Saturday, January 27, 2018

How to mix acoustic drums with samples

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to add another chapter in our drum production serie of articles:

- How to turn drums into midi

- How to mix rock/metal drums

- How to use Drumagog and other drum replacers

- How to use Superior Drummer or Slate Drums sounds in our acoustic drumset

And the topic of today is about how to mix an acoustic drumset using also drum samples to achieve better results.
Let's start by assuming you have read all the articles linked above, so I won't repeat anything, and let's assume that we have a good multitrack project, with decent takes, without too much mic bleed, and that the drum tracks have already been edited. Everything must be ready to mix.
Sometimes when we are in this phase we will realize that the sound is not optimal (maybe because we have used a 100€ all included mic set of 8 microphones, for a value of 12,5€ a microphone), and even if we eq and compress the hell out of each track, literally to the extreme, the result will be extremely poor.

In this case we can use drum replacers to take our acoustic track and add a drum sample on top (or to completely replace it).
In this example we are using Addictive Trigger, which can be downloaded in trial version Here, but we could use any other drum replacer, such as Drumagog, Slate Trigger, Aptrigga etc, the result is the same.

What we need to do is to load an instance of Addictive trigger in the insert of, for example, our kick track, and as a first step adjust the input gain and the sensitivity until we are sure that only the kick hits are catched by the drum replacer. This means that we need to cut out the snare bleed by narrowing down the "scope" of the trigger, until all snare hits are out. (On a side note, some drum replacer after this adjustment lets us also export a midi file with the hits detected, if we want to play them with a drum Vsti).

Now we can choose a kick snare from the list of the available ones (or use the samples of our drum Vsti as explained in one of the articles linked on top), and the idea is to choose the closest one to our ideal, final sound, in order to get there with as few moves as possible. In this phase is good to a/b constantly with our favourite reference track in order to not lose objectivity.
Once we have found the sound we need, we can decide how much to blend it with the original tone, for example 50% to retain some of the original sound, or 100% to completely replace it. Now some drum replacer offers tools to mix the sample directly in the box, otherwise you will need to process it externally, adding comp, eq etc in the vst chain (keeping in mind that doing this way, the processors will effect both the acoustic part and the triggered one, so if we are blending the sampled sound with the original one we might want first to process the acoustic part, and then to add the drum replacer at the end of the chain).

I have used the example of the kick because it is a quite difficult drum part to get properly without expensive gear, so it's the drum part that gets replaced more often, but usually the best results are achieved when adding some sample to basically all drum parts (except the cymbals), and blending everything tastefully.

The same process explained for the kick can therefore be repeated with snare and toms, if needed, and this technique is used by most of the modern studios, since it's a powerful, flexible tool.

Hope this was helpful!

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Review: Epiphone Prophecy Les Paul Custom GX

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to check out one of the top-tier Epiphone Les Paul models, if not the best on the market: the Epiphone Prophecy Les Paul Custom Gx.

This guitar can be seen and heard in several videos in our blog, like in the Orange Jim Root Terror review or the Harley Benton Sg Kit review.

This model is a Les Paul model with some unique features that sets it aside from most of the others, and that gives the instrument a modern twist, making it more suitable and comfortable also for shredding, especially with the neck thinner than the other models (Speedtaper D satin finish), 24 frets instead of 22 and radius 14" instead of 12".
All these features makes it very comfortable, without compromising the classic Les Paul feeling, also because the scale is the usual one (plus the body is full, no weight relief, for better sustain and resonance).

Besides the neck particularity, this guitar comes featuring top notch components, which are not very common in other models of the brand:

- Locktone bridge
- Non rotating output jack (which means that you don't risk to break the wires with the rotation of the jack inside
- Grover machine heads (for tuning stability)
- All metal 3 way toggle (instead of plastic)
- Gibson Usa Pickups

Basically they did all the most common upgrades that people do to a low price Epiphone, so the guitar is basically ready to go (and obviously this reflects also on the final price, which is usually 200 or 300 dollars higher than most of the other Les Paul models of the roster, so its price is around 7/800 dollars but these money are well invested).

Aestethically speaking the guitar is very nice, both in its passive and active pickup version: the top is quilted maple and comes in several colours (heritage cherry burst, black cherry, midnight sapphire and midnight ebony), white binding in body and neck, and pearloid inlays.

The guitar feels good to play, the neck is slighly thinner than the other Les Pauls, although not as thin as an Ibanez obviously, and the weight is around 4kgs, which is not light (the average for electric guitars is around 3.5), but also not unbearable.

Tone wise the Gibson Usa 490r and 498t pickups are a guarantee, they are among the best hi gain pickups ever made and their screaming highs are well counterbalanced by the dark sounding, heavy mahogany of the body.

All around this is one of the best guitar Epiphone has ever made, both in its passive and active pickup configuration (there is also a version with Emgs), and the price bump compared to the others is well balanced by the specs, considering that in order to buy all the upgraded components and having someone to install them on a guitar would be even more expensive, and the modded guitar would lose value in the market. This is also one of the examples of why Epiphone (which was acquired by Gibson in the 70s, although as a brand it is older than Gibson itself) is growing while Gibson is dangerously declining: it offers good quality at the right price, and the public is noticing it.

Thumbs up!

Specs taken from the website:

TopQuilt Maple
Neck ShapeSpeedTaper™ D-Profile Satin Finish
Neck JointGlued-in set neck
Frets24, jumbo
Fingerboardpearloid and abalone block and triangle inlays
Fingerboard Radius14"
BindingMother of pearl stickpin on headstock face
Mother of pearl and abalone block and triangle on 1,3,5,7,9,12, & 15th fret
Mother of pearl blocks on 17, 19, 21, and 24th fret
Nut Width1.68
Nut MaterialGraphite
Machine HeadsGrover® 14:1
Neck PickupGibson USA 490R humbucker
Bridge PickupGibson USA 498T humbucker
Controls1-neck volume with push/pull coil splitting
1-neck tone
1-bridge volume with push/pull coil splitting
1-bridg tone
Pickup selectorEpiphone all-metal 3-way toggle
KnobsMetal barrel with mother of pearl inlaid tops
BridgeLockTone™ Tune-o-matic
TailpieceLockTone™ Stopbar
Output jackEpiphone Exclusive non-rotating heavy duty output jack
StraplocksEpiphone exclusive
ColorBlack Cherry (BC) and Heritage Cherry Sunburst (HS)

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Tuning tips from the producers (for various instruments)

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are talking about tuning tips (click here for a dedicated article about Tuners), that we have received from a famous producer (whose name will remain secret :D).
These tips are for the standard guitar tuning, an extremely low tuning alternative, and to tune a sitar (made of 7 strings + 11 sympathetic strings, which are strings that resonates once one of the "main strings" is plucked).

The basic suggestions are to "always tune up", which means always tune the string from loose to tense, to use fresh strings (and to retune them a bit until they are stable), to use a good tuner, to have your guitar intonated, and so on, but the most interesting tips are those about the tuning.

Let's start by saying that in order to use these tips we need to have a tuner that lets us tune in cents of tone, like the Korg Dtr 2000 shown on top. The idea is that tuning some string some cent of tone down will make the overall balance more musical, and this technique has been used in studios for years, it can be heard in several famous records.
What do you think?
Try those settings in your recordings and let us know!


1.E   in tune
2.B   in tune
3.G -5 cent
4.D in tune
5.A in tune
6.E -10 cent


1.B  in tune
2.G  in tune
3.D in tune
4.A in tune
5.E -5 cent     (string .49 to .52)
6.D -20 cent   (string .65)


7.D (low)


low   1.D 2.C# 3.B 4.A 5.G 6.F# 7.E 8.D 9.C# 10.B 11.A

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Saturday, January 6, 2018

Is there any room for innovation in overdrive pedals?

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're talking about Overdrives (Click here for a dedicated article)! Our good friend Edoardo Del Principe is sharing with us his opinion about the evolution of these amazing stompboxes.

Overdrive pedals are some of the most common kind of stompboxes you can find on the market. Since the 60’s thousands of players have used them to push their amps over their limits, but since then how far has the innovation of these tools gone? Since the early models, the Boss OD1 and Ibanez Tube Screamer (Click here for a dedicated article), the world has changed really quickly in the pedal industry, adding more and more types of effect, but Overdrive seem like stuck not far from its archetype. Independent modders have customized the two “Adam and Eve” of OD in various ways, and some of them has also achieved a certain popularity, like Robert Keeley and his famous mods that are today a “golden standard”. We can therefore say that of course the first models are being improved with constant upgrading on the circuit but they are still what essentially they are, and OD pedals do their job only in one way: with volume, gain and tone knobs.
Most of the changes you can do about these pedals are on their gain section: you can change diodes to have a softer (Blues Driver) or harder clipping (Klon pedals) and it’s all there. Of course you can change parts to cut mids or bass frequencies if you need a more sparkly sound, but in the very end most players who choose an OD look at the volume obtainable with as less clipping as possible. Someone calls them “transparent” overdrive, and there are specific pedals labeled like that, but in general most of the OD out there can be pretty “transparent”. When you heard or read this word the producer means that you are not adding gain to your sound but just pushing frequencies and volume. So at a certain point people started making booster pedals which are essentially a simplify version of an Overdrive with a lot of volume, high-mids and less gain. Essentially the tone quest of the last 15 years about OD pedals was in their transparency and how much volume and what frequencies they would push, because amplifiers now can give you all the hard clipping you can possibly need, so what you add with your pedal is just the icing on the cake.

What described until now is a static world, a formula so perfect that has been only improved but never changed, even in its aesthetics. You can recognize an OD pedal just watching the scheme of the knobs because 99% of them come from boss OD1 and Ibanez TS.

So now let’s try to answer the question: in overdrive pedals there is no innovation, and probably there will never be, because the formula is already perfect at its essence. If you add too much clipping it becomes a distortion pedal, if you take away clipping it becomes a booster, so overdrive pedals are stuck in between the two categories and you can barely change something without changing the essence of the pedal.

Ibanez is now trying to sell its new TS at 280 euros ,because it has a small “nutube” inside the pedal, and in my opinion it’s crazy. For around that price Boss released a new Blues Driver 

with JHS, and independent company who makes an modded version of the BD called “angry charlie”, so, essentially you have the original and its mod in one box.

Is there an OD who is worth all that money? Probably no. The schematics of an OD are so simple that there are literally hundreds of copies for a 1/3 of the price I mentioned, as good as the originals. Every pedal company has its own overdrive and each one is somehow still an overdrive at the end of the day, you can like more an OCD instead a Klon, a TS instead a SD1 but what you are searching is the same stuff you can find in the other variants. Well known guitar players used for their tours standard OD pedals as Brent Hinds and Ben Kelliher from Mastodon, Mario Camarena 

from Chon (yes, that stupid mini TS) and many others so, if you find a used OD for 50 euros it can probably be as good for you as one for double the price.

Is there a little bit of innovation? Someone tried, as Earthquaker Dives to give to player every possible voice you need with the Palisades Overdrive. Buy one OD to rule them all. Wren and Cuff, a small company famous for their version of common pedals from bigger companies, is coming with a new 25-volt-overdrive

The final weapon for the ones who miss a bit of headroom in their amp.

Every producer has tried to put on the market some good stuff, many failed, few succeded. OD pedals are the sharks of guitar effects, so perfect that they didn’t evolve so much in centuries.