RA: You had just installed a Digidesign Control-24 console last time we talked. How has that worked out?
VL: We've removed the big boards from our room and have been operating with the Control-24 as our primary work surface all year—and we gave up almost 50 channels of analog input to do so! That's a huge sacrifice. But, let's just get to the point here: it's all about the plugins. We automate so much using the Waves stuff and plugins like McDSP's FilterBank that the new board is a huge improvement for us. We really need the C-24's ability to assign all those synth and audio plugin parameters to individual knobs. It's great to see the tactile side of engineering becoming important once again.
Studio Electronics, long known for its analog synthesizers, is now in the plugin world with the SE-1X, a Lawrence favorite for bass sounds.
RA: What other gear gets a big workout at Slang?
VL: As I mentioned, we use Reason a lot, and also the Akai MPC-3000 and an Access Virus, the real thing. I like turning the knobs on the Virus, and the Virus plugin, too. And we use Native Instruments Kontakt a lot and we're about to get Battery. McDSP's Synth One is cool; that's something else new we're using since our last conversation.
RA: How are you connecting Pro Tools to Reason?
VL: We're pretty quick to pass the MIDI out of Reason to Pro Tools and into the control room with all the synths. We need to get the bass sounds real quick onto the SE-1 in the main room and pass that MIDI out of Reason so that we can access all of the 50 synths as quickly as possible.
RA: You come from the analog tape days of the '80s. Truthfully, how does desktop digital recording sound to your ear now?
VL: Let me be very clear about the analog-like sound quality of Pro Tools|HD Accel: it's great. It's the high quality of the HD family that allows us to still sound so analog while retaining all the digital control we're used to.
RA: Is it true you got your start in the music world blowing things up on a Parliament tour?
VL: For real, that's true! I was a pyrotechnician on the road with Captain Sky, and yes, he is from the Parliament family. I was 14. My dad couldn't afford to send me to summer camp that year so he put me on a bus with those guys.
With 20,000 CDs ripped into their studio's iTunes network, Vince Lawrence and Slang Musicgroup are never at a loss for inspiration.
The white-noise swell has long been a tool in many remix and dance tunes to add excitement in and around musical transitions. Lawrence says it's easy to come up with the perfect swell. First, open up a new audio track in Pro Tools (or any digital audio workstation), then open a plugin test-tone generator.
"Then find the white noise setting and set a level of about 10 dB," Lawrence explains. "Highlight the length of your song with the cursor and click on 'Process' to stripe white noise from the start of your tune to the end. Now, open a filter plugin—I typically use McDSP's FilterBank F2—and spike up the high-end gain and bring down the frequency to a low midrange level."
Next, says Lawrence, play back the white noise track and slowly move the frequency back up a notch at a time until you get a nice sweeping effect; experiment with the frequency adjustment and "spike" to taste for your own flavor of swell.
"Once you have decided on how you want to sweep the filter, activate the automation on the knobs you want to use and make a pass while moving the sliders around," he continues. "For added flavor, throw a Waves MetaFlanger on the white noise track, or capture the white noise off of a rhythmic hi-hat loop track you have lying around."
Vince Lawrence and his Slang team often find themselves either slowing down or speeding up a cappella vocal sections to match the desired tempo in their dance remixes. Here's how he deals with the ugly artifacts caused by increasing the tempo.
"You get what we call, 'the Billy Goat effect,'" he notes. "That's where the singer begins sounding like a goat because the vibrato in their voice speeds up too much when you stretch it too far to match your remix key. To counteract the effect you can fade in and out the original a cappella voices during the portions of the song where the vibrato at the same time is fading in the original vocal on a separate track. Then, fade out the original vocal while fading in the sped-up vocal to keep the cadence and timing of the vocal part together. This move takes time to feel natural with and to get sounding seamless, and you might have to fudge it around a lot to get it right, but it will sound just right when you're done."
These links go the Slang Music site.
Randy Alberts is an author, musician, and photographer who lives on Lummi Island, Washington.
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