Studio One's virtual instrument Presence XT comes with a huge array of sounds, and many ways to mangle them.
Presence XT is the workhorse virtual instrument that ships with Studio One. It’s a sample player that can handle complex multisampled instruments, and supports formats such as EXS, Giga, Kontakt 4 and SoundFonts. The majority of the library that comes with it tackles real‑world instruments such as orchestral, pianos, band instruments and so on. Throughout you’ll find high‑quality instruments, many with different articulations and multiple layers of velocity‑driven authenticity. But the front end also offers layers of synth‑like functionality to give you the opportunity to tweak, modulate and sculpt the sounds, and effects to give you polish or playfulness.
In this month’s workshop we’ll dig into this fabulous source of sounds and ensure we’re using it to its fullest potential. I should note that in a workshop on General MIDI from a couple of months ago I accused Presence XT of not having any drum kits... Turns out that it does, but they are hidden away under ‘Artist Sounds’ in the preset list and should indeed appear when loading a MIDI file. Sorry for any confusion.
The first section to look at is the mysterious central display. Some Presence instruments seem to fill that box with controls and cute icons, while others don’t have any interest in it at all. It’s like an elephant in the room: you can quite happily ignore it and still enjoy Presence XT as an instrument, but you always know there’s something important lurking about the place. At a basic level it shows the preset name, sample size and voice count, and that’s all you get for the bank of synth sounds. But with more complex acoustic and multisampled instruments, the central display comes alive with additional information and controls.
By way of example, let’s load up a couple of sounds and have a look. From the presets under Guitars, select Telecaster and my favourite guitar preset, ‘Telecaster Slide FNVol’. This is a beautifully wobbly electric guitar sound which pulls in a slide if you strike the key hard enough. It also has some additional controls: there’s a button with which you can turn Fret Noise on and off, and above that, you can set the Probability of the fret noise occurring when you release the keys. You can set the level of the noise and adjust the unexplained ‘No Efx Time’, which also seems to affect whether there is fret noise or not according to some mystical formula. This sort of scripting can give you a very realistic performance.
The parameters available are specific to the instrument, so if you browse through the organs, you’ll find level control over various voices, you can turn percussion on and off and set balances. The biggest scripts appear to come with the acoustic pianos, where you can mix in mechanical noises and also define the envelope of sound, which supersedes the Amp Env section of the main interface.
The second function of the central display is to give information about the keyswitching or sound variations. You’ll find these all over the orchestral instruments. So, as an example, let’s go to Strings and Cellos and choose ‘Cellos Full’. There are no scripted parameters this time, but to the right of the program name we can show a list of five articulations: Sustain, Tremolo, Staccato, Pizzicato and Crescendo. Sustain is selected by default but you can switch to another articulation by hitting the corresponding note on your keyboard, which will be in the low octaves from C0 down. If you bring up the keyboard at the bottom of Presence XT you’ll see them marked in red. Using the keyswitches you can create an expressive and varied performance from a single track’s worth of MIDI....