You’re looking to learn how to tune vocals with auto-tune.
We’ll guide you through choosing the right software and using different tuning methods. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to create a flawlessly tuned vocal.
Autotune has become known as an ultimate “cheat code” to make vocals sound on-key. It makes them sound polished yet natural, and undetectable to the untrained ear. It has also allowed musicians and producers to explore new creative possibilities.
Autotune can correct your pitch while performing, producing, and creating unique vocal sounds. You can also create something completely original if you learn the right techniques.
The information and techniques we’ll discuss can help you master the software. Whether you want to have the iconic T-pain sound or subtly tune your vocals on-key. Let’s dive into the world of Autotune and create some magic!
What is Autotune?
- Synchro Arts Revoice Pro
- iZotope Nectar 3
#1. Add the plugin to your vocal channel
After purchasing and installing your auto-tuning software and after recording your vocals in your DAW.
Add auto-tune as a channel insert then we can begin making adjustments in the plugin interface.
In the example, you can see this action using Logic Pro.
#2. Select an input type
You will see this setting in most auto-tuning plugins. The “input type” refers to the source range of the vocalist, which impacts the processing. Auto-Tune offers five different input types:
Select this input if you have a very high vocal range. This generally refers to female vocals and is the highest human vocal register.
This refers to a low female voice or the average boy’s voice.
Select this for a deep voice. Think Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Michael Bublé.
This input type is best for instruments such as guitar or piano but only if playing single note melodies.
This input type is best for instruments such as bass guitar, tuba, bassoon, etc.
Since we are fine-tuning vocals, we can ignore the last two input types and focus on the first three. Each input type has specific settings optimized for it. So to get an accurate analysis of our vocal track, selecting the right input type is important.
Most of the time, “alto/tenor” will work for your vocal input selection.
#3. Auto vs graph mode
There are 2 different work modes that dictate your use of Autotune which are auto vs. graph. The primary difference is the degree of control you have in the plugin’s tuning process.
WORKING IN AUTO MODE
In auto mode, the software will analyze the audio signal first. And then apply pitch correction based on your settings. As a user, you have specific parameters to work with that refine and calibrate the processing.
This can be a quick and easy way to correct pitch issues. But it may not always produce the most natural-sounding results.
To continue with auto mode steps – click here to jump.
WORKING IN GRAPH MODE
Graph mode allows users to have everything that auto mode offers, but with more control. A user can drag and reshape the processing of each word and note within the plugin’s display.
You can control how dramatic or accurate the tuning processing is to your preference. There are many contexts subject to how flat or sharp your vocalist is, you may hear some notes sound unnatural when tuned. This is because the processing is working too hard to fix the note’s tuning. The gulf between the recorded vocalist’s note and the correct pitch is too far apart. In these cases, you may need to compromise by manually dragging the note near the correct pitch but just off. This may omit the ugly processing sound and rest assured that our ears are unlikely to detect if a note is just off. Especially in passing melodies or if one part of a many-part harmony.
Graph mode will demand more time and effort. But, it allows for a more nuanced and purposeful approach to pitch correction. The results are in most cases more natural sounding, which may be your goal.
Get your vocal graph
To get started in graph mode you first need to record the vocal area you want to tune into view.
Select the pitch icon and press play when you have the vocal phrase you want to tune. Example below:
Start manual editing
Once you can see the vocal phrase in the graph area, you will be able to draw the notes manually as you see fit. This part of the editing process you need to play around with to get to grips with the control.
Choose between editing with a straight line, a curved line, and moving entire processed notes.
Often for small vocal phrases or simple phrases, auto mode will do a satisfactory job. For complicated lead vocals or singers that need more help, manual mode might be the best choice.
#4. Find your key and scale
As a musician, you will know that every melody is in a specific key and scale. Plug-ins like Antares’ Auto Key can help you determine the key and scale of your vocals. You can use one of the many free key detectors available online or as mobile apps.
Choosing the right key and scale for your song before you start auto-tuning in auto mode is crucial. This ensures that the pitch correction algorithm is as accurate as possible.
The chosen key instructs the tuning processing to block out notes that don’t belong to the scale. For example in a c major scale, the C# note is blocked, as it assumes the singer isn’t intending to sing that note.
Customizing notes in the scale
You may see that the scale options don’t fit in with your intended notes. Such as where you might intentionally sing a note out of scale as a creative choice.
You will then need to remove selected notes from the scale input for processing. The processing can then include or exclude tuning destinations. The below visual explains how to do this both on an individual note and collective note basis.
#5. Choose your retune speed
Retune speed is an important setting. It determines how fast autotune applies pitch correction to your vocals. A high retune speed will process your voice’s pitch more quickly. The highest retune setting will sound very robotic indeed.
Setting the speed to slow will result in more gentle processing. This will be relevant when the singer needs just a small about of pitch support.
You have likely heard the fast retune speed effect used in some songs as a creative choice. These 2 examples are great demonstrations of this auto-tune technique.
High retune speed example 1:
Kanye West – Heartless
High retune speed example 2:
Daft Punk – One More Time
As you can hear, high retune speed gives them the “robotic” sound. This comes from the processing kicking in immediately from one note in the melody to the next. A low retune speed will give you a more subtle and natural-sounding pitch tuning. The processing is slower and better imitates the way a human singer traverses from note to note.
#6. Adjust the humanize knob
This setting is typically used in partnership with retuning speed to aid with natural-sounding processing. The humanize dial specifically deals with making longer sustained notes sound more natural.
Keep the number to zero if you’re not looking to add the human element to your vocals.
#7. Flex tune controls natural changes
Flex Tune is a feature that helps keep the human element in your vocals. It refers to how the processing adjusts to your singer’s pitch proximity. It’s best to play around with this setting in graph mode so you can see how the processing reconciles.
While the Flex Tune feature can help keep the human element, you should use it in moderation. If used too much on vocals, they may sound too mechanical.
#7. Adjust vibrato
Vibrato is the pitch shift when a singer sustains a note. It is a crucial part of a performer’s style and expression. The Natural Vibrato knob helps to keep the singer’s natural vibrato intact.
This dial will typically be left on 0 by default. There are situations when the vibrato of a singer’s voice is lost due to pitch correction. This could contribute to an artificial or unnatural sound. In response to this problem, auto-tune plugins include a “Natural Vibrato” setting. It lets the user decide how much vibrato should be kept in the final, pitch-corrected vocal.
Lowering the slider removes vibrato from your vocals, making the pitch more steady. Turning the slider up keeps more vibrato in the corrected vocals. This could be your preference for a more natural and expressive performance.
Download our ready-made vocal mix presets.
Is Autotune considered cheating?
No, using autotune is absolutely not considered cheating in our opinion. In the hands of a skilled artist, it can improve your sound and enhance your creativity. But if it’s used too often as a crutch to improve poor vocal performances, it might appear fake and unnatural.
Who started the Autotune trend?
Engineer Andy Hildebrand first used Auto-Tune in 1996. Cher’s 1998 single, “Believe”, was the first to use Autotune as a vocal effect prominently. This was followed by “I’m Sprung” by T-Pain in 2005, popularizing its use in mainstream music.
Can the use of Autotune be detected in songs?
When you use Autotune to correct minor pitch errors, most listeners cannot tell. This is true even in live performances. But, if the execution is sloppy or used excessively, it will stand out. This is why many artists are hesitant to use it too much. They want to keep their authentic and natural vocal sound.
How can you tell if a singer is using auto-tune?
There are several telltale signs that a singer is using auto-tune. A common indication is the processing strain that if auto-tune is working hard to reach a note.
Another sign is listening for a glitch deviation from the intended note. This sometimes occurs when the processing isn’t sure which note in the scale is correct. The glitch indicates a back-and-forth processing decision, this only happens in auto mode.
Should I use autotune while recording?
Auto-tune is to be applied to the audio once the vocal has been recorded. We recommend focussing on capturing the best vocal performance before thinking about tuning. Read further recommendations on how to mix vocals here.
A simple tool that can save your vocals
To sum up, Autotune is a savior for most productions. It’s more than a simple tool to fix off-pitch vocals. It’s can be a creative tool that’s expanded the range of what’s possible in the studio.
It is not meant to replace strong vocal performances or talented singers. But its use and effects may certainly elevate those performances.
Autotune isn’t a shortcut to achieving flawless vocals or covering up poor performances. It’s a tool to support vocalists or unleash the creativity of music makers.
We hope you’ll unlock the full potential of this tool. If you don’t have a copy, can pick it up from PluginBoutique.
Browse around our website for more detailed information on our online mixing and mastering service.
We offer a variety of different mix options as well as customized selections so you can specify exactly what you need for your tracks.
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