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Amp Sim City and Building Backing Tracks
#3041043 04/28/20 06:48 PM
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My replacement MOTU 828x interface arrived finally last Friday and I dove back into creating the tracks my wife and I will use when we get back to performing. Last night I also installed the Digital Performer 10 upgrade I'd been holding off on. Since to this point I've only had the 828x and a Furman in a 4 space case I decided to throw my Line 6 Relay G90 wireless in as well. That, of course, got me to wondering about running the guitar through the interface and eliminating the Tech 21 FlyRig unit I'd been using. Maintaining setup/teardown simplicity and the bulk level has been an important consideration from the get go and any time I can get the same, or more, functionality from software over hardware it's a win in my book.

In addition to articles/videos I remember Craig having mentioned here and there how he was impressed with the guitar oriented software in DP so finally after all this time I took a look at a couple things and yes I believe it's gonna work great for me! Major points for already being included in the software I'm using. When it comes to guitar I generally go for a clean sound but with this setup I'll be able to boost for leads, add some drive/effects for certain song sections and have it all done automatically while the sequence is running. If I don't go too crazy I hope I can pull it off with the thunderbolt gear.

Anyone else on a similar path?

Re: Amp Sim City and Building Backing Tracks
Greg Mein #3041054 04/28/20 08:32 PM
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I can't remember when I first started using amp sims and laptops, I think it was back in 2005 or so...yeah, I've been following a similar path smile Back then latency was a bigger deal than it is now.

The MOTU amp sims are really good, I think they and Studio One (starting with version 4.6; the previous amp sims weren't very good) have the best bundled amp sims at the moment.

I've only used the MOTU sims in the studio so I don't know how friendly they are to MIDI footswitches, but when it comes to software, where there's a will there's usually a way smile

Last edited by Anderton; 04/28/20 08:32 PM.
Re: Amp Sim City and Building Backing Tracks
Greg Mein #3041066 04/28/20 09:20 PM
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I've messed about with a variety of amp sims from IK Amplitube (Fender Collection 2, an Ampeg collection, and various Marshally stuffs), NI Guitar Rig 5 (a variety of Fender, Marshall etc.), Voxengo Boogex, Ace and all sorts of other sims.

Some of them sound great if you dial them in to taste. I don't like to lose the sound of my guitar by having too much gain, most presets are way over the top for what I want. Tastes vary and I may want something insane just because so I can't say something is better than something else. I've gotten some really nice tones from Ace, which is free so you might want to give it a spin. Boogex is free too.

I also still use a Tech 21 TriAC pedal, it has some great tones and is really simple to dial in. Plus, using a 9v battery makes it nice and quiet at the mid-gain or lower settings I gravitate towards.
It's great on bass too.

But... amp sims offer a tone path that hardware going in may not. Parallel processing!!!!! The reason I say "may" not is that if you cut a track with a fair amount of distortion on it using hardware going in, it's impossible to un-distort it if you want to add some clean shimmer to it.

So, here is what I do - becoming more likely to be my workflow lately.

Cut a guitar track straight into a good sounding DI, add several tracks and populate them with copies of the original clean DI track.
Now you can put different amp sims on different tracks, do some de-tuning, modulation or ambient effects and automate those tracks so you have smooth transitions of varying tones, panning (side to center for solos) and other fun stuff.

It's another world, I use parallel processing on lots of things - vocals, snare drums, whatever. Sometimes a great tube amp sound is perfect for a vocal track here and there.
Yes, you'll end up with lots of tracks!!!!

I highly recommend getting all your basic tracks done before you start in with the parallel tracks. That way you can keep your latency settings low for tracking and then make them longer for mixing so everything is glitch free and painless.

One of the remixes I did on Metapop ended up with 66 tracks, mostly parallel processing. It can be very subtle but I've found it to be essential. And, it's FUN!!!

Oh Joy, another rabbit hole... Cheers, Kuru


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: Amp Sim City and Building Backing Tracks
KuruPrionz #3041192 04/29/20 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
So, here is what I do - becoming more likely to be my workflow lately.

Cut a guitar track straight into a good sounding DI, add several tracks and populate them with copies of the original clean DI track.
Now you can put different amp sims on different tracks, do some de-tuning, modulation or ambient effects and automate those tracks so you have smooth transitions of varying tones, panning (side to center for solos) and other fun stuff.

It's another world, I use parallel processing on lots of things - vocals, snare drums, whatever. Sometimes a great tube amp sound is perfect for a vocal track here and there.
Yes, you'll end up with lots of tracks!!!!


Oh Joy, another rabbit hole... Cheers, Kuru

On the system I'm using for our live performances I'm managing to keep my track count very low and most will be midi that plays on my Krome keyboard. For live use I want the system running as efficiently as possible, nothing sucks worse than having your system crash while you're playing a tune! It can be a bit of a balancing act because you'd love to add more effects and plugins but you have to always be wary of how much resources you're using. I will add some sparse pre-recorded audio (mostly guitar) tracks on a few tunes and I can go all out while doing the recording but then they need to be bounced down so there are no unnecessary plugins clogging the works.

I'm currently using Superior Drummer 3 for my drum tracks as a plugin and I'm not certain yet if I'll want to mix those to audio tracks or if it'll be fine leaving it as a plugin. Now that I believe I'll be running my guitar live through the system there's some more bandwidth I'll need for amp sim/effects but I'll not over indulge in those. At the end of the day this is for background support and my wife and I need to remain the primary focus for an audience.

Re: Amp Sim City and Building Backing Tracks
Anderton #3041195 04/29/20 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
I've only used the MOTU sims in the studio so I don't know how friendly they are to MIDI footswitches, but when it comes to software, where there's a will there's usually a way smile

If this all works the way I'm planning I'll not need any footswitches, I've already done some initial testing to verify that I can add automation right to the live thru guitar audio track. I'll jam away as the sequence plays without worrying about any tap dancing and with my wireless unit now inserted I can leave the stage and wander when not singing.

In the end we're hoping to have an act that will fit right in at casinos and other places besides bars and pubs, be fun, maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses.

Re: Amp Sim City and Building Backing Tracks
Greg Mein #3041221 04/29/20 03:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Greg Mein
On the system I'm using for our live performances I'm managing to keep my track count very low and most will be midi that plays on my Krome keyboard. For live use I want the system running as efficiently as possible, nothing sucks worse than having your system crash while you're playing a tune! It can be a bit of a balancing act because you'd love to add more effects and plugins but you have to always be wary of how much resources you're using. I will add some sparse pre-recorded audio (mostly guitar) tracks on a few tunes and I can go all out while doing the recording but then they need to be bounced down so there are no unnecessary plugins clogging the works.

I'm currently using Superior Drummer 3 for my drum tracks as a plugin and I'm not certain yet if I'll want to mix those to audio tracks or if it'll be fine leaving it as a plugin. Now that I believe I'll be running my guitar live through the system there's some more bandwidth I'll need for amp sim/effects but I'll not over indulge in those. At the end of the day this is for background support and my wife and I need to remain the primary focus for an audience.

Got it, makes sense. Live is a different animal. I might go so far as to create a mix of all pre-reocrded audio tracks so the final playback is MIDI tracks and a stereo audio track plus whatever I want to play live.


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: Amp Sim City and Building Backing Tracks
Greg Mein #3041503 05/01/20 02:17 AM
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If your performance includes songs that are a set length, then MIDI driving an amp sim is fantastic. Be aware that some sims handle program changes more elegantly than others; ReValver has a "live mode" that switches glitchlessly among eight programs. For some reasons, VST3 versions of amp sims seem much more problematic than VST2 versions when it comes to prgoram changes.

But if your performance is sequenced, MIDI+amp sims is amazing. Forget about foot pedals, MIDI will increase the distortion drive or whatever without you having to think about it...just play!

Re: Amp Sim City and Building Backing Tracks
Anderton #3041560 05/01/20 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
But if your performance is sequenced, MIDI+amp sims is amazing. Forget about foot pedals, MIDI will increase the distortion drive or whatever without you having to think about it...just play!

I really enjoy discussing this stuff and am always interested in what others are doing at live shows. Our act is covering well known pop/rock songs, adult oriented stuff that can fill seats at public places. So overall our arrangements don't tend to vary from what's on the record but we do mix it up a little with some medleys and intros here and there. There are a few things I like to be more flexible with and I'm still thinking about how I might deal with some of those. The tracks must remain an enhancement and not a neccessity.

I've played in bands forever and have used my DP system with groups before but it's a bit different now that we're just a duo; there's no sound guy, we're not using in-ears and our overall volume is much lower. Initially I was keeping it all acoustic with my Takamine EF341SC and then later the Taylor T5 I bought at Gearfest but my wife holds down a solid rhythm on the keys so more recently I began taking my Tele as well which makes it easier on me doing leads and the upper register inversions and so forth. I'm nearly always playing a clean tone and can go along time without needing to alter my guitar sound much. That's what makes me think I can pull this off without adding much slag to the system. At the same time though my imagination leaps ahead and I begin to think about a lot of things I might be able to do!

Re: Amp Sim City and Building Backing Tracks
Greg Mein #3041591 05/01/20 05:42 PM
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My favorite computer application was with the ill-fated Gibson guitar that had hex outputs. I was using it in a duo with Brian Hardgroove from Public Enemy on drums. Each string output went to its own amp sim, but there were also dual magnetic pickups. I put the lower three strings through octave dividers for bass, and the upper four strings through a fairly clean, somewhat chorused sound. The pickups went to distortion for leads. Because I started off playing classical, I use all my fingers and it was sooo cool - I could articulate bass, rhythm, and lead at more or less the same time.

The most amazing part was the freedom. I didn't have to concern myself with following, or being followed by, keys or bass. Brian kept the groove, and I could do whatever I wanted. We both sang through DigiTech harmony synthesizers, so even with just the two of us, it sounded like a full band - no backing tracks, no MIDI. Obviously, this would have been pretty much impossible without amp sims.

Whenever I got offstage, some guitarist would be waiting to ask "how the hell did you do that?!?" smile

Re: Amp Sim City and Building Backing Tracks
Greg Mein #3041594 05/01/20 06:21 PM
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FWIW...was at a Shania Twain concert many years ago with the sound people, and saw the setup: two slaved computers running DP (one main, one backup). The band used a lot of Line 6 stuff, PODs and Variaxes. All the program changes, control settings, everything was programmed. Not one footswitch was hit all night. Of course, the set couldn't deviate at all from what was programmed, but the constraint that added was offset by the freedom of the performers not having to worry about the tech, so they could just play.

Re: Amp Sim City and Building Backing Tracks
Anderton #3041671 05/02/20 03:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
FWIW...was at a Shania Twain concert many years ago with the sound people, and saw the setup: two slaved computers running DP (one main, one backup). The band used a lot of Line 6 stuff, PODs and Variaxes. All the program changes, control settings, everything was programmed. Not one footswitch was hit all night. Of course, the set couldn't deviate at all from what was programmed, but the constraint that added was offset by the freedom of the performers not having to worry about the tech, so they could just play.

Yes I find that stuff fascinating, I switched to macs and DP after reading some articles in Keyboard by a couple guys doing the Madonna, Micheal Jackson and some other big tours.

I don't recall that I ever knew about the Gibson guitar with hex outputs. I've given thought to the Line 6 Variax line a few times but have kept from leaping, most my guitars don't get played enough already. I bought a Gibson with the MinETune a few years back at Gearfest and have since decided I could have done fine without it!

Re: Amp Sim City and Building Backing Tracks
Greg Mein #3042211 05/05/20 10:53 PM
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One other thing about amps, sims, etc...they've always been kind of a sidebar in the MIDI scheme of things. But MIDI 2.0's Profiles feature might change that. Since amps and effects have become pretty standardized over the years - tone stack, master volume, channel switching, etc.- I think it would be quite easy to come up with a profile that would allow hardware controllers to query guitar stuff, and auto-configure the connection. MIDI 2.0 would also make it possible to auto-generate editors for amps and effects that spoke MIDI. It's not going to happen tomorrow, of course, but it's one of those happy "unintended consequences" of updating the spec to be bi-directional, and have additional capabilities.

Re: Amp Sim City and Building Backing Tracks
Anderton #3042372 05/06/20 06:03 PM
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Something I miss are instrument definition files, with Sonar I believe they were .ins perhaps, on Mac there were midnam/middev files (except for Logic which did it different as I recall) where the patch names in your synth would show up rather than just numbers when you were making patch selections within your DAW. There were a lot of them available for a lot of different keyboards, there was a Mac program called Cherry Picker (I believe it was) where you could create/modify your own. The files themselves were some type of HTML variation perhaps.

Now it's been a while but it seems to me that all went away with the advent of Midi over USB. I vaguely remember that I was able to use those definitions with keyboards that were connected via 5 pin DIN through a midi interface but the definitions were a no-go when the keyboard was connected to the computer directly via USB. It bothered me at the time and I thought it was a step backwards. Maybe it's not even relevant in todays world. As I look at how I'm currently putting together my sequences I wouldn't mind having it but I don't see it being as essential as I used to believe it was.

Last edited by Greg Mein; 05/06/20 06:04 PM.
Re: Amp Sim City and Building Backing Tracks
Greg Mein #3042384 05/06/20 06:28 PM
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One of MIDI 2.0's main features is hardware integration that will do everything you could do with those instrument definition files, and then some. It basically treats hardware like a plug-in, and because all the parameters can live in the DAW's file, it's even possible to auto-generate editors and librarians. That seems kind of sci-fi to me, but I've been assured it's doable down the road.

Hardware companies like Yamaha, Roland, Korg, etc. are very involved with MIDI 2.0. Hardware still sells, but the integration with MIDI has been simplistic. One of MIDI 2.0's goals was to bring hardware into electronic music systems in a more seamless way. Perhaps the interest in modular synthesizers is part of the inspiration for this - people do like hands-on control, and if you can integrate that with your DAW...bingo.

Re: Amp Sim City and Building Backing Tracks
Greg Mein #3042529 05/07/20 02:23 PM
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That really sounds great and I'm looking forward to seeing some of that!

There was a time when I had three keyboards, a rackmount synth and extenal gear all connected through DP/midi at gigs. The instrument definitions sure were helpful when I was setting all that up!


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