Alberts: For longtime Mac users like you, what’s the main advantage of adding a PC just for GigaStudio?
Manning: The main things are the gigantic sample file sizes you’re working with—which are streamed from the hard drive and sound incredible—and the ability to have those all open at your fingertips all at once. I have something like 250 gigs of all my favorite sounds, loops, and grooves right there and ready to go without waiting for anything to load. I work a lot from home with television producers who send me their ProTools session files and direct me over the phone in real time, auditioning sounds with this huge palette I have.
They’re very excited about GigaStudio, because auditioning and changing things with it is so fast, and it provides them with orchestral and sound-making options they don’t normally have with limited budgets in a conventional studio environment.
Lately, I’ve been working [using GigaStudio] with a music producer named Jeff Trott who works a lot with Sheryl Crow. He’s developing a new artist and is hiring me to put some orchestral strings on the record.
Alberts: How did you use GigaStudio on your solo album, Solid State Warrior?
Manning: There’s a song called “Sleep Children” that’s all Giga and my voice, nothing else. I used some pedal steel and accordion sounds and lots of different pianos. One of my favorite piano sounds on the record is in the song “’Til We Meet Again,” where I took three different huge piano samples and spread them across the stereo perspective. Some were delayed in terms of attack and latency, but the composite sound I got from it is amazing. It’s like a tack piano with a lot more fidelity to it that sounds very three-dimensional in the mix. Another song, “Too Late for Us Now,” is almost a country shuffle that I’ve actually got sitar on.
Alberts: You’re a busy remixer, too. What are some standout projects from the past year?
Manning: I did a remix of Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther theme for the remake with Steve Martin and Beyoncé—a song we all know because we’ve seen all the movies—and I got real electronic on it. I kept the brass parts and that was about it. His original is a swing jazz track, but mine is very dancey and electronic sounding, all in even 16ths. I spent most of a day chopping his track up note-by-note and replacing it into my song so that it didn’t swing anymore. Man, was that a labor of love!
Another remix I did was the Doobies’ “Listen To the Music,” which was included on Warner Brothers’ What Is Hip collection of ’70s and ’80s remakes that came out last year. That was another song we all know that I changed quite a bit, so that was not an easy task. As I viewed their original track arrangements and began to deconstruct it, I thought, ‘God, isn’t this illegal?’ I thought I’d burn in hell for tampering with that one. But it made a big difference to me to hear they approved my remix.
A good part of Roger Manning’s time is spent chopping up his vinyl collection—the sampled loops from it, that is. For remixes he savors scratchy old mono drum loops. Here he shares one of his favorite tricks using ProTools’ Grid mode, some subtle pitch-shifting, and basic stereo imaging to teach an old loop a new trick or two. You could also use a digital delay, but the results are “not even close” to following these easy steps, says Manning.
“I like to duplicate a mono loop I’ve lifted from vinyl and offset the two parts like a stereo pair,” he says. “Like a lot of people remixing, I’m trying to make samples I’ve taken from other sources and make it sound like an original recording by using some techniques.”
Manning explains that he might start this process by setting the timing grid to a quarter-note or an eighth-note, for instance, then moving one copy of the loop later in time by a 64th note.
“You’ll have the left-hand side of the audio right on the Grid mark and the right side delayed by 64th or whatever fits the song,” he continues. “I’ve found that 1/64 seems to be a number that works best regardless of what’s going on tempo- and feel-wise in the track.”
Manning says to make sure the loop copies are panned hard left and right to avoid slapback echo and flamming, especially with loose-feeling loops. He suggests reducing the level of the left-channel (first) signal by 1.5 to 3 dB, noting that the delayed copy will actually sound softer now due to the Haas effect.
“This tricks the ear and keeps your mix from sounding too left-heavy,” he explains. “It just makes it sound more equal and much more even. Offsetting it makes that loop’s sound field really wide and gives it a sort of 3D element. It’s a really quick, easy way to widen a dull, one-dimensional sounding loop and make it stand out in a remix without having to always sound lo-fi and scratchy when featuring old vinyl-based loops.”