Video: How Vocals are Tuned

Have you ever heard references to tuned vocals, and wondered what exactly the process involved?

Van Atkins, who has been a studio engineer for Crossroads Studios for something like two decades, contributes videos to Crossroads’ studio tips series. This video is the best explanation I’ve seen of tuning yet.


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36 Letters to the Editor

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  1. FASCINATING stuff!!

    I am going to school for media production, but am far more familiar with video aspects than audio. I never realized there is this type of technology available.

    • It sure is fascinating!

      On the one side, critics say it enables vocal laziness – but on the flip side, for the true pros, it lets them save a take that turned out really nicely except for one dud note.

  2. I hated to see the video end. Amazing technology. I do agree with the critics somewhat, though.

  3. Only problem, it won’t help the singer when theyre singing the song live!

    • That is why you should be able to hit the notes live. I think the technology is absolutely great!!! Like Daniel said, if everything else is great on the take but a dud note here or there, it is great to be able to correct that. I will say that Southern Gospel performers are some of the absolute best in repeating in live performances what they record on their albums! Great post Daniel!

  4. Bit of a techno-geek here…this is fascinating, although it is a little disturbing too!

    • I think things like this are what made me think you were a guy. Aren’t you a parent? And some times we seem to think that mothers and geeks are mutually exclusive. Your children must think you’re great!

      • No, I’m not a parent. I’d like to be some day though. 😉

      • Oh, OK! It must have been David Mac.

      • Huh?

      • …that David Mac is a parent, not YGG.

      • I still am!
        [All 4 are well,
        though the ‘geeky’ stage is quickly passing…]

      • DJM understood me right, although I’m not sure what DM understood at all! 🙂

  5. Neat video!

    I’ve used tuning technology, and it is pretty awesome stuff. In my case, the software is Antares Auto-Tune, and I wouldn’t trade it for Melodyne!

    In the video it appeared Van Atkins had already gone in and tuned the vocals, using the software’s capability to automatically correct the pitches to the nearest semitone. He then went back and manually corrected the pitches the software got wrong!

    Pitch correct is a wonderful tool when used judiciously. For me, it relieved tensions that came about in the recording session, and cut the number of takes needed to half of their original number. The artist was able to be freer with expression, and not get so worked up about a couple of off notes. I use it to complement the recording in a good way, as Van Atkins alluded to, keeping it natural.

    Too much of a good thing is just that, too much of a good thing. It needs to be used wisely. I’m all for it in that case. It can make a more pleasant listening experience as well.

    – Ben for TGF

    • Ben,

      Fascinating observations. I’m pondering getting a few recording software programs in the next few months – for songwriter demos, as I have no illusions about being the next Gerald Wolfe or Doug Anderson!

      Anyhow, that’s preface to show my interest is not idle curiosity. Why do you prefer Antares?

      Daniel

      • Daniel,

        First of all, it’s the only one I’ve had hands-on-experience with! 🙂 But I have compared the two (Melodyne and Antares) as thoroughly as I can. For me, Antares user interface is so much more enjoyable, and it gives quite a range of tool options, most I have used at one point or another. The software’s engine construction is also great (not that I know much about those things!). The learning curve in using it was also pretty fast, yet I’m still finding great ways to do different things… I think it mostly comes down to personal preference.

        BTW: This technology is great for special effects, if that’s what you’re after. You should hear Caleb’s voice as a bass! 🙂

        – Ben for TGF

      • Very interesting!

        I’d be fascinated to hear Caleb as a bass one of these days – and hearing him as a bass before his voice changes would be even more fun. 🙂

      • I prefer Melodyne over Antares because Melodyne allows you to work with the audio in three ways. 1. Pitch 2. Timing 3. Volume It is a little tougher to learn than Auto-tune.

      • Thanks – that’s helpful to know!

    • Is Antares vs Melodyne a PC vs Mac thing?

      • Melodyne, at least, is available for both.

  6. I agree with D.Ball for the same reasons. Daniel M, You may find it helpful to go to the Celemony.com website where you can download a demo version of Melodyne. It allows you full access to all the different tools for a hands on experience with the program. It does not allow material to be saved. I found it pretty easy to use.

    • Thanks! I’d actually been contemplating taking Celemony for a spin some time over the next few months.

      • Ask her Dad first! 🙂

      • My turn to say huh?

        🙂

        I was talking about a piece of software…

      • They all are at the start Daniel, they sure all are!

      • You’ve totally lost me.

      • He’s trying t be funny, but looks like it went over your head, Daniel

  7. Does anyone know when this technology came into existence?

    • 1997.

      • To the tune of “1982” by Randy Travis

        “Operator please connect me with 1996.
        When people had more talent
        and didn’t need no tricks*
        These days the music’s polished
        That’s not necessar’ly bad
        But now it’s clear that the life is gone
        It makes me really sad.

        They say hindsight’s 20/20
        But I’m nearly going blind
        From looking hard to find good songs
        I’m really in a bind.
        I’m afraid those days are over
        There are none left to pick
        There was a time you could find them
        In 1996.

        Seriously though, I don’t mind it used sparingly. Although the song above is tongue in cheek, there is some truth there though. I still hear some good music out there (and talent), but so much of it is sanitized and lacking life (especially in secular music.)

        *As a classic country song not only is a double negative permissible, but almost expected.

      • “Especially in secular music.”

        Very interesting you should say that, because there are doubtless Christians who would say that secular is where the “good stuff” is really at.

      • Don’t get me wrong, there is talent in secular music and the budgets are much higher. In fact, the budgets being higher might help to make the music more lifeless because they can use more technology. However, since prices for software, tuners etc have come down, there might not be as big of a gap in things anymore (at least as far as technology).

      • I generally stick to Christian music simply because I think it’s good to exercise caution when it comes to lyrical content. And I generally find that even when the content isn’t directly profane, it just leaves me feeling empty. But there can be good music made.

  8. I use V-Vocal, but it’s not because I prefer it over Antares or Melodyne.

    It just came free with SONAR 8.5 Producer Edition!
    – – – – –
    By the way, could you guys normalize the volume on your YouTube uploads in the future?

    It’s not that big of a deal when listening on external speakers with extra volume boost, but on a laptop with built-in speakers, it’s difficult to hear when it’s barely loud enough to move the meter.

    • I actually generally bump them up as high as I possibly can – our capture systems capture very quietly. I’ll do what I can to look into future improvements, though.