Saturday, December 28, 2019

How to use Strip Silence (a guide for dummies)

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to talk about editing (click here for a dedicated article), and about how far technology has arrived, with the automatic identification and cut of silence parts.

Editing, especially if we're talking about a complex multi track (or even multi-song) project can be frustrating: it takes surgical precision, zen patience and countless hours if we want really to align the transients and insert silence in the right spot in our tracks, but today technology can give us a hand, by identifying a defined threshold and simply cutting automatically the track where it's supposed to, saving us literally hours.

Inserting silence in a track can be fundamental for our project, because it eliminates completely the ground noise (espacially in live projects or songs in which all instruments are playing together and the microphones inevitably pick up some sound, called "bleed", coming from the other instruments).

The Strip Silence feature is present in all the major DAWs: we're describing today the Studio One method, but it can be found easily also in the other workstations, and it works in the same way.
In Studio One you just need to click on the Strip silence icon located in the top area of the interface, and a menu will pop up: we can choose between some presets in the menu called "material", which are made to cut away just the ground noise, or to insert silence more and more aggressively, then we can decide the threshold below which to trigger the cut and the attack and release (that in this case are called "pre roll" and "post roll", which will create also a fade in and out curve to not make the cut too violent.

Basically the Strip Silence function as you might have guessed works as a Gate (click here for a dedicated article), that instead of lowering the volume under a certain threshold to zero, creates a cut in the track, which has a dual function: to free up headroom to the maximum and to prepare the track for some timing adjustment, saving us time when editing.

All it takes is just the initial settings: if we're working on a vocal track for example, we need to fiddle until we nail the right setting that doesn't cut where we don't want and doesn't stop the track too early or too late, once we have found the perfect setting we can apply it to the whole track (by selecting the track/s we need to process and pressing "apply") and from there do the needed manual adjustments.

Sometimes even if we have a very low noise floor, if we don't eliminate it completely and if it's present on several tracks, it will add up and in the final song and we can end up having a considerable amount of background noise, that will even increase with bus compression and mastering, so it's better to enter these stages with as little ground noise as possible, and for this task, the strip silence function is our best tool.

I hope this was helpful!

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Review: Audio Assault Duality Bass Studio

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to review the latest bass amp simulator by Audio Assault: Duality Bass Studio!

Duality is the most ambitious bass amp simulator ever created by Audio Assault, and it features a very complete suite capable of satisfying any type of bass player.

Among the other functions, the plugin features a 3 channels head, 10 different types of distortion and saturation, octave boost, compressor, parametric and graphic eq, reverb and modulation effects (all of these processors are movable in any order in the chain), allowing infinite combinations, which are impossible in their other bass amp simulator, Bassgrinder, which is more focused (and equally useful) in just picking a good tone right away and playing.

By fiddling around with this suite, I have found a couple of things which we can consider the core values of the software house: a streamlined, easy to use interface, not too many technical options in which to lose yourself (I'm thinking about plugins as the Bias FX in which you can choose even what type of transformer to simulate in the power amp section), and every knob and switch with a clear purpose: not to waste too much time in dialing a good tone and not to consume too much cpu resources.

Finally, the real ace up the sleeve of Duality Bass Studio is the cabinet section: it features 33 impulse responses from various cabinets and microphones that can be mixed and matched among them (2 impulses at the time), they sound very good and are largely responsible of the goodness of the final tone.

How to compare this with Bassgrinder? They serve 2 different purposes: with Bassgrinder you just use it like a real amp, you dial in your tone, choose the cabinet and you're done, plus it's really focused for hard rock and metal, while Duality Bass Studio is much more versatile, it lets you create tones for any genre thanks to its more in depth editing, and it has a ton of effects and fuctions which makes it a jack of all trades.

I really suggest anyone who is looking for a good bass amp simulator to check this out, because in terms of this type of plugins I don't know many other companies that can rival Audio Assault.

Thumbs up!

Specs taken from the website:

- Three Channel Head with sub-octave switch and compressor

- Bass Drive with 10 different types of distortion

- Dual IR Loader with 33 bass cab IRs

- FX Section featuring a 10 band Graphic EQ, Chorus, Delay & Reverb

- Preset Browser

- Stand Alone mode

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Saturday, December 14, 2019

How to create song metadata - meta tags

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!

Today we're going to talk about a topic that is often overlooked, but that especially now, in a time in which 99% of the music is listened via streaming and mobile phones/mp3 players, it has become quite crucial: how to enter the song informations, to make sure the author, album, track name etc are embedded in the audio track, so that once you will play them in the digital player, all the info will be indexed in the right place and the song will be easy to find among the gigabytes of music.

Usually the phase in which we dial in all these information is the mastering phase, because we need to enter them in the project before exporting the final track, and every DAW has a different menu in which to enter these information, but they look more or less the same, and the one in the pic is taken from Presonus Studio One.

Usually this window can be found in the "song information" section of the DAW, and from there you can enter a surprisingly high amount of information, but the main ones are Title, Artist, Album, Year and then you can also add the album cover as image file.
Why just these fields? It's easy: 99% of the players will index the songs only through these data, sometimes they can also index them by Genre, but it's very unlikely that they will filter by composer or arranger (but you can fill all the fields if you want to leave your watermark, of course).

Another good idea is to tag the tracks putting in front of the song name in the meta tags its position in the setlist (e.g. 01, 02, 03...), because the player doesn't know the order, and will list them alphabetically.

Is it essential today to enter the song information? Yes, because in many digital players (for example in my Android phone, which is a very common model) there's not even the option anymore to list the songs by file name, it relies exclusively in the meta tags, and the same happens for a lot of modern dj gear, so unfortunately the file name is not anymore enough to find your song in the ocean of tracks.

Do you usually enter these information in all of your tracks? This could be the right moment to start doing it.

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Saturday, December 7, 2019

Review: Mesa Boogie V-Twin Pedal

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to review my first tube preamp, which incidentally was also a pedal: the Mesa Boogie V-Twin!

This pedal has been in production from 1993 to 2005 and it was actually one of the first tube preamps packed in a stompbox, and to make sure it was solid, they build it ultra heavy and protected: the chassis is sturdy like a nuclear bunker!

I have bought the Mesa Boogie V-Twin in the early 2000s, I wanted to try a Mesa Boogie (basically all the nu metal bands at that time were playing Dual Rectifiers) but I didn't have much money, and I wanted to see the difference between a preamp with tubes and one without, having played only solid state and digital amps up to that point (except the awful Laney heads in the rehearsal's room), plus it had a direct recording out, and I couldn't microphone an amp at home.

On the paper this was the perfect preamp for me, and maybe it was, but I didn't know how to handle it.
I expected an instant metal sound, and only years later I realized how Mesa Boogie amps are not properly "instant metal": they incarnate the "California" sound, as opposed to the "British tone" of Marshall and Orange, and they were created with totally different purposes, the fact that those amps became famous for metal is (as per the creator's words) "totally unexpected".

The Mesa Boogie sound is, in facts, quite darker and fuller than the classic "upper mid rangey" British sound: it lets you obtain easily very thick and warm clean tones and fat, chunky crunches that in many amps of the brand don't have a lot of gain and are full of low-mids.
What the producers around the early 2000s  found out was that this type of amp, boosted with a tube screamer to dig out most of the useless and "cloudy" low mids and adding some gain, would let them obtain a good balance between fat low end and definition for modern rock and metal (especially with downtuned guitars), and for 10/15 years basically the Mesa sound became what the Marshall tone was in the '80s: the standard.

This little, heavy pedal was a jewel of technology when it came out, it featured 2 12AX7 tubes, 2 channels for a total of 3 modes, eq and gain section, a bypass switch, external switching inputs and a speaker emulated out to record straight into the mixer.
The speaker emulated out, specifically, was using analog technology similar to the Sansamp, and it had only one voicing, which was anyway very rare in the '90s and very useful.

All in all I have used this pedal almost exclusively in the studio, it made me achieve the first good clean sounds I have ever recorded, but live it was too limited, and the fact that I had to boost it with another overdrive in order to obtain good metal tones made the whole thing less convenient, so eventually I have switched to my first tube head, the Randall RH50T.

Still to this day I wonder what I could achieve now that I have more knowledge on how to obtain a tone I like, and if I will ever be able to try it again, I will surely spend some time with it.

If you're looking for good cleans and fat american crunchy tones this unit still today can give you a lot of satisfaction, otherwise around there are other great alternatives, both analog and digital.

Thumbs sideways!

Specs taken from the website:

- Handcrafted in Petaluma, California

- 2x12AX7

- 2 Channels, 3 Modes (Clean, Blues & Solo)

- Mode Assignment Switches

- Gain, Master, Bass, Mid, Treble and Presence (Universal)

- Bypass Switch

- Clean Gain Adjustment Control

- Record/Headphone Out