Waves have a knack of making sophisticated plug‑ins easy to use, and this one is no exception.
Harmony plug‑ins and pedals are nothing new, but Waves have gone the extra mile to make Harmony easy to operate while still offering enough control to make artificially generated vocal (and other instrument) harmonies sit in the mix in a very natural way. In addition to producing conventional harmony parts, Harmony can also be used in a number of creative ways when a natural sound isn’t what you’re after. In fact, there’s a lot of scope for unusual production techniques. The source audio can be pitch‑corrected with hard or soft modes before the harmony generation, and there are various modulation options, as well as formant tweaking.
When setting up, the Time and Cents controls determine how cleanly the harmony generator reacts to pitch and timing variations in the incoming audio. There are then essentially three modes of operation, the simplest being an automatic chord generation function that follows the musical pitch of the source and conforms to the key, scale type and chord type selected. A chords menu below the keyboard shows the chord type options arranged by musical genre, including a number of EDM variations. The musical key is selected at the top of the screen above the note map keyboard.
Optionally, the user can again set the key but can then add manually up to eight harmony voices and select their intervals relative to the incoming notes. If you want to check out the presets without the key and scale changing there’s a lock option. The graphical soundstage display in the centre allows individual voices to be dragged left or right to adjust their pan position, as well as up or down to adjust their volume. Harmony settings can be saved as snapshots for later use.
Specific harmony notes may also be played in from a keyboard in real time or from a MIDI track. A keyboard note editor lets you choose which new notes will play when input notes are detected, and there are options for dealing with notes that don’t fit the scale. It’s also possible to combine modes, by setting up automatic harmony generation but have a MIDI input override it when notes are played. There are adjustments for how widely the harmonies are spread, and a Flatten option to create fixed ‘pedal’ notes. More adventurous users can also use the note map editor to create their own note mapping presets rather than relying on the scale and chord settings provided. There’s no perceptible processing delay in any mode so Harmony is also suitable for live use.
There’s an option to use the input signal envelope or pitch deviations as modulation sources.
Parameters for the selected voice are shown to the left of the screen, with five modulation types arranged along the bottom. Modulation assignment is achieved simply by dragging a modulator button to a control. The modulation section offers up to nine modulation sources with LFO, ADSR and sequencer options, with or without DAW sync. Here you can modulate pitch, harmony voice positions, and engage Spreader to create parameter variations, such as pan position changes that are unique to each voice and determined by the Spreader Mode control. There’s user control over the LFO wave shapes, courtesy of Warp, Smoothing and Phase controls, as well as an option to use the input signal envelope or pitch deviations as modulation sources. A Global section controls overall pitch, formant compensation, pitch glide, overall formant adjustment and stereo spread, with output control to control the levels of the original sound source and of the added harmonies.
Careful adjustment of the individual harmony voice parameters can really enhance the way the harmonies sound but I’d advise not overdoing formant adjustment, because more than a slight amount can make some voices sound noticeably processed; a setting of one or two in either direction is usually enough. Of course you might want some artificial flavour for creative reasons, and there’s enough range to push things into unnatural territory if you like. Each voice can be individually soloed and adjusted for pitch, formant (Coarse and Fine), delay (time or note divisions), feedback, filter (high‑, low‑ or band‑pass), pan and level, those last two controls reflecting what is seen in the soundstage display. A typical setting might see the left and right harmonies treated to maybe 40 or 50 ms of delay, with a hint of pitch detuning and perhaps a small formant offset in opposite directions to give the harmony voices a slightly different character from the main voice. You can also layer simple detuned copies of the main vocal with different formant and delay settings for a thickening effect.
Conventional wisdom has it that musically pleasant harmonies comprise mainly musical thirds and sixths, but adding in a fifth at a very low level and maybe even a sub octave can also contribute to the overall sound without becoming too obvious. Stacking harmony voices using small formant, timing and pitch offsets is an effective way to create a rich ensemble sound and, in the context of a mix, the harmonies can be made to sound very realistic, fitting nicely into contemporary productions, especially once a little delay and reverb has been added. Once set up, Waves Harmony can generate such harmonies automatically, and if your song includes a key change or a section that requires a different harmony, one way to deal with that is to separate the sections onto different tracks, each treated with its own instance of Waves Harmony with appropriate settings. Alternatively you could simply write the harmony parts for any unusual sections on a MIDI track and let that control the proceedings.
This is one plug‑in that is going to make a lot of producers very happy.
The quality of pitch‑shifting is good; the formant correction applied to the shifted notes helps to keep them sounding as natural as possible. In my experience, some voice types react more favourably than others to formant shifting — generally, the smoother the voice, the smoother the end result. Voices that contain a lot of unpitched throat sound artefacts tend to sound the most ‘processed’, but keep intentional formant shifting to a minimum and the harmonies usually work extremely well in context. For the advanced user, there’s a lot of deep editability and assignability here, but even if you use one of the three modes at its most basic level, or simply explore the presets, you can achieve excellent results. This is one plug‑in that is going to make a lot of producers very happy.
- Can be used on a very basic level or you can dig in deeply.
- Good sound quality with believable harmonies, as long as you don’t use excessive formant shifting.
- A choice of operating modes.
Waves Harmony is a very advanced harmony generator that can sound very natural, but it doesn’t come over as intimidating and you can get great results right out of the box.
$149 (discounted to $39.99 when going to press).
$149 (discounted to 39.99 when going to press).