Saturday, October 26, 2013

WAH WAH and the other ENVELOPE FILTERS! with Free Vst Plugins Inside!

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to talk about the Wah Wah, and more in general about the envelope filters!
Envelope filters are basically Equalization filters that can work both automatically, through fixed or dynamic time and amplitude parameters, or can be controlled manually, to bring in and out in real time certain frequences from a sound.
The Wah Wah, which is the most famous application of an envelope filter, is a foot-controlled filter that takes in or out certain treble frequences, while a note is sustained.
The name Wah Wah is onomatopoeic, which means that the device recreates the sound effect produced, in facts if we apply it to a trumpet or a distorted guitar, the result is similar to the modulation of vowels made by a human voice (in facts one of the most famous wah wah pedals is called "Cry Baby").

One of the musicians that contributed to make the Wah Wah pedal famous is without any doubt  Jimi Hendrix (impressive how this artist has been taken by us many times as an example for the use of effects: the truth is that after half a century, the guitar effect standards set by him has never really gotten old), with songs like "The Burning of the Midnight Lamp", or Guns'n Roses guitarist Slash, with classics like "Sweet Child o'Mine".
Another artist that has built his fame also around the sound of his wah is Kirk Hammett of Metallica.
There are many different types of Wah, that changes according to how many and which frequences are filtered, but the idea behind them is always the same.
Talking about the envelope filters in general, instead, we can see a massive use of them in todays electronic music, for example artists like Skrillex shapes their tone by filtering in and out certain frequences from their lead synths, in time with the song to emphasyze the groove.

Most of DAWs already features a bundled filter or wah effect, but if you want to try some cool vst downloadable for free, here's our suggestions:

- Samsara Cycle Audio Wahzi: an interesting autowah effect with many editable parameters.

- Mtg Wahwactor: a very simple wah emulator, Voice Controlled.

- Coyote Electronics WahGT: a wah emulator that can also be controlled with a midi pedal.

- Fretted synth WAHT: a wah designed for the guitar.

- GSI EFFECTIZER: a single vst that features all the modulation effects, included the wah.

- Admiral Quality Naive LPF: a midi controllable envelope filter.

- Topaz Dyna Filter II: an AutoWah and Dynamic Filter.

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Saturday, October 19, 2013


Hello everyone!
Today we talk about an interesting bass related topic, that we have already seen for the guitar (Click Here for the perfect guitar effect chain order!).
The rules aren't totally different, actually they are very similar, but we need to adapt them to this other instrument's characteristics.

So, as for guitars, here is our bass chain by areas: BASS -> PRE GAIN AREA -> GAIN RELATED AREA -> POST GAIN AREA -> AMPLIFIER

- PRE GAIN AREA: Starting from the instrument itself, it's a good idea to set at the beginning of the chain the WAH or the othter envelope filters (such as the Electro Harmonix Bass Balls), then we can set an Octave, and, if we need it, a Compressor.

- GAIN RELATED AREA: in this area we can use any kind of Overdrive, Fuzz or Distortion, and in this case the Post Gain effects goes after this area, or we can use the Amplifier's Preamp section as Gain Related Area, and the Post Gain effects goes into the amp's FX Loop.

- POST GAIN AREA: in this area we can set all the post-gain processors, such as modulation effects (chorus, delay..) and last the Reverb.


As for the guitar, the EQUALIZATION can be set anywhere, from the top of the chain to right after the gain related area; the thing to keep in mind is that if we cut, we can go before the compressor, if we boost we should place the eq after the compressor, otherwise it would cut our boost.

Keep in mind that this is just one of the many chains usable, and it's made to understand the basic rules of bass effects, but we can obviously experiment modifying the effect order to see what happens, and often the results will be very cool and creative. 
Just keep an open mind and let us know if you find some interesting variation!

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Saturday, October 12, 2013


Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to review an interesting guitar, owned by the father of a friend of mine.
This guitar is one of the very few Gibson that featured a Bigsby bridge, the type of bridge that allowed the player to use the whammy bar whithout having to dig a hole in the guitar body, and this feature disappeared almost completely from Gibson guitars around the half of the '70s.
The body is extremely resonant, yet not too heavy, this may be also because it has been regularly played for 40 years and always kept in dried places, allowing the wood to dry out and become resonant at its best.

The pickups were also different from today SGs: they were still humbuckers but with a lower output (some sort of "p.a.f."), still very creamy and mid-rangey, but with more clarity and less bass than the contemporary models.
These same pickups, treated with tar (the way they used to make them a few decade ago), today are equipped only in some dedicated vintage reissue.

Tech Specs:

Body: Solid mahagony
Neck: Mahagony
Fretboard: Rosewood 22 frets / block-inlays
Pickups: 2x ori. Gibson "Pat. Pending-stamped" tar humbuckers
Electronics: 2x Volume, 2x Tone, 1x 3-way toggleswitch
Pickguard: Small ´60s style 5-ply pickguard (blk/wht/blk)
Tuners: 6x Grover metal
Bridge: Bigsby

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Saturday, October 5, 2013


Hello and welcome to this week's article!
This article can be considered an extra part of our Ear training section, and explains practically how to learn something about a professional record's song and to translate it in our mix.
Let's picture this scenario: we have our mix project in our Daw, we add a new stereo track and import our favourite song, lowering its volume until it matches the one of our project.
Now we can investigate that song, asking it the typical questions that we have already seen on the second and last part of our ear training aricle:

"how much room is reserved for rhythm guitars? Where is located the snare? How deep the bass goes? how much room is taken from the vocals?" ...and so on, and we use the tools and the methods explained in those articles to find out how our favourite mix is composed.

Once we have clear in mind how the song is constructed, tonally speaking, we need to compare it with ours, keeping in mind that 60% of the tone shaping is in the recording, and that we cannot twist a sound into a completely different one without runining it: we can cut frequences doing relatively little damage to the nature of the sound, but when boosting, the more we boost, the more it will sound unnatural and digitally warped (as it actually happens).

Comparing our song with the referincing one we coud notice for example that our snare drum sound it's completely different from the imported one: that one for example can be high oriented, because the drummer had a small snare with a very high tuning, while ours is dark because the snare was huge and low tuned, so the sound will never be similar, and it will sit on a totally different place in the mix. We cannot completely transform it because it's gonna sound awful, so we got two options: replace our snare with a sample through a drum replacer, or compare our track with another one that has sounds more similar to ours. It has no sense to have for example a grunge song to mix, and compare it with a death metal one only because we like the snare: it will only confuse us and lead us to wrong choices.

What it's particularly interesting is to understand how the audio engineers have treated the 2 most problematic areas: the one in which the vocals and the snare drum lies, and the low end.
The first one it's the zone the human ear is most sensible to, so we can understand by listening to it how a mix is balanced: are the vocals at the same volume of the drums, as in the modern rock?
Are kick and snare louder than vocals (as in death metal)?
Or the opposite, as in pop music?
We can apply the same pholosophy to our mix, and it will make the difference.
This area is also interesting to study, to understand how the engineer has treated guitars: has he cut the guitar frequences here to leave room to vocals and snare, or did he let the guitar be prominent, sacrificing frequences of the other instruments on that area?
About the low end: where does the guitar stops and where does the bass pops out?
The lower the guitar tuning is, the more usually a guitar is low-frequency oriented and "eats" room to the bass.
Is the bass distorted? How much?
To the point of becoming just a complement of the guitar as it happens in many black or death metal albums?
Or at the opposite, it's just lows and it lies on a range reserved to it?
How loud the cymbals are? Usually the louder they are, the more the album acquires a "garage", realistic, alternative rock feeling, and the more it becomes "dirty".
In pop music and modern metal, cymbals are held very low in volume, while the indie bands likes them to be high and resonating, so, again, it's a style choice that we must understand and use to our advantage.

These are all lessons in sound balancing and eq choices that we can absolutely learn on our own from the masters, and apply them on our mixes, keeping in mind that in the end our mix has to sound well, to be euphonic and balanced with what we got, that is totally different from the original sounds tracked for the referencing songs.
We cannot be too stubborn in wanting a sound that we cannot obtain because the raw track is too different, and we should focus instead into making great music with what we got.
In the end, that is really all that matters.

You can learn more about the best uses of a reference track HERE.

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