Last updated on August 20, 2018 by Rob Mayzes

In this video I’m going to share 5 vocal tuning mistakes that I’ve made over the years. By sharing my experiences I want to help you to avoid these mistakes and stop you from wasting your time figuring them out yourself.

 

Today I am going to show 5 vocal tuning and automation mistakes that I have made over the years.

By sharing my experiences I want to help you to avoid these mistakes and stop you from wasting time figuring them out yourself.

So, if you want to learn how to use Melodyne 4 like a pro keep watching.

Hey, hope you’re having a great week. Rob here from Musician on a Mission and let’s dive in with the mistake number 1, which is not manually pitch correcting the vocal when you apply vocal tuning, because a lot of plug-ins now they have an auto-tune feature where you can just set the key.

So, if we use the actual built-in pitch correction within Logic you just set the key and it will figure out and just shift it to the nearest thing.

But that’s not what we’re focusing on here.

If you want a professional, natural kind of vocal sound that you would hear on the radio then normally that’s going to be using software like Melodyne or Antares Auto-Tune in the manual correction mode or Waves Tune something like that.

If you want to go for that T-Pain corrected sound where it’s over the top auto-tune then sure use a plug-in like this, but if you want a natural sound where we’re really subtly nudging the vocal in the right direction so it sounds like a perfect performance then you need to be manually doing it.

And I did this run for years and I just used the built-in Logic one, which was a huge mistake because you can use this response time.

If you use a slow response time sometimes it can sound a little bit natural.

Let’s have a listen to this vocal here first, so this is the vocal just on its own.

So, let’s focus on that little troll there, because that could do with some correction.

Now, this great track by David Tyo called It’s So Easy To Love You. There’s a link in the bio.

And let’s just bring in this auto-tune plug-in and listen to how fake this sounds.

So, we’re getting that T-Pain late in auto-tune sound.

Sometimes that’s what you’re going for, but it took me years to figure out that if you want to create a natural sound where you can’t even tell the pitch correction has been applied then you need to do it manually, and to do that you need a plug-in like this where you have this kind of view.

Now, there are a few you can use. You can use Antares Auto-Tune, Melodyne, I use Waves Tune as well. I’ve tried that out.

Honestly they’re all pretty good. I prefer Melodyne it just happens to be the one that I bought.

Auto-Tune is a bit more complicated to use – Antares Auto-Tune, but it also has a couple more features that I think are missing in Melodyne as far as I am aware or it just goes about in a different way.

And Waves Tune personally I am not a huge fan of, but I know other people get great results from that. It really depends on what kind of vocals you’re working with.

Personally, I’ve just always used Melodyne, so that’s what I’m going to use in this video.

Now, of course you can do it to some degree. In Melodyne you can highlight everything. Click this button up here which is the correct pitch window, and then we can just pull the sensor in for everything at once and you can see here it’s just aligning them with the notes so we could pull all the sensors in not by 100% but I normally find around 80% works quite well.

We can reduce the pitch drift as well and hear okay.

And now we’ve kind of in a sense applied auto-tune. We haven’t manually gone through and done every single note, but at the same time when you have a bit that’s important chorus or if you have the time to actually go through and do this manually that’s always going to give you the best result and it’ll be the most subtle and the most accurate.

So, here we could just loop this section.

So, you can already hear that there’s a bit of correction going on, so this is with no correction.

Whereas, when we bring the center to 100% and the drift to 100% now listen.

Already sounds much better, but that might be a bit drastic for a lot of the other sections.

So, let’s bring those back down and instead what we’re going to do here is just manually move this around.

So, I think it’s this note here that’s causing a lot of the issues, this vibrato.

Yeah, it’s that melisma. It’s not so much of the vibrato it’s where he is sliding as he goes through that word.

So, we can just zoom in a bit here, and then we can just grab this note and we can just adjust the actual note.

Check that’s right and if we want we can fine tune it.

So, it’s sounding a bit better.

If we want we can then play around. If we right click here we can go to the pitch drift tool.

And just pull that more in line, so it’s more consistent.

Then we’ve lost that melisma.

So, what we can also do – sometimes Melodyne doesn’t get the split between the different notes quite right.

So, if we go back to that pitch drift and bring this…

And if we want we can just type in here zero, so it’s back to normal.

We can use this tool instead. The note separation tool to create a separate note of this and we can add a note there.

Let’s pull in this loop a bit, so we’re not listening to that first.

And now we can just play with this one note.

So, it’s a bit too quick to have that as a separate note and this is just the manual process is going through using the various tools in Melodyne.

The ones that I find myself using the most are the ones on this, so pitch tool we can right click and we have the pitch modulation which is going to straighten that line out.

There it sounds pretty odd, because we’ve done that way too aggressively but sometimes that’s useful.

We can just set this to 100% now to get back to normal and that pitch drift tool.

So, just using those to really fine tune this.

And listen.

So, this is without.

And this is with.

So, it’s sounding better but it still needs a bit more work, but that process of manually fine tuning this that’s how you get a subtle natural sound from the vocal while still applying heavy vocal tuning to make sure it’s perfectly in pitch.

And it’s the degree that you do this. If you’re working with pop music you can go quite aggressive. Every note you might want to be pitch perfect, whereas if you are working with rock music something like that you might not be as fast.

So, that was the first mistake that I wanted to share. You need to actually go and manually do a lot of this work.

Now, mistake number 2 was that I applied pitch correction without the context of the track.

I think early on I got a version of Melodyne that I for some reason got into the habit of using in the standalone version rather than within the DAW like this.

I just imported the vocal, tune it, and then bring it back into my DAW.

Now, it works sometimes. It worked often actually, but every now and then you’d get a track where it just didn’t sit quite right because the guitars were slightly out of tune.

Well, there was just something else in the mix that throwing that vocal off even though it was in absolute correct note, so it might have been an absolute E and I’m guessing this is tuned to 440. In the context of the mix it actually sounded a tiny bit flat or a tiny bit sharp.

So, you need to do this in the context of the track instead.

So, what we can do here is just bring in everything you want or just harmonic part, so we could just now solo the acoustic guitar as well so that we’ve got that in there and that gives us a harmonic background when we’re tuning the vocal and we’re fine tuning the send. It’s not just the note, but the actual sent here where we’ve really get in-between the notes and we’re tuning that. You can’t do that without some context.

So, let’s keep working on this, but with the acoustic guitar in there now too.

Bring that down.

So, this definitely still needs some work.

So, let’s play around with the actual pitching.

This one here as well.

Let’s reduce that drift slightly.

Try and reduce the modulation as well.

And let’s also try reducing this drift here between these two notes.

And that’s sounding a bit too sharp, so let’s bring that fine tuning down a bit.

And maybe this note here could do with a bit fine tuning.

So, this is before.

This is after.

So, it still sounds natural. It’s still actually a little bit pitchy. It’s not quite perfect, but I like that because this is not a pop track. It’s kind of got lot folk elements to it, so we don’t want it to be perfect.

Quite often if you can get away with it the imperfections in the vocal actually what makes it add that personality?

Of course, if you’re working on something for the radio then you do just want to be perfect and we can keep working on this, but for me that was a great improvement.

That melisma there is now in tune, but it’s not noticeable. It doesn’t sound like it’s been pitch corrected and what I also find too is when you spend a lot of time focusing on a vocal, focusing on vocal tuning and the pitch you start to notice some of the artifacts.

And now I have to listen to this on repeat for ages, especially if we go back and solo that vocal it might sound like it’s really obviously auto-tuned.

So, on that last note you can hear a tiny bit, but trust me no one will ever notice once you have this in the context of the mix and the vocal is mixed too and all the other instruments are in there. No one is going to be able to pick up on those artifacts from the vocal tuning.

Of course, the more you focus on something the more audible it becomes, so when you’re doing it sounds really obvious but generally it’ll be fine.

And the best thing to do is just finish vocal tuning then have a break come back mix it.

If you can still hear these really obvious artifacts or it sounds like it’s been auto-tuned then maybe go back and fix it but I generally find once I finish vocal tuning then I’d go have a break come back and mix. I completely forgot that I even tuned the vocal. It’s rare that I’ll actually pick up on something actually that’s really clearly auto-tuned.

Let’s move on now to mistake number 3 which is not comping the vocal.

So, it’s really tempting to just find one good take. Maybe you did a few takes at the vocal and you just find the best one and it’s good enough and you think okay I’m going to work with this.

I’m going to use this take and any notes that’s slightly out of tune I can just pull out Melodyne and fix them.

And in some cases maybe that’s the easy route, but I actually think it’s quicker and way more effective to comp the vocal to quite a high level of detail wherein you’re even choosing the best word from a different take or you are going through and doing it phrase-by-phrase rather than just picking the best take and then maybe comping out one or two bits.

So, to show you what I mean by this I’m just going to have to pull open another project.

So, here is an example of a track that’s been heavily comped and this is an earlier version of the song before it was mixed anything like that just in the recording phase, and then in the editing phase I’ve got this project here.

Have a quick listen, so you can just hear how it sounds pretty natural.

It doesn’t sound like tons of takes, but when you look I’m actually comping loads of different takes here and in total there are at least 20 takes.

Let’s have a quick listen.

What you might notice as well is it already has a kind of polished sound to it and this is with no mixing. There’s a tiny bit of compression just so it sounds nice as I’m editing it and listening back to it, but it already has this very polished sound.

And we’re used to hearing comping on the radio. When we hear a vocal on the radio it’s going to loads of different takes compiled into this perfect take.

So, as well as giving you lots more leeway for finding takes that are pitch perfect it would also give you that polished sound too.

So, you need to go through actually comp the vocal you can see here I’ve got a single words that I’m using and in other cases there might even be words that are split over two takes.

You can go really crazy with this, but you need to actually go through the effort of doing this and that was the mistake that I made. I was lazy pretty much. Didn’t bother doing as much comping as I should have, but once you’ve properly comped the vocal it means that you don’t have to do anywhere near as much pitch correction.

Now, this leads on nicely to mistake number 4, which is not recording enough takes.

Now, we’re really starting to stay away from auto-tuning here, but it all comes back to how we create the perfect vocal and more specifically how do we make sure the pitch is on point.

And if you’re going to comp you’re going to go through the effort of comping you’ve only got two takes. Well, you don’t have anywhere near as many options.

You can see here I’ve got loads of takes and I really should clean them up, but full takes we’ve got quite a lot just for this one section here that’s just one section. It’s the same here.

Now, this is because I’m a bad vocalist. I’ll be honest it’s because a lot of the performances aren’t great, so I had to record lots of takes to have it there.

But even if you are working with a really, really good vocalist you need at least three full takes is my opinion and five or so for difficult parts if they’re a bit pitchy.

If you have a luxury of doing more than five full takes, even if they’re great vocalist will just give you so much more to work with and the end result is going to be that much better.

And now finally mistake number 5 is using bad software.

Now, I’ve already covered the differences between Auto-Tune, Melodyne, and Waves Tune etc, but there are just so many plug-ins out there I’m not going to say any are bad but if you do a lot of vocal tuning it’s worth investing in good software like Melodyne or Antares Auto-Tune.

I prefer those two to Waves Tune personally.

Now, Logic for example actually have vocal tune built-in. If we turn of flex for this vocal here I can actually use pitch correction within Logic.

Now, it’s not too bad. It’s possible, but if you want to do heavy pitch correction and vocal tuning then something like Melodyne or Auto-Tune is just going to be more convincing.

There aren’t going to be as many artifacts.

You get more control and at the end of the day you’re going to get a better sound.

Now, if you only dabble in pitch correction you only want to do some minor vocal tuning every now and then, then the Logic software is pretty good.

It has lot of the same features.

We can play with the pitch, we can also play with the drift.

But if you find yourself doing a lot or you want the best results personally I notice that the quality of my vocals and the vocal edit specifically improved drastically when I invested in Melodyne and I wish I’d done it sooner.

So, there you go 5 things that I personally feel were mistakes that I made in the past I learned from.

Hopefully, you can learn from them too.

We covered quite a lot here today.

So, I put together a free vocal tuning cheat sheet that walks you through this process step-by-step and has some tips for using Melodyne too, so that you can actually apply this and make sure you get the vocal right every single time because that’s really important get the vocal right and the whole mix is going to sound great.

So, that’s all from me I’ll see you next week and remember Create Regardless.

 

Audio professional, musician and founder of Musician on a Mission.

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