Pro Techniques 7.2003
Pro Techniques from Jimmy Douglass
By Randy Alberts
"Flip it and reverse it — ti esrever dna ti plif."
- from "Work It," by Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott
"There were radio station contests to guess what Missy says in that part where her vocals are reversed,'" says the New York-based Douglass, who works frequently with Missy, and has also spent time in the studio with Ludacris, Bubba Sparxxx, Jay-Z, Nas, and the Neptunes. "It's easy to think back and hear what she's saying — in fact, she says it right before the reverse: 'Flip it and reverse it.' The easiest moves are often the best."
Pro Tools|HD: So Addictive
Douglass says he depends most on what he calls the "manual method" of working with Pro Tools. "I find that guys who do the fanciest things with Pro Tools don't know the most basic moves that I do just by instinct. If you approach Pro Tools like a tape machine, and don't even open up the manuals, you and the whole system think differently. I'm approaching it intuitively."
Douglass, who shared Pro Tools duties with Bedoya for Missy Elliott, has also worked with Aaliyah, TLC, and Timbaland & Magoo."
Is Missy into Pro Tools? "Oh, please — she wouldn't think of working any other way," says Douglass. "She knows what's up with Pro Tools and what she can do with it. She doesn't want to be there with her hands on the screen, but she knows what we can do with it."
Pro Technique 1 —
"I live in punch-in mode, even though a lot of people don't do that," says Douglass. "They look at me like, 'Why don't you just highlight the area you want and record it?' Well, what if they sing a little longer this time, or come in earlier than the last pass, and really hit something before that region can record? What if Missy does an ad-lib after the selection, and suddenly you didn't capture that moment? No way. I'll tell Pro Tools when to punch in and punch out by hand."
Pro Technique 2 —
"The guitarist was gone for good, so I made a basic tempo map — I added a little basic grid to the riff that he'd played. I found a tempo that kind of fit the range of the piece. He played less than a bar, in fact, so I took a little piece of the attack of the guitar and made that my click. I marked those clicks as the grid, and found the right tempo before looping it to the grid map."
The drummer liked the riff a lot, says Douglass, "but it needed to be a little faster. The guitar was originally done at 87 bpm, and he wanted it to be like 91. So I redid my Pro Tools grid to 91 bpm, and used DigiRack TC/E [Time Compression/Expansion] to shorten the guitar loop to the appropriate length. There was the whole loop in the right tempo, and we had the whole song start from just that guitar part."
Douglass concludes: "The guitar is now sitting just a little outside the 2-bar grid set to 91. So, I grab the end of the guitar part with the TC/E tool, pull it in to where it stops at 91, and then duplicate that down the whole song. When I play it back, the guitar is now in perfect tempo with 91. And it stays at pitch, of course, because the TC/E tool doesn't change pitch. "