Auto-Tune is widely held as the standard for studio pitch correction, although there are plenty of competitors (Melodyne, Waves Tune, etc). The effect has been used heavily in recent years and also the target of both praise and backlash. Jay-Z even gave the plugin an official funeral (Death of Auto-Tune), while T-Pain has released his own iPhone app based on the effect called “I Am T-Pain”. In this tutorial, you will learn how to set-up Auto-Tune and start tracking vocals with the the effect in real-time.
Step 1: Set The Scale
Decide if the music track has a bright or dark feel. A bright sounding track is probably in a major key, while a darker sounding song is most likely in a minor key. Autotune gives you lots of scale choices but most songs you encounter will be in the major and minor scales. The chromatic setting will snap your notes to the nearest half step and can be useful when the vocalist is not singing in a specific key.
Step 2: Find The Key
First turn your retune speed up all the way. This will make the effect obvious and easier to determine which notes Auto-Tune is hitting. Now you can cycle through each starting note in the key selection. Listen to each setting and determine if any notes are clashing with the music track. When you find a setting that sounds like all the notes are meshing with the music track you have found the correct key.
Step 3: Set The Input Type
Decide if the vocal track best fits into upper, middle, lower or bass ranges. The effect will sound thinner with the soprano or alto setting, while the tenor and bass options provide a bit “thicker” sound. The instrument input type will give you a more pronounced effect and can be used on both male and female voices.
Step 4: Adjust The Retune Speed
The retune speed will determine how fast pitch correction will kick in after the vocal begins. Up until now you should have had the retune speed set to 0 (all the way to the right). Now you can bring the retune speed down until you hear the desired amount of tuning. The higher the number, the more smoothly the effect will be applied. Somewhere between 13-15 will give you an obvious RnB style sound without shifting the pitch too fast. Try a retune speed of 40-50 for a more relaxed sound which will move the notes less.
Step 5: Tracking Through Auto-Tune
Now that you’ve found the key your vocalist may be inspired to lay down new vocal tracks. Hearing the effect in real-time with the performance will guide the vocalist to the notes in the key, usually resulting in a better performance. Pro Tools Native allows you to just add the Auto-Tune plugin right onto the track. If you are in Pro Tools HD you will need to add a TDM plugin first, and then add your Auto-Tune plugin in a slot below. Usually keeping your retune speed set near 0 will encourage the best performance because the vocalist will hear the “in key” notes in their ear as they sing. After you have recorded the part you can experiment with bringing the retune speed down a bit for a more natural feel. You may also notice that it is possible to sing so “in tune” that even when the retune speed is set to 0, the pitch correction effect is not overly obvious.
How To Use Auto-Tune Like A Boss
In today’s pop music world, the sound of Auto-Tune is used frequently, for better or worse. I believe less is often more with Auto-Tune, so that the vocals can still sound current and tighter in pitch, but without the robotic feel. Unless I’m using a fast retune speed for an effect, I typically prefer to slow down the retune speed and let the natural performance shine a little more. Hitting a fast retune speed will often take character and feeling away from a vocal so leaving it higher than 25 or 30 is smart. The newer versions of Auto-Tune also come with a handy “Humanize” feature, which you can turn up too to lessen the extremes of the tuning.
A lot of people feel that Autotune has a pleasing and modern sound to it, and will use it on a vocal even if the vocal performance does not need pitch correction. The way Auto-Tune pulls notes in gives a very current vibe when placed on vocals.
If the vocal performance wasn’t great, sometimes its smart to go into the “Options” window of Auto-Tune. There you’ll find that you can tell the plugin how relaxed or precise the initial vocals were tracked. Choosing relaxed tracking from this menu will change how Auto-Tune will tune the vocals in auto mode. If the vocals are really off though, I like to run the vocals through Melodyne before hitting Auto-Tune for more natural correction. Melodyne’s graphic mode is certainly superior to Auto-Tune’s graphic mode.
At this point you have a grasp on the basics of Auto-Tune; choose a scale, find the key and adjust the retune speed to create the desired amount of tuning effect. Good job! Enjoy this groundbreaking Auto-Tune masterpiece by T-Pain:
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