Saturday, May 30, 2020

Video day 2!

Hello everyone!

Today (after years) I have finished the cleanup: I have taken all the audio samples created for old articles of this blog and turned them into Youtube videos, so now there are 2 new video samples for the following articles:

How to sound like Metallica (with free VST plugins)


How to sound like Jimi Hendrix (with free VST plugins)


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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Everything you need to know about effects part 1/4: Fx routing, in studio and live!

Hello and welcome to our new omnicomprehensive article in which we are going to gather together and put in a coeherent order all the various articles of this blog related to effects!

Let's start very generic: what do we mean in a wide sense when we refer to audio effects?
We talk about any process that artificially modifies an audio signal, which can be recorded or live.

(Small disclaimer: in this article we will talk about everything except Equalization and Compression, because they have a specific tag on their own and are explained more in detail in other articles such as our "how to mix a song" serie).

In the music world, whether we are talking of studio recordings or adding an effect to our electric guitar sound, the basic concept is that we can put any effect in any order, but the reality (and decades of perfecting the craft) tells us a set of rule quite stiff in which to optimize the effect chain order: every effect, in facts, cascades into the others and modifies them, therefore putting the same effects in a certain order can result in a pleasant enhancement, while putting the same effects in another order can just create a messy cloud of noise.

Decades ago, some audio engineer has realized for example that by putting all the effects in front of an amplifier would make the resulting tone quite bad, while putting some of them AFTER the preamp, just before the power amp, would make the sound much cleaner and more polished: that moment was the creation of the effect loop, a tool that still today is considered a staple in audio technology (click here for a dedicated article).

By putting the right effects in the right order in our guitar and bass rig, we can obtain the best tones possible, click here for the perfect guitar effect chain order (with the explaination also of why a certain effect needs to stay there and not in another position), and click here for the perfect bass effect chain order.

The same logic can also be applied in studio, and not only for guitar, but also for any sound source that goes into a mixer, that's why also mixing boards often features an effect loop.
Regardless of the loop, if we're talking about the digital world of recordings, what we need to know is that we don't need (especially if we have projects with a very large number of tracks) to use individual instances of an effect (for example the same reverb) into every track: we can create an fx track (click here for a dedicated article), and "send" this same effect to the various tracks, controlling the single amount desired for each track.

The nice thing of an fx channel track is that we are not limited to one effect at the time if we want, we can create also elaborate effect chains, for example with reverb and delay (click here for a dedicated article), and we can even make sure that only a part of our signal (for example from a certain frequency up) is affected (click here for a dedicated article about how to use the insert of an fx channel, practice also known as "to effect an effect").

Finally, it's important to say that any effect or serie of effects we are going to use in studio to process our tracks not only can be applied only to a certain part of the tone (for example a specific frequency area), but also to the whole tone in an adjustable amount, which is controlled by the "dry/wet" control: if the knob is 100% dry the whole signal will not be effected, if it's 100% wet the signal will be completely effected, and every shade in between will be a blend between effected and dry signal (consider that often a 10/15% wet signal is more than enough to give a track the enhance it needs without making it drown).
If you want to get nerdy it's also possible to be creative with the use of wet and dry, for example with the "wet/dry/wet" trick, which can be seen clicking here.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2/4: Reverb and Modulations 1

CLICK HERE FOR PART 3/4: Reverb and Modulations 2

CLICK HERE FOR PART 4/4: Distortions!

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Saturday, May 16, 2020

is it better to use guitar plugins in mono or in stereo?

Hello and welcome to this week's article!

Today I have come to this question because I was mixing a project which was quite cpu intensive, lots of plugins involved, and on each guitar track there is a gate, a booster, an amp simulator and a cabinet simulator, then both tracks (left and right) are routed into a stereo buss with eq and compression.

I was looking at the cpu struggling and I have decided to make some trial: to see the difference in cpu load when loading 2 mono instances of a plugin in 2 tracks, or 1 stereo instance into a stereo track.
The logic would suggest that by loading the stereo plugin into the stereo track and routing on it 2 or 4 d.i. tracks there would be less cpu stress, but not always is like this!

I have tried Ignite Amps ProFET, the Tyrant Screamer and Pulse, both in mono and in stereo, and I have seen for example that they respond very well: 2 mono instances are not too heavy on the cpu, 1 stereo instance is even lighter (this means it's good code!), but with other amp simulators (one of which is one of the most praised in the forums) I have noticed a 20% cpu usage per each mono instance, which skyrocketed to a 50% for a stereo one, basically jeopardazing my project.
Needless to say, I couldn't use that plugin in my project (even if my pc is not that bad).

What is the lesson to learn from this?

That we cannot tell how much a plugin is cpu intensive until we load it, and that sometimes there is no correlation between how heavy it is in mono or in stereo.
We just need to test it ourselves.

If the plugin drains in stereo as much as the sum of the single instances or less, then it's suggestable to run it in stereo, so that we can control the various rhythm guitar tracks faster and all with one fader (if we have an impulse loader that lets us load 2 impulses and use them as dual mono we can also use different irs for the 2 sides), but if the stereo instance of the plugin drains more cpu than the sum of the individual mono ones, then let's stick to the mono ones.

And let's note that it's not a good plugin to be run in stereo.

I hope this was helpful!

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Saturday, May 9, 2020

Review: Audio Assault Signature Ir Cab Pack (with video comparison sample)

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to review another Audio Assault product: Signature Ir Cab Pack.

This is a very rich IR pack, the first paid one produced by SeaCow Cabswhich features more than 1500 phase coherent impulses, divided in 13 cabinets, each one with separate impulses for single microphones (the most used in the studios: Shure SM57, Royer R121, Neumann U87, Shure SM7B, Sennheiser MD421) and combined ones, both in Wave file and Line6 Helix format.

The cabinets are divided by artist, meaning that they are those used by famous rock and metal artists (in my sample I compare 5 ot the 13: those used by Kirk Hammet of Metallica, Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, Synyster Gates of Avenged Sevenfold, Misha Mansoor of Periphery and Jim Root of Slipknot), but the thing that I have appreciated the most is the fact that for once, the way these impulses were captured and named is tidy and intuitive:

each cabinet has a folder for each microphone, and within each folder there are some irs, each one corresponding to a different position in the speaker, from closest to the farthest from the dustcap.

This intuitive approach, which should be the normality but anyone that has tried different impulse packs knows that usually it's quite the opposite, led me to choose the microphones and the positionings the same way I would do in a real studio, fot example combining an SM57 at the edge of the dustcap with a Royer, or with the MD421, and the result was like I was expecting, sign that these impulses are very realistic and well captured.

What else to say? This is a very complete pack which will provide every rock/metal fan all the tools to dominate the amp simulator world for years, offering a canvas of tonal capabilities which covers all the most common studio microphones and positionings, and at its price range it's probably one of the best if not the best ir pack on the market today.

Thumbs up! 

Signal Chain: LTD 1007ET -> Ignite TSB-1 -> NaLex Uber -> Lancaster Audio Pulse 

Specs taken from the website:

- 1500+ IRs

- 13 Guitar Cabinets

- 5 Mics Per Cabinet

- 50+ Mic Mixes Per Cab

- 65 Helix Presets

- Available as WAV files & Helix Presets

- Made by Seacow Cabs

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Saturday, May 2, 2020

Songwriting tips: how to write a good song - part 3/3



Moving on with the construction of our song we have arrived to the moment of the arrangement, a word that means a universe and that we can summarize as "the dressing for our dish of pasta": we can leave the pasta completely without anything, or add just a bit of oil and salt, or we can go crazy with the most complex sauces and dressings, to the point that the pasta doesn't even have its original taste anymore.
All of these choices are completely legitimate, and the arrangement will turn out to be almost a reflection of our psychology, of what we actually want to express beyond the lyrics and beyond the pre-costituted conventions in terms of lenght, structure or chord progressions.
The musical variations that we will impress to the main melody (this is the basic definition of arrangement) will make the song minimal or baroque, will transmit to the listener feelings of happiness or sadness, thrill or relaxation.
Click here to know more about arrangements with our in-depth article.

The concept of choosing, giving an imprint, which is typical of when structuring and arranging a song, is the core value also of creating the tracklist of our record: the sequence of the songs it's a flow that must leave the listener wanting always for more, the various moods needs to be alternated and the record, if we want to make a classic that is listened from the beginning to the end without pauses, needs to follow certain proven rules in terms of distribution of the various dynamics (for example it doesn't make sense to put all the slow songs one after the other and then all the fast ones, because people would get probably bored).
Nailing the perfect tracklist is like dressing up, it's all about trying to draw the attention of the people on the parts that we know are good while "hiding" a bit the parts that we are least proud of, and this can be done also by predicting the parts in which the attention of the listener is higher and when it can be lower, or his/her ear fatiguing, assuming that he's listening to the album from the beginning to the end.
This and other informations can be found in our article about how to build the perfect tracklist for our record.

The final suggestion of this article is something that adds up to the building of the perfect tracklist for our record: building the perfect live setlist.
Once our album is ready and the band is all fired up to take it live, it's important also here to spend some minute in deciding the perfect setlist for the gig, since the live public follows dynamics that are different from someone who listens to the album from the bed, therefore we shouldn't just repeat the same tracklist of the record.
The audience live usually comes to be more entertained, so we need to keep the setlist on an average a bit more energetic, and to be able to regain the attention of the crowd if we see it's declining: Click here to read our article with 5 tips on how to compose the perfect setlist for your live gig!

I hope this was helpful!



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