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24 May 2013


How might an Australian greet Captain Antonio Corelli? "GDAE, mate!" And that's how you remember the tuning of a mandolin, the same as for a violin. But a mando is so much easier to play, especially if you're a a dab-hand on guitar.

You'll notice that a mandolin's four string courses, typically in pairs, are tuned in fifths, which gives an idea of the instrument's antiquity - chanting monks, and all that. The instrument is descended from the lute, which is rarely seen in ensembles not fronted by Sting these days.

You're most likely to hear a mando being played alongside violin, flute and/or pipes in traditional celtic folk bands, or strummed when a rock group gets folky (Tull, Zep, REM, to name notables). And let's not forget the rapid, tremolo-picking of mandorchestras (made-up word, there) with ensembles going for that 'theme from The Godfather' groove.

It's known that guitar emulation is tricky to get right in software, so how has 8Dio coped in devising its latest sample-based instrument, the aptly named Mandolin?

10 May 2013

£349 / €405 / $449

If you've been stocking up on stockings in anticipation of Reason 7 blowing your socks off, you'll have done well to keep the receipts. That's not to say there's little to set toes a-tingle in this latest version of Propellerhead Software's flagship title; it's just rather more subtle than might be implied by a whole-number upgrade. But before we jump in, let's step back and ponder.

What began as a modular audio-production suite, complete with virtual rackmounted tone generators, sample players, signal processors, basic mixer and a rudimentary sequencer, has sprouted a bounty of bells and wodges of whistles since it sprang from Sweden in December 2000. Reason stood out from contemporary DAWs with its spaghettified, yet versatile audio/control routing and sheer fun factor, but its sound capability was the clincher.

06 May 2013

FABFILTER PRO-DS 1.02 | £124 / $149 / $189

A multitude of maladies can afflict vocal takes and sibilance is one of the more pesky. It's the high-frequency hiss and spit of such consonants as 's', 't' and 'd', when unvoiced, which leap out of an otherwise tonally balanced vocal.

Obviously, the best way to avoid sibilance is not to record it in the first place (less obviously, don't write lyrics in the English language, more on which later). But with today's production preference of everything louder than everything else, even care at the capture stage oft does not obviate the problem because swathes of compression make sibilance stand proud.

When dealing with a hissy fit, you could engage in sidechain antics to actuate a compressor targeting high frequencies, but it's way more elegant to insert a de-esser, such as FabFilter Pro-DS, that's dedicated to the process and so needs very little set-up.