Vocal Tuning

Everybody who's thought about such things knows that "there's a lot of stuff you can do in the studio" when it comes to modifying performances with software tools but only the people who really get in there and work with it really have a handle on what kinds of things work and what doesn't.

To that end I've prepared a little audio/video demo with a "before" and "after" pitch correction and editing.

The setup

I found an amateur singer who likes to sing karaoke but has no designs on singing with bands or anything like that to come into the studio and do a couple takes of a song that she had been singing recently, accompaniment courtesy of YouTube™, imagine that!  So here is the raw performance with no studio alterations other than some reverb to make it match the music track.

After Pitch Correction and Editing

So I set about trying to make this take as good as I could make it using the pitch correction tools in Digital Performer coupled with AutoTune™ Plugin. I wasn't trying for anything extraordinary, just reign in wayward pitches and if there was something I could do with note lengths and rhythmic integrity I would use standard editing tools to accomplish that. Standard studio compression, limiting and reverb were applied as well.

This took about one and a half hours and overall it sounds a lot better! The singer has nothing to be ashamed of here, however, it still doesn't really sound like a killer professional vocalist does it? And why is that??? I think the answer relies on the concept of "conception and delivery".

An in-tune vocal that doesn't have an advanced sense of passion, intensity and style will just be a nice, well-tuned vocal that sounds fine, but doesn't make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

In my opinion the great thing about vocal tuning is that you can actually keep a vocal track that has the fire and intensity you want but might have what would otherwise be fatal flaws forcing the singer to sing again and again to correct that trouble spot while gradually becoming less and less immediate and communicative. After almost four decades in the recording business I can count on one hand the number of singers that are just as "on it" after ten takes as they are on take one.

Pitch correction in Live Recordings

Pitch correction tools are a godsend when it comes to live recording of public performances. One of the dirty little secrets of live shows is that since we take in way more than 50% of all our information with our eyes, a show that you saw that you would say was "awesome" while you were there watching it, when played back without watching the performers, all kinds of little mistakes and irregularities would show up which would then be magnified by the fact that you now can rewind and play back those mistakes over and over. Artists tell me all the time that what they thought was "ok" at the time they recorded it, now bugs the crap out of them five years later and they wish they had been more diligent about taking care of things during production. (I more thoroughly discuss this in my blog post on this topic.) 

If you've got a good, well isolated, solid vocal track from a live show, I can do a lot of good things for you to make it really work in the track, just enough correction to "vanquish the demons" without being able to tell... Stage vocal bleed is usually the determining factor here regarding how much you can do.