A Guide to Autotune
Autotune is a popular and useful tool for just about all artists in the musical industry, from pop stars to DJs. But in order to use this program to its utmost potential and achieve the greatest sounding musical track as you can, it’s important that you understand the basics of all things auto-tune.
What exactly is Autotune?
Autotune is an audio processing technology and software plugin that can be used to correct and/or manipulate the pitch of a vocal recording. It can be used, though less commonly, to adjust the recordings of instrument-created sound.
How it works
The autotune plugin works by detecting and analysing the pitch of the input audio and then adjusting it automatically according to the pre-set pitch or musical scale.
If the vocals are off-key or out of tune, the autotune software will pick it up and adjust it accordingly to get the smooth, better sounding and more natural result you are after. When people talk about the effect of autotune, this is what they mean.
There are some other controls that DJs and artists can use in autotune. These include adjusting the speed or the strength of the pitch correction, altering the timbre of the vocals through formant shifting, and graphical editing to manipulate the pitch manually and precisely.
While autotune is used throughout the musical industry and is very handy, it is always better if the original vocals or audio are as close to being pitch perfect as possible from the outset. Autotune can then be used to improve the track even more.
Types of autotune
Each different type of autotune plugin and software boasts different functions and features which can be more or less useful depending on your intended use.
Antares Autotune is the original form of the software and provides a range of different features for pitch correction and vocal effects.
Waves tune is another popular autotune plugin that is used in a similar way to antares autotune but also offers a graphical interface to make editing and manipulating easier.
The Melodyne software is honed specifically for editing the pitch and timing of specific notes within a vocal recording and provides a heightened level of control and precision.
The Nectar plugin involves vocal processing and includes a variety of tools such as EQ, reverb and compression.
GSnap is used by both DJs and music fans. While more basic in function and features than other versions, it does allow for effective pitch and vocal correction.
Think about what you intend on using autotune for when considering the right type of plugin for your needs.
A Guide to Getting Started with Autotune
Determining the input type of your vocals or audio is important as autotune will determine the frequency range according to the type of content you are looking to tune.
Commonly used types of inputs include:
- Low Male
- Bass instruments
- Other instruments
Key and Scale
The key and scale is an important setting to ensure that your track sounds correct and as intended. Autotune is designed to correct the notes of your input according to the key of the scale you have set.
This function determines how fast the note will be tuned. If the retune speed is too high then the result may sound unnatural. But the exact speed may vary depending on the genre of the input audio.
The flex tune setting gives you the option of setting the rate at which the plugin fixes the pitch away from the scale notes.
Using the humanise knob will allow you to manipulate longer notes or notes that are sustained for a significant period of time.
Vibrato is a musical technique used by singers and instrumentalists to add expressiveness and richness to their sound through slight and rapid variations in pitch.
The natural vibrato setting in autotune is independent of the other pitch functions and is used to control the natural vibrato in the vocals of your input track. Set at 0, autotune will not cause any effect to take place. Adjusting the setting up or down will adjust the pitch accordingly.
When you turn on targeting, however, you’re setting your autotune plugin to ignore the vibrato which can be useful for improving the sound of certain types of lead vocals.
MIDIs (Musical Instrument Digital Interfaces) are protocols that allow various electronic equipment, such as musical instruments, computers, and other devices, to communicate and control each other’s audio. Using a MIDI device, you can target notes and use autotune to great effect in improving your tracks.
The graph mode function is a more advanced setting for the technical musicians amongst you who want to do away with the automatic functionality and focus instead recording a track in real time, through autotune.
While you need to play the entire musical track end to end using graph mode, it does allow you to exercise total control throughout, including every variation and pitch.
Top Autotune Tips
Use Tracking Properly
Tracking allows you to determine what section of the track you want autotune to focus on. With a default setting of 50, you will need to change the tracking to closer to zero to effectively manipulate background noises. For the opposite, dial the setting up. When in doubt, leave it at its default level.
Check the Tuning
Like tracking, autotune has a set level for pitch correction: 440Hz. While this is suitable for most songs, if you are mixing a track with a different tuning, then you may need to adjust this level.
Consider Classic Mode
Classic mode is a relatively new addition to the autotune software and it allows you to recreate a previous version of autotune itself that includes a more digital sound which may suit your musical intention.
Utilise the Throat
The throat setting adjusts the vocals’ pitch. The lower the throat, the deeper the pitch, and vice versa. When you’re playing around with layers of audio, utilising the throat can be really effective.
Need a hand? Reach out today!
The autotune plugin is an essential tool for DJs, musicians and music producers in the 21st century. The more you’re able to spend time playing around with autotune and beginning to understand how you can use it to great effect on your mixes, the better your end creations will be.
If you need a hand with anything and everything autotune, or you’d like to find out more about what sort of musical creation and DJing equipment you need, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team right here at DJ City.