Friday, 27 May 2011

Hohner Pianet T Effects Workshop

I love my Hohner Pianet T, but it can sound a bit flat at times, especially when recording it directly. It lacks the clarity of the Rhodes, and it’s not as crisp and crunchy as the Wurlitzer. Having said that, the right effects chain can really make it sing.

My Hohner Pianet-T

Here’s an excerpt of the Peter Gabriel song “Humdrum”, as played by yours truly. Note the completely improvised ending (yeah, I meant to do that, honest). The following recording is just the DI signal, no effects yet.

You need flash to play this content


Rather static, isn’t it? It’s flat and muddy, and it just sort of sits there. The first thing I normally do is add some auto-pan, to get it moving around in the stereo field. I use a mid-speed, quite wide setting usually.


You need flash to play this content


It’s sounding better already, but it’s still quite muddy. Part of the problem with the Pianet is that it is very bass heavy, so a high pass filter is needed to cut out a lot of that boomy low end. I also cut a notch at roughly 380 Hz to remove a bit of the hammer noise, and boost at around 2.6 kHz to boost the metallic overtones.


You need flash to play this content


Now it is time to add a bit of colour to the sound using a phaser. Keep the rate quite slow, but increase the depth to 50-60%, keeping the feedback or resonance quite low. When using a stompbox (such as the Electroharmonix Small Stone) keep the rate low and use the less severe colour setting. The purpose is to just slightly colour the sound, not to saturate it.


You need flash to play this content


At this point I usually add room reverb. It adds a final touch to the sound and really enhances the live performance element. Hall reverb sounds too “spaced out” with this effects chain, so unless you’re going for that sort of sound it’s best to stick with a room sound with plenty of early reflections. Keep the signal fairly dry, and add a little bit of pre-delay.


You need flash to play this content


So there it is; the final product. Compare that to the original signal and I think you’ll agree that it’s a massive improvement. This basically replicates the setup I use when amping up my Pianet, but within the DAW environment, which is a lot more flexible for recording. Don’t be afraid to experiment with effects chains, but bear in mind that slight changes at the beginning can drastically alter the sound. I tweaked the EQ slightly after setting up the phaser and I suddenly got a very muddy, yet very swishy sound. Also, make sure you add your reverb last, otherwise you won’t get any sense of space, as the reverb will be phased, EQed or autopanned depending on where you put it. This can sound interesting, but it’s not what we’re going for here.

This is the final mix window view in Pro Tools. Due to the idiosyncratic nature of the plugins I was using I couldn’t put them all in the insert slots, so after the autopan everything is sent via a pre-fader send to an aux input, and the main channel fader is turned down.


Well there you go; a nice simple effects chain that will really bring your Pianet-T to life. Don’t stop there though; this is just a starting pointy. Try substituting the phaser for a chorus plugin, or throw it through an amp simulator to get that Tony Banks lead sound (as used on “The Musical Box” from Genesis’s third album, “Nursery Cryme”). Don’t use too many modulation-type plugins (chorus, phaser, flanger etc) as they will muddy the sound, and be careful with reverb to filter out the lower frequencies. If you want to funk things up a little try using a wah pedal or auto wah with a fuzz effect. It’s no Clavinet, but it’s certainly groovy.

Your Ad Here

6 comments:

  1. I prefer the dry sound... the most I ever add is tremolo. You kinda made it sound like a cheap synth.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It sounds a lot better in a mix, try it

    ReplyDelete
  3. I really don't like the phaser. I prefer tremolo to get some movement.
    A little overdrive (like spl twin-tube) is nice too.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I prefer the dry sound too . I don't like the eq . it emphasis too much of the key release overtone . dry with the tremolo is very nice . in the mix try to just lower the bass frequency with a bass shelv and not a low cut . it will fit nicely in a mix

    ReplyDelete
  5. I use a cheap Marshall Vibratrem to give it a stereo tremolo.
    The Vibratrem tends to make it sound a bit more compressed and driving too, so it's a double pleasure machine.
    Usually i give it also a hint of reverb (very low feedback), stereo memory man by electro harmonix.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Tremolo makes it little bit weak, chorus makes it too modern, phaser makes it too seventies. But Danelectro Vibe works fine with Pianet. It is kinda pre-historic chorus or something like that. It also boosts treble little bit. It is crap with guitar but it really works with Pianet.

    ReplyDelete