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Vocal Recording Tips and an Autotune Trick that is Not Lame.

March 9th, 2010 | 43 Comments   « Previous  |  Episode 17  |  Next »

This episode we look at a producers history of pitch correction software, such as Antares Autotune, Celemony Melodyne and Waves Tune, explain a classic vocal production technique and show a cool trick for using autotune for vocalists that will not embarrass you when you listen back to it in a few years. We also announce the new Recording School Forum, and let you know that there is one space left for the Recording Boot Camp in the North Italian Villa

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43 Comments ~ Speak your mind »
  1. Travis

    Shorty is your girl RONAN.

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  2. Jacob Kelley

    from urbandictionary.com

    Fine *ss woman, or your girl.
    FINE *SS WOMAN–Sup shawty, how you doin

    Girlfriend—–me an my shawty went to da *ex shop yesterday and got some sh*t, yo.

    2. shawty

    A term orginating in Atlanta that, in the beginning, referred to a short person or child, but the span of the word has grown to include any and all people, especially a girl that is attractive; it is mostly used as a term of endearment to others or just a way of addressing someone, like ‘Wassup Man,’ Instead of “Man”, shawty is used.
    NOTE: Can be shortened to “shawt” or “shawtdawg”.
    “Waddup Shawty, when you coming over?”

    3. Shawty
    Refering to a s*xy female.
    Refering to a friend or associate.
    1) Aye shawty! Let me holla at ya.
    2) Was up shawty.
    3) Mann shawty you pissin me off.

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  3. Oldschoolwax

    What, no bagpipes?

    Nice show man!

    I’ve had similar results with even a short delay, something to do with the way the brain processes the auditory data. Even that slight a time shift in their own voice can sometimes produce a better result.

    ~M.

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  4. Shawty from Edmonton

    True, talk to any of the teens to mid twenties…..their favourite tunes are more likely to be artists from the past….most of the ones I talk to have their i-pods filled from oldies like Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan to Frank Sinatra and K.D. Lang…really surprised me….but their hungry….they want to be moved…..and good singers certainly can move….your voice makes people trust you Ronan and know their in good hands…a singer’s voice can open the divine beauty of all emotions…..when she’s there…we’re all there…AutoTune for me is okay as Rap being comedy or political….but no replacement for Johnny Hartman….and those beautiful pauses of silence between the lyrics….breath of life to the cities of cement…

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  5. Dot

    This is a wonderful tip for engineers and singers because it helps the singer stay confident, present and more in the right side (creative and less technical side) of their brain, so they don’t have to worry about pitch, but they’re still singing correctly, aligning to the truth of what they can do! I need to pass this on to my students who are trying to record themselves… better yet – they should ALL just go to you to record. The ones who have, have AMAZING AWARD WINNING PRODUCT so it’s obvious you know what you’re talking about! This works so well because it’s also appealing to the singer’s subconscious MIND to hear themselves correctly while they sing! Thank you for sharing your amazing knowledge!

    Dot
    Vocal Empowerment Coach

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  6. John

    One thing I did not hear mentioned, is that while using pitch correction software, you can set a tolerance of error.
    Some error introduced into the track (if you end up having to use a bit of correction) is much more pleasing than having an automaton singing on the punches… lol!

    Ronan and folks,
    Have a fantastic workshop in Italy and may the guitar amps distort as creamy as great risotto and the muffin fans whine (in the machine room) like a fine Chianti.

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  7. John

    My apologies…
    I forgot to thank you for taking the time for putting up another cool and informative production*thumbs up*

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  8. Ronan

    Hey John, You are right. Its actually possible to use pitch correction in ways that sound very natural. The trick I have found is to not fix the whole note, but just bring parts the really bad parts.

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  9. BEAR

    well for me I think auto tune came at a great time when hiphop was losing it’s creative edge. all they had to talk about was there car, chains, women, and everything that made them feel good about them selves. most important new and different.

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  10. Ronan

    Bear, I actually agree with your, but I also think it got old really really quick (at least for me). Thanks so much for chiming in.

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  11. Doug

    For me, the sound of a performance, warts and all is the bees-knees. Listen to any Johnny Cash record, including his latest, and you’ll hear very imperfect vocal performances, but emotive, and honest performances from the heart. That always wins for me. Ronan, I think you’re right that this has probably run its course except as a comic footnote.

    I really do appreciate this site and your vids Ronan. As a basement project studio afficianado (who dreams of someday breaking out of the basement) these are like music to my ears and soooo motivating!

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  12. Marcello

    Just curious — what was the first song to crank up the autotune? I mean, really make it noticeable? Most folks cite Cher’s “Believe” from 1998, but were there any before that? You never know, this might be a question in “Trivial Pursuit: Audio Geek Edition”!

    PS Thanks, Ronan! ‘nother excellent show :-)

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  13. Ronan

    Marcello, As far as I know it was “Believe” by Cher. That was called the “Cher effect” until T-Pain came along. -Ronan

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  14. Pal Sheldon

    Hey there Ronan… Whew you sound busy… Just one comment.. If the vocalist is having trouble one thing might be to check the cans mix for extra solos or chords that are difficult to pitch over.. Keep the HP Mix simple and you may find a happy singer on the other end of the mic…

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  15. Jacob

    Great show, Ronan! Using autotune in order to not use autotune might just be the next industry standard. Just picked up a copy of Melodyne and on the next round of recording I think I’m going to try this technique out.

    Thank you!

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  16. Jacob

    Great show, Ronan! Using autotune in order to not use autotune might just be the next industry standard. Just picked up a copy of Melodyne and on the next round of recording I think I’m going to try this technique out.

    Thank you!

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  17. Ronan

    Pal, Thanks so much for sharing that tip. -Ronan

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  18. Ben

    The chorus definitely helps keep me in tune! We’ve had Melodyne for a bit but have never really wanted to use it… it’s just so…un-natural. :P

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  19. John J

    Just checking in Ronan, glad your back. Just a little bit of advice brother keep up the good work but not at a price of killing the messenger. Great show. It[s funny your starting a recording school forum its exactly what I’m interesting in. It couldn’t have happen at a better time. BRAVO!

    Ronan, got a question. How soon will we see of the 1k and up recording equipment or latest product comparisons? I learned so much from your five hundred dollar range. When it comes to audio I’m all ear. Pardon the pun. Take care.

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  20. Zedave

    Hi Ronin, first time I’ve seen your show, it fills a much needed niche. I’m of the same or older vintage, and have used those excellent techniques when producing/recording.

    Have you ever addressed the issue of headphone polarity for a singer when recording? This is something only the singer can hear, and only at a headphone volume that matches what their eardrum is hearing from “inside” the head, which is usually not that loud. Years ago, it sure was causing a lot of anxiety in a singer who I knew could hit it usually, until I figured it out. This polarity reversal can happen anywhere in the signal path or at the headphones. This time it was the cans that were the problem. I actually had an email confirmation from AKG in Germany that stated their 241 studio monitor line, were all made with the polarity reversed at the factory for “historical reasons”, which made me laugh! It can really cause a problem with singers and pitch. Some splitters, and mixers have also flipped the headphone polarity internally in my experience.

    As a singer I can say it has a very phasey sound in the cans, and I use an analog monitoring system, so there is no latency fuzziness to consider. Now I test the path occasionally by sending a prerecorded tone out the headphones with one cup over the mic, and recording it into a muted channel for an obvious indication of polarity, and system latency, at the headphone. Switching the polarity/phase(wrong term but common usage) on the preamp or with a rat tail at the mic will quickly solve the problem.

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  21. Ronan

    Thanks for chiming in Dave.
    Listening to the Buzz Trouts on myspace right now. “find me a cure is like a slowed “Nervous breakdown” by black flag. -Ronan

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  22. Thomas W

    A short delay actually does have the same effect. A scientist figured this out whilst studying the “chorus effect” on people who have speech impediments. Using an in-ear delay device, the chorus effect takes place and the patient will no longer stutter. Makes sense that it would also help singers

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  23. Francisco

    awesome 13 minutes 16 seconds. can’t wait for the next one.

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  24. Zedave

    Hi Ronan, this is a personal note. Thanks for mentioning my band name, we got a lot of hits today, and sorry for misspelling your name. Dave

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  25. Virginia Wagner

    Another great episode Ronan! The beginning was very cool. Great subject too. I also liked the Leslie speaker ending! Have fun in Italy, Paison!
    Virginia

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  26. Rob

    Just got one of the usual Musician’s Friend emails today but this time, what was the first tech tip at the top of their newsletter? Ronan doing a video on tracking piano for A-Design… Too bad they didn’t have a link to your site on there, you’d probably be getting overloaded with hits tonight. You’re becoming a star, Ronan ;-)

    Keep up the great work!

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  27. Albert

    Thanks Ronan, great episode, lots of useful stuff! The “choir trick” is genius in that it is simple yet effective. I’ll be using that on myself from now on.

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  28. NYMorningstar

    Thank you for another great episode. I don’t totally agree with your premise of singing in a choir will improve your singing in tune. If you heard some of the choirs I’ve been in you’d know what I mean. Some people are just God awful and nothing is going to help them but learning the basics of music and practice, practice practice.

    I haven’t found a good use for autotune yet. There’s nothing like real talent.

    I wish I could make Italy, I’m jealous but I’m kinda busy doing God’s work right here in the states. I hope it’s more fun than work for you :)

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  29. Greg M

    Hi Ronan,
    Do you find that singers get used to hearing the 4 auto-tuned support vocals and then feel that the actual vocal isn’t strong enough by itself the first time they hear the mix?

    Greg

    PS: I am enjoying the alumni forum and suggest to all alums (current and future) that they should join too!

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  30. Ronan

    Greg, Great question. I have not really found this to be the case, and in truth when I am doing this sort of trick, I am often only using it for some of the most difficult lines.-Ronan

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  31. Phillip

    true… autotune is crap… Jay-Z’s D.O.A. (death of autotune) is truth. Real hip hop is Rakim, KRS-ONE, Immortal Technique, Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, and, of the current crop, Eminem. Screw lil wayne. he sucks. A LOT!!!!!!!!

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  32. Ronan

    I am a MUCH bigger fan of older hip hop than the new stuff, but for some reason I hear something really interesting in Lil Wayne’s voice. There is a deep expressiveness to his vocals. I feel like he means it, which is something I do not get from many modern artists.

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  33. eóin m

    exxon invented auto-tune in the 70’s. at that time the software was used for sonar location of oil fields!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYzv-AVi78E

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  34. Sam

    Wonderful Blog I love it!

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  35. Curtis

    Great tips!

    Thanks

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  36. Nathan Lee

    Can you just turn of all background music (drums, guitar, etc.), have the singer with one headphone on and one headphone off. On the headphone that’s on, the singer will be hearing the melody line. The melody line can be created by piano, flute, etc.

    In this way, the singer can hear themselves because one of the headphone is off, but at the same time hear the melody line without any background music (drums, guitar, etc.) to distract him/her. Please tell me what you think about this technique?

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  37. Nathan Lee

    You say that the singer need reference when recording, but what happen when he/she have to sing live? During a live performance, there won’t be any reference unless you count the background music/instrumentals (drums, piano, etc.) as reference.

    Why can’t the singer practice it enough to be able to sing an Acapella? Please let me know what you think?

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  38. Tracy Latham

    Golden tip, there, Ronan. Can’t thank you enough. I’ll be using that on myself.

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  39. Mark Allen

    I just found your show, and I hope you have great success.After 40 years of playing, your show inspired me to pursue more on the recording side, so I went out and bought some toys this week. I didnt have much to start with, so I went with the Zoom R16 recorder, a nice Behringer mic preamp, and the MXL v67G Mic that you suggested, on one of your shows. Ended up staying up through the whole night watching episodes. I couldnt pull myself away!Keep up the great work!

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  40. Turi

    Here’s is how I usually approach songs that have a really hard lead vocal part (as a singer and as a producer)

    I lay down several takes, maybe two or three, then leave only the one that I like the best and mute the others (sometimes it’s needed to take a phrase or two of one of the others track i’ve already laid down).

    Then I leave that one semi-good vocal track on and record another one (almost as if I was laying down double tapes). Then mute the older one and leave the last one on and record a double of that one, and so on, as many times as studio time and vocal chords allow.

    So, in the end I pick one or two really good vocal tracks. Sometimes I choose to actually leave it doubled in the mix. Sometimes when I really like a bit or two of one track I cut and paste it into the final vocals. But in the end I usually get a really good result that sounds natural, like a real good life performance, or maybe a really well worked vocal studio track.

    That’s how I usually do it, whatchathink?

    PD: I’ve discovered sometimes it helps to have the vocal harmonies or backing vocal parts somewhat loud in the headphone mix in order to really nail the leading vocal notes and stay the hell in pitch, in tune, hitting it out of the park! hehe

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  41. mike

    Has anyone told you how much you look like Gene Hoglan?

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  42. Justin

    I actually do the same thing with AutoTune. Makes me proud I figured out the same trick!

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  43. Gino

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on pitch correction software.
    Regards

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