All of us have a bathroom singer embedded in us, and some of us make that bathroom singer come out and sing melodious songs either just for fun at a karaoke party or by taking it to the next level by recording and publishing on social media. If you are one such singing bird and have been following the world of music left, right and center, you must have heard about how to autotune your voice.
While memes have made autotune look like some software that can turn you into a professional singer, the reality is far from that. Autotune has been perceived by many in the music industry as the “pitch correcting tool”.
The lack of awareness makes people believe that autotune is a synonym to pitch correction, but the truth is, autotune is the name of software developed by Antares Audio technologies that have been widely used in the modern music industry since the early 2000s. The latest software version goes by the name “Autotune pro”. Initially, the software was developed when sound engineers noticed that the music industry suffers from the problem of pitch inaccuracy and that it can be altered in the digital file by tweaking certain values.
However, with the increased use of autotune by new-age singers, the distinct nature of autotuned songs became popular. It is used in pop, hip hop, rap, and other genres.
What is autotune, and how does it work?
Autotune allows you to shift the pitch of the vocals and set it to a particular key. By maximizing the effects and slowing down the speed of vocals, you can achieve the famous “autotune effect”. There are 4 ways of using autotune:
Real-time pitch correction:
In this mode, you can apply autotuning settings in real-time while the artist is recording the song. In this way, you can have a harmonious and in-sync version directly in the first go. It is also useful in live microphone performances where vocals can be pegged to the nearest key, and the autotune plugin will automatically apply the changes in the pitch while recording in real-time.
Applying to autotune to the recorded audio:
In this mode, you can apply the required changes to the audio after it has been recorded by the artist. This is most useful when the song or the audio clip is approved at different levels by different individuals. It is also widely used in the dubbing industry to match the dubbed audio with the character’s mouth movements and face gestures.
Manual pitch correction:
Suppose you are a professional with great knowledge of notes, pitches, and melodies. In that case, you might want to perfect the audio by manually adjusting the pitch value in the graph mode of autotune pro. In this mode, instead of setting the keys and pitch automatically to match the melody, you can manually change the feel of the audio by tweaking values on a graph of selected audio.
Creating the autotune effect:
Some artists use autotune to make tiny changes to their songs after recording to suit the music and theme of the video. On the other hand, some artists have used autotune to such extreme levels that the robotic metallic sound has become an integral part of their songs.
To achieve this, you need to apply the effects of autotune on extreme levels and let your audio make steep slopes on the graph while switching frequencies. The result will have certain characteristics of a robotic voice yet contain the natural flow of the human voice.
How to use autotune?
1. Choose input type:
First of all, determine the initial type of the audio you will edit; for example, is it a high-pitched female voice, a deep coarse male voice, or bass-rich instrument audio.
Remember, use autotune only with audios that produce one pitch at a time. Choose soprano for extremely high-pitched or low-pitched voices, for medium male or female voices, use alto/tenor, and so on.
2. Find your key and scale:
You need to find the key of your song and select it in the key section. For scale, it is recommended to use the chromatic option as it includes all the notes while tuning, and later, you can delete the notes you don’t need.
Suppose you are unable to determine the key of your song. In that case, you should use autotune pro as it has a feature called “autokey,” which will automatically determine your song’s key. Still, it is not always as accurate as a professional sound engineer.
3. Choose between auto and graph mode:
As mentioned earlier, if you are an experienced sound engineer and want to adjust the frequencies in your audio manually, choose graph mode instead of auto mode from the large selection situated in the middle of your screen.
4. Play with formant and throat:
Formant and throat are the options absent in old versions of Auto-Tune. Their presence makes it possible to shift the voice to a more distant pitch or transpose the track to a large interval without receiving a chipmunk or other unnatural effects.
These options allow adjusting the virtual throat to correspond to the resulting pitch produced by a human. Of course, on the other hand, you can use these options to create an unnatural low or high timbre effect. But in most cases, we don’t use this setting.
5. Set up your tracking:
Tracking represents the Auto-Tune sensitivity. Initially, it’s set for 50, and you probably won’t need to change that. However, if you have a clean studio recording, you may set the value higher, or if there’s a lot of background noise, you might need to reduce the value a little.
You need to set the tracking at minimum levels for audio or video recording without using a professional microphone and soundproof studio.
6. Choose to retune the speed for your recording:
The retune speed adjustments are one of the main features of the autotune software. Setting it to 0 will produce the typical robotic voice that people expect after autotune is used.
On the other hand, if you slow down the retune speed by turning it up to a higher value, the robotic effect will fade away, and you can achieve a slightly edited yet natural version of your audio.
7. Adjust the flex tune:
This option determines which notes in the duration of your audio will be corrected to the nearest right pitch. For example, if the flex tune is set to 0, it will correct every audio note to the right pitch. For values greater than 0, notes within a certain proximity to the right pitch will be altered. The higher the value of flex tune, the lesser the range in which notes will be corrected.
8. Natural vibrato knob:
This knob is initially set to zero. If it is turned in the positive direction, it increases the depth and weight of the vocals by amplifying the vibrations. If your audio contains a dialogue by a deep-voiced male, you should set this knob to a highly positive value (like Thomas Shelby’s voice in peaky blinders). For songs, particularly vocals, this knob should be turned in a negative direction to smoothen the vocals.
This is useful if you don’t want to introduce a robotic effect in your audio. If retune speeds are set at a lower level, the humanize feature will further decrease the robotic effect by smoothly transitioning between different frequencies.
10. Choose your scale at the edit display in the advanced mode:
As mentioned earlier, if you use chromatic scale initially and need to remove unwanted notes afterward, you can enter an advanced mode where your audio clip will be displayed as an active keyboard. While your audio is being played, each key will become active, and you choose to bypass that key if you want to leave it unedited. On the other hand, if you want to remove a note, simply click remove on that note’s key.
With the above-mentioned guide to autotune that tells you what buttons do, you can easily start applying to autotune in your next recording. Play around with these values as you play around while editing a photo and choose what’s best for your audio.