“This is so exciting for all involved”: Here’s what happened when Vulfpeck’s Jack Stratton sat down to try and recreate Stevie Wonder’s I Wish Rhodes electric piano sound in his DAW

Given his funky predilections, it’s no surprise that Vulfpeck’s Jack Stratton is a fan of Stevie Wonder’s classic ‘70s Rhodes sound - specifically, the one from I Wish, which features on the Songs In The Key Of Life album. In fact, he’s crafted an instrument patch with the express purpose of recreating it, and in the video above, you can see exactly how he did it.

Stratton’s starting point is a piece of footage that we’re familiar with. It captures the moment when, in the Classic Albums TV show that covers the making of Songs In The Key Of Life, Wonder gets in the studio and attempts to recreate I Wish, one of the record’s highlights.

“This is the straight-up funkiest footage on Earth,” says Stratton, as he watches the clip of Stevie playing the Rhodes part, and he’s not wrong.

Stratton then pulls up the original I Wish electric piano stem in Logic Pro - “which you can find from various shady characters” - to use as a reference. After opening his own favourite Rhodes plugin, the Scarbee Classic EP-88s, he records the part himself, and is pleased to find that the sound is already “super-close” to Stevie’s.

How does he get it even closer, though? “I hear huge EQ difference, and I hear way more attack in Stevie’s,” says Stratton, so those are the areas he needs to focus on. FabFilter Pro-Q 3’s Match EQ feature is used to analyse the I Wish sound and emulate it, adding “a ton of high-end and a low-end boost,” and that extra attack comes courtesy of the Lots Of Attack preset in the Vulf Compressor.

“We’re getting close,” reckons Stratton, but there’s still “way too much low-end,” so GoodHertz Tiltshift EQ is dialled in to sort that out. 

All done? Not quite - the finishing touches are some additional crunch from GoodHertz’s Tupe tape/tube simulator plugin, a dash of Softube EQ for extra brightness, and one last Logic Pro Match EQ to “take us home”.

Arms aloft, Stratton knows that he’s cracked it, and is left with an I Wish Rhodes patch that he can save and use for all eternity. “This is so exciting for all involved,” he says, before shouting out  Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff (AKA Tonto's Expanding Head Band) for the role they played in helping to formulate Stevie’s ‘70s sound.

The video is an excerpt from the Jack Stratton Mixing Masterclass, a seven-lecture course that’s designed to be followed completely in the box. It’s currently being offered at a 25% discount if you use the code BLACKFRIDAY. The regular price is $250. 

Find out more and sign up on the Vulfpeck website.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

Get over 70 FREE plugin instruments and effects… image
Get over 70 FREE plugin instruments and effects…
…with the latest issue of Computer Music magazine