Pitch on Wheels. Manning goes on to suggest adding subtle pitch shifting to the grid technique, especially when working with harmonically oriented samples. He loves to play his twisted sample like the new instrument it is.
“This works really well with a wah-wah guitar part,” he adds. “You can take one of the sides and pitch-shift it up or down 20 to 30 cents to give it a chorusy sound, though it’s still not traditional chorusing. [There are 100 cents in a semitone, the pitch difference between two notes on a piano.] Typically, you’ll want chorusing to be rubbing with the original so it choruses, but I usually find that sounds too extreme and too synthetic. I still want everything to sound organic even though all I’m doing is manipulating and splitting it wide across the stereo field.
“You can experiment with the dB level offsets, the pitch-shifting amounts, and the pan fields until it sounds like it was actually played along with the drum loop you started out with. You get everything working together in that way with samples. It’s a good way to re-inject life into old recordings, especially old mono drum loops.”
Looking for another way to catch a listener’s ear when the all-important chorus approaches in your remix? Manning offers up another quick-’n’-easy way to create pop and sizzle through ProTools’ Grid mode.
“Let’s say you have a drum fill that is all 16th notes and lasts for one measure,” he says. “Open up the panning window in ProTools and record your pans in time with the tempo of the song, but do them from small to large.
“In other words, on the first quarter-note, everything might be to the left, and on quarter-note 2, everything will be to the right; then on beat 3, on the first and second eighth notes, I will again go left-right, and on the final quarter note of 16ths I take each 16th note left-right, left-right, and make the pan field widen out as the fill increases and the song moves on. The first two or three quarter notes in the fill aren’t panned very wide, but then the next eighth notes get wider and finally the last 16ths are panned hard left and right before going back to the song’s original panning positions.
“An otherwise straightforward drum fill can get really flashy and hyper for just the length of one drum fill. In a lot of ways, this is another dimension of what somebody like Fatboy Slim does with his vocal stutters. I have a similar approach but I use panning and widening the field over time instead of the vocal stutter cut. You could even have two or three elements going—like the drums may be doing it, the vocal might be doing it, or the keyboard sweep—but you’re doing them all in time with some purpose in mind. This tip creates a really exciting moment that jumps out of nowhere in the middle of your song.”
Using Grid mode ensures that all pans are in time with a song’s tempo, Manning explains. “Your fills might not be 16th notes; just use this to your best taste,” he concludes. “The whole concept is to start out narrow and simple rhythmically. Your note durations are longer as the fill increases, and not only does your panning widen, but your frequency of moving back and forth from left to right quickens, as well. That frequency may quicken to eighth-notes or 16th notes, as opposed to the beginning of the fill, when you were maybe only on half notes or quarter notes. Of course, the longer your fill, the crazier and even more extreme you can get with this.”
What about starting off with wide pans and gradually bringing them in tighter? “No, you don’t normally want to do this tip in reverse,” Manning notes. “The whole point is to accelerate a song with these graduating pans during the breaks; going the other way does just the opposite.”
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Randy Alberts is an author, musician, and photographer who lives on Lummi Island, Washington.
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