In this tutorial we are going to look at two alternative methods of creating the sound effect of a turntable or tape being unplugged and slowing to a halt within a music track.
You may have heard this effect on the vocals of the Black Eyed Peas song Hey Mama. Sid Vicious’ My Way also features the subtle effect of a turntable being turned off just before the song changes from the pompous introduction to the full blown punk section.
I’m going to start by doing something similar to the effect in the Sid Vicious song using some pre-prepared audio and Cubase’s pitch shift envelope tool, then move on to an electro track that I’ve prepared where we will automate the freeware plug-in Tapestop VST to slow down some vocals whilst the music remains unaffected.
I’ve imported my two audio parts into stereo audio tracks in Cubase 4.
I want the sounds to overlap slightly to crossfade between the parts, I’ve dragged the “Guitar rock” audio to a point where the transition sounds about right.
I want the end of the Aged Vinyl audio to slow down to give the effect of vinyl on a turntable that has been unplugged. The pitch needs to gradually shift downwards to achieve the effect. I’ve used the scissors tool to cut the Aged Vinyl track between bars 8 and 9. This is where it sounds about right for the effect to start, and I only want to apply it from this point.
With the end selected we go to Process > Pitch Shift from the audio menu.
In the following interface there are two tabs. Transpose will merely shift the pitch of the audio by a certain amount, but if we use the envelope tool we can make the pitch shift happen gradually over time. I’ve set the pitch shift range to the maximum of 16 semitones, unchecked Time Correction and shaped the envelope curve to go gradually downwards to 16 semitones. You could actually draw all kinds of curves here to shift the pitch up and down over time.
As I’ve only selected the end part of the track, the pitch shift will take place over the duration of this selection, so in other words, the speed of the pitch shift is dependent on the size selection, although you can also alter the speed with the shape of the curve: just experiment and click the preview button to hear the results. Click Process to apply the effect.
The processed part will have stretched slightly so you may want to move the second audio part around to achieve the perfect crossfade between these sections.
Let’s have a listen to the results.
Now in this part of the tutorial we move on to another piece of music and we will use the Tapestop VST effect and automate the results. We have a backing track and some vocals. This time I’m going to slow the vocals down using Tapestop but keep the backing track going underneath. This is similar to what happens in Hey Mama by the Black Eyed Peas. Here’s the track before processing:
Electro with Vocals
Having listened through my track I’ve worked out where the slowdown on the vocals would sound good.
I’ve added Tapestop as an insert effect on the vocals track. I don’t want it to speed up again after the slowdown so I’ve clicked the Up button to deselect it. The blue play button in the middle of Tapestop is clicked to start and stop the effect. With playback in loop mode, just experiment with starting and stopping the effect by clicking this, just to practice.
Drag the green and red bars on the Tapestop interface to adjust the slowdown and speedup rates. When automating Tapestop you should set Mode to EP and Button to D. In this mode the effect will be applied as long as the blue play button is depressed.
Click the edit button for the vocal track and enable write automation by clicking the W button.
With the automation write button enabled, just start playback (you don’t need to press record) and press and hold the play button of Tapestop at the appropriate time. To listen to the results, deselect the write button and press the read button (R), play through the part and have a listen.
I have to admit that I had problems automating Tapestop in that the results were a little unpredictable and the effect didn’t happen at the point that I’d recorded it at. But don’t be put off; with perseverance it’s a great effect and it is easy enough to edit the automation.
Click on the vocal track channel and select Show used automation. In the automation track that appears underneath the vocal track there is a drop down menu with a list of parameters that can be automated. Select the stop parameter which controls when the Tapestop button is depressed, then just click on the blue “rubber band” to create points and drag them to shape the band.
If you look at the illustration below you should be able to see that the U shaped dip in the rubber band is where the tapestop effect occurs. I had to shape this to get it just right.
Electro with tape stop
As a final touch, I chopped up the vocals and dragged some parts onto a fresh audio track and added a distortion plug-in as in insert effect.
Hopefully, this tutorial has shown you some techniques that might inspire you in your own music creation. There are other freeware plug-ins that could be used to achieve similar effects, including Smartelectronix Supatrigga and DBlue Glitch.