Studio One v.3

For those that might be curious, I’ve been using Studio One for the past few years as my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) of choice.  First, with v.1 Artist, then v.2 Artist, then a short time later, upgrading to v.2 pro.  The past few weeks, I have been testing PreSonus’s latest release of Studio One, with their free 30 day demo.  Upon hearing that version 3 was coming, I was excited, then during the release day hype, horrified that my computer might not be up to the task, then relieved to have no install or operational isses with the latest release.  Now, it’s true that I am largely a real instrument guy, so I am not heavily taxing my system with various sound modules, but the little I do use has been very smooth, considering my laptop is about 6 years old and is only slightly above minimum specifications.

The upgrade costs from 2 pro to 3 pro is about $150, and is well worth it, but I don’t have a lot of spare change at present.  That said, since I only have 30 days to evaluate, I didn’t migrate my album project into V3.  Instead, I migrated a single I needed to finish as a starting point.  The migration was mostly seamless, with a slight glitch on effect send routing that I needed help finding.  It went missing from where I usually find it, but has been present on new songs, and I was directed to the tracks rather than the mixer for a secondary access point.

I belong to various songwriting challenge groups, so tend to write at least one new song a week, for which demos are recorded and shared with the groups.  This gives me a steady stream of singles to test the new DAW with, without a commitment if I find something doesn’t work.  First up, I hit a basic vocal/guitar folk tune, and played with the mix/master options.  I didn’t expect a problem, and wasn’t disappointed.  This week, it was time to dig in and play with more tracks.

With more complication, some of the new features really began to shine.  First up, there is now an arranger feature.  Along the top of the track area, you paint a line across each section.  It automatically labels these in the order of Introduction, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Outro.  When I’m recording, I play the song straight through on each instrument, rather than section by section, with copy and paste, so this doesn’t seem super helpful at first glance, but it is.  I needed to re-label and change the colors some sections, but this was straight forward.

Now, at a glance, I knew where I was in the song without having to insert markers, and in conjunction with the arranger, another feature, Scratchpad, came into the forefront of amazing additions.  With these weekly challenges, I’m not necessarily married to an idea before it’s recorded.  I wasn’t happy with the bridge, despite being “done”.  The song was already posted to the group, had been heard dozens of times, though it wasn’t publicly released, and I was thinking that it needed a different payoff on the bridge.  

I copied the bridge into the scratchpad with a couple of clicks, duplicated it, so I could switch back if needed, then got to work.  Working in the scratchpad, I removed all the vocals and instruments except the drums, which still worked with my new lyrics, then started tracking the high strung and standard guitars, the acoustic bass, lead vocal, backup vocal tracks, harmonica, and lead guitar.  Once done, I just dragged the new bridge into the gap between the two chorus sectionsthat had closed up when I pulled out the old one, and wham, the song’s alternate version was done.

Satisfied, I let the peanut gallery hear it to offer their opinions, contrasting the first version with the second, and the reactions were much better.  Apparently, there’s still something missing with the lead vocal part, so I’ll punch in a new vocal take with teaked lyrics part next week.

From beginning to end, I spent less than an hour on a rewrite, all the re-recording, checking for any mixing or sound problems that might have been present, and updating the project file.  I knew all the preamp and volume levels were the same, but had to approximate mic placement.  All the prior settings were still in place, so continuity was fine, and I was surprised at just how easy it was to try a new take on part of the song.

Honesty clause, I’m not really a bass player, so I spend far too much time thinking about what I’m going to be playing, and where I need to move my fingers.  As a fingerstyle guitarist, my right hand work is terrible for bass.  With that in mind, I made liberal use of the audiobend feature on my bass track to land on the beat.  In the past, it worked pretty well, but could distort the sound a bit.  They’ve enhanced the audiobend engine so these tweeks still sound right.  This really tightens up the song, and sounds great

For those who record EDM rather than Americana, I’m sure the new sound layering features are incredible, but I just want to be able to record an idea, flesh it out and bring it to life.  With this latest release, I can do that with so much less effort and better results than in the past.

Thanks PreSonus, it’s not perfect, as evidenced by the FB group, but it is a huge advance.  How I’m going to be able to go back to Version 2 until I can get some spare money is beyond me.  My album may be on hold until I can upgrade  Just kidding, but I’ll be chomping at the bit to get these new features full time.

If you record, or think you might want to try it, knock yourself out on the demo.  It doesn’t have the massive collection of sounds and loops, but most of the features are there.

Until next time, have a great week.

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