New Vocal and EQ PlugIns. WOW, will YOU sound great!

Let’s start with this piece of amazement, the Waves HEQ Hybrid Equalizer:

Waves HEQ Hybrid Equalizer At Work In A Nashville Trax mix

Waves HEQ Hybrid Equalizer At Work In A Nashville Trax mix

This is the $300 TDM version, and worth every cent.

Basically it will analyze the frequency response of a track and give the engineer a visual as he EQ’s it in real time. The yellow line is pre-EQ, the blue is post. The advantage over a regular analog or digital EQ? Instead of relying on your ears, you can see what is going on, see what needs to be cut or boosted, make the tweak, then get additional visual verification that you’ve achieved your goal.

Either that or it calculates how to get that insect DNA out of your body before you turn into The Fly III.

But I think it’s an EQ.

And here’s another piece of total greatness:

Aphex Aural Exciter

Aphex Aural Exciter

I must admit this isn’t my first Aphex relationship. (That sounds just plain weird doesn’t it?) We had the original Aphex Aural Exciter, the analog physical version, in our rack nine years ago. I loved that little guy but when we went to Pro Tools HD and started mixing in the box, the Aphex was no longer able to be utilized, so we sold it.

But appropriately, on Halloween Eve it’s back from the dead in software form, ready to add sparkle to any track it’s needed on. It may say “Vintage Aural Exciter” but at first listen there was no question it’s an emulation of the Aphex.

I don’t care who you are you have to love an aural exciter on drum overheads. But it will work on many track types anytime a mix is too bottom end heavy. Apply it judiciously and it balances out the lows with quality high end.

And here is our new Lexicon Reverb, part of a $600 bundle that includes everything from concert halls to tiny rooms:

Click here to see the rest of this post about our new Lexicon Reverb. Also learn more about our Tube Saturation Software for vocals and how it might help make your vocal track sound sensational!

Review: Waves Bass Rider Plug In Software For Pro Tools HD

Waves Bass Rider

Waves Bass Rider

The first thing to know about the Waves Bass Rider Plug In is: it’s not a compressor. A compressor controls levels by squashing and coloring the sound of the instrument or vocal being compressed. It’s not usually a huge coloration but it definitely changes the tone. The rider works like an engineer riding the fader. Bass Rider reads the incoming mix signal and adjusts accordingly.

There are maximums and minimums to the fader travel to set, which you can do by ear. The more even the original bass playing was, the better, but the Rider will adjust a pretty wide range of variation in the original levels. As a matter of reference, here’s what pro bass guitar sounds like.

But what if you want some complimentary motion in your mix? What if you want the drums up slightly, bass down in the verse but reversed in the chorus? In Pro Tools simply create two duplicate tracks with the Rider Plug In on each and set one overall volume up, one down and mute the sections according to what you want.

Note that you can still use a compressor if you like. I recommend inserting the compressor, your EQ plug, Max Bass and whatever else you use, after the Bass Rider. While it’s fairly common for most engineers to compress bass guitar automatically, with the Rider you may not find it necessary on some songs.

Often while producing your projects you’ll need a vocalist that suits your song. It would be wise to bookmark this page of session quality singers available online. One may be perfect for your next project!

The Waves Bass Rider isn’t the cure for everything, once again, great tone and even-in-volume playing, as well as tightness all contribute to how the bass guitar will work in your mix. But the Bass Rider is absolutely a must-have you should have in your plug in tool box- b.e. watson

Want Great Guitar Sounds On Your Song Recording? We Can GUARANTEE it!

If you want great guitar tone on a recording you start with a great player, add a great guitar, a great amplifier, a microphone suited to the purpose and a quality preamp. That pretty much sums it up.

BUT…there are times we get to a mix, have added some overdubbed instruments and maybe the guitar tone used in tracking isn’t working out as well as we thought it would.

I hate it when that happens.

But not to worry, we have a variety of fixes here at Nashville Trax but this Waves Guitar Tool Kit is software based amplifier modeling technology and the designer/overseer/grandpoobah, Paul Reed Smith, a famous guitar maker dude, pretty much got it right. It sounds better for most applications, than the stand alone unit J-Station, or Line 6 modeling, both of which we also have here.

You can use it on already recorded guitar or play a new guitar track straight into it.

These are best-we-could-do screenshots done in our studio, apologies, maybe that’s why we’re musicians, no photographers, lol.

I love the stompbox window! You simply click to add a wide variety of pedals to any of the 6 smaller windows:

Waves Guitar Tool Kit : The Stompbox Window

Waves Guitar Tool Kit : The Stompbox Window

In this window you can choose the simulated amp you wish to hear, say a Fender Twin or whatever, then tweak it to your song’s content:

Waves Guitar Tool Kit : The Amp Window

Waves Guitar Tool Kit : The Amp Window

Or you can move to the presets window to choose a stompbox chain and amp already set to sound like the guitar tone popularized by various bands and hit songs:

Waves Guitar Tool Kit : Presets Window Waves Guitar Tool Kit : Presets Window[/caption]

Waves Guitar Tool Kit : The Tuner Window

Waves Guitar Tool Kit : The Tuner Window


Cool or what? b.e.

Our New Plug Ins Will Take Your Recording To The Next Level!

Nashville Trax Mixing Board Shot

Nashville Trax Mixing Board Shot

To say I’m excited about this new batch of plugins we’ve acquired for the Nashville recording studio, Nashville Trax, over this past this month is an understatement. Over $100,000 worth of software recording and mixing madness!

This Solid State Logic plug is $300 retail but well worth every penny; it sounds just like a channel pulled from an SSL 4000 E Series console. There is no way anyone, including a seasoned Nashville studio engineer, could tell the difference in a blind A-B comparison. The richness is there, the clarity, the punch…love it! It’s an awesome addition to our studio that will bring quality up several notches:

SSL 4000 E Series Channel Strip plug-in

SSL 4000 E Series Channel Strip plug-in

And here’s a cropped pic of our new Waves Vocal Rider plugin:

Waves Vocal Rider

Waves Vocal Rider

Man, does this take a load off. Until now I didn’t make it a practice to ride the vocal fader manually on demos, it was too tedious and the budget isn’t there for that degree of manual labor on a demo mix. Only master mixes with inherently higher budgets received that level of attention to detail.

This SSL vocal fader plug will change that. Less than 60 seconds of setting levels and it rides a vocal automatically, pre-reading the vocal signal, comparing it to the mix level, then adjusting the vocal setting in real time to compensate for the music/vocal variations and keep the vocal in your face at all times. Awesome! Awesome, AWESOME! Why NOT start using it on demos too?

But guess what? We purchased the version for bass guitar too!

Here’s a studio screen shot of our Bass Rider in action on a mix:

Pro Tools HD2 Bass Rider Software

Pro Tools HD2 Bass Rider Software

And Max Bass? Got it! In the Max Bass window, the green area on the left is the original bass signal, the green line slanting left shows where the frequency of the original signal cuts off and the brown area to the right shows the frequencies generated by Max Bass, psycho-acoustically creating a huge bass sound that seems to eminate from everywhere, rather than from the fixed point of the stereo speakers.

Max Bass for Pro Tools HD

Studio Shot of Max Bass for Pro Tools HD

Combine the Max bass, Waves Bass Rider and Vocal Rider and you have the foundation of one fantastic mix!- b.e.

Upgrading Pro Tools HD 7, HD 8, HD, 9, 10 or HD 11 : Gear Glut Alert!

Aural Exciter Software for Pro Tools HD

Aural Exciter Software for Pro Tools HD running on Snow Leopard

So a rather large monkey wrench has been tossed into the Nashville music machine recording engine! Avid has released Pro Tools HD 11 and it doesn’t play well at all with much of the the gear required to support earlier HD versions. Used Accel PCI and PCIe cards, digital converters and more are being dumped on the market as studio owners realize their gear is dated, and if they intend to move to 11, nearly worthless. Control 24 mixer control surfaces that cost about $8,000 new a couple years ago are not supported in PT 11 and are being offered as low as $2,250 on eBay, with few takers. I suspect it will be tough to get $600 for one in a year or two.

Almost all professional grade studios and most project studios in the Nashville area use Pro Tools HD (Or HD2 or HD3) software. Home studios and others may run Cubase, Logic or regular Pro Tools but Pro Tools HD is king in dedicated pro studios. On my last project I worked in three different studios around the area. Because my home base, Nashville Trax runs Pro Tools HD2 and the others run HD too, it was easy to interface with the other two studios by transporting the music files on portable hard drives. No individual file consolidation necessary, just click on the PT session file icon and the song session opens, ready to go, sweet!

HD is far more expensive than regular PT because it’s more robust and has more features. The initial software cost alone is $6,000 to $11,000 more than the $300 to $600 regular Pro Tools costs. Plus you need expensive hardware too, each piece costing in the multiple thousands. Now most studios that move to 11 will upgrade from an earlier PT HD version so the pain of acquisition will be greatly mitigated, but it still isn’t cheap. For example, going from 7 to 11 is a $2,500 jump.

The big problem, and I heard this from several fellow studio owners, then confirmed it on Avid’s website, is that PT HD 11 supports no plug-ins (for quality reverb, EQ, compression, etc.) from earlier versions. If you’ve invested in $50K of extra plugs and you’re running HD10 you either stay with 10 or try to sell the plugs while you can, usually for pennies on the dollar. But a lot of engineers swear by their favorite plugs and won’t give them up without a fight. Many plugs don’t even have comparable 64 bit AAX versions that will work in 11 yet.

“I can’t afford to move up; I have way too much invested in plug-ins.” one owner confided.

“Avid has ticked off a lot of people in this town with 11 and lost some customers,” said a session musician.

I suspect there will be much kicking, screaming and gnashing of teeth, but most studios will eventually cross the bridge to 11. Nashville is a world class recording environment and PT HD is still the best thing on the planet.

So a lot of studios that ran early PT versions for years are taking advantage of the used gear glut and upgrading to a higher level of HD or moving from PT to PT HD. But that can be a nightmare because the operating system on the studio’s Mac (Pro Tools HD runs better on a Mac so few serious studios use PCs/Windows) must match up with the version you’re upgrading to.

To help fellow up graders out I thought I’d post some useful info:

To upgrade to HD7 you’ll need to run the Mac Tiger operating system 10.4.2 through 10.4.8. The old G5s often had it as well as Mac Pros. Beware of purchasing one of the short-run Intel Mac Pros from around 2006 unless you get the original disc or unless the Tiger version your upgrade requires is already on it. The Tiger OS X disks for the Intel machines were machine-specific. Otherwise, there are lots of retail Tiger versions for Power Macs and G5’s.

There’s little difference between PT HD 8 or HD 9 and 8HD licenses are dirt cheap. But if you can afford to jump to 10, do so, a lot of pro studios will be hanging at 10 for at least another year or two, some for good.

Also, check out the limit your computer will upgrade to! If you’re trying to jump from Tiger 10.4 to Mt. Lion 10.8 it’s not likely to happen.

HD 8 requires Mac OS X Leopard 10.8.0 to 10.5.8

HD 9 is Snow Leopard 10.6.2 to 10.6.8

HD 10 is 10.6.7 Snow Leopard to 10.7.4 Lion

HD 11 requires Mountain Lion.

Be careful, I’m talking about software. If you purchase any of those cats you should NOT hear a GRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!! If so, forget exchanging it, run for your life : ) b.e. watson

Do you produce music at home or in a commercial studio? Did you realize how inexpensive and EASY it is to get a Nashville session quality player on your projects? Yes, make your project better or even make a profit! Tell your country music clients you have Nashville quality pedal steel guitar and fiddle tracks available and they’ll sell themselves! Add a markup and voila, easy money in your pocket! Or how about saxophone? Harmonica? piano? Bass guitar? Acoustic? Electric? Mandolin? Vocals? You name it, we can probably do it?

Update On Kerry McFate’s Clarence Lowden Album Project

Songwriter Kerry McFate (left) and producer Bill Watson (right) taking a break from mixing Kerry's songs. Songwriter Kerry McFate (left) and producer Bill Watson (right) take a break from mixing songs for Kerry’s Clarence Lowden album.

Songwriter Kerry McFate (left) and producer Bill Watson (right) taking a break from mixing Kerry’s songs.
Songwriter Kerry McFate (left) and producer Bill Watson (right) take a break from mixing songs for Kerry’s Clarence Lowden album.

Kerry McFate will be taking his flight back to New York City tomorrow morning just thrilled with the experience at Nashville Trax and stoked about the way the songs came out.

“Bill, I’m blown away, I can’t thank you and your team enough for taking the songs I brought in, mere kernels really, and growing them into these fabulous recordings!” Kerry exclaimed as we parted.

He’ll be the first to admit he’s not a highly skilled singer technically, but he has a great voice and with do-over punch-ins, plus a little help from software, reverb, delay and EQ, his strong baritone, (which has shades of deep register country singers like Hank Williams Jr., Johnny Cash and Jamey Johnson) sounds just great, even better than he expected. He also played his own Taylor acoustic guitar and those tracks mixed in, no problem.

Fiddle and steel guitar are featured throughout, which Kerry requested when we first discussed the project, and sound super, thanks to the contributions of my favorite calls on both of those instruments, Wanda Vick on fiddle and Mike Douchette on pedal steel.

The mixes are finished on all three songs, which Kerry intends to release on CD under his fictitious Clarence Lowden name.

Kerry has the stereo mix .wav files as well as the (Pro Tools) session files on his hard drive. That’s actually the 8th or 9th copy of all files on 4 different drives because at Nashville Trax we meticulously back up on external hard drives in rotation at each stage of the recording process: After each song is tracked, after each overdub musician or singer completes their parts, and of course, after the final mix.

With these first few tunes I think we were able to define a direction and create a unique sound for Kerry that can be explored even further as the album is completed- b.e. watson

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?

Are you aware you can get true Nashville session quality musicians and singers on your projects, no matter where you’re located? Just the one instrument you need? Delivered over the Internet? At a price you CAN DEFINITELY AFFORD?

Check it out:

Vocal Tracks Online

Bass Guitar Tracks Online

Guitar Tracks Online

Piano Tracks Online

Sax Tracks Online

Banjo Tracks Online

Fiddle Tracks Online

Steel Guitar Tracks Online