Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Evolution of Vocal Tuning and Pitch Correction

In The Beginning...

The year was 1975 and the Eventide H910 (shown above) has just been released. The H910 could shift pitch up or down 1 octave and offered up to 112.5 ms of delay. Only costing $1,600, it was a success. The sound generated from these are nothing like what we hear today. Zappa used one in his guitar rack. Eddie Van Halen used a pair of them as part of his signature guitar sound. Tony Visconti even used it on the snare in David Bowie's Young Americans. It was a studio favorite and everyone was trying to figure out cool ways to use it. There has been newer models and copycats being released ever since.

In The Digital Age..

Introduced in 1997, Antares Auto-Tune brought pitch correction into the digital world. The next major player was Melodyne in 2000. In 2009, Celemony released the technology for Direct Note Access, which is the ability to manipulate single notes in a polyphonic audio file. There has been many new programs to be release since 1997, but these are just two popular programs. Other plugins worth mentioning are iZotope's Nectar & T-Pain Effect, Wave's Waves Tune, and Gsnap, all of which have there own unique sound and parameters.

The Rise To Fame...

There is two people for which you can thank for the popularity of Auto-Tune. They are Cher and T-Pain. Cher's 1998 hit "Believe" was the first major release to use hard vocal tuning, then T-Pain brought it to the hip-hop and R&B side of things with his album "Rappa Ternt Sanga" which was released in 2005. Some say it even helped launch Lil Wayne career by "giving him access to melody." A great deal of hits have had their vocals tuned.


In 2001, The Simpsons aired an episode where Bart Simpson joins a boy band and they used a machine called "Studio Magic" which made them sound like N'SYNC or Backstreet Boys. Once it broke down during a performance and everyone heard how bad they sang without it. Even though this is an obvious exaggeration, it sparked a large wave of criticism. One star that seems to get berated consistently in Britney Spears. Just to prove how subtle of an effect the tuning had on her vocals, she released some "auto-tune free" clips, which I think could make any critic keep quiet. She also sang 80% of here Femme Fatale shows live. But does this prove anything? To a point, yes. It shows, that all the hate is over hyped. People jump to the conclusion that an average Joe Shmo can sound like JT, which it definitely incorrect. It is called "pitch" correction not, timbre-attenuation-articulation-rhythm-flow-dynamics-lyrics correction.


Today, pitch correction of a very commonly used tool. Most DAWs even come with some sort of pitch editor bundled in or integrated with the software. Sonar X3 actually has Celemony's Melodyne integrated with the GUI. Pitch correction and Auto-Tune are used on the majority of songs you hear on the radio today. Even though they sound very natural, the effect is just being used more precise and subtly. Pitch correction has almost became an art of it's own. The average user view's it as lazy, but an engineer can actually spend hours manually tuning the lead vocal track, using it's parameters to get very natural but musically creative results.

If you liked this article, we ask you, please share it, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. I hope these posts and future ones like these inspire you to make some great music. (we'd love to hear it!)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Why Get Your Song Mastered?

why get you song mastered

I find that there is a lot of amateur producers out there that approach their mixes with the mentality that they need to make the snare sound it's best, their bass needs to sound it's best, thier vocal needs to sound big and full.. etc. Though it sounds viable, they are really working against  themselves. Think, what will the end user really hear? They will hear the stereo output. Not just the snare, not just the bass, and not just the vocals. Everything needs to sound great together. It truly does not matter what anything sounds like on it's own.

But please do note, a bad mix can not be fixed in mastering. Make sure you get things leveled and sitting well in the mix before sending off to mastering. Personally if I am mixing or producing the song, I will "rough master" it, go back and adjust the mix, and then remaster is. There has been a few times I've gone back and forth multiple times. When you start compressing your master, things may not maintain the same sonic balance.

There is a lot more to mastering then what most people think. It's not just about getting things loud, but giving it more life. There is multiple things an engineer will do to your audio. Multiband dynamic processing, harmonic excitement, equalization, dynamic range processing (more then just compression) and limiting, just to name the 'basics.' They will also use all these tools in a different way then you or even different tools all together. Thing allows the master engineer to add to your sound not just exaggerate it.

From the master engineer's point of view, there is a sort of "magic" that happens when they don't really know exactly what was done on each instrument track. They essentially have no idea how it got this far. That 'ignorance' helps them get more creative. It makes them dig. It makes them want more. Master engineers are like Archaeologists of sound.

Another great point to make here is it will be mastered in different environment, a controlled one at that. This will make sure your song does not only sound good in your studio, but it will sound great everywhere else as well. The master engineer's ears are also fresh, so he may be able to pick out trouble areas a little easier.

There is no reason you shouldn't be getting you music mastered if your distributing it to the public. You need to let your music be as much as it can be. Don't let someone pass on listening to your song just because it doesn't have enough volume, life or punch. What if it was an A&R rep from your favorite label?