Tag Archives: mixing

Presonus FaderPort Expands To 16 Channels of Motorized Fader Goodness

Presonus has made quite a name for itself in both the software and hardware worlds of late. Studio One has become a well respected household name as far as DAW’s are concerned and their accompanying hardware isn’t too shabby either with the Quantum audio interface making waves pretty recently and swiftly followed by it’s sibling, the Quantum 2. The FaderPort line has seen some R&D attention over the past year, evolving from the initial FaderPort, a small single channel motorized fader with transport and DAW controls into the FaderPort 8, a completely redesigned 8 channel unit with a plethora of controls…Well, 8 channels obviously weren’t enough and they have just released the FaderPort 16 – a 16 channel behemoth with all the bells and whistles you could want for mixing and engineering.

The FaderPort 16 comes equipped with 16 touch-sensitive, 100mm motorized faders, Scribble Strips, 89 buttons covering 104 different functions that allow you to quickly zoom in on audio files for editing, modify plug-in parameters, manage aux mixes and control track levels with the touch of a finger.  The Session Navigator provides easy access to 8 mission critical functions, used in conjunction with the large encoder and companion buttons to mix with much greater efficiency than using just a mouse and keyboard. There is one glaring omission though, where is the metering?

Of course, no Presonus hardware is complete without seriously tight integration with Studio One. You even get a free copy of Studio One 3 Artist with the FaderPort which is a nice addition! It will work with other DAWs on the market too but don’t expect instant plug and play functionality without some configuration steps.

Now the FaderPort 16 doesn’t come cheap. At £899 it is on the more expensive side of the spectrum with regards to MIDI controllers but comparing it to lesser devices wouldn’t be fair as I can’t think of any that have the scope of features this has and personally if I had the spare cash to throw down on a DAW controller I would be seriously considering adding this to the studio.

The FaderPort 16 is available for pre-order here.

Oct 18th – PreSonus “From Riff To Release” Webinar feat Paul White.

presonus-webcast

We’re delighted to announce a free webinar, suitable for all experience levels and finishing with a live Q&A with Sound On Sound Editor Paul White!

Lee Boylan (Presonus) & Andy Bensley (Source Distribution product specialist) will be presenting on the night, you’ll follow as guitarist Andy writes a riff, that turns into a song, creates a multitrack recording and then mixes and masters it before releasing it for sale and promoting it online – all in one information-packed evening!

This part is especially essential for anyone new to production and guitarists who want to get started in recording, as the guys will show you what is possible on very modestly priced equipment including PreSonus Audiobox Interfaces, Studio One, Eris Monitors and Nimbit.

Then we’ll up the ante and hand the floor over to (the legend that is) Paul White, to answer any of your recording & production questions.

As always, watch out for the special code word in the show, which if emailed back in, will get you some exclusive viewer-only offers on Presonus kit!

Please come and join us for what should be a very entertaining and informative evening! If you can’t make it onto the live stream, we will of course make the show available to view later on our archive channel.

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Native Instruments Launches The Much Anticipated Stems Format With A Range Of Kontrol Offers.

Traktor Stems Kontrol Offer

Native Instruments this week brought their much anticipated “Stems” format to fruition, with a dedicated site launched to support this exciting new format. To help celebrate its launch, prices have been dropped on a number of controllers that are ideal for getting to grips with all the creative possibilities this new track format can offer.

What Is A Stem File?

The Stem file container collection opens up whole new ways as a Dj to play with your music. The Stem file at its most basic has a regular stereo copy of the file encoded into it, which allows for playback in a set just like any other. What makes it special however is that within that file is also encoded 4 “stem tracks” which allow you to disect the mix in various ways when playing with it in your set.

In the studio its normal to process groups of similar sounds in stems to ensure a quicker work flow at the mixdown and mastering phases. It gives a broader scope of control as well as allowing the producer the chance to make the individual tracks to gel together better through added group effects. Normally you would expect to see the drums get a stem mix and then perhaps vocals in another and lead sounds in yet another.

With this new Stems format Native have taken the this well proven production methodology and given the flexibility it offers to the end user, allowing a DJ to create mash ups and mixes in ways previously unimagined.

You want to mix the vocal from track A, with the drums from Track B, Synths from track C and Bass from track D? Now you can!

Who Can Create Stem Files?

Anyone!

The stems format is an open file format and Native Instruments have created free tools to allow anyone to create their own stems mixes without paying licensing fees which can then be distributed via your own service of choice.

Native Instruments Stems creator tool

Allowing a total of 4 stem tracks per mix you can give your listeners the ability to remix and interact with your music in amazing new ways.

For more information on creating your own files and more on the Stems creation tool take a look at Natives own information page.

As A Dj How Can I Get To Grips With Stems?

At launch a whole host of labels have already announced a number of releases in this new format, with the genres involved crossing the length and breadth of the dance music spectrum and many more are surely to follow. A number of digital stores such as Beatport & Juno have also confirmed they are amongst the initial half dozen launch stores involved and this will surely only grow over time.

From the off Native Instruments own Traktor is the first Dj software to support Stems natively, but with the file format being open to use without license and developer tools coming shortly, we should expect to see more update across other Dj software platforms if popularity grows and it becomes and essential feature and up until that point the master stereo file can still of course be played back if you find yourself mixing on a unsupported mixing package in the meantime.

The files themselves are based around the .MP4 container framework and the internal Stem files may be encoded in either AAC 256kbps VBR tracks or Apple Lossless Audio (ALAC). Windows 10 is the first PC based OS to fully support the ALAC format natively, althrough on older editions of windows if your DJ package supports it as Tracktor does or it is possible to install some third party codec packs to handle the format in your regular media player of choice.

Playing With Stems

So the big release on the software front to support all this is Traktor 2.9.0 which brings the support for the format to all the Traktor users who have been awaiting it. The ideal way to play and control Stem tracks will be with the Traktor Kontrol D2, Kontrol S8 or a Kontrol F1 along with Traktor Pro 2. The Kontrol S8 and Kontrol D2 have the added advantage of colored screens so DJs can actually see the individual stem waveforms split across the display.

These controllers along with Traktor 2.9.0 are all plug and play with controls natively mapped to the Stem Decks for you and ready to take full advantage of these new tracks. These devices aren’t the only way to control them as the Stem decks will be fully mappable to any MIDI controller so this could open up whole new ways of using your favorite controller.

If all this prove popular and other software and hardware developers choose to follow with added Stem support in the future on other DJ software platforms, this would make the Stem format a huge win for DJs/producers.

Take Control

For a limited time in celebration of this new advance in Dj’ing, along with Native Instruments we are offering a discount on the ideal controllers to take your performances to the next level. Until the end of September only the price of the Kontrol S8 has been dropped to £699, the Kontrol D2 is down to £279 and the Kontrol F1 is superb £99.

For more info on Stems, check out the offical Native Instruments info pages here.

For all the Native Instruments controllers and software at Scan click here.

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.