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


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.

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Acappella Memories: Alvin!

As I mentioned in my last Acappella Memories post, we had a rule: Never stop the song. Most people will never catch the mistake if you just finish the song. At best, if they catch it, they will forget it. Just finish the song. This led to some hilarious outcomes.

I remember one concert where Kevin Schaffer came barreling out of the curtain at the edge of the stage and tripped over the legs of the backstage lights. He spilled onto the floor. Kevin, as only he could do, morphed it into a hilarious pose, laying on his side with his head propped up on his arm. He looked like… well, I probably shouldn’t say what he looked like. But we all thought it was hilarious, and all this while the song continued. Kevin turned a potential disaster into a funny event. The only problem was that we were singing for a somewhat new audience who didn’t know Kevin’s personality yet. So, they didn’t get it.

Oh well. You can’t win them all.

Cincinnati: the Twilight Zone

There were certain areas in the country where our popularity just exploded. I mentioned South Bend, IN in an earlier post. Another area similar to this was the Cincinnati-Dayton area. We sang there annually in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Oftentimes we would do 2 (and sometimes 3) concerts per weekend in the same venue.

Brennan Dean was our promoter for that area and he was very good. We always sang at a church in Middletown, halfway between Cincinnati and Dayton. The place sat about 2700 people packed out, and it was almost always packed out. One particular Sunday afternoon in late 1989 was no different.

We had just released the album Growing Up in the Lord and were performing several songs from that album, most notably Water From the Well where all the kids in the building would join us on stage. But that’s another story. We kicked off the song I Can Walk when it happened.

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What Can’t A Cappella Groups Do?

Deke SharonDeke Sharon posted this article this morning. I don’t usually reblog someone’s work on the same day they post, but this one is really good. You can see the original article at this link. If you are a singer in the a cappella genre and don’t follow Deke or CASA, you’re missing out. They are great supporters of a cappella and have done much to advance the art. With full kudos to Deke, here is his article:

I just got off the phone with a friend who has a well known a cappella group (which shall remain nameless) that just got new management. Great new management.

However, like many managers, this person doesn’t really know what to do with a cappella. “What can an a cappella group do?”

What can we do?!? What CAN’T we do?

Opening For Other Acts

There is no better opening act than an a cappella group. Why? No instruments means no load in and no space needed on stage. Just float out in front of the band’s set up, do your thing, and the headliner doesn’t have to worry about your production value or sound upstaging their set, and yet they know the audience will love it. Comedians are risky (too racy? too corny?), a cappella is perfect. Doesn’t usually pay that well, but you make lots of new fans, sell albums in the lobby at intermission, and see the world. A great way to fill in off days in your home town (establish a relationship with local theaters, stadiums and promoters), and a great way to get you on a plane to new regions, where you can make…

Television or Radio Appearances

Slip on stage and slip off stage. A love song for Valentine’s Day, “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” on opening day, “When The Saints go Marching In” for Mardi Gras. There’s a song for almost every holiday, and a pre-existing arrangement if you don’t have time to pull one together yourselves. And while you’re there, giving the morning show or cable access arts program a nice five minute segment, you’re also promoting the rest of your gigs. No pay, but excellent audio and video promotion you can cut into your promo video and splash all over our social media sites. Along the same lines, there are always…

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Should You Buy Professional Arrangements?

sheet music chopinI ran across a blog entry by Mike Chin, co-founder of The A Cappella Blog, and it raised a good question. I thought I might pass it along. It seems to be a pretty hot topic in collegiate a cappella, especially in light of the hit TV show The Sing-Off. I haven’t heard as much about it in the Christian a cappella ranks, but I know it’s present. I’ve dealt with it myself over the years.

He states, “There’s an established market for the sale of professionally written a cappella arrangements. With this in mind, it is best for your group to buy arrangements rather than trying to compose your own?” He goes on to point out dissenting viewpoints.

Buy It Quickly and Move Forward

There’s a pretty good argument for buying an existing arrangement or contracting someone to knock it out for you. As more people come into the a cappella fold every year, the number of arrangers and arrangements increases making songs more available and more affordable. Pay for it and get it done quickly. You’ll save countless hours of energy trying to work out the arrangement that will pay off in a perfected performance.

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