In Studio One, Multi Instruments are your fast track to powerful synth layers and splits.
This month, we’re going to take a look at the Multi Instrument, which can be an amazingly creative space within Studio One. In building our instrument, we will be looking at combining and layering synthesizers, adding effects, and how we can use automation to modulate them in a modular way.
The Multi Instrument is available from the Instrument Browser, and it combines two or more virtual instruments into one. It can take relatively simple synthesizers and build them up into extravagant multi‑faceted sound machines. You can combine a sampled piano with synth strings, add a guitar edge to a synth line, fatten up oscillators, or come up with massive environmental movements of sound using a single key.
There are some excellent workstation‑style sounds in here that none of the individual instruments could have pulled off on their own.
Studio One comes with a load of Multi Instrument presets that use PreSonus’ own‑brand virtual instruments, such as Mai Tai and Presence. There are some excellent workstation‑style sounds in here that none of the individual instruments could have pulled off on their own. Have a look at Suitcase&DynamicPad and Synth Age in the Layer section, try Sparkle in the Sequence section, or something beautifully simple like Herbies Split, from the Split section.
When you load one up, all you get is a simple row of eight knobs and eight buttons. These are macro controls that can be mapped to any of the parameters within any of the loaded instruments. If you push the little down arrow at the bottom, you’ll reveal a pair of X/Y pads that you can also map to anything you want. You can combine parameters to a single control to control the filter cutoff on multiple synths all from one knob, for example.
If you press the Routing button (it’s next to the spanner and looks a bit like a tiny attack robot) you’ll get to see the contents of the Multi Instrument. If you load a preset like Space Nylon (in the Layer section), you’ll see you’ve got three instruments loaded: Presence, with a Nylon Guitar, and two Mai Tai synths, one of which has a Repeater Note FX attached to it. Open up the Sequence / Sparkle preset and you’ll find Marimba, Xylophone and Bells with their own arpeggiators, plus a Choir and Contrabass.
You’ve probably noticed the keyboard at the bottom of the Multi Instrument window. The different loaded instruments are stretched across it, represented as bars of colour. This is where you can set the range for each instrument and create layers and splits to your heart’s content. Any preset from the Split section will highlight what that’s all about.
You can add effects to all the instruments individually, giving you a lot of excitement and movement. At the time of writing, the effects side is separate from the Multi Instrument. It seems to me that a natural evolution of the Multi Instrument would be to let you drop effect plug‑ins right onto the audio outputs of those synths in the routing window, but you can’t do that yet. Instead, you use the channel strip for the selected instrument within the Multi Instrument. Here, you can insert plug‑ins and use sends, and adjust the level and panning as you would in any channel strip.
You can also do this in the mixing console. You’ll find a single channel strip for the whole Multi Instrument, but if you click the little folder button under the fader, it will reveal channels for all the included instruments. All of the loaded plug‑ins and channel settings are saved with a Multi Instrument preset, but I think embedding them with the instrument in the Multi Instrument routing window would be a very cool thing.
So, the presets have given us an idea as to what we could be aiming for, but how do you make a Multi Instrument of your own? Well, you can always start by making a plan and having some kind of idea as to what you want to achieve. But it’s much more fun just starting with something and seeing where it takes you.
Start a new Multi Instrument by dragging the New Multi Instrument preset from the Browser and dropping it into empty space in the arrange window. You’ll be presented with an empty routing window, ready to have some instruments added. To add an instrument, you can either select it from the drop‑down menu (Screen 3) or drag it in from the Browser. You can use any instruments or synths you have installed, but for this we’ll stick to the PreSonus ones.
Add two Mojito synths and they should automatically sit side by side. If you play your keyboard, you’ll hear them play rather loudly together. Double‑click them to bring up the synthesizers’ GUIs. I would turn off the Legato mode and then turn the Pitch knob on one of them very slightly to give a lovely, detuned chorusing effect. We are going to use this pair as a gooey bass line and glue together a couple of parameters.
Right‑click on the filter cutoff knob of Mojito 1 and you can assign it to one of the macro knobs. You have a choice of Instrument or Channel macros. Instrument is for the Multi Instrument itself, whereas Channel is for the macro controls on the Mojito’s channel strip. You want to select Instrument. Do the same for the Resonance controls to Knob 2 and the Envelope Filter Amount controls to Knob 3. Now if you go to the Macro Knob window, you’ll have three controls mapped to handle the filters on both synths.
Let’s drop in an arpeggiator, which you can select from the Note FX drop‑down menu in the routing window. It automatically puts itself at the top of the chain, running into both Mojitos. The GUI will probably come up automatically, but all the controls you need are in an editor column to the left. Tick the Pattern and Hold boxes and play a chord. Now you can switch back to the Macro page to play with the filter.
To add some effects, we could insert a plug‑in on the Multi Instrument to affect everything that’s coming out. However, adding effects to individual instruments may give us more versatility as our instrument expands. Click on each Mojito in turn in the routing window and pan one a bit left and the other a bit right. Then drag in an Analog Delay effect onto Mojito 1, set it to the Dub Me 8th preset and pull the mix down to about 30 percent. Do the same for Mojito 2. You should now have a nicely messy and driving arpeggiated bass sound.
We’re now going to add some strings underneath. Drop in an instance of Presence and select the Cello Full preset. The Multi Instrument automatically places them alongside, all being fed by the arpeggiator, but that’s not what we want, so we’ll do a bit of rearranging in the routing window. Click and drag where it says Splitter, and drop it on the line above Mojito 1. This will separate the two Mojitos from the Presence instrument. Now drag the Arpeggiator block above the Splitter block.
It’s probably not sounding completely fabulous yet, and could use some tweaking. The Mojitos are too loud for starters, so let’s bring them down in level. Set the Arpeggiator to two octaves, so that the synth has a wider range to play in. Add the Room Reverb onto the Cello channel strip. Turn the Global Mix up to 43 percent, increase the Length to about 20s, and increase the Mix a little. The Cellos should now have an awesome and cavernous depth to them.
One more layer should do it. Drag or add another Presence, and this time find the Concert Flute Vibrato preset.
That’s one immensely playable Multi Instrument if I do say so myself. But we could refine it by restricting the range and overlap. Each instrument is represented by a long bar of colour in the keyboard at the bottom. You can drag in from either end to set the range across the keyboard. Pull the Mojitos down to about G3 and pull the Flute up to about C3, giving them a small crossover. Now you can play the flute on top without always triggering the arpeggiator for the synths. The cellos sit nicely in the lower end as they stop at C4 anyway.
All the instruments have their own modulations, envelopes and LFOs as part of the interface, but I’m going to ignore those. Instead, we’ll automate some parameters in the timeline to see if we can produce something epic. First, let’s add a couple more parameters to the macro knobs. So, right‑click the Global Mix knob of the Room Reverb on the Cello track and add it to Instrument Knob 4. Drop the Groove Delay plug‑in onto the Flute track and add its mix control to Knob 5. We could also tie the bypass buttons for each instrument to the macro buttons. The bypass button is in the top left of the GUI and looks like a tiny humpback bridge. Put the two Mojitos on Button 1, and the other two on Buttons 2 and 3.
Now let’s set up the automation tracks. Double‑click in the empty Multi Instrument track to create a coloured block. Drag that out so that it covers the first eight bars. Hit P on your keyboard to throw the left and right markers around it, and click the Loop button on the transport bar. We’re going to write automation into this eight‑bar loop and see what happens.
To set up the automation tracks, first look at the black slab in the top‑left corner of Studio One. This is the Parameter Window and usually shows the last thing that’s been touched. However, it depends on how it’s set up. Click the little down arrow and make sure Recently Touched and Mouse‑Over are both ticked.
Go to the macro knobs for the Multi Instrument, and as you move your mouse over the mapped knobs and buttons, you’ll see them appear in the Parameter Window. Put your mouse over the first knob controlling the Mojito filters. Press and hold Alt/Option+A and move your mouse across the other knobs, and automation lanes will be created for whatever your mouse touches. Do the same with the first three buttons we mapped the bypasses to. If you press the tiny little sine wave button in the bottom left of the track header, it will expand and show you all the automation lanes we’ve just created.
Click and hold on the Pen tool and select the sine wave option. Click and drag in the first bar; you have to drag sideways for the width and vertically for the depth of the wave. Before you release the mouse, hold the Alt/Option key and drag it out to the whole eight bars. This will stretch it out to a much slower sine wave. Set Studio One playing and see how that’s affecting the Mojito filters. You’ve probably made it too tall, and the filter is flinging itself about. No problem. Select the Transform option under the Paint tool and draw a rectangle around the automation. You can now scale the sine wave with the handles. One cool trick is experimenting with the corner handles to make the sine wave get bigger or smaller over the eight bars.
You have permission to do whatever you like with these automation lanes. You can draw changes freehand, slap in ramps and waves and scale the heck out of them. It becomes an advanced LFO and modulation system for an instrument you can play and experiment with in live performance.