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Top 10 Vocal Tuning Tips

  • Use High Pass Filter First
  • De-ess Before Tuning
  • Helpful Melodyne Tips
  • Helpful Metatune Tips
  • Using a Stock Tuner
  • Quick Antares Auto-tune Overview
  • Waves Tune Tips
  • Why You Should Saturate After Tuning
  • Using Soothe 2 After Tuning
  • If Needed, Omit Tuning Occasionally

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Use High Pass Filter First

Tuners are somewhat finicky when ti comes to what they determine as notes - that said, it’s best to remove any non-musical signals from your vocal before tuning. I’ll use an EQ with a high pass filter to remove everything below the vocal’s fundamental or lowest note.

This will make it easier for the tuner to measure the pitch of the signal, resulting in more accurate tuning. Let’s listen and note that the difference will be small, and can vary from tuner to tuner, but will help nonetheless.

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De-ess Before Tuning

Like last chapter, unwanted frequencies can be difficult for a tuner to recognize - one of the biggest examples of this is sibilance or ess sounds. I’ve noticed that even with great tuners like Melodyne that try to account for these frequencies, sibilance can still be accidentally tuned, causing weird phase cancellation.

With that in mind, I’ll de-ess the vocal before tuning to reduce the level of sibilance, making it less likely to be recognized as a note by the tuner. Let’s listen and notice that although subtle, this helps reduce unwanted tuning.

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Helpful Melodyne Tips

Let’s take a look a Melodyne’s essential plugin - to use it I just need to insert it on the vocal, click trigger, and then playback the signal. Before doing this, I want to ensure that the key is correct, and the algorithm being used is set to Melodic.

I get the best results when I tune everything to 100%, with a moderate pitch drift setting, and then go in and drag some notes slightly to humanize the sound.

Lastly, I’ll subtly use the dynamics function, which emphasizes the now-tuned signal by amplifying quieter parts of the performance.

Let’s take a listen.

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Helpful MetaTune Tips

MetaTune is quickly becoming another popular tuning option - first, I’ll set the key, in this case, B major, and then enable the shortest setting for note stabilization. Using the sustain function, I’ll input a negative value to dynamically lower the speed of the tuning, resulting in a natural sound.

If you want a more obvious tuning effect, simply increase the speed.

Let’s listen to how MetaTune affects the vocal performance.

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Using a Stock Tuner

Getting a good sound out of a stock tuner can be tricky - here are a couple of tricks I use to make it sound better. First, I time the tuning speed to 1 quarter note in milliseconds; I find this value by dividing 60000 by my session’s BPM.

Although this doesn’t make the transitions completely seamless, it times them to the track, making them slightly less noticeable when covered by snare hits, or other instrumentation.

Again, I’ll set the scale to B major for this particular vocal, but if I notice the signal is triggering an out-of-key note, I’ll first enable the note, in this case, C, then bypass it.

What this does is allow the vocal to first occupy C without being snapped to C# - then the bypass function disables any tuning to C.

As a result, the note will go untuned, which isn’t ideal but is definitely better than having a note sound artificially tuned.

Let’s take a listen to what Logic’s stock tuner does to the vocal.

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Quick Antares Auto-Tune Overview

The version of Auto-tune that I’m using here is pretty limited, but let’s take a quick look regardless. Again, I’ll set my key to B major for this particular vocal, before reducing the tuning speed to slow and the humanize function to its maximum setting.

The only other thing I can do to alter the sound is to enable or disable the trigger’s sensitivity in the settings. So not much to cover here, but in case this is what you’re using I wanted to give it an overview.

Let’s take a listen.

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Waves Tune Tips

Last up for looking at specific tuners, let’s cover the Lite version of Waves Tune. With this plugin, I’ll set the scale again, which will show me which notes are out of key - then I’ll delete any irrelevant notes and drag any notes that need to be repositioned.

The easiest thing to miss about this plugin is that the speed, note transition, and pitch correction, don’t have to apply to the full section.

Each note can have distinct settings, making it easier to fine-tune and get a natural sound.

Let’s listen to how the Waves Tune plugin affects the audio.

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Why You Should Saturate After Tuning

Regardless of the tuner that you use, you should almost always saturate the vocal after tuning. Saturation imparts harmonics, or overtones of the fundamental frequency - if this fundamental is in tune, then the harmonics will also be as well, causing more of the overall frequency response to be in tune.

By increasing the ratio of the vocal’s in-tune frequencies to out-of-tune ones, we essentially augment any tuning we’ve done so far, but without the artifacts that a tuner can introduce.

Let’s listen to how saturation, and in particular the harmonics saturation generates, improves the sound of the vocal.

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Using Soothe 2 After Tuning

Like I said last chapter, tuning can introduce unwanted artifacts - I’ve also noticed that it can create unwanted resonances, usually in the low-mids to mids. For this reason, I like to use Soothe 2 after tuning to dynamically attenuate any unwanted resonances caused by tuning.

Let’s take a listen to how soothe 2 improves the clarity of the vocal and reduces some of the artifacts imparted by tuning.

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If Needed, Omit Tuning Occasionally

Sometimes when you’re tuning, a note simply won’t tune correctly or sound correct when tuned. When that’s the case, don’t be afraid to omit the note or passage from being tuned - to do this I usually isolate the clip and bring it to a track without a tuner.

You can also automate the bypass of the tuner, but I find takes more time, and doesn’t always work well if latency is involved.

Let’s listen to a vocal with parts omitted from tuning, and notice how it can be done without any issues if we isolate the clip.

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