Pro Techniques 05.01.2003
Pro Techniques from Rhett Lawrence
By Randy Alberts
Lawrence has also worked with numerous male artists and vocalists, such as Enrique Iglesias, Michael Jackson, Earth Wind & Fire, Bebe Winans and Black-Eyed Peas, but lately the ladies have been belting it out at his Hollywood Hills complex, Sound Gallery Studios. Recent artists such as American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson and new Russian artist Alsou are as likely to rave about working with Lawrence as he is to praise them, always the sign of a good session.
At Sound Gallery, Lawrence's custom Pro Tools MIXplus systems with expanded 13-slot Magma chassis now feed into three new Pro Tools|HD systems. Both the studio system and a remote Pro Tools rig are fitted with 7-slot HD chassis housings.
"It's a really awesome setup," says the soft-spoken Lawrence. "We do everything in Pro Tools, including mixes. Now people are comfortable to just let us mix in Pro Tools, and they're always really thrilled with the results. There was one recent project in New York where they wanted their guy to mix it on a large-format console. He uses Pro Tools, too, but he doesn't mix with it...yet! He will. The label didn't think his mixes were as punchy as the rough mixes we did on our Pro Tools|HD rig, so they asked us to finish it here."
Pro Technique 1 —
"We'll paste a piece of the vocal to various quarter, 1/8th or 1/16th notes across the new tracks and then use a really narrow McDSP filter to darken the vocal piece with each progressive delay tap," says Lawrence. "We'll then run some of these pasted delays through Lo-Fi to make the rhythm of the taps more random than consistent. For instance, it might be pasted to triplets in the grid on one tap, 1/16ths with rhythmic gaps on another, and so on. It just gives everything a very cool feel that isn't possible when simply using a delay plug-in for the effect."
Lawrence explains that he applies darker filters to each consecutive 'tap track' and pans each differently, though occasionally he'll do just the opposite and start dark and gradually fill-in the bandwidth with highs as the taps progress.
"I might do this several times in a song, so for each instance I just create seven new tracks adjacent to the original vocal track. They sound like delays, but each one has a sort of a different rhythm to the repeats. It makes the song feel really good."
Pro Technique 2 —
"When using Vari-Fi, the most dramatic part of the stop edit is the tail, where it goes way down in pitch," he says, "but then it goes so low at the end that it fades away to nothing and the effect is less evident. Sometimes we'll use time expansion to stretch the tail so it ends right on the quarter note, so you can hear the effect more as opposed to a stop edit that fades away to nothing. It's a very short period of time, but it makes a huge difference in the feel of the effect."
Since the stop/start edit approach is typically applied to a short portion of an entire song, Lawrence makes a stereo mix of the song within Pro Tools, applies Vari-Fi to the section he wants to either slow down or speed up, then pastes the Vari-Fied audio file back into the song.
"We're trying to make it stop right on a quarter note, for instance, to make it a little bit longer and make the effect more exaggerated," Lawrence concludes. "We'll cut off the tail at the most dramatic part, then use Time Compression/Expansion or Pitch 'n Time to make it end right where it should."