Most of us probably aren’t terribly interested in the technical aspects of vocal tuning. And really, we don’t have to be. As long as we know how to use our software to achieve the desired result, we know all we need to! That being said, there’s some interesting information behind how pitch correction operates.
At the most basic level, vocal tuning relies on a form of “phase vocoding.” A vocoder analyzes the amplitude of frequencies in a voice and determines the overall “shape” of a vocalist. The shape then controls a set of filters in the vocoder which are applied to an alternate signal. So, in traditional vocoding, the voice acts as a modifier of a wave shape or sound. In pitch correction, the voice works as a controller for a pitch shifted version of itself. The general principle behind traditional vocoding is responsible for the way vocal tuning software works.
Auto-Tune might look complicated, but there are 3 main parameters you should focus on first.
After setting the correct key and input type, your main parameter to worry about is Retune Speed. If you have a great vocalist and aren’t going for the Auto-Tune effect, slower Retune Speeds are where you’ll want to be.
Start with the default speed of 20, and adjust to taste. If you’re still hearing lots of the Auto-Tune effect at 20, try going slower until you achieve the desired result.
The Humanize function is also quite helpful for adding realism to sustained notes. Normally, to get short notes in key you’ll be forced to use shorter Retune Speeds. Humanize is sort of a compensation for that, which helps to smooth out and naturalize quick Retune Speeds.
Additionally, you can make use of Flex-Tune. With Flex-Tune at 0, Auto-Tune is always pulling every note toward a target scale note. Flex-Tune makes it so Auto-Tune only pulls as the singer approaches the correct note. Try turning up Flex-Tune to preserve a singer’s expressiveness.
Set the Retune Speed to 0. Voila.
Seriously though, there are lots of misnomers about what Auto-Tune can do. The plugin doesn’t work miracles. In other words, it won’t turn a monotone performance into a melodic marvel, and it won’t make a bad singer sound amazing. A bad singer will actually sound worse with Auto-Tune many times, because the software is working overtime trying to correct bad pitches.
You can make the most of Auto-Tune and its very popular stylized “robot” effect when you have a capable vocalist getting their pitches at least in the ballpark, if not near dead-on, with a super fast Retune Speed.