Sunday, January 31, 2016

Guitar and bass Inlay dots! What are those?

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article! today we're taking a look at those small white dots (or other shapes) that we find often on the fretboard of  our guitars and basses, the inlays!

Inlay dots are small pieces of a material that may vary (from plastic to abalone to pearl) that gets installed in a guitar or bass fretboard in order to help the player finding the right fret to press: the use is therefore both for learning and for aesthetic purpose.

Inlay dots may come in the most various shapes and sizes: from the circular ones, which are by far the most common, to the "sharkfin" type, from the trapeze shaped ones to more creative shapes like the classic "birds" of the PRS guitars.
Inlay dots can be set in the part of the fretboard where the player puts his fingers and/or on the side of it, so that only the player can see them.

A luthier, in order to install the inlay dots on a fretboard, needs to carve the shape into the fretboard, glue the inlay into the hole, and once the inlay is perfectly fixed, to smooth out the whole fretboard until you can't feel any step between the fretboard and the inlay. It must feel like part of the fretboard in a perfect continuity.
Usually inlays are set in a classic scheme, in order to make the player to know where the octave ends and the new one starts: single inlays on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, double inlays on the 12th, single inlays on the 15th, 17th, 19th, and 21st, and if present, double inlays on the 24th. 
Advantages of such scheme include its symmetry about the 12th fret and symmetry of every half (0-12 and 12-24) about the 7th and 19th frets. Anyway sometimes there are also less classic and more creative patterns.

An interesting new way of using inlay dots has risen to success in the last decade by some famous guitar player (like Herman Li of Dragonforce and Devin Townsend): to wire the inlay dots with leds or optic fiber (passing through a canal inside the fretboard), in order to make them light in the dark of the stage, for both show and playing purpose.

There are also fluorescent inlays that glows in the dark without the need of a battery, but obviously the light produced is much inferior.

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Interview: Accusonus

Accusonus is one of the  most interesting realities in music production software: they try to differentiate themselves from the other software houses by creating new tools to craft a sound, instead of proposing their version of something that was already there by decades.
Here's a chat about their vision of the music productin software:

GuitarNerdingBlog: Hello and welcome to Guitar Nerding Blog! Can you give us some details on how Accusonus was born?

Accusonus: Thanks for having us and congrats for your blog! Accusonus was founded back in 2012, from Elias Kokkinis and myself. Previously we were both working in the academia, doing research in audio signal processing. However, our dream was always to use our research background in order to build innovative products that will revolutionarize the pro-audio workflow. At the time, we were amateur musicians/sound engineers ourselves and I remember us having long discussions on how much we felt that the pro-audio industry was stagnated compared to other industries. We have more processing power in our pockets than the computers of the best professional recording studio in the 90s had: shouldn't we use this power to build something new? I guess that accusonus is our answer to this observation.

GNB: Do you think the Midi/samples world has reached a level of realism good enough or are we still going to have to rely on acoustic drums for long? Or is there a third way?

A: I think that drum samples are already very realistic. Some people might argue that they can be compared to a good drummer. My guess is that even if these people are right, the producer will have to spend countless hours on programming in order to give them a human touch. And even if she/he achieves the perfect result, there's still the problem that everyone uses the same libraries making every production sound the same. So my tip is use drum samples for your quick demos, but get a real drummer if you want to create great music or have fun with your band! Don't underestimate the human element in music. Music is all about emotions and despite the progress of AI, the computers don't have emotions now or in the foreseeable future. At the end of the rehearsal, you cannot grab a beer with your computer, can you?

GNB: What is the concept behind an Accusonus plugin usually like? And what about its design?

A: Our internal rule is that every accusonus product should do something that no existing product does. We are not interested in doing me-too products, simply because we find them boring. As for the design of our plugins: it's an iterative process, where we try to improve the user experience of our customers giving them the means to do their job easier and faster.

GNB: What is your opinion about the world of home recording and professional recording of today?

A: In the last decade, the home recording studio has been seriously upgraded since there's access to cheaper and better hardware and software. However, I think that there will be always a need for professional studios (at least for some people) for (i) the acoustics of the recording space and (ii) the need for the professional process. Think it this way: I can definitely do my job from home but I go everyday to the office to meet my colleagues and co-operate with them in a professional environment. Sometimes the professional studio is needed, because it's the office of musicians/engineers.

GNB: What is the philosophy behind your software?

A: In accusonus, we build Artificial Intelligence tools (drumatom is one of them)! But we want our AI to improve the workflow of musicians/engineers and not to replace them. Let's face it: the best element in music is fun and we want to keep it this way. So we want to use novel technology to revolutionarize the pro-audio industry without taking the fun element out of the music making process!

GNB: What are your career highlights as a software house?

A: We are only 3.5 years old, so my answer is that hopefully our career highlights are not here yet! That being said, whenever a professional around the world send us an email/tweet/facebook post that our software has saved her/his mix, we feel we have a new career highlight.

GNB: How do you think the future of mix engineering will be? Will it be still for years a continuous modeling of old hardware or do you think someday the concept itself of recording and amplifying will change, along with the tastes of musicians?

A: We have a very strong and clear vision for the future of the pro-audio industry and we are working to make it true. I cannot say much at this time, but right now 50% of our team is working in crazy research projects and you should expect to see the results in the next months/years!

GNB: Do you have any tip or suggestion on how to use your plugins? Or some setting you prefer?

A: My only general guidelines are: (1) experiment with our tools as much as you can and (2) trust your ears. For specific tips/sugested workflows, I would encourage everyone to subscribe to our newsletter: and youtube channel

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

How to use Two Heads with One Cab (2 amps - 1 cabinet, a guide for dummies)

Hello and welcome to this week's article! 
Today we're going to talk about how to connect two amps in the same cabinet.

First of all why would someone want to do it?
The reason is to have two totally different sounds: for example to have the clean channel of a Fender amp and the overdrive channel of a Marshall, or (and this problem is particularly felt by those who have a single channel head) to use different settings from two identical heads.

The problem of connecting two different heads into a same cabinet was particularly strong in the 80s, a time in which technology wasn't as flexible as today in allowing the players to find their tone easily, therefore to have a quality tone it was mandatory to use a big tube amp, and sometimes the most demanding players wanted (and still today wants) to use different tones from different amps in the same song.

There are many ways to connect two amps to the same cabinet, some more elaburated and some less, and remember that some method that you can find online can actually damage your cabinet or the poweramp of your head, so we will analyze today only the two most popular and straightforward ones:

- By using a stereo cabinet: stereo cabs has two separate inputs that for example (in the case of a 4x12 cab) drives 2 speakers each. You can connect one head to one of the stereo inputs and another one to the other (being very careful of the ohm impedence and of the maximum watt load that can be absorbed by the speakers) and plugging the guitar into an a/b switch that goes into the inputs of the 2 amps, so you can decide with it which amp to use.

- By using a tool made for the task, for example a Radial Headbone: with this box (there are various versions, according if you're using solid state or tube amps) we can plug the amps and the guitar directly to the box, and it can safely handle the power amp loads, and switch between the heads, going from its output into the cabinet. This solution (unlike the other one) will let us to use all the speakers in the cabinet, instead of just half of them.

Do you know any other safe and effective way to use multiple amps in the same cabinet? lLet us know in the comment section!

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Review: Accusonus Drumatom 2

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to review a very interesting piece of software, which can help a mix engineer solving some a recording problem which is almost impossible to avoid completely:  the bleed of the various parts of the drumset in the microphones that captures the single drum parts.

Let's start by saying this: to get a clear drum track, the ideal would be when recording to have the single parts with isolated sounds (or minimum spill), to be able to process them individually without processing the "bleed" and then add thickness and depth with the overhead microphones and/or the room mike.
In order to cut away the unwanted bleed from the tracks, so far mix engineers have relied on gates, a tool that lowers to zero all the signal below a certain threshold, leaving just the audio peaks higher than that.
The use of a gate has some intrinsic problem: for example if you are playing a heavyle gated snare, if the drummer plays a press roll part or a ghost note, it will probably be gated, plus an excessively strong use of gate can make the drum to sound too artificial, by eating away frequences and resonances even from the part of the sound left.

Drumatom is a software that tries to change the way mix engineers process their drum tracks, by eliminating the bleed of the other drum parts without any sensible detriment to the main sound, and letting you reintroduce part of what has been eliminated, giving you the opportunity to choose its amount, leaving the track clean but more natural sounding compared to using a traditional gate.

The way it works it's pretty simple: you import the drum tracks (or part of tracks, if the track is too long it's better to divide it to make it easier to process) and once Drumatom has analyzed all the tracks you just have to tell it what part of the drumset it is (e.g. snare, kick...) and from there you have only 3 controls:

- Focus: to decide how much of the spill to remove

- Fine Tune: to choose how much of the spill to reintroduce

- A/B: to compare the processed track with the original version.

Once you have processed all the tracks you need you can export them back to a folder to use on your Daw, or, using the plugin Drumatom Player (sold separately) you can route the tracks directly inside your Daw.

This is a very interesting piece of software that can really change the way mix engineers can work acoustic drum tracks, the only thing we can expect with the future releases is real time processing, and the possibility of doing everything from inside the Daw without having to pass from an external program (Drumatom), using another one inside the Daw to link it (Drumatom Player): I'm sure we'll get there very soon.

You can check out an interesting video on how this software work taken from the official Accusonus Youtube Channel:

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Saturday, January 2, 2016

How to use Bass Drops in rock / metal music (a guide for dummies)

Hello everyone!
Today we are taking a look at an interesting trick, especially used by nu metal and metalcore bands to enhance the strenght of a particular moment (e.g. a breakdown part), by adding artificially a shot of bass frequences that quickly fades out, usually with a downward pitch bend.

How do they do that? Not with the bass, the bass drop is one or more octaves lower than a real bass, and it's made to not be noticed alone (unless you have a trained ear) but to enhance the impact of the other instruments in the breakdown part.
A bass drop can be noticed especially with a subwoofer or with headphones that reproduces well the lower area, while with other sources, sometimes it is almost inaudible.

A bass drop is a synth note, on a very low octave and with the same key of the riff, added to add punch to a single hit,
Where do you find these shots to apply to your song?

- There are packs with several bass drops, already made in different keys, that you just add on a new track to your song at the exact moment (but don't overdo, or it may become a bit annoying!): some of them are for free, some are paid.

- Some producer also uses orchestral parts, (like floor tom, or a bass drum) of a virtual instrument, and drops it down one or more octave, adjusting the key, to add more drama to an orchestral part, especially if applied to a metal song, like in this one, at min. 1.41:

(in this case the bass drum was added in the mastering phase, adding also a sidechain compression to give even more the "pump effect"!).

- There is also a third way: to create a bass drop yourself: you need a synth or a sound generator: generate a sound for 4 seconds, then add a pitch bend to make it go down of an octave during this 4 seconds, some fade out, and then just adjust note and octave until you reach your goal: a quick and nice tutorial can be seen here:

The only thing I suggest you is to not use bass drops too often in a song or in every song of the album, and to be VERY careful when mastering, because it can distort very easily and ruin a beautiful song, as it happened in this video of this amazing Strapping Young Lad masterpiece:

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