Scene 1: Roh and Dave occupy separate rooms in the “Eight Beat” apartment @ RIT’s University Commons. Roh being Roh wanders around the apartment all day every day reciting everything from Bobby McFerrin to Lordi.
Roh: “Dipide Jipide Dipide JIpide Dipide Jipide Dipide Jipide”
Dave: “If I wrote you a symphony, would you say how much you mean to me”
Roh: “Dude, that’s the wrong song. It’s The Way I Are”
Dave: “What way are you? what?”
Scene 2: A week later in the “Eight Beat Apartment”
Roh: “Dipide Jipide Dipide JIpide Dipide Jipide Dipide Jipide”
Dave: “Now if I wrote you a love note, and made you smile at every word I wrote.”
Dave: “See what’s the point of waiting anymore? Cause GIRL I’VE NEVER BEEN MORE SURE”
Roh: “Dude seriously wtf, I’m singing The Way I Are.”
Dave: ”The Way I What? That’s My Love…you know….Clefs?”
Roh pulls out his laptop and plays Timbaland - The Way I Are
Dave: “Oh. Well all Timbaland productions sound the same. Wait….”
And thus Sled Dog’s third Free Track Friday was born, many years ago. It’s been a fun idea kicking around in Dave and Roh’s head for a while waiting for an escape. What that means is that this week we stepped away from the transcriptions and arranging on the fly and put our faith in Rohit Crasta. The song was arranged by Roh and edited as we went along. Mix revisions were passed around the group throughout the week with notes being given at each step of the process. Many of our changes again, came down to changes in performance, by far the most important part of the production process.
All the ideas merging is great and all…but what about feel? Timbaland’s The Way I Are has a simple four on the floor rhythm driving the song forward. Justin Timberlake’s My Love has a more typically Timbaland feel. Boom Boom Chk with rapid, piercing synths in the upper registers. We decided that the My Love lyric would fit quite nicely over the The Way I Are backgrounds in a Remixesque fashion. We’d play with placing motifs from The Way I Are’s solo lines under My Love’s solo riffs. Then the idea came to add an eight bar breakdown before the T.I. rap (which we of course had to use our good friend cyqlone for).
And thus Cry Me a River was added. Lyrically it was a stretch, but removing some choice words makes it less awkward. The breakdown grew a dubstep feel through the need to keep momentum. For an ambient feel, while in the booth… Dave: ”give us some Parseltongue” Josh: “What? Ut uh OK?! VASSSHEEEETHAAALLEEHFFFFHHHHEESSSSS” Dave: “Great, we’ll reverse it, delay it, phase it, and verb it and we’ll have ambience. Love it.” *plays in Josh’s ear* Josh: “oooooooooo :drool:”
All was well and good until there wasn’t really anywhere to go in the second verse that wasn’t a copy of the first. In a nod to Tom Anderson’s treatment of Eight Beat Measure’s Carry Out, a background line on words was added. Dave: “Have you seen Jersey Boys lately?” Roh: “No, why?” Dave: “Because between the progression and Josh’s voice, I see Frankie Valli singing this” Josh: “I really like it” Dave: “Yea…but….give me a second”
We’re basically trying any and every effect available this summer and this week’s package of choice was McDSP Emerald. Besides really digging the G Console (and G Console Compact), Futzbox really gave us something to work with here. Someone tossed out the idea of giving it an AM radio kind of feel, so we pulled up Futzbox. Scrolling through presets, the AM radio effect sounded cool…but not quite what we were looking for. We found that putting the sound in a glass jar was closer to what we were going for. Add in SoundToys PhaseMistress for a heavy phase effect and what you’re left with is reminiscent of an ambient vocoder. This led to an approach to the entire second verse, also transforming Roh’s other nod to Carry Out, the cowbell, into laser drums.
The approach of “more, just more” worked well as a creative process for this tune, but it also dug a hole. Three completely different tunes (realistically we had something like 12 songs as “reference tracks” in our session) tend to clash with one another. The finishing process for this tune was mostly spent carefully deciding what to keep and what to toss. Removing something as simple as the woodblock pattern on top of the first part of the rap seemed to open up that entire section.
Having a bank of reference tracks really helped when we were looking for more to add. We took a bunch of JT and Timbaland tunes and just threw them in the session to keep us inspired. The heavy breathing you hear on the ands of 1 and 3 throughout the piece was taken from LoveStoned. The feel of the layering of distortion/phasing etc was inspired by Sexyback. We also used the reference tracks from Let Me Talk To You, My Love, and The Way I Are to plan out the structure of the piece. We had to do some pitching and TCE along the way to get them in the same key (and trust us it’s a trip to listen to these songs together…try it some time), but it did help to get an idea of where to go with everything.
Getting in the head of the original engineer really helped with the mixing process by keeping Dave’s hands off the reverb. Check out SoundOnSound’s article on Jimmy Douglas
The Weekly “We Pushed the System Too Hard” Rant
As we get more adventurous with parallel compression and subgroup more and more, we are finding it more and more necessary to act very carefully with regards to placing plugins on auxiliary tracks. Pro Tools deals with RTAS and TDM plugins in a frustrating way. For anyone interested, we recommend checking out Voices in HD. Basically, an Aux track with no inserts consumes no voices, an Aux track with RTAS plugins (or RTAS before TDM) consumes two voices per channel (two for mono, four for stereo, etc), and an Aux track with TDM plugins before RTAS plugins consumes four voices per channel (four for mono, eight for stereo). So say you have a Kick track, and a Snare track subgrouped into a stereo percussion aux track with an RTAS plugin. Your two audio tracks will now consume six voices. Simple to understand right? But what do you do when you are using so many (really the key being big) plugins (like SoundToys EchoBoy) that you run out of TDM processing power and need to use RTAS plugins….but then run out of voices. Well…we’ve gotten comfortable rapidly “freezing” sections of the session. All of this hoopla would make one think that Avid would have stepped up to increase the voice count. Cross your fingers for Pro Tools 10!
This track will be available on iTunes Friday, July 8th. All proceeds will again be donated to the Contemporary A Cappella Society’s Tunes To Teens program.
David Longo (mixing, woodblock) @sleddogstudios @longodj
Rohit Crasta (arrangement, Justin Timberlake, backgrounds)
Nicole Milano (Keri Hilson, backgrounds) @sleddogstudios @nicolemariemil
Mickey Hamilton (Timbaland) @sleddogstudios @MickeyBluEyes81
Kwadwo Opong-Mensah (T.I.) @cyqlone
Josh Goodman (percussion, backgrounds) @JoshyPGMan
Katie Riegal (backgrounds) @kriegal
Dave Kahrs (backgrounds)
Ryan Vazquez (backgrounds)
Ryan Belair (backgrounds, laughing baby) @RyanBelair
Dave Sperandio (mastering) @diovoce @davesperandio