Heres the latest I’m still looking for some subjects to make a video to go with it.
This was a really fun concept to work with. I first learned about this competition when I saw Mantis Evars’ (the founder of Indaba) Facebook post about working with Barry Manilow. I am currently working on a full length hip hop cross over album, commercial production for radio, writing and arranging for my band The Brewing Co. as well as handling my weekly walk in clients needs. I am so glad that Barry decided to put together such a comprehensive pack of stems to work from.
I’ve never really explained how this works for those who aren’t musicians or producers. If you have listened to the radio than you have experienced listing to a song and wishing it was just a little different. About 17 years ago I started experimenting with digital audio. Fruity loops and a couple of Roland drum machines did the trick for making house and electro disco stuff but at the time the tools were simply not ready to create the kind of music i really wanted to listen to. Electronic Music or EDM sounded pretty similar across the board without much variation. It was all great to dance to but you could walk into skills and become a dj and start playing parties by your 4th or 5th visit. I buddy of mine actually did it and went by the name “DJ Trainwreck” for a good 10 years. Can you believe that? So back to the topic at hand. When i download the stem pack ill import it into ProTools at the correct tempo (usually specified by the original artist).
Once the .wav audio files are imported into the main playlist and on the timeline usually I have to adjust the song start so that the tune plays back both at the correct tempo and that the grid lines up correctly to beats and bars. Simply dragging the song start marker (red diamond) with all the tracks in sample mode will get the trick done nicely. Next I have to create the tracks needed to start workin with the session. (1) Master Fader, (3) Aux Bus (to hold reverbs and FX), and a few instrument tracks are my usual starting point. Now I hear the song for the first time usually. Yup unity mix of the stems is usually the first time I hear the song. I really like to keep an open mind and not get locked into a specific style before i start composing.
Now everything is all set to be bent to my will. I can usually get away with about 20Bpm of tempo change without a song starting to sound really squirly. When I stretch or compress time more than that artifacts start to appear that are very difficult to disguise with effects and treatment. With this much room to slow down or speed up a song i can really put it into a whole new scope. I switch all the tracks into tick mode and turn on elastic audio for each track. now when i change the tempo on the tempo ruler the audio will be stretched or compressed to match the songs new tempo. I almost always play the track back without the drums, usually hiding and making that stem inactive and never looking back (not sure why stem packs almost always come with shitty drums).
Reason is my go to drum VST. I use it as a rewired plug in with PT as my host program. Dr Octo rex hosts both sample packs that i have purchased and sample packs i have created from sessions i have recorded in the past. If you drummed for me work for hire for anything, there’s a good chance that drum track is going to get recycled at some point in its life and reborn into a whole new track. The drums on this track are 8 loops from reasons default acoustic dub pack. Got to love it when stock drums aint bad. A little verb, eq and compression and i was pretty happy with the drums.
After going threw what may seem like an infinite number of drum feels and deciding on one its time to check out the bass and the changes (in jazz speak changes are the chords that are either inferred or spelled out by the rhythm section in a song) In only one case have I ever kept the bass track to a remix I have been working on. Credit to Nesta Rey and her band for some great production on that one, but usually bass stems are about as useful as drum stems. They aren’t.
Trillian is my favorite bass VST. It has most of the classic sounds i grew up listening to while my dad was spinning records at KBLX in the 80’s and 90’s. My piano skills are limited so I do my best outlining an idea with the bass line. on two occasions i have needed help and my good friend and amazing musician Casey Cameron comes over and steers me back into the right direction. He is also responsible for most of the piano playing you will hear in my remix’s. The bass and drums will 99% of the time set the groove for the remix.
Once that groove is set all that is left is to fatten things up and edit the vocals/ melody so that the groove is maintained. This is the bit thats more art than science. I’m sure my neighbors hate it but its repetitive listening and simply cutting and pasting things from ware they are to ware my ears tell me they should be. Some times its by no more than 100 samples (at 48khz you do the math). Hand percussion will go a long way to add life to a rigid lifeless remix. I always try to play threw the whole song when recording hand instroment parts. The variations and imperfections are just more believable than a loop.
After all that i set a time limit for myself for mixing the track. Because these remix’s have never payed $$$ I have to be careful not to spend the project time that folks who are paying me $$$ on remix’s that don’t. That would just be in bad form.
I hope you enjoy the fruits of my labors.