Wanda Vick Locks It Down

Bill Watson, Nashville Trax music producer Nashville Trax, Play It Again Demos

Just Another Day At The Office With Nashville Trax Music Producer, Bill Watson

One of the best moments at the studio I can recall was the time I had acclaimed session musician Wanda Vick in to play on a client alternative music project.

Some background: Wanda is a bit unusual because most musicians can play one instrument at session quality, two or three max. Wanda plays seven. There are a few pro female session players around town, but far more males, adding further distance from the norm.

Wanda’s reputation preceded her and at some point I simply had to try this “female musician who plays seven instruments at session quality.” When I finally did she easily lived up to her rep and I’ve hired her many times since. A producer sometimes has to give note-by-note direction. With Wanda that’s at a minimum. I learned fast it’s usually best to stay out of the way and let her do her thing.

So I knew what to expect but my clients that day, songwriters Ed and Jennifer had no clue. They’re early twenty somethings writing alt rock and Wanda’s from a different generation, warming up in the adjacent room on bluegrass licks. How does this work?

So just as Wanda finishes tuning up and starts adding tracks on their tune, in walk two horn players who were scheduled to play on a different song later that day. The door to the control room was open because Wanda’s in the attached iso booth.

We start tracking and she;s doing her thing, padding exactly where it’s called for adding some tasteful licks between the phrases in the verses wherever I’ve marked the chart for fiddle.

Then she reaches the solo, and man, no doubt, it was just amazing.

We backtrack to the solo where I’m hearing possible harmony. As Wanda played the horn players had apparently felt compelled to move into the control room because there they are, watching Wanda through the iso booth glass. They couldn’t hide their excitement as the second pass on the solo built, increasing in intensity and passion as it progressed. She finished off with an incredible flurry of notes, in harmony to the first part she had laid prior, exactly what the tune needed to take it to a whole new level. The horn players, who really had nothing to do with it, were high fiving each other, totally caught up in the moment, and I noticed one of my clients, I won’t say which, wipe tears of joy from their eyes, the solo was that perfect, the moment so emotional. Me? I was thinking, “Just another Wanda session.” Emotional, spot on playing is what she’s about.

After the mixing was done Ed and Jen thanked me profusely for choosing such fantastic players for their tune.

Especially that Wanda Vick lady.

And if you ever read this Wanda, Producer Bill thanks you too : )

Let Wanda  lock down a fiddle part on YOUR song!

Let Wanda lock down a fiddle part on YOUR song!

Is Melodyne Better Pitch Correcting Software than Antares?

It really has come to the point where if you don’t run pitch correction lightly on a vocal track it just doesn’t have that pro studio sound. I’ve had this conversation many times with a pro Nashville session singer who works at the studio frequently. We’ve deduced that’s mainly due to so many artists being signed who can’t stay on pitch, that engineers are forced to run correction on nearly every master vocal session. We’re all so used to hearing it on major label mixes that if it isn’t there on a vocal track, the track doesn’t sound right. Wow!

There’s No Clear Winner

Having started out with Antares Auto-Tune and using it for about two years while producing for clients of Nashville Trax on Music Row, then trying Melodyne when it became available in year three, twelve years now, I don’t see a clear cut winner here. It really depends on your experience, how good your ear is and what you need to achieve.

When harmonizers first came out my drummer then, cousin still, David Watson, and I used to jokingly refer to them as “de-harmonizers” because they’d sound great through a few chord changes then hit a chord they couldn’t recognize properly. At times the generated harmonizer part was so far out of key it was painful to listen to.

Well, Antares Auto-Tune, set once and allowed to do its thing on an entire track, unfortunately can de-tune with the best. Many engineers use it that way when a vocalist is pitchy on nearly every note and time is of the essence. It may track perfectly throughout a song or there may be points where it gets out of whack.

Antares Better At Set & Run

The best way to handle that problem in Pro Tools and in most digital recording software is to duplicate the track and run Antares on the duplicated track. Then, using your ear, find the spots the pitch correction algorithm went haywire and paste those specific vocal phrases over from the original section. The pastes can then get individual attention.

Melodyne Is The Better Choice for Detailed Work

Melodyne is better at the individual attention in my opinion. The newest version actually allows you to go into an out of tune guitar chord and move individual notes up or down in pitch, incredible! It’s also better at automatically pocketing phrases, changing amplitude of a note or group of notes and other things- B.E. Watson

Screen Shot of Melodyne

**Do you self-produce your songs or produce other songwriter’s projects?

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Play It Again Engineer Mixing A Song Demo

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