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Cool Tip of the Month

July 1, 2003
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Fuzzy Loops in Cubase

In today's production environment, drum-loop options seem literally endless. If you've ever set out to build a tune that's based on drum loops or have wanted to add a loop to enhance an existing percussion track, you probably found a tremendous variety of pristine loops at your disposal. Despite all the cool stuff available, though, sometimes what you find isn't what you need. In this month's tip, I'll explain how to use a multiband distortion plug-in to fuzz up a drum loop.

If you use Steinberg Cubase SX, you have a jewel of a plug-in called QuadraFuzz. Applying QuadraFuzz processing to a drum loop can add an unusual effect. One cool aspect of a multiband processor such as QuadraFuzz is that you can slam the kick and the snare in their respective frequency bands and, if desired, leave the hi-hat clean. In this example, I won't distort the hi-hat in a drum loop, but I'll apply various degrees of distortion to the low, low-mid, and high-mid bands to impart a sound that is unique to an otherwise sterile drum loop.

  1. Insert the QuadraFuzz plug-in on the drum-loop track.

  2. Click on the Edit button to access the distortion processor's controls in the Edit window.

  3. Click on the Solo button, then select the high band in the frequency-band display. Increase the gain and adjust its band to identify the hi-hat's frequency range.

  4. Once you narrow in on the hi-hat, reduce the signal level hitting the distortion stage. You might need to increase the high band's output volume.

  5. To zero in on the kick and snare, adjust the other bands in a similar fashion, and then increase the gain to taste.
    Steve Albanese

Sonic Foundry Tricks

From Sound Forge to Acid to Vegas, Sonic Foundry makes a number of popular products for Windows. Here are a few short tips that apply to all of the Sonic Foundry line.

Set your preferences on the first use and close/reopen the app. When you first configure or change one or more settings in the Preferences menu in a Sonic Foundry application, the settings don't take effect until you close and then reopen the program. Although Sonic Foundry software has a reputation for being very stable, you might still run into a jam and have a program close prematurely; if that happens, you'll have to reconfigure the application, which can be a time-consuming process. To avoid that, always close then immediately reopen a program, especially if you have a lot of custom settings. That will ensure that your preferences are set, even if you have problems down the line.

Know your Temp folder. If something goes awry, knowing the location of your Temp folder can be a lifesaver (or at least a project saver). You can count on finding backups of recent projects there in case you ever need to recover them. It's also useful to know how much space is left in your Temp folder, which is the default location for any new recordings you make.

Micro-adjust parameters. Almost all the controls in Sonic Foundry applications allow you to fine-tune them by holding down the Ctrl key as you move the control by using the mouse wheel or dragging. You can also double-click on a slider or a knob to have it jump to its default location, which in many cases is the value zero.
Rick Hoefling, Sonic Foundry

Grooving with Sidechains

Central to many dynamics processors — compressors, expanders, limiters, and gates — is a circuit known as a voltage-controlled amplifier (VCA). Normally, the VCA is controlled by the signal going into the processor's audio input. The VCA kicks in and begins to attenuate the signal once the incoming signal crosses the threshold level that you set on the device. However, many processors allow you to control the VCA with an external signal using the sidechain (also known as a detector, key, control, or trigger) input. Sidechain-based processing allows you to get sophisticated results from otherwise mundane processing chores.

For example, let's look at a typical noise-gate application: silencing unwanted artifacts, such as amplifier hum, from an electric bass track. Normally, the gate's VCA is controlled by level changes in the bass signal itself: when the bassist stops playing, the input signal falls below the set threshold, and the VCA lowers the level of the unwanted audio.

But if you send a kick-drum track to the sidechain input on the device processing the bass, the level of the kick drum will control the VCA. That allows the kick drum to ride the level of the bass, which can result in a tighter groove between the two instruments.

Keep in mind that sidechain signals are not fed to the processor's outputs. They simply control the amount, as well as the timing, of the processing. You will need to feed the kick-drum signal to your mixer in order to hear it.
Gino Robair

By the Numbers

If you're a Mac user making the switch from OS 9 to OS X, you'll soon discover that working with audio I/O is a whole new ballgame. Apple's built-in Core Audio interface now runs the show and serves as a central clearinghouse for establishing input and output assignments between your audio software and hardware. However, in OS X's current version (10.2.6, as of this writing), most OS X audio applications present the physical inputs and outputs on your audio hardware as a generic list of numbers (Input 1, Input 2, and so forth). That could be confusing if you're using a multiple-format audio interface like MOTU's 828, which offers S/PDIF and ADAT ports as well as analog I/O.

If you open the hardware-setup window in many audio programs, you won't see the S/PDIF or ADAT inputs and outputs listed by type. You'll just see inputs and outputs listed by number. In the case of the 828, channels 1 through 8 are the analog channels. If the optical bank is enabled for the 8-channel ADAT format, channels 9 through 16 are the ADAT channels, and 17 and 18 are the S/PDIF channels. If the optical bank is set to Toslink, channels 9 and 10 are Toslink, and channels 11 and 12 are S/PDIF. If the optical bank is disabled, channels 9 and 10 are S/PDIF. Other audio interfaces will likely have a similar scheme, depending on what audio formats they supply. You just need to know which numbers correspond to which ins and outs.

Digital Performer 4 displays 828 (and 896) inputs and outputs by name (for example “ADAT 1-2” or “S/PDIF”) because Digital Performer 4 and MOTU's FireWire Audio Driver support Core Audio's concept of audio-stream names. Any other audio application that supports Core Audio's stream naming will also display 828/896 inputs and outputs by name.
David Rubin

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