A free Windows based software studio guide.

Everyone loves something for nothing and it has to be said the are some astounding free or donationware plug in’s and even sequencers out there.

This morning I stumbled across Synthgeeks “A free Windows based software studio” guide over on KVR and thought we should bring it to the attention of our readers, as the’s whole host of cool plugin’s there that even us guys here haven’t seen during our extensive time trawling the web. Having spent a bit of time working through the huge list that’s in the article we have to agree that the are certainly tools there suitable for both the newest user and even the seasoned pro and given the price of pretty much nothing (donations always encouraged) the really isn’t an excuse not to check them out.

So grab a nice comfy chair and make yourself a coffee then check out all the goodness over at the Synthgeek site.

A free Windows based software studio guide.

Scan Pro Audio Day – Stereo:Type Snare Reverb-Without-Reverb Tutorial Video

  Thanks to eveyone who came down for the fourth Scan Pro Audio Day last Saturday.

Everyone seemed to love the chance to get hands on with the latest kit and have a chance to discuss all matters pro audio, from getting soundcards to work, to choosing the right speakrs and how best to do live digtal audio mixing for a band.

For the benefit of eveyone who didnt make it, here’s part of Stereo:Types masterclass, concentrating on how to make reverbs on snares without actually using reverb!

 

 

 

Reverb. (Where will it all end?…)

Todays Digital domain allows musicians and producers a phenomenal selection of plug-ins and treatments. From physical modelling of original spring reverbs, through mathematical models of the Grand Canyon or Wembley stadium, there is a huge wealth of possibilities out there, and with those possibilities must come responsibility.

Too often people are tempted to use whatever the’ve got, wherever they can, without a thought about how this might sound in the final mix. So lets have a quick look at a couple of scenarios, which might help you think a little more about your reverb treatments…..

 

The Basic Idea.

 

From a Guitarists point of view, reverb was an effect that gave a a ‘Twang’ on a guitar, a very satisfactory ‘ring’. Listen to early guitar groups like the Shadows and indeed early Beatles to here how the spring reverb (literally a spring in a metal box) that was a feature on a lot of early amps, was used to give depth to what otherwise would have been quite a weedy tone by todays standards.. 60’s producers seemed terribly keen on this sound, and consequently it appears on albums featuring everything from vocal groups to sitars.

From a producers point of view however,, reverb is a much more useful tool in achieving a satisfcatory end result. A good reverb can make it sound as if all the instruments you use were recorded in the same spatial area, i.e. it makes the song sound more ‘believeable’ even if the component parts are samples and virtual instruments.

A good reverb can form the glue that holds some mixes together, although it should be said, its never a good idea to rely on your effects to do that for you.

Even where a track has its own reverb applied, either because it s a live sample or a guitarists ‘tone’, a nice reverb across the master buss can allow a track its own space to stand in.

 

Avoid.

 

One thing that does make me queasy though, is when I hear a mix with a different type of reverb applied to each instrument, and none bear any relation to the next.

There is probably an argument for using different reverbs creatively, but in that case, the overall ‘believability’ will always suffer.

There are some bands/records that can get away with the Guitar on a 5 second rev tail and the Vocals on a .2ms slap back, but not too many.

 

Also be aware of how a reverb can ‘swamp’ the timbre of things like voices or violins.

Many amateur singers like to sing or at least monitor themselves with plenty of reverb.

Its not that they think it makes them sound more in tune, it just smooths out any rasps or harmonic glitches, and consequently gives the illusion of sounding more complete and less stark.

 

Early Reflections:

 

There are some reverb manufacturers who include a function within their reverbs called ‘early reflection’.

There are some manufacturers who think this is a load of cobblers.

For those of you with the option to twiddle with early reflections, the idea is that after the initial sound reaches your ears, but before the onset of proper reverberation, there are tiny ‘slaps’ of sound that come back at you from walls, ceiling etc. and using these, the brain is able to ascertain information about where the sound is with reference to its initial source.

Other manufacturers such as Lexicon, maintain that reverb is a one stop process that can’t be broken down into stages like this. Lexicon prefer words like ‘Spread’ and ‘Shape’ to describe different parts of the process, and I think I tend to agree. However,, these controls are popular with some folks, so its horses for courses I guess.

 

Pare it Back (Arranging within the Box 2)

PARE IT BACK!

 

Sometimes its possible to find yourself in the middle of a tune or song, and feeling like you have nowhere left to go. You still believe in the track, but you cant like it at the moment.

Answer: Pare it back.

 

If the song is strong enough, it should be good enough for a busker to sing it with just a guitar or accordion for backing, (remember we’re talking ‘songs’ here not electronica….)

So start hacking away at some of the tracks.

Take it back to maybe just bass and drums or guitar and percussion.

Often parts that you record later, say a string line or a 2nd piano part, are much more unexpected if you leave them alongside the main vocal or melody, taking away the obvious stuff can reveal the prettier ideas and lines.

In some cases, removing a part or a whole track can leave too big a space, but you can still make some impact by reducing volumes right down.

This way of working can actually be very creative, and allows for some radical re-thinking of your work

A Band Mentality (Arranging within the box 1…..)

A ‘BAND’ MENTALITY FOR THE SOLO MUSIC PRODUCER…..

 

One of the great things about being a musician, is the chance to play with other musicians. It is indeed the life blood of many players, allowing them to learn and grow and develop their abilities alongside other people doing the same thing.

And it shows in the music. Generally speaking a good band will bring something else to a song or track, which is seemingly more than the sum of its parts….

It comes from the communication between various band members and builds over time, to become part of the arrangement, and in some cases can turn a mediocre track into a great one.

The key is the way musicians listen to each other.

Lets delve a little deeper.

I remember being in one of my first bands, I was the youngest member at 14, the other guys were a couple of years older, but I was tall, smoked a mean cigarette, and I could play…

We used to play an eclectic mix of Rock music, and our bass player at the time had only recently taught himself to play, however, there was one tune where he had embellished the end of the verses with a line that really pushed his ability. As a consequence, knowing how proud he was of the line, I would take it upon myself to quieten down (never easy for a red blooded rock guitarist) and allow him the space for his fancy line to shine through. To this day, I can’t hear that particular track without preferring his version.

Other instances occur when people play off one another, (a good drummer can ‘Lift’ a song at will by pushing the dynamics, and everyone else in the band can instantly hear it it and respond appropriately), Bass players and Drummers tend to gel very quickly, with the Bass man able to guess what sort of fill is coming where, Singers can ‘quieten’ down the band at certain parts of a song with hand actions or fingers to lips, effectively controlling the dynamics of a track live.

So these few examples, and there are many more, show how the human element in a band, can go towards affecting the overall performance of a song, and this is something that we as music producers should bear in mind, as we sit toiling alone in our studios past midnight.

Take a song that you’ve recorded yourself, all the parts, just you.

Now listen back to it and pretend that you’re a bass player who’s just joined the band. This is the first track you’ve played on, and you want it to stand out showing what a great job you’ve done for the band. How would he play it? (and I dont mean ‘Overplay’ it!) Do the lines just ‘run’ into one another? are there any little areas that could use a little flamboyance? Is the bass REALLY playing along with the kick drum?

Are there any keyboard pads or big chords that are getting in the way of guitar parts?

Its very easy for us as lone players to play the part ‘right’ and move on, without any thought to how it would play out in a real band.

Are there any strings filling all the space in?

Is there an opportunity where a singer would quieten the band down live? This maybe something you should consider on the record itself.

Taking 5 minutes out to think like you’re in a band, can sometimes make the difference between a good track and a worldbeater.

 

New Focusrite VRM Monitoring Guide

Last year one of the more interesting peices of kit released into the market place was called simply the Focusrite VRM Box where the VRM stands for “Virtual Reference Monitoring”.

We like this solution as it goes some way towards helping you carry out that age old ideal of testing your mix on as many reference systems as possible without having to record a copy off each time. The VRM box does this by emulating a selection of classic speakers and room modes so that you can audition your music in various situations without ever leaving the comfort of your studio chair. If you were to go out and purchase all of the speakers emulated to set them up in your own studio then the chances are you’d be out of room and money before completing such a project so this techknowledgy offers some great benefits that you simply wouldn’t be able to recreate with any real ease in the real world.

For more information over to Focusrite:

The Science of VRM

The Problem

Accurate mixing has until now, required expensive monitors and a carefully designed and treated control room. Currently, both professional music producers facing budgetary limitations and project music makers without access to such, frequently encounter mixing and “auditioning” difficulties.

The Solution
The Focusrite VRM Box solution allows you to choose from 10 pairs of industry standard nearfield and main monitors in an acoustically treated control room. Engineers routinely A/B their mixes by burning CDs and taking them into untreated rooms to reference on consumer stereos. The Focusrite VRM box eliminates this process by simulating two extra rooms; a large living room and a smaller bedroom. You can choose between a range of speakers including quality hi-fi, computer, cheap stereo and television speakers.

The Method
The Focusrite VRM Box uses standard headphones to reproduce the direct sound, together with software running on your computer that is used to simulate specific monitoring scenarios. VRM’s room models are mathematical models which provide greater flexibility in the possible combinations of loudspeakers. The loudspeaker simulations are created using convolutions of impulse responses measured using the original loudspeakers. The accuracy of these simulations in different environments is taken care of by the impulse responses themselves and the way they are calculated and manipulated.

The Focusrite VRM Specifications

Headphone Outputs (Outputs 1-2)
·      Output impedance: < 10 Ω
·      Power output into 150Ω: 15mW
·      Power output into 50Ω: 30mW
·      THD+N: -100dB (0.001%) (-1dBFS input, 20Hz/22kHz bandpass filter, 150Ω load)
·      Signal to Noise Ratio: > 105dB
S/PDIF Digital Input
·      Automatic Sample Rate conversion
·      Supported sample rates: continuous from 32kHz to 192kHz
·      THD+N: < -110dB any sample rate
Crosstalk (Channel Isolation)
·      Any output to output: > 100dB
DIGITAL PERFORMANCE
·      D/A Dynamic Range: 120dB (A-weighted)
·      Measured D/A Dynamic Range: 108dB (A-weighted)
·      Clock Source: Internal Clock only Clock jitter < 250 picoseconds
·      Supported Sample Rates: 44.1kHz & 48kHz
·      Input channels to computer: S/PDIF (stereo)
·      Output channels from computer: Headphones (stereo)
Connectors and Controls
·      Stereo S/PDIF input on RCA
·      Stereo Headphone Output on 1⁄4” TRS
·      Headphone Output Level control (analogue)
·      4-pin USB2.0 compatible socket
Indicators
·      1 Green LED Indicator:
   –   Flashing: Unit not installed correctly on host
   –   Off: VRM effects turned off

For the Focusrite VRM Box at Scan.

For more info on the Focusrite VRM Box.

To Try out the Focusrite VRM Box online sampler.

 

Scan Pro Audio Day, Bolton – 25th Febuary

Scan Audio DayYup, its that time agin to hold another audio day in our Bolton showroom. It’s on from 11am till 3pm and is, as always free to attend.

This time we’ve got a masterclass from Mashup king and Foreign Beggars & Beardyman producer Stereo:Type with loads of trade secrets, as well as your chance to get hands on with some of the latest kit and of course a prize draw, which at the last audio day in November ended up being a Native Instruments Traktor S2!

Please click here to sign up as places are limited.
Please click here to sign up as places are limited.

Full lineup as follows….

11.00am  Ableton Live
Simon Lyon aka The Ruthless Producer introduces Ableton Live. During this session, Simon will take you on a tour of Abletons features and show how easy it is to build tracks from scratch including live recording.
12.00pm  Soundcards & Audio Interfaces
Tom from “The Autobots” talks about soundcards. Which is the best for you? And How do we go about testing them? How do you know how good they are?
1.00pm  Guitar Rig 5 session
Steve Fairclough recreating ‘Classic’ guitar tones with Guitar Rig 5
2.00pm  Ableton Live Master class
Stereo: Type presents a Producers masterclass with Ableton Live.
3.00pm  Prize Draw !

Traktor Kontrol S2 Offer from February 1st – 31st March.

For two months only, Native Instruments are offering a special deal on the Traktor Kontrol S2 allowing us to sell through at a special offer price of £329 saving £150 on our previous list price.

What Native Instruments have to say about the Traktor Kontrol S2:

The TRAKTOR KONTROL S2 has pro credentials throughout, the 2.1 design couples the most essential items for any DJ — 2 decks and a mixer — with controls for multi-effect units and a third channel for samples. Set it up in an instant and dive right into the mix.

Rugged and highly portable, TRAKTOR KONTROL S2 is the only controller of its size to come with the full version of TRAKTOR PRO 2 included – the same software that pro DJs of all genres use. With TRAKTOR 2 Technology Inside, the S2 is tuned for maximum intuitiveness and creativity – resulting in an intensely fluid and fun mixing experience.

The included TRAKTOR PRO 2 is the culmination of 10 years of experience as the industry-leading DJ software platform. Its ease-of-use and astounding creative arsenal are built on the concept of TRAKTOR 2 Technology Inside.

This compact and portable unit was built by the same team and with the same components that brought you the TRAKTOR KONTROL S4. Robust knobs and backlit buttons let you know what’s going on at all times and two high-quality, pressure-sensitive jog wheels deliver total track control and easy pitch bending and tempo nudging.

TRAKTOR KONTROL S2 is the ideal hardware for new DJs who want to access the same great features used by the pros in an easily accessible and focused format.

There’s no steep learning curve with the S2 – the perfect integration between hardware and software means everything is ready to go, so you can focus on selecting the hottest tracks from your hard drive or iTunes® library. Get deep into the powerful looping features, and use the four dedicated ‘hot-cue’ buttons to effortlessly remix and re-edit tunes on the fly – all perfectly in time.

The Samples knob lets you mix the eight Sample Deck slots into your mix – either record loops from the playing track or use any of the included sound content and two flexible FX units give you access to 30 pro effects that automatically sync to tempo, so you can easily stamp your own style on the mix. Welcome to the future of DJing.

Traktor Kontrol S2 Full Shot
The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2

Scan Shop : Traktor Kontrol S2

Native Instruments Traktor S2 Offer Information Page