Play it on a sunny day if you’re only happy when it rains. This is a chill thing, not much going on it seems on the surface. Nice background music that will make you reach for your raincoat when you leave. The track is a simple live guitar improv run through four different lanes with the use of some rain sounds in unusual ways.

Only read more if you want to geek out on the details.

The first thing to come in….the pit-pat of drops splatting…is a guitar synth triggering samples of my home-made wooden-keyed sansa.  This is “lane 1”

IMG_0114Soon after you gradually begin to hear two sets of ambient rain sounds emerge in the background. These are the only other thing than the four-lane guitar. The first to enter are a group of snippets of from a freesounds field recording of rain on a tin roof. The recording is split into pseudo-mid-side, with one section of the clip providing the mid, the common base sound to both stereo channels. Then two other clips, both from different times on the same recording are placed, one on the right channel and one on the left, to provide some stereo, giving the track a sense of space. All this was because the original field recording was mono and I want the stereo to be big on this. The second track is a stereo field recording I made of the rain as it sounded on the 9th floor outdoor walkway of my apartment. It is in stereo from the start, and much more “ambient” than the tin roof.

The second guitar lane comes in during fade in of the ambient rain. It is still the same guitar notes as the pit-pat samples. It is electric guitar, more or less pretty clean, run through two vocoders, one with the “left” side of the tin roof pseudo stereo recording, the other with the right side. On one vocoder it is the carrier, on the other it is the modulator. This means that one side of the guitar sounds like it is playing through the rain, while the other side sounds like the rain is playing through the guitar. The two sides are sent through the rain yet again, this time using a convolution plugin that makes the vocoder processed guitar/tin roof sound as if it is playing in the tin roof rain. Got some tin roof rain for your tin roof rain sound. All of this gives the guitar a sort of watery voice I think while still keeping the notes clear.

That gets joined soon after by the third lane, the “acoustic channel” of my Godin e
lectric guitar. This makes the articulation of the “watery” guitar clearer. The fourth guitar lane (still the same single guitar playing though) then fades in, a reverb drenched, trebly guitar that smears everything up again, but just in the background, tying together the guitar with the rain tracks to complete the atmosphere. Past the middle, all of the sounds gradually fade out one by one til only the the vocoded, convoluted guitar and a little ambience is left at the end.

As a special bonus, the art for the song is made from the spectrogram of the mix, which looked nicely smeared and rainy to my eye. That is the part “outside” the car. The driver’s eye view of the road and the inside of the car is stolen. Not saying from where.

Godin xTSA review: the “acoustic” part

Yesterday, I reviewed the Godin xTSA strictly as an electric guitar.  Of course, alone, that would miss the point, seeing as it also has a piezo pickup that doubles as an acoustic guitar emulator and a synth pickup.  Today, I’ll focus on the acoustic sounds you can get from the instrument.

Godin xTSA piezo EQ
Godin xTSA piezo EQ

Here is an mp3 that demonstrates the sounds I get out of the piezo.  You might want to leave it open in the background to refer back to.

The first thing to note is that the “acoustic” sound does not really sound much like an acoustic guitar out of the box.  It sounds more like a solid body guitar played without amplification and miked, which is a bit like what is actually happening.  The pickup itself is part of the bridge, and as I understand it, picks up the vibrations of the each string directly from the string’s contact with the saddle.  That signal is then routed through a small preamp with volume and a three band equalizer.


The EQ is quite responsive, and jacking or cutting the mids in particular completely changes the tone.  The result is a jangly sound with mids cut a little and a cutting sound with the mids punched.  It still does not sound very acoustic, but it could be useful to adding some definition to an electric sound, particularly on the attack portion.

the convoluted part

I mess with this basic tone to give it a more realistic acoustic flavor.  First I run it through Voxengo’s Perfect Space, a convolution reverb plugin I got with Cakewalk’s Sonar.  They also sell it separately as a plugin called Pristine Space.  Convolution is the process of combining your signal with the sound of some real or imagined acoustic environment.  In this case, I mixed the piezo sound of the guitar with the characteristics of an actual acoustic.  The sound file that Perfect Space needs to do this is called an impulse response, because it is a recording of the sound of something as close to an impulse as possible, often a balloon popping.  In this case, the author of the IR tapped a ceramic spoon against the bridge of his acoustic guitar.  I used the “near” version of the acoustic guitar IR from Noise Vault.  They have a great selection of acoustic instrument responses, speaker cabinet responses, and various hardware.  It is a great resource.  If you need a freeby convolution plugin, you might try freeverb3 but it is hard to set up and a resource hog.  There used to be one called revolverb, also less than perfect, but that’s gone it seems.  If you want to drop a few bucks,  Elevayta’s ConvoBoy is good, as is Voxengo’s previously mentioned Pristine Space. Both are reasonable and worth the money.  Voxengo is a little less resource hungry, but ConvoBoy lets you load a different IR in each channel of your stereo output, which is kind of neat.  Since most of the guitar’s sound comes from the strings, the convolution is kept down in the mix, a flavor rather than the substance.    This gives the sound a “woodier” feel, but the resonance gets a little obnoxious if the mids on the eq are turned to high.

Next in the chain is the best fifteen bucks I have spent in a long while, G-Sonique’s FSQ1964 vitalizer/exciter.  It grabs the transients…just the part of the signal we are most concerned with in getting a realistic sound — and makes them sound wonderful.  After that comes a touch of reverb, then out.  I experimented with light chorusing, but ultimately realized whenever I could hear the chorusing it was too much and let it go.

12 string

Not content to have an acoustic, I wanted to see if I could get a twelve string sound out of the piezos.  I split the input signal, before all the other effects mentioned above, and ran the unaffected signal in one side and sent the other side first to a very short delay with no feedback to emulate the space between the strings when you pick a twelve string, and to articulate the higher note just a little clearer.  Then the delayed signal goes to a pitch shifter set to raise the pitch one octave.  The delayed, raised note then gets fed back in with the slightly earlier unmodified note before coming out the convolution “body.”  It is not exactly accurate, as the high E and B strings on a real twelve string are not an octave higher like the lower four strings are, but it still sounds neat.  As the sound file makes clear, it is not perfect.  It warbles a little as an artifact of the pitch-shifting effect, but when it is mixed back a little and accompanied by other instruments, it passes reasonably well.  Take a listen to Be Miner for an example.  The rhythm part is all on the “12-string.”

Conclusion of acoustic part

Obviously, I like the processed sound a lot and have spent some time to get it as good as I can.  If I really need acoustics on a recording, I’ll go with fresh strings and an XY arrangement of a matched pair of mics on a real acoustic, like in Bomb the Beach.  But having an acoustic-sounding guitar that you can mix in with your electric and synthesized sounds as you are playing is a blast.  A couple of things I like to do are to chop the attack off a distorted electric guitar and replace it with the acoustic attack, or have one delayed a beat or portion of a beat behind the other.  It is also really nice to be able to put an analog, human touch sound into a synthesized one, opening up lots of new textures and spaces, which is what I am all about musically.

Well that is it on the acoustic portion of the xSTA.  Two down, with the synth section yet to go.  Even without the synth, this is a blast of a guitar.

Finally, If you didn’t get a chance the other day, give a listen to the four new tracks from rreplay and let me know what you think!