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Artist Feature



Omnisphere's Arpeggiator

“For someone like me who’s busy making lots of records, I want to be able to reach for sounds and find them fast. The browser’s great. You can type in ‘bright synthesizer analog’ and Omnisphere comes up with a different selection of sounds. It’s really cool.”

Asked about editing presets in Omnisphere, he explains, “I absolutely customize the presets, because with any long release patches, it muddies up the rock tracks too much. I always go in there and turn the release down and take off a lot of the effects. I make sure when I play a different chord, that the chord always changes right away. You don’t have the bleed over of the previous chord. I do the basic stuff, change the filters and effects, etc. I use the arpeggiator a lot. I think that’s awesome."

The Orb

In version 1.5 of Omnisphere, Spectrasonics introduced “The Orb”— a ‘circular controller’ for changing sounds in real time. “I got into experimenting with the Orb a lot. I really like it, and the fact that you have tempo-sequenced evolving sounds is really helpful.”

Omnisphere's Browser

Digging deeper into the process of producing a rock band, Benson elaborates on how and when he brings in the Spectrasonics software for arranging and pre-mixing. “After all the tracks are done, all the guitars, bass, drums, vocals, everything, I take the entire project back to my studio and I rearrange it and turn it into a real record,” he states. “It’s usually recorded kind of the way I hear it but then I make it into a ‘Howard Benson’ record. I do that by adding a lot of the underlying tones. For example, I double the electric bass a lot using bass sounds from Omnisphere and Trilian. I think those Trilian bass sounds are great. So I’ll double the bass a lot, or replace the bass. I’ll also use new drums. I’ll use whatever I can to make the song better by using RMX and Omnisphere. What else do you really need? If you’re working in my situation, everything is in there, strings, all of it.”

RMX with Pro Tools

Interestingly, for most rock devotees, you’d think that all his productions had to be based around live acoustic drums. But Benson has some tricks for beefing up the sound, making it just a little bit different with drum parts using Stylus RMX. “I've stuck with Stylus because I’ve always been into using REX files. I started from that end of things. After importing all my REX files into Stylus, I stopped using the other groove programs. I like Stylus RMX because it was easy to use but also versatile if you need to do more complex work.”

And he doesn’t just use drum loops in RMX. “I have a certain group of sounds I like to use in RMX that I go to a lot. I use all kinds of tonal guitar loops and special keyboard loops as well,” he points out.

After using the original classic Stylus extensively, Benson requested a few new features relating to his own production process. When Stylus RMX was released, he was very happy with the updated ‘Next Bar’ Trigger Mode which allowed him to easily bounce any stereo audio loop he's developed in RMX to a stereo audio track in Pro Tools.


Describing his use of Stylus RMX loops along with the band’s recorded drum parts, Benson continues about what he likes in the software, “On RMX, I like to drag the MIDI file onto the MIDI track in Pro Tools, so you can really mess with the loops. That I do a lot of, actually, because I don’t want the loops to have the kick drums and snare drums in them. I just want the loops to have the inner motion. So a lot of times I’ll go into the loops and take out the kicks and snares.”

On the qualities of Spectrasonics software design that he finds the most important, Benson says, “First of all, the library is set up really well. I have used a lot of other software, and it’s almost impossible to get through all that stuff, and I have an engineering background. I find other software really difficult to use. I like the way the Spectrasonics browser is set up.”

“And the sounds are just good sounds,” he adds. “When you play them you realize how deep and rich they sound. They’re not thin – although sometimes you want sounds like that. But mainly you want big stereo sounds for the productions I do – sounds that are very lush, and you can control the sounds. You have everything in one box. That’s what I like about it. I don’t have to reach for 50 different things.”

“I used to own a lot of other software instruments, but they often never worked well, or the menus weren’t well organized, or they dragged down my CPU. There was too much sample delay. With the Spectrasonics software you don’t run into any of that, everything works really seamlessly. It’s just very well put together.”

Benson has a long track record of finding the right mix of sounds to create hits. “One of my projects for Daughtry was a recent top 10 song in the Billboard Charts, which is a rarity for rock records. A lot of the reason for its success is because there’s a lot of keyboards in there, and loops. If you listen to it, it's got a lot of Spectrasonics sounds all through it. It gives it atmosphere. Considering that rock music has almost evaporated from the pop charts, a lot of the reason for its success is because of my going for a more atmospheric approach,” he concludes.

Asked what words of wisdom he has for young musicians starting out in the world of Rock Production, Benson explains that making a ‘unique’ record has got to be a key. “The rock business right now is in a stagnant place because we haven’t really been able to grow the format that well.” Benson zeros in on a major change in rock that he’s noticed, “When you run into a Skrillex who’s taken software and made it into something that changes the way people hear rock music,” says Benson referring to the Dubstep/Complextro electronic rock sound, “you’ve got to make these records sound unique and change things up a little bit. That’s what I’m trying to do on my records.”

Find out more about Howard Benson: http://www.nettwerk.com/producer/howard-benson

Check out Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere Power Synth, Stylus RMX Realtime Groove Module, and Trilian Total Bass Module.

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