Melodyne: Tuning Vocals… and Tuning Guitars, Keyboards and Other Things During the Mix

melodyne

This post will most likely find a much smaller interested audience than my last post, which topped half a million readers (craziness!). This time I’m talking to that unique demographic of people who spend countless hours in the engineer’s chair at a recording studio. So, for the 12 people who will read this, I’ve discovered a wonderful program called Melodyne.

For years, I’ve been involved in vocal production for studio projects. I am always striving to get the best sound, as any engineer would do. Some musical styles call for that slightly out of tune floating-around-the-pitch sound. I am not involved in much of that. My stable of projects either have a full band with a lead vocal and background vocals that need tuning, or a complete a capella song where everything needs tuning.

For years, I’ve used a program called Autotune. Most people have heard of this, since it was popularized by its overuse, resulting in robotic voicing. I believe Cher was one of the first to do this back in the 90’s. It’s so popular it has resulted in a slew of iOS apps that achieve the same result for the fun of it. Too much.

For the past four years, I’ve used Autotune as a preliminary step with very soft settings and then tweaked with the native tuning settings found in Digital Performer, the DAW by MOTU. It’s a bit tedious, but gives very good results if you know how to use it.

Thomas Dulin, one of our former engineers, introduced me to Melodyne by Celemony. This wonderful programs takes the art of tuning in post and turns it into something resembling midi editing. The controls are simple and very powerful. They achieve amazingly realistic results with just a few strokes. Celemony claims that Melodyne is a quantum leap in technology for tuning. I think I agree.

One of the most most amazing things about Melodyne is its ability to tune in polyphony. No longer are we limited to single lines of melody. Now you can tune individual notes of a guitar chord or piano arpeggio. You can turn an A Major chord into a minor chord. And that’s just the beginning.

Melodyne analyzes your chord structure to determine the key and structures your tuning grid so that your tuning options all fall within acceptable ranges. No more guessing or experimenting. Suppose the first couple of musicians on the track tuned their instruments to a mis-calibrated tuner? You can either retune their entire performance, or you can change your Melodyne settings for future takes. The program allows you to set A from 440 to something else, thereby shifting the entire tuning calibration.

Melodyne also offers some pretty sweet quantization settings, which you normally don’t get with tuning programs. Overall, this is an amazing program. If you haven’t seen it in action, they offer a 30-day free trial and it’s well worth your time.

This program has been available for almost 10 years, so I’m way behind the curve on this. But, better late than never. Here’s a short 10-minute video that will tell you more. Enjoy!

Comments

  1. Melodyne is the bomb.

    Not only is it good for fine tuning (ahem), but it’s good for writing and arranging. As a bass, it’s hard for me to sing all the parts of an arrangement I hear in my head, but I can arrange it with Melodyne any way I want.

    I don’t think I’d release anything as a “final form” like that, but it’s great for letting the other vocalists hear what I want recorded.

    Good article, my friend!

  2. This is so coool

  3. Mike "Ed" Forehand says:

    I’ve been using Waves Tune, which is of the same principle of Melodyne. Love it, but as with Autotune, I find that it is like a scalpel…only to be used with knowledge of end effects/consequences/results. They don’t let “just anyone” into surgery, so, as one of the twelve to read this article, its a tool that is highly useful. But don’t use it as a crutch. I’d rather spend a couple of hours catching the right take, than gloss it over with something that can often sound artificial.

    Great topic though, Mo.

    • garymoyers says:

      We have the Waves plugin set as well. Never tried the Tune module. I’ll check it out. I’m not sure that we have that package. Is it in Gold?

      • Gary, Waves Tune is in the Gold Package. It looks a lot like autotune. There is a fairly decent tuning plugin included with the AURIA DAW for iPad.

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