with a specific mix.
For this week’s tip, I’m not providing presets because this isn’t about presets—it’s about editing an “analog” cab to give the sounds you need for your productions. So, the “best” curve will depend on what works best with your guitar, playing style, and production goals. In any event, I think you’ll find that constructing your own cabinet can provide a musically useful, and novel, way to expand on what IR-based cabinets can do.
The performances by Irma Thomas, John Boutte, and Kermit Ruffins were recently tracked live at the New Orleans Center For Creative Arts (NOCCA) by professional recording engineer and faculty member, Steve Himelfarb using the PreSonus StudioLive 32S digital mixer and Studio One DAW software.
Let’s get to know him a bit better and hear what he has to say about integrating Studio One and StudioLive for use in live recordings!
Steve began working in recording studios around Los Angeles when he was about 18, doing the midnight til 9:00 a.m. cleanup shift at Cherokee Studios. As a result, he had priceless experiences including meeting Mötley Crüe (still one of the loudest he has ever heard to this day) when Roy Thomas Baker was mixing their debut record. Another fond memory was that of Ray Manzarek producing X’s Wild Gift during the heyday of the 80s music scene.
“Cherokee was super rock & roll, yet they were very strict with what they wanted from their cleanup people. I was taught how to conduct myself as a young would-be recording engineer,” Steve fondly recalls.
At 19, Steve began working for Capitol Records in the famed Capitol Studios building putting in a solid five years of work. Some of his album credits include Sheila E’s first album, Crowded House’s Crowded House, Bob Seager’s Like a Rock, Dwight Yoakum’s GTRs Cadillacs and Tori Amos’ Y Kant Tori Read. (Fun Fact: Tori and Steve have been friends since high school.)
Steve moved to New Orleans at the age of 25, and the first record he engineered in town was Buckwheat Zydeco’s On A Night Like This, which was produced by Chris Blackwell and nominated for a Grammy. He subsequently bought the studio that he worked at in the late 80s and rebuilt it with a Neve console and Studer tape machine. In 1993, Steve sold that studio and took a couple years off, sort of. To date, he has worked on 15 gold and platinum records and has five Grammy-nominated record credits to his name.
Teaching himself to bake, Steve decided to open a small restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans called Cake Café, and became affectionately known as “The Cake Man” in the Marigny district. After 13 years of business (fast-forwarding past Hurricane Katrina to about four months ago), he sold the restaurant and wrote a cookbook.
Incidentally, around three years ago (after encouragement from Tori Amos) he started getting back into recording again and dove headfirst into the world of digital recording using Studio One.
Here are some thoughts by Steve, in his own words:
I really like the workflow of Studio One. It feels like I am working on a console and not a computer. The drag-and-drop integration is such a great feature. The plug-ins are very musical. Lately, my go-to has been the VT-1 on the stereo bus.
Using the StudioLive 32S in a live recording situation is wonderful. In all honesty, this type of setup used to be such an involved task with a mobile recording truck and countless hours of set up. The StudioLive 32S, along with the NSB digital stage box, is such a game-changer. Total set-up time takes about an hour. The sound is clean. I like the Fat Channel limiters. They are kinda my safety net against clipping in dynamic situations. I have used the StudioLive 32S on about eight projects over the past year, and it is truly a sturdy piece of equipment for such demanding situations. In live recording situations, you just need to count on your equipment and the StudioLive has always performed excellently.
I really like how the company has developed the workflow of the recording studio in the current digital age. I could see how, about six years ago, PreSonus was ahead of the pack in their development of studio ecosystems. Now everyone is building small-format consoles and integrated systems.
Developing young artists has always been a large part of the work I have done. Teaching at New Orleans Creative Center For The Arts (NOCCA) is a natural extension of the work I love.
The Bunn (a.k.a. Scott Sokoloski) is a stoked dude from Canada who makes low-tuned, heavy music despite wearing guitars incredibly high, with very short straps.
After a life of touring and gigging throughout North America in bands, The Bunn started producing his own music, back around 2010. Super-low tuned stuff. Not djent though, and not with 7 or 8 string guitars. The tunes are a post-sludge/ doom kind of thing and with extra long-scale, 6 string baritone guitars.
Besides creating and producing material for Foreigns, Wetlands, & Venns, “The Bunn” is forever busy sharing production and practical techniques in working with super-low tuning and getting music done on his YouTube Channel.
Guitarist, producer, sound engineer and Solar Guitars Artist, Nick Hill runs his YouTube Channel focuses on mixing, metal, and tones. There, he shows how to create modern metal guitar tones, mix, master, and learn the process of music production.
He operates on Spotify both a solo artist and as part of a project called The Partisan Component with Jeff Plewa, an amazing metal vocalist.
Gary Hiebner is a South African guitarist, music producer, content creator, and YouTuber. He started off as a guitarist in the South African music scene in the early 2000’s and from there gathered an interest in music production.
Through learning the different software audio applications available Gary developed a keen interest in music tuition and for the last 8 years he has been creating and providing music tutorials courses on many of the audio DAWs, plugins and effects available on different teaching platforms.
Currently he is a course creator at Groove3 and he also runs a YouTube Channel (Heavy Tones) where it focuses on heavy, low tuned guitars productions and how to get the most out of your heavy low tuned guitars… from dialing in a killer tone for low tuned guitars all the way to guitars setups for low tuned guitars. Also, be sure to check out his new series at Udemy: Advanced Tips and Techniques in Studio One
Because of their depth of work and respect in the extended range guitar online community on YouTube, PreSonus was so fortunate to have these three gentlemen so graciously and enthusiastically help out with creating most of the Presets (and sound examples on our website) for the recent PreSonus Ampire High Density software add-on pack that was just released. Thank you so much for your time and effort guys!
Let’s get to know them a bit better and how their workflow history intersects with PreSonus hardware and software.
PreSonus: How did you discover Studio One?
GH: I started off working in ProTools probably in about 2004, and then moved over to Logic in about 2006 and used that for a good couple of years. But around 2012 I started using Studio One alongside Logic. But I found myself preferring the workflow of Studio One. The interface is smoother and cleaner and with the new updates they have really been adding some great features that help my workflow.
TB: Initially through owning PreSonus hardware (since the FirePod and FireStudio, currently STILL using an AudioBox22 VSL which has been super solid for the last 5 years!). Bundled with the interface was an “Artist” version of Studio One. I’ve really taken to it in recent years (Studio One Pro) since connecting and collaborating with fellow YouTuber, Nick Hill. Nick is a veteran Studio One user and a great mixer. In our musical collaborations everything happens in twin setups of Studio One so that Nick can seamlessly go to the mix stage.
NH: I was definitely a little late to the Studio One party. I recall my early days of audio recording exploration, this would have been the early 00’s, using early versions of DAWs like Digital Orchestrator Pro and then moving into Reaper thinking THAT jump was massive. I tried various other offerings and my best friend Lenny had discovered this DAW called Studio One. At this point, it may have been toward the end of Version 2’s life cycle but we jumped in headfirst and the rest, as they say, is history.
PreSonus: If you explored Ampire in previous versions of Studio One, what are your thoughts on it now versus then?
TB: I started to pay attention to Ampire in Version 4, of particular interest was the “Double”. I’m a huge fan of Rectifiers and needed to try it. The amp itself sounded pretty great, however Ampire as a environment was missing some key functionality and features in order to make it part of my regular routine.
NH: I remember trying early iterations of Ampire and thought, “oh this is neat, but I won’t really use it.” The personal workflow I’ve developed and grown to feel most comfortable with has been hardware or externally based ie audio interface, using mics, capturing real sounds/amps/acoustic instruments, and then on to using hardware like the Line 6 Helix but as Ampire improved, I found myself using it for various mixing and layering tasks, adding in some melody lines, ambient guitar parts and overall “ear-candy” to some of my mixes and projects.
GH: In the beginning, like in version 2 where I started, Ampire was very basic. I was jumping for other Amp sim plugins to get the tone I was after. But I only really started exploring Ampire again with the new State Space Modelling. The Amps sound sooooo much better now. More realistic on getting that sound that you hear from a real amp. Where it sort of sounds like you can feel the air pushing out the speaker. So yeah the new version of Ampire has really come leaps and bounds from the earlier versions.
PreSonus: What do you think about the 3 new amp models in the Ampire High Density add-on pack?
NH: Having had some time to play with the new High Density stuff, It’s safe to say that these newly modeled amps stack up against some of the big-name, 3rd party offerings.
GH: I love all the new amps. Obviously I am more inclined towards amps catering towards high gain. So these new amps are exactly the tones I’m looking for. My favorite being the German sounding Gasoline EMC2. I’m a big fan of the brand it’s being modelled after, so yeah you guys really nailed it with that amp model.
TB: The new amps and cabs sound really good offering a satisfying level of feel and spirit as in the real-life hardware. Both the new drive pedals, the Wild Drive and Demolition Drive really help to shape, tighten, and add dimension to the amps. The new Space Reverb is a very nice addition that I could easily use in a number of different scenarios. Very soft and organic vibes.
PreSonus: How easy was it for you to dive in and start coming up with presets?
GH: Yeah, I could jump in straight away and build up presets quite easily. I’m not into building up big huge chains of amps and pedals. I like to keep the chain quite simple. So with the interface it was easy for me to dial up the sounds I was after. Sometimes just an amp head, speaker cabinet, gate, overdrive and EQ. That’s it.
TB: Ampire, for me, needed no instruction. I just opened it and started using it. Maybe the only thing I got tripped up on was looking for features that I expected that do not exist. Hahaaa!
NH: I wish that I could say I labored for hours and hours over the process but the fact of the matter is, I spent more time jamming on my presets and making the final 1-2% finishing touches than I did creating the actual tones. The new High-Density Amps are straight up, easy to work with and I think users will see that.
PreSonus: What’s the best feature you like about Studio One?
TB: That you don’t need any 3rd party plugins other than perhaps a virtual acoustic drum suite (if you don’t work with a drummer) to produce finished, commercially viable tracks. Typically I need 3rd party dynamics, EQ’s and spatial effects to actually make a track. Studio One closes that gap, especially with the addition of Ampire. The only similarly competing platform in this way would be Logic.
NH: Having used Studio One for years now, I’ve grown to love so much about this DAW. It seems to get out of my way and lets me create but the coolest or the best thing about it speaks to PreSonus as a whole and that is their willingness to work WITH the artists, producers, mix engineers, and musicians who use it. They take feedback, suggestions, and input from the community and continually try to make Studio One better with every update. It won’t always be a perfect process and pleasing everyone is a fool’s errand, but they get marks for trying in my book.
GH: I really like the Pitch Shift pedal effect. I have been through some of the other pitch shifting emulations around and a lot of them suffer from adding too many artifacts when the sound is transformed up and down. But this one works great. I really like the sound and use of it.
PreSonus: What are your thoughts on 2020?
NH: What can I say about 2020 that hasn’t already been said? It’s been rough and scary but with challenge comes growth. I focused on making my community a positive place, a creative place, and a sort of escape from the world and the at times, overwhelming negativity. Not as a way to put on blinders, but as a coping mechanism. I’ll tell you one thing, it’s given me much more appreciation for all of the things we all seem to take for granted when life isn’t on its head, that’s for sure.
GH: 2020 has been a strange year, I’m sure for all. With the whole pandemic and lockdown restrictions. Luckily for me I work from home, and don’t do much gigging and performing outside of the studio anymore. So I haven’t been affected too much in that way like many others have.
But it’s been a great year for guitars. There’s been some great releases focused towards guitarists. And I have been spending more time this year than ever dialing in the tones I want for my guitars and fine tuning them to a level where I finally like the productions I’m getting. So if anything 2020 has been a year for me to dive deeper into my guitar productions.
From my side in the future I’m going to be focusing more on Studio One tutorials courses across the platforms I use. And working hard at my Heavy Tones guitar YouTube channel as am having a lot of fun with that and it seems to be growing nicely. So if you haven’t seen my channel yet I would highly appreciate you stopping by, watching a video or two and leaving your thoughts on what you think.
TB: It’s an interesting, transitional period for music production. Pro audio and bedroom producer spaces are melding into the same space. I think that the trends going forward are going to be software that runs really light, ultra clean and simple GUIs that go away from trying to look like in real life, and software that makes global collaboration accessible and easy.
With Studio One and Ampire specifically I would like to see the gate, smoothed out and further developed (the Fortin Zuul is an incredible gate if you need inspiration). As well, it would be nice to see the cab shaping tools expanded so as to be able to launch a single instance from the inserts that offers a fully refined tone without the need for any additional inserts in the FX rack. This is the big reason that I favour the Helix platform, (and previously BiasFX) and also why I don’t use Neural DSP or STL plugins. I want a single instance that sounds awesome, needs no additional plugins, runs light on my system, and gets out of my way so that I can focus on playing and being creative. Additionally I’d like to see a clean GUI without IRL graphics. Much of Studio One is leaning already in this direction, it would be nice to see it go all the way!
Overall, I really like the single platform for creators approach of Studio One. Just needs a killer acoustic drum suite. No other cross-platform DAW offers such a comprehensive list of pro level tools. And the cross platform thing (Mac/PC) is huge.
We hope that you have enjoyed this round-table discussion by 3 of the most down-to-earth and formidable extended range guitar players online who took the time out to share their personal thoughts here with us.
Visit their YouTube Channels:
Imagine our surprise when Studio One, a FaderPort 8, and a pair of Scepters are prominently displayed with Taylor’s music in the background. We had to find out more about this project, the studio, the engineers, and how Studio One helped TWO of Taylor’s secret albums come to life, Folklore and Evermore. Here’s our interview with Jonathan Gautier, sound engineer and owner of Sound House Studio in Lakeland, FL.
Give us some background on yourself. How long have you been making music?
I started playing the piano at age five. My parents pretty much nurtured rather than forced learning music, so I latched on rather quickly. From 5th grade to 8th grade, I went to a performing arts school, Rochelle School of the Arts, where my mother taught shortly after we moved from Boston to Lakeland. While there, I played cello in the orchestra and sang in the choir. After middle school, I got accepted into Harrison Arts Center for piano. Throughout this whole time, I was playing in church and playing in bands. After high school, I went to the University of Central Florida where I studied Digital Music/Music Production and later received my master’s degree in Music/Music Technology.
How has the music industry changed since your early days?
I’m 36, so I am not sure if I would be considered “old school,” but I feel like the music industry is changing for the better since I started. More tools are accessible than when I started, and you can definitely make music at a better quality. I started out on the original Mbox and a Tascam 4-track in high school, and now people are making better quality music on their phones than I ever did. I also feel that artists are being more responsible with their songs, especially on how they brand themselves, where they want to record, and how they want to use streaming platforms.
Who has been an influence in your life?
My dad was one of my major influences in my life. He, along with my mother, definitely understood the dream that I had to be a producer and own a studio. My dad always would tell me that the world needs dreamers.
Can you please share with us about the Taylor Swift project?
One of our clients, Rob Hecht, aka “Bobby Hawk,” comes to the studio frequently to record violin for various artists, all of which are not disclosed to us. Not even a day before Folklore is released, we get a text from Bobby and he tells us that we have a credit on Taylor Swift’s new album. It was definitely a surreal experience because it came out of nowhere. I almost didn’t want to believe it and when Bobby sent us the link to the credits, sure enough on the song “August” there it is: violins by Bobby Hawk recorded at Sound House Studios by Jonathan Gautier and Michael Williams! (Michael is our other engineer.) We also received another credit on her sister album, Evermore, which was just released on the song “Gold Rush.”
What was your first PreSonus product? What all do you have now?
I have known about PreSonus for a while now. They were one of the first products that I started to build a studio around. My first PreSonus product was the two-channel tube preamp, the BlueTube, and then I had the Digimax LT that I used for an extra eight channels along with my Digi003 rack. Now I use Studio One for my DAW, a FaderPort 8 production controller, Eris 8s as monitors, and a DigiMax DP88.
When did you first hear about Studio One?
Definitely Joe Gilder and Home Studio Corner even before he was heavily involved with PreSonus. Also, the tech director at our church talked about it a lot.
Any user tips or tricks based on your experience with Studio One?
One of my favorite features in Studio One is the Pipeline XT plugin that allows you to use your outboard gear as plug-ins. That was a game-changer for me. I also think pocketing audio tracks using the cursor and Option-Command to line things up over global quantizing is better, at least for me.
How easy/difficult was Studio One to learn?
Coming from Pro Tools, I felt that the learning curve was easier than I thought it would be. I also love the wealth of online resources there are for Studio One, so I never felt stuck. Since making the switch to Studio One and having other PreSonus gear, I have felt that I have been able to be more productive in my studio than ever before.
Recent projects? What’s next for you?
Well, aside from the Taylor Swift stuff, I produced an album project for my church, Access, and another church, Redemption Church. Currently producing album projects for a few local artists: Hana McCartnety and Giselle Gutierrez, as well as mixing virtual choir performances for schools around the country and live recording and mixing for churches for their live streaming. You can check out our new releases on our Spotify Playlist!
HUGE congrats to Jonathan and Bobby for all their success from everyone at PreSonus… and Happy Birthday to Taylor Swift!
Several of the comments have mentioned wanting me to do some video tips, and this week’s tip is well-suited to a video treatment—so here you go.
Gain envelopes have many uses, but one of my favorites is using them to bring down peaks with vocal and narration to allow boosting the overall level. This is a further refinement of the phrase-by-phrase normalization technique I’ve mentioned in the past, which is basically like compressing without a compressor. As a result there are none of the artifacts associated with compression or limiting, so the resulting sound is totally natural.
Showing this with a video makes it easy to see how placing nodes strategically simplifies taming peaks, and how clicking and dragging on a single node can control your dynamics, quickly and efficiently.
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If you like the video, let me know in the comments section, and I’ll do more videos in the future if I think they can convey a concept better or more efficiently than text.
And while we’re on the subject of videos…if you’re not aware of Gregor Beyerle’s playlist of Studio One video tips, they’re well worth watching. Unlike so many YouTube “tips” videos, after watching his videos you’ll feel you learned useful techniques that will help you use Studio One more efficiently—not wasted several minutes of your life you’ll never get back ?. Even when I’ve known much of what he covers, there are always some little gems I hadn’t discovered before.
First, thank you for your continued support of the Studio One eBooks. The goal was to make sure that the books remain current—so there are revisions, as well as new editions.
Revisions are like software “point” updates. They’re free to registered users of the original book, and also make sure new buyers get the latest information. A revision for “How to Make Compelling Mixes with Studio One” will be available next week. New editions expand substantially on the original (like how software advances from one version to the next). The latest is More than Compressors: The Complete Guide to Dynamics in Studio One – 2nd Edition, available now in the PreSonus shop (available to owners of the first edition for half-price).
Second, remember that if you have any questions, comments, corrections, or additional ideas about the books, there’s a support thread where you can ask questions and I’ll answer them. The thread also announces when revisions and new editions are available.
And now…on to the tip!
Creating steel or slide guitar sounds with keyboards is difficult, because few soft synths have polyphonic glide. If they do, sometimes the results are unpredictable.
For my first, admittedly pathetic attempt at “steel synth,” I tried setting the synth bend range to 12 semitones and using the pitch bend wheel to slide entire chords up or down in pitch. However, hitting an exact pitch with the wheel is really difficult. I tried editing the parts to have correct tuning…but that took forever.
Fortunately, there’s a simple answer. It’s not a real-time solution (you’ll need to use the note data edit view), but it works really well—check out the audio example.
The basic idea for slide emulations is you sustain a note, and then use pitch bend to slide the sustained note(s) up (or down). In Fig. 1, a C major chord is gliding up to F and then G, to create the ever-popular I-IV-V progression.
Figure 1: A C major chord is sliding up to an F major, and then a G major.
To ensure correct tuning, create a pitch bend node where you want the new pitch to begin. Right-click on it, and then enter a number that corresponds to the number of semitones you want to “glide” (see the table below). This assumes the synth’s pitch bend range is set to 12 semitones. If you want to bend down by a certain number of semitones, use the same pitch bend amount—just make it negative.
Remember that pitch bend is based on a percentage scale, so in Fig. 1, the first pitch bend node (circled in white to make it more obvious) is set to 0.417 (5 semitones). The second node for the fifth is 0.583 semitones. Lines from one node to the next create the actual glide.
When you right-click on a node to enter a number, the resolution appears to be only two digits to the right of the decimal point, which isn’t good enough for accurate tuning. However, you can enter a three-digit number, as shown above. Even though it won’t be displayed, if you enter that third digit, the dialog box accepts it and Studio One will remember it—so now, you can glide to the exact right pitch.
One of the complaints about electronic music instruments and controllers is that they lack the expressiveness of acoustic instruments. Although future instruments will take advantage of MIDI 2.0’s enhanced expressiveness, two options are available right now: polyphonic pressure, and MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression). Studio One 5 can record/edit both, and ATOM SQ generates polyphonic pressure…so let’s dig deeper.
First, there’s some confusion because people call the same function by different names. Channel Aftertouch = Channel Pressure = Mono Aftertouch = Mono Pressure. Polyphonic Aftertouch = Polyphonic Pressure = Poly AT = Poly Aftertouch = Poly Pressure. Okay! Now we’ve cleared that up.
Aftertouch generates a control signal when you press down on a keyboard key after it’s down, or continue pressing on a percussion pad after striking it. Aftertouch is a variable message, like a mod wheel or footpedal—not a switch. A typical application would be changing filter cutoff, adding modulation, or doing guitar-like pitch bends by pressing on a key.
There are two aftertouch flavors. Mono pressure has been around since the days of the Yamaha DX7, and sends the highest controller value of all keys that are currently being pressed. Polyphonic pressure sends individual pressure messages for each key. For example, when holding down a chord for a brass section, by assigning poly pressure to filter cutoff, you can make just one note brighter by pressing down on its associated key. The other chord notes remain unaffected unless they’re also pressed.
Controllers with polyphonic aftertouch used to be fairly expensive and rare, but that’s changing—as evidenced by ATOM SQ.
As expected, you need a synth that responds to poly pressure. Many hardware synths respond to it, even if they don’t generate it. As to soft synths, although I haven’t tested all of the following, they reportedly support poly pressure: several Korg Collection synths, Kontakt, Reaktor, all Arturia instruments, all U-He instruments, XILS-Lab synths, TAL-Sampler, AAS synths, Albino 3, impOSCar2, Mach5, and Omnisphere. If you know of others, feel free to mention them in the comments section below. (Currently, Studio One’s bundled instruments don’t respond to polyphonic aftertouch.)
Figure 1: ATOM SQ being set up to generate Poly Pressure messages.
With ATOM SQ, press the Setup button. Hit the lower-left “pressure” button below the display, then spin the dial to choose Poly (Fig. 1). Note that if ATOM SQ outputs poly pressure, most instruments that respond only to channel (mono) aftertouch will ignore these messages.
Record poly pressure in Studio One 5 as you would any MIDI controller. To edit pressure messages, use the Edit window’s Note Controller tab. Select Pressure for the Type, and then the Pitch of the note you want to edit. Or, click on a note to select its corresponding note Pitch automatically. You can then edit that note’s poly pressure controller as you would any other controller (Fig. 2).
Figure 2: The selected Note’s data is white; unselected notes of the same pitch are blue. The gray lines in the background show the poly pressure controller messages for notes with other pitches.
It may seem that editing data for individual notes would be tedious, and it can be. However, because poly pressure allows for more expressive real-time playing, you might not feel the need to do as much editing anyway—you won’t need to use editing to add expressiveness that you couldn’t add while playing.
A fine point is that it’s currently not possible to copy Note Controller data from one note, then paste it to a note of a different pitch (probably because the whole point of poly AT is for different notes to have different controller data). However, if you copy the note itself to a different pitch, the Note Controller data will go along with it.
Although ATOM SQ can adopt a layout that resembles a keyboard, it would be a mistake to see it as a stripped-down version of a standard keyboard. Controllers with polyphonic pressure tend to think outside the usual keyboard box, by incorporating pads or other transducers that are designed for predictable pressure sensitivity. Poly pressure has been around for a while, but a new generation of MIDI controllers (like ATOM SQ) are making the technology—and the resulting expressiveness—far more accessible for those who want to wring more soul out of their synths.
It’s not surprising a lot of Studio One users also have Ableton Live, because they’re quite different. I’ve always felt Studio One is a pro recording studio (with a helluva backline) disguised as software, while Ableton is a live performance instrument disguised as software.
Fortunately, if you like working simultaneously with Live’s loops and scenes and Studio One’s rich feature set, Studio One can host Live as a ReWire client. Even better, ATOM SQ can provide full native integration with Ableton Live when it’s ReWired as a client—once you know how to set up the MIDI ins and outs for both programs.
Now ATOM SQ will act as an integrated controller with Ableton Live while it’s ReWired into Studio One. Cool, eh?
To return control to Studio One, reverse the process—in Live, set Control Surface to None, and toggle the MIDI Ports that relate to ATOM SQ from On to Off. In Studio One’s Options > External Devices, For ATOM SQ, reconnect ATOM SQ to Receive From and Send To.
Note that with ATOM SQ controlling Studio One, the Transport function still controls both Live and Studio One. Also, if Live has the focus, any QWERTY keyboard assignments for triggering Clips and Scenes remain valid. So even while using ATOM SQ in the native mode for Studio One, you can still trigger different Clip and Scenes in Live. If you switch the focus back to Studio One, then any QWERTY keyboard shortcuts will trigger their assigned Studio One shortcuts.
Note: When switching back and forth between Live and Studio One, and enabling/disabling Studio One and Ableton Live modes for ATOM SQ, to return to Live you may need to “refresh” Live’s Preferences settings. Choose None for the Control Surface and then re-select ATOM SQ. Next, turn the various MIDI Port options off and on again.
With physical audio media in its twilight, streaming has become the primary way to distribute music. A wonderful side effect has been the end of the loudness wars, because streaming services like Spotify turn levels up or down as needed to attain a specific, consistent perceived level—squashing a master won’t make it sound any louder.
However, the “garbage in, garbage out” law remains in effect, so you need to submit music that meets a streaming service’s specs. For example, Spotify prefers files with an LUFS of -14.0 (according to the EBU R128 standard), and a True Peak reading of -1.0 or lower. This avoids adding distortion when transcoding to lossy formats. If the LUFS reading is above -14.0, then Spotify wants a True Peak value under -2.0.
Fortunately, when you Detect Loudness for a track on the mastering page, you’ll see a readout of the LUFS and LRA (a measure of overall dynamic range), as well as the True Peak, RMS (average signal level), and DC offset for the left and right channels. Fig. 1 shows an example of the specs generated by detecting loudness.
Note that this hits Spotify’s desired LUFS, but the left channel’s True Peak value is higher than what’s ideal. This readout also shows that the average RMS levels for each channel are somewhat different—the left channel is 1.2 dB louder than the right one, which also accounts for the higher True Peak value. This may be the way the artist wants the mix to sound, but it could also indicate a potential problem with the mix, where the overall sound isn’t properly centered.
A simple fix is to insert a Dual Pan into the Inserts section. Use the Input Balance control to “weight” the stereo image more to one side for a better balance. After doing so and readjusting the LUFS, we can now give Spotify exactly what it wants (Fig. 2). Also note that the left and right channels are perfectly balanced.
A Crucial Consideration!
You don’t want to mix or master based on numbers, but on what you hear. If you set up Dual Pan to balance the channels, make sure that you enable/bypass the plug-in and compare the two options. You might find that balancing the left and right channels not only accommodates Spotify’s requirements, but improves the mix’s overall balance. If it doesn’t, then leave the balance alone, and lower the track’s overall output level so that True Peak is under -1.0 for both channels (or under -2.0 for LUFS values above ‑14.0). This will likely lower the LUFS reading, but don’t worry about it: Spotify will turn up the track anyway to reach -14.0 LUFS.
Coda: I always thought that squashing dynamic range to try and win the loudness wars made listening to music a less pleasant experience, and that’s one of the reasons CD sales kept declining. Does the end of the loudness wars correspond to the current music industry rebound from streaming? I don’t know… but it wouldn’t surprise me.