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PreSonus Studio One 6

Digital Audio Workstation By Robin Vincent
Published December 2022

PreSonus Studio One 6

PreSonus’ DAW software continues to grow and improve as it reaches version 6.

I’ve been reviewing Studio One and writing the monthly workshops for Sound On Sound since version 4. It’s been interesting to observe the development, the movement and evolution from a position of catch‑up to a place where it pushes the DAW paradigm into interesting places. Studio One is both an innovator and an assimilator of features. It desires to be all things to all people while filling out the back catalogue with things you may have missed along the way.

In version 6 PreSonus have brought in some good stuff, expanded into much needed stuff, and messed with the thing that they’re most proud of: the interface. Change is risky, let’s see if it’s worth the gamble.

Start Page Smart Templates

Studio One 6 starts up in a very familiar way. They’ve modernised the option toolbar across the top, so it looks a little bit less Windows 95 and a tad groovier. Previously when you hit ‘New’ you’d get a window offering you a list of ‘Styles’ for different song scenarios. These were called things like Band Recording, House/Techno, Piano Ballad, Podcast Production and so on. Each style would load up a selection of relevant tracks and plug‑ins ready for that particular style of music making.

PreSonus have now replaced these slightly patronising styles with ‘Templates’ that make a lot more sense. The choices are colourful and inviting with options like Record and Mix, Master and Release, Rehearse and Perform, Play Now, Record Now, Create Content and Produce Beats. They incorporate the Song, Project and Show pages without having to specifically separate them. Once selected you have some options on the right to add audio files or make further choices.

What immediately impressed me about them was how quickly they got me to what I wanted to do. Often, I’m dipping into Studio One to play something, or do a quick recording and these templates get me right there without having to start from a completely blank project and without having to commit to the style of music I’m producing. When you load the Template, you get a version of Studio One tailored to that scenario with a couple of tracks loaded and plug‑ins ready to go in a similar way as to before. But with Studio One’s new Track Presets and Customisation (which we’ll come to) this is more detailed and intentional. Of course, you can also create your own.

PreSonus call them Smart Templates; I wonder what that means? It could mean the inclusion of brilliant little tutorials that talk you through a few steps of what you’re probably going to be doing. I’m sure they’ll be annoying to seasoned users but to newbies these are excellent. It’s like you’re being warmly invited to try something out, which is so much better than staring at a blank project wondering what to do first. It will literally show you how to start producing beats, if that’s what you want, and point you to video tutorials if you still need more help.

The Writing’s On The Wall

One innovation introduced by Studio One 6 is a lyrical engine. Thankfully that’s not an AI powered song word generator, but it’s more than adding text under your notes. It’s not very surprising because the recent addition of score writing and the potential of the Show Page all lead towards the need for words. While being able to enter lyrics is not particularly innovative, the way PreSonus have baked it into the workflow is well thought out.

The first place they appear is as a Global Lyrics Track. This is in the increasingly crowded section at the top of the arrange page where you can currently display Arranger, Marker, Chord, Time Signature and Tempo tracks, a Ruler, and the new Video track, which we’ll come onto in a minute.

With the Lyrics track active you can add words into the timeline just as you would with a Marker track. If you have your lyrics in a text file, then you can drag and drop that directly onto the Lyrics track and they’ll get automatically extracted. Studio One will see each line in the song as a separate event and you can hit a key combination during playback to snap each line to the right place. It’s not lining the syllables up with beats or notes or anything at this stage, this is purely putting a line in at the start of a bar or when it comes in. What’s nice is that Studio One gathers all these words into a Lyrics Display and highlights them as the song plays back. It’s a cool karaoke‑style function but it’s actually more useful than that. The Lyrics Display also functions as a navigation tool. So, say your vocalist wants to go back to the second line of the chorus, you can click on that line and your song pointer leaps to that section of the song.

Another vocalist‑friendly feature is the ability to offset the highlight so that the next line illuminates a few beats before it hits. You can also edit the lyrics in the display, copy and paste, and move them to different bars. Editing in the Lyrics Display is a bit clunky and I’ve found it easier to make adjustments in the timeline.

Coming back to the karaoke angle, the lyrics can be pulled into the Show Page. It only gives you a global view, though, not the individual instrument lyric choices that we get from the Lyric Lanes in the main page (see below). Put the Lyrics Display window up on a separate screen for your vocalist and that’s a perfect addition to your Show Page performance.

The new Lyrics track and live Lyrics Display bring songwriting and navigation elements together nicely.The new Lyrics track and live Lyrics Display bring songwriting and navigation elements together nicely.

Lyrical Lanes

The Global track is not the only place where Lyrics can play. Lyrics can be tied to individual notes of individual instruments, and this is where we get into syllables. You could have different lyrics assigned to different voices within a choir, with Studio One giving each track its own words. This is achieved by adding a Lyrics Lane to the increasingly versatile Automation Lane at the bottom of the Edit window. Traditionally this is where you’d find the velocity stalks for the notes in the piano‑roll editor. PreSonus have built on this space to include MPE control, Aftertouch, Sound Variations in Presence XT, Musical Symbols, Modulation and more. But for this scenario It gives the per‑note detail that lyrics require.

Each note in the piano roll gets a corresponding text box in the Lyric Lane that lets you enter a single word or syllable. Using space or tab you can quickly move from note to note adding...

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