You can fine-tune families of instruments by boosting their volume with this handy technique.
Welcome to another Dojo! This month, I’d like to show you the benefits of creating and using VCAs (Voltage Controlled Amplifiers) when mixing, for added control and nuance. Tighten up your belts. The Dojo is now open.
Diving right in, what is a VCA? Think of it as a glorified volume-only control that uses voltage to adjust the amount of a signal’s/track’s volume when routed to its output.
Say you want to easily adjust the overall volume of your drum tracks within your mix. Perhaps you have several drum-loop tracks, drum machine soft synths with MIDI sequence tracks, and a full drum kit with multiple mics spread over multiple tracks (you know, a typical session). Or you might want to combine (sum) four individual rhythm-guitar track outputs into one VCA and be able to control the overall volume of all four from one channel. You can create a single VCA channel for all the drum tracks, another VCA for the rhythm-guitar parts, and then assign the outputs of those grouped tracks to their dedicated VCAs. Now, you can globally tweak the overall volume of all your drum tracks and all your rhythm guitars in your mix without changing the routing, plug-in levels, or effects sends, or the panning of any other tracks or groups.
The benefits of using VCAs really emerge after a mix has come together. For example, you might need to make an “all guitars up” version of the mix, or a “drums down 2 dB” version, etc. You may even want to automate volume rides in certain sections of a song—particular licks and fills, or even solos. You can also do this with vocals, background vocals, synths, etc.
Following the hypothetical example above, I’m going to show you how to create a VCA within Pro Tools and assign it to tracks of your choosing. Remember, every DAW has its own idiosyncratic way of creating and setting up a VCA channel, so be sure to consult your help section and/or read your instruction manual. Key commands may differ, but the process is essentially the same.
First, group (Cmd+G) all the tracks you want to be assigned to a VCA and name that group. I’ve named my group “DRUMS” [Fig.1]. Now, I’m going to create a VCA. Cmd+Shift+N, select VCA, and name it. I’ve named this “DRUMS” as well [Fig.2].
Notice the new VCA channel and how there are no options for FX inserts, EQ, or panning [Fig. 3]? That’s exactly what we want, and it’s proof that we’ve set it up correctly.
Finally, I’m going to assign my drums into a single VCA by clicking on the “no group” button and selecting “DRUMS” from the dropdown list [Fig.4]. That’s it!
Now you can rinse and repeat as many times as you like for as many instrument groups as you like. This is where VCAs really shine and can help you fine-tune specific volume relationships of instruments (and groups therein) within the fluid environment of a mix.
If you’re new to using VCAs, allow me to offer some suggestions that will help you get the most out of employing them. I use VCAs after I’ve shed proverbial blood, sweat, and tears obsessing over all aspects of the mix. Only after I feel like I’ve worked out a solid approach to EQ, compression, effects, parallel processing, outboard gear, aux busses, and all automation do I start using VCAs. On a self-judged scale of 0 to 10, my mix should be hitting about a 9. Then, I’ll typically fold all drum tracks into a single VCA, all bass (synth, stringed, etc.), all electric guitars (minus the solos), all synths and keys, all background vocals, and then group the lead vocal(s) and instrument solo(s) if appropriate. In this case, I have six VCAs to control the entire mix from a high level, and I can automate gain (volume) rides as needed to get that extra bit of focus and excitement out of the mix.
Next month, I’ll be guiding you through how to use aux busses to make your mixes better at an earlier stage.
Blessings and keep rockin’! Namaste.
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Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.
Mystery Stocking is coming soon! Sign up for PG Perks below so you don't miss it.
Sign up for PG Perks on the form below to make sure you don't miss the launch announcement!
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.