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Saturday, November 11, 2017

How recording at high sample rates can end up making your music sound worse




Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are goind to add an extra part on our article about Bit Depth an sample rate:
can actually record at higher sample rates damage your final result? Let's find out.

As we have already seen, the sample rate is, put simply, how fast samples are taken.
For sample you can imagine the single photos that put one after the other create a movie; in our case we are talking about audio snapshots.
The cd standard is 16 bit and 44.100hz, although there are also formats today that allows higher standards (but they are not very popular), so for long time the rule of thumb has been "record at 44.100, 24 bit, and then scale down to 16 bit".

With the technology improving and the adc (analog to digital converters, the part of the audio interface that takes the analog signal and turns it into digital signal) getting better and better today many studios record at 48khz, 96khs and so on.
But why do they do it considering that then you will have to scale it down to 44.100hz? Simple, for the same reason you do record at 24bit (or why you take photos in raw with your reflex before editing them): to have as much information as possible, to mix it and then to scale down the final result.

Should you use higher sample rates than 44.100hz or 48.100hz?
It depends on your adc, which means it depends on your audio interface.
The quality of your converters depends on the quality of your audio interface, and if you have an audio interface that costs 100$, even if it allows recording at 96khz chances are that it will introduce a high frequency content (due to the cheap hardware) between a sample and the other, known as ultrasonic content, that on some reproduction device can make the music sound worse (even if you scale it down to 44.100hz). Therefore: on your pc sounds ok, then you play it on another hi fi, and it sounds bad, introducing weird artifacts you didn't notice before.

Other things to consider when mixing at 96khz or more:

1) the file size is CONSIDERABLY bigger, so make sure you have a lot of disk space.

2) some plugin doesn't work at higher sample rates.

As for everything, the trial and error method is fundamental to find out the right setting for our hardware, but the rule of thumb is that the cheaper the audio interface is, the worse it will handle higher sample rates, so in that case if you stick to 44.100hz it will probably sound even better, eventually.

Obviously if you have a top level interface, you will have a certain security that it will work perfectly also at the highest resolutions.

I hope this was helpful!


Sources:

https://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html#toc_1ch

http://productionadvice.co.uk/high-sample-rates-make-your-music-sound-worse/

https://www.soundonsound.com/sound-advice/q-it-worth-recording-higher-sample-rate

https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/should-i-record-at-the-high-sample-rates/

https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/7-things-about-sample-rate/



Saturday, November 4, 2017

Review: Digitech Rp-1000



Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to review a big multi effect pedalboard, the flagship of Digitech: the Rp-1000.

This pedalboard is in the market by several years, and it is still one of the most complete solutions around: featuring a second generation sound processor by Digitech (Dna 2), it has a resolution of 24 bit and 44khz and a very extensive array of inputs and outputs making it very suitable both as an audio interface, as a virtual rig and as an integration to a classic amplifier and pedalboard.
The pedalboard lets us stream our music directly in the computer via usb, and it features a send-return system to connect to the amplifier AND a separate, bypassable, effect loop to connect other stompboxes to it placing the effects after the preamp section; finally it has stereo outputs, both 1/4 jack and Xrl, in order to use stereo effects: in terms of flexibility this unit is one of the most complete on the market.

I must admit I have a soft spot with this generation of Digitech: I have been owner of a Rp-350, which is a model with only 3 footswitches, several friends of mine own a Rp-1000 and others the basic model, the Rp-100 and Rp-155: with one of these I have also (several years ago) succesfully recorded a demotape, using it as audio interface for guitars, vocals and bass.
Digitech products have a reputation of being solid, reliable units, with a good quality to price ratio and a good preamp and effect section.

About the effects, without a doubt they are resisting the test of time: the unit is several years on the market, but it still holds without problems against the flagship products of the competitors, while for the preamp section, although it is still very good the clean and the overdrive part, you can start feeling a little of digital rasp in the highest gain part, compared with the latest digital preamps on the market (Kemper, Axe Fx and Line6 Helix), and today guitarists could start missing a bit the possibility of loading custom impulse responses. On the other hand also the high gain tone is very mix-friendly, with a very musical midrange, and the same thing cannot be said for many Line 6 amp simulators, for example.

At a retail price of 399$ (but it can be found online also for less) this is probably the most complete and versatile solution on the market today for less than 500$, it is a swiss army knife good both for studio and live environments.




- Effect switching system offers control over external & internal stompboxes and effects

- Amp/Cabinet Bypass defeats internal amplifiers and cabinets in all presets

- Built-in 20 second phrase looper
- Built-in expression pedal controls the RP1000's Whammy™, wahs, volume, and other parameters

- Switchable Stompbox Loop for effects switcher control of external stompboxes and effects
- Switchable Amp Loop to retain your amp's tone
- 40 Tone and 40 Effects Libraries
- 200 presets (100 factory, 100 user)
- Over 160 effects including stompboxes, choruses, delays, amps and cabinets
- Up to 5 seconds of delay time
- 24-bit 44.1kHz sample rate
- All metal construction
- Heavy-duty metal switches for stompbox response
- Large 10 character LED display for preset name, bank name and tuner
- Independent 1/4" Left and Right Outputs
- Independent XLR Left and Right Outputs with ground lift
- Amp / Mixer switch optimizes 1/4" outputs for amp or direct to mixer connections

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Differences between Class A, B, AB, D power amps



Hello and welcome to this week's article,
today we're going to talk about power amps!
This article is to be intended as a follow up to our Tube vs Solid State power amps article.

Let's start off by saying I'm no engineer, I have made some research (I will put at the end of the article my sources), and the aim of the article is just to put in simple terms the differences, acting as a reference article for the simple musician that is not too expert in electronics.

We all have read in the description of a guitar amplifier (or any power amp in general) the definition "Class A", "Class B", "Class A/B", "Class D" and so on, wondering what it means: it is a code to describe the way the power amp works (yes, there are also other classes, but these are the most relevants in sound amplification).
First let's define what is a preamp and what is a power amp: a preamp is the device that boosts microphone and instrument level signals to line level, a power amp is the one that boosts the line level signal strong enough to drive a speaker.

Class A power amps: these were the first tube power amps ever created, the least efficient in terms of power comsumption to output ratio and the simpliest to build; basically the electricity passes thorugh one or more tubes in serie, which operates continuously. It generates a lot of heat and consumes the tubes much faster than the other circuit types, but it has also some particular property, for example it has no crossover nor switchoff distortion, which are typical of Class B power amps. A famous The tonal characteristics of this kind of power amp are a "bluesy" and particularly "musical" tone.

Class B power amps: in these amps there are two or more power tubes, and this configuration conducts the power half of the time in one tube and half of the time in the other (at a very high speed), prolonging the life of the power tubes but generating a very particular distortion, which is typical of many guitar amplifiers cranked to the max. This distortion is called "crossover distortion" because it is generated by the current that, moving from one tube to another alternatively (or from one transistor to another in solid state amps), for a split second in time it is not drawn by neither of the two, thus generating that noise.
As a general rule, Class B power amps grants more headroom, higher volume, better clarity and sparkle than the Class A ones.

Class AB power amps: these kind of amplifiers are very similar to the Class B ones, but the tubes doesn't stop drawing the current before the other one is on, so there is never a moment in time in which for an instant both of them are off. This reduces the amount of crossover noise, and allows to save at the same time some tube life and power comsumption. This system is often used in high-end home sound systems.

Class D power amps: these ones operates with transistors instead of tubes, and this means that they operate on a better power efficiency (less heat is generated, less electricity is wasted) and they work through a system called "pulse width modulation", which means that the sound is divided in many single pulses (measured in hertz), and the "width" of these pulses generates louder or quieter sounds. The "space" between a pulse and another is noise, which needs to be eliminated from the system with a filter, and all this project requires a significantly more complex amount of engineering compared to the tube circuits aforementioned. Class D power amps  usually are less expensive than their tube counterparts, but they lack some of the tonal characteristics many guitar players are after (although technology is slowly catching up, and it is very likely that in the near future this differences will be completely nullified), on the other hand they are much more reliable, solid and power efficient.

I hope this was helpful!


Sources:


Cambridge audio Class B and Class AB Amplification

Quora.com

RealhomeRecording.com

Paul Mc Gowan

Electronic Design.com

Electronic Tutorials.ws - Class A Amplifiers

Electronic Tutorials.ws - Amplifier Classes


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Saturday, October 21, 2017

How to create a radio podcast in 8 steps (a guide for dummies)



Hello and welcome to this week's article!
This time we are going to talk about how to create a radio podcast.

What is a podcast? Think of it as a radio show that instead of listening in real time you download it (or stream it) via Mp3, therefore you can create an archive of episodes that can be listened at any time.

What do you need? Pretty much the same material you need for a home studio:

- a computer with an audio interface
- a digital audio workstation
- a microphone
- a pair of headphones

...and some plugin.

And here's the 8 steps to create a podcast:

1) First off, you load your favourite daw, set up the audio card and the microphone.

2) Now create at least two audio tracks: a mono one which will be your voice and one or more stereo ones (depending on how many background music-songs-jingles you want to reproduce at the same time), and be careful in setting the gain levels.

3) Record your voice parts, for as long as you want in the mono track.

4) Insert in the stereo track(s) some background music, or for example a song or a jingle you want the listeners to hear.

5) Set up a de-esser and a compressor in the mono track to make your voice to come out loud, warm and without excessive dynamic excursion. 

6) Set a compressor in Sidechain mode in the stereo track(s), using as trigger the mono track. This way, if you can set it correctly, when you will speak, the music in the stereo track will automatically lower its volume (this effect is called ducking) leaving your voice to come through clearly.

7) When you are satisfied of the content produced you can add a little touch of mastering in the master chain, adding a limiter and a metering tool to make sure it is not overcompressed.

8) The last step is setting the markers at the beginning and the ending of the podcast and exporting the Mp3, possibly in a decent quality like from 192khz up, and share it with the world, keeping in mind that some platform such as Youtube recognize copyrighted material and sometimes blocks it, so be careful.

I hope this was helpful!


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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Review: Orange Signature #4 Jim Root Terror (with video sample)



Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are checking out the Orange Jim Root Signature Terror!
Jim Root is the guitarist of Slipknot and former Stone Sour, and he has a long tradition in using Orange amps, especially his classic Orange Rockverb 100 MKII.
What Orange did was taking the Dirty channel of the Rockverb and turn it into a small switchable 7-15w high gain tube amp, single channel.
This head is extremely tiny and light (actually it's a half stack), also considering it's a tube amp, but the impressive thing is the volume it can put out, both in 7 and 15 watt mode: way more than enough to rehearse with a drummer.

In terms of tone we have a high gain version of the classic Orange sound: a british sounding, deep growling tone, with the typical low mid chunkiness that can be found in all the amps of the brand: an eq timbre basically opposite to the Marshall one, which is a bit more high-mids oriented.
The ideal genres for this kind of sound are Stoner Rock, Doom, modern hard rock, and if we lower the gain we obtain also a pleasant, warm clean-overdriven tone, without excessive background noise.

As for all low wattage amps the upsides in terms of size and weight have their counterpart in low headroom, less air pushed by the basses and overall a slighly thinner tone than a high wattage amp, but compared to most of the other low watt amps I have tried so far (for example Engl and Mesa Boogie) I have to say that this is probably the loudest one, and the one that gets the closest to a regular 100w head (the only other one with similar characteristics that I have tried so far capable of holding up against this is the Marshall DSL15H Head, which has even more functions).

Overall definitely an amp to check out if you are a musician who likes to travel light but also to have a mean tone!

Thumbs up!

Specs taken from The Website:


- ALL VALVE

- HIGH GAIN 4 STAGE PREAMP

- VALVE FX LOOP

- “ROCKERVERB” TONE STACK

- VALVES:POWER AMP: 2 XEL84

- PREAMP: 3 X ECC83/12AX7

- FX LOOP 1 X ECC81/12AT7

- TOP PANEL (RIGHT TO LEFT):GAIN, BASS, MIDDLE, TREBLE, VOLUME

- OUTPUT POWER:15/7 WATTS SWITCHABLE

- SPEAKER OUTPUTS:1×8 OHM OR 1×16 OHM OR 2×16 OHM

- UNBOXED DIMENSIONS (W X H X D):30.3 × 19 × 15.3CM (11.93 × 7.48 × 6.02″)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Band Pro: WHAT DIRECTION IS MUSIC BUSINESS GOING FOR SMALL UNDERGROUND BANDS?




Here is an article from a personal friend of mine, Edoardo Del Principe, which has started a serie of lessons about how to promote your own band, you can find the link in the end of the page.


I’ve been on each side of the barricade. I’ve been a reviewer, a promoter, a musician and I booked some gigs here and there with other people in the last years, so, I know how these worlds work together and how much bands are struggling to reach a good visibility in the underground. The music business is really evolving fast in this decade and the old pillars are going to be destroyed very soon. The full length album is now part of a large and complex chain of distribution. Is the final piece of a long road but it’s not necessary the only part. Today the market says that small releases are better than a large one but no one is saying that to young new bands. Today the market wants more way to listen your music and probably doesn’t care about any physic copy of your piece of art. Today the market is focused on singles and jingles and doesn’t care anymore about eleven tracks on one artists but eleven tracks of eleven artists, just because there are so many good artists out there that the market can’t stay focused on just one single act.




From Billboard.com

The Market is people and if you don’t know people, you don’t know your target, if you are not part of the market your music will be forever out of any context. No one is saying to bands to stop forever doing full album alone. No one is saying to young bands to stop paying facebook for self-promotion. No one is saying to young bands that the 80’s are gone and the world changed so much and so deeply that everything in music has different meanings or values of ten or five years ago.
You can’t emulate the big sharks when you are the smallest fish on the ocean, you’ll be eaten so fast that your death will be painful but definitive.




From Billboard.com


This is why I started Band-Pro. Band-Pro is an environment for bands to grow and learn about music business, how to promote yourself, how to relate with labels and clubs. Band-Pro is all my experience and all my knowledge for band who are struggling to reach an audience that already exists but seems so ethereal. My service is very pragmatic I don’t offer you any sort of number of sales of views, this is a path that We can walk together and the final point depends all by Us.

Edoardo Del Principe

https://www.facebook.com/BandProIT/


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Saturday, September 30, 2017

5 tips to write a better guitar solo



Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we will talk about writing a good guitar solo, using as example some of the most famous ones.

Let's start with some pill of music history: guitar solos had during the 20th century an evolution, that starts with the blues/jazz guitarists of the '20/'30s, in which the improvisation was the key element of the whole performance, evolving in the '50s/'60s with the advent of rock n'roll and becoming more studied, often as a variation for the part of the song in which the audience was supposed to dance, until the '70s and '80s, the golden age of the guitar heroes, in which the solo became the focus of the whole song, often replacing completely to the vocal part.
From the '90s on we have then witnessed a slow decline of the importance of the guitar solo, and today it has become in modern music more of an optional part than a must.

Nevertheless a good instrumental part is fundamental in a song, not only to let the singer to rest for some second but also to introduce a variation element and some depth to the composition, and it doesn't necessarily need to be as technical as Van Halen; what matters is that it has something interesting to say and that it says it in a pleasant way, as for the vocals.
 
In my article about HOW TO MIX A GUITAR SOLO I have said that it should be treated like a vocal part, and indeed this is the point: it takes the place of the vocal part in that moment, it must become the focus of the listener, therefore it needs to be developed like a lead vocal part.


Here are 5 tips on how to write a better guitar solo:


1) Sing your solo: the first tip is a technique used by several great guitarists, like David Gilmour of Pink Floyd; when he writes a solo he sings it first, so he is sure the melody will be meaningful and effective, and sometimes he sings it live in real time while playing, as it can be heard in some live version of "Wish you were Here". The instrumental part shoul tell a story, like talking: you should start from a point a and getting to a point b, construct the phrase with a pleasant grammar, add something to the conversation: a solo that is not meaningful, if it is just a bored fiddling around the keyboard because it has to be there, doesn't deserves to be listened. A good example of guitar solo that tells a story is November Rain by Guns'n Roses. Singing means also knowing our way on the rhytmical side: we can play with 8ths, 16ths, switching to triplets, changing time signature, anticipate the beat, or (even better) slow the notes slightly to lean to the beat, and so on.

2) Don't overdo technically: it's better to know our strong points and stick to them rather than wanting to put in our solo at all costs something we are not good enough to deliver. Better to simplify it and practice more, until we are confident that we can play that part smoothly without looking goofy and ridiculous.

3) Bendings, slides, legatos, vibratos...: these techniques are your friends when developing a solo language, in facts they are some of the tools that expands our expressivity and that differentiate a guitar from the other instruments. Use these tools to make your solo flow richer and more expressive, by adding a benindg that slowly gets to the target note with emphasis (but beware about the pitch!), or by adding to the long notes a nice vibrato that follows the beat of the song or lazily leans to it.
Also, legato and slide are a great way to not having to robotically pick every note, but to make the guitar sing, and a great example about this is Bijoux, by Brian May for Queen.

4) Know your way around your fretboard: let's not fool ourselves, we can have the perfect ear, we can have the perfect melodies in our head, but anyone that says that learning scales puts us into a prison and that we shouldn't do it to let our melodic creativity to flow is just a lazy doofus in search for an excuse to not study. Scales and modes (wich are variations on the scales) are just other tools we need to know to expand our vocabulary. We don't have to know all of them, but indeed choosing some of them and learning them creating muscolar memory in our hand will be extremely useful, especially when improvising. Today there are also several online scale generators, that once we dial in the key of the song and the mode we want to try can suggest us a scale. This can be a very good starting point from where to begin building our solo, or to find the right variation to create interest, for example by adding some exotic scale note in our solo, technique in which Marty Friedman is a master.

Here is some idea for the modes, taken from the Guitar Tricks Forum:

"In metal, the only modes you pretty much need are Aeolian, Dorian, and Phrygian. But here are all of them:

Ionian - The basic major sound. Think 'happy' or 'triumphant'.
Dorian - The all-in-one blues, rock, and metal scale. This one's great for a jam in minor.
Phrygian - The exotic diatonic mode. Sound a little middle-eastern/Egyptian. Used frequently in riffs.
Lydian - The Vai mode. Creates a dreamy atmospere. Very hard to master.
Mixolydian - The Satch mode. Used in acoustic blues a lot, and good for guitar rock instrumentals.
Aeolian - Straight minor; think 'sad' or 'depressing'. Used in classical.
Locrian - Used a lot in metal riffs for that really EVIL feeling. I don't think I've ever heard it in a solo."
5) Mix improvisation with the theme of the instrumental part: all we have written so far can lead to the conclusion that we don't suggest to improvise. This is not true: I love improvisation, as long as it is meaningful, it is tastefully constructed, and probably one of the best ways to master a solo is by mixing some written parts to other improvised, as some of the greatest guitarists in the world has always done (for example the guitarists of Iron Maiden). Anyway there is no fixed rule about this, it's your solo, you decide how much to improvise, how much to write or whether to choose only one of the two solutions!

Enjoy and let us know if you have any other good tipo to write a better guitar solo!


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