"Autotune" is a product from the 90s that allowed audio engineers to pitch correct vocals and instruments.
Today, professionals use several different pitch correction options, including Melodyne and WaveTune, from their DAWs (Digital Workstations).
Pitch correction is an effect that usually happens after vocals are already laid in the studio for a commercial release.
Many people believe that live performances from celebrities and singing competition shows also have some form of Autotune involved in the process, and they're actually correct. The thing is, it's just not the mic itself that has autotune in it.
As you can imagine, sometimes autotune is overdone and doesn't sound well with a song at all. Let's discuss the uses for pitch correction and cover some of the downsides as well.
Many people don't realize this, but the majority of vocals you hear from a studio recording have some form of pitch correction program editing them. A good recording and program will make it so that you hardly notice the effect, but it is still there.
While live performances have no need for pitch perfection, it is pleasing to the ear for prerecorded songs to be very cohesive melodically with instrumentation and vocals that fit perfectly well into the overall mix of a song.
Being a little flat or sharp here and there is not the end of the world!
As a session singer myself, there are many times when I do light pitch correction effects for some of my R&B, gospel, and of my dance music vocals.
Popularized by rapper and singer Tpain, the autotune effect had a huge popular phase and is still very prominent in the hip-hop world as an effect for artists to use in their recorded vocals.
With this version of pitch correction, there are no subtleties, and the pitches are hard-programmed to be 100% in tune to the point where it sounds robotic. In many cases, this actually produces a cool vocal effect that is pleasing to the ears.
Using a computerized pitch correction effect is pretty easy in comparison to subtle effects that go into most vocals because you don't need to do much editing, and the software will automatically pick notes for you.
When computerized autotune effects are done well, the notes that the program chooses for your vocals to hit will be correct within the scale of the song, so it will most likely sound like it fits perfectly.
In more recent times in the music industry, performers are using a form of pitch correction in their live performances in addition to studio performances.
Pitch correction petals are often used in combination with mics for live performances from popular artists.
These pedals allow you to use subtle pitch correction tricks for your sound, or you can go full T-pain with it and sound completely digital-voiced in a live setting.
According To Boston Harold, "Country stars Faith Hill, Shania Twain, and Tim McGraw use Auto-Tune in performance, calling it a safety net that guarantees a good performance."
The TC-Helicon VoiceTone C1 Hardtune and Pitch Correction Pedal is a great example of a quality autotune pedal.
Similar to Autotune pedals, vocal processors can also have built-in pitch correction effects for live performances.
These are considered higher quality than pedals since they have better features for higher accuracy and, more importantly, better control over the sound quality, no matter the live singer's volume level.
The TASCAM TA-1VP Vocal Processor with Antares Auto-Tune Evo is a great example of a high-quality vocal processor.
While light pitch correction works well for a lot of genres, some genres and styles of music just don't mix well with any type of autotuning program.
When I record slow and heartfelt songs, I usually opt out of pitch correction since I feel like the pitch programming takes away from the vulnerability in my voice.
For some of my soul and gospel vocals, I also opt out of autotune because I personally believe it takes away from a person's natural vibrato, which can also take away from the overall performance.
While pitch correction is generally accepted by most for song releases, many people (myself included) don't like the idea of taking away from raw vocal capability in a live performance setting.
Yes, autotune can help you sound better when performing, especially when you're moving around and dancing during a performance. However, it can still take away from the authenticity of your sound.
In the world of rap and R&B music, Tpain got a lot of hate from people in the music industry for "killing the game" with the overuse of Autotune. In 2009, Jay-Z released the song "D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-Tune)", which criticized the practice.
Waves Tune, my program of choice, is a very advanced pitch correction tool that allows you to edit the pitches manually in a variety of different methods, including dragging the notes, drawing the correct pitch, and much more.
Many times I don't even need to edit what is given as long as I put the right key settings into the plugin in a similar way that I did with the entire song project.
The only downside to this tool is that sometimes it's working a bit too hard, and I hear some distortion in my vocals, like little clicks and pops.
On rare occasions, I'm so off-key that it can't save the note without making me sound like a robot, but I like to think that it's more of my mistake than a mistake of the program.
The best thing to do is work on your own intonation without relying too heavily on programs and plugins. It's also good to remember that all notes don't need to be perfectly in key. There's beauty in slight flaws when it comes to music.
Related Post: Top 10 Useful Vocal Effects For Singers And Rappers
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