Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Can't Sing? Join The Club.

Here's the scenario; You love to sing in the shower, the car, in your room when you think nobody is watching (they probably are). It's fun, it brings out emotion, it's a great pass-time, etc. The problem is, well... you suck and cause dogs and humans to avoid you. Am I hitting close to home on this yet?

This is what used to separate the nationals from the basement bands and created rock Gods. However, the time of the rock God has passed because digital audio and it's editing tools have evened the playing field. Yes, you too can sound awesome when you record yourself singing stayin' Alive for your next videoke upload.

As hard as I fought the urge to use pitch correction plugins when mixing my audio, I ended up using it here and there and now I cannot seem to mix without it as far as any modern sounding mix would require.

Before we get into the comparisons, I want to stress that "Auto-Tune" is a pitch correction product. Others are also pitch correction products. Auto-tune does not mean pitch correction. It's like calling all soda's "coke" or all motorcycles Harley Davidson. It's simply incorrect.

For this comparison I'll be using six well known pitch correction plugins. Auto-Tune 8, Izotope Nectar 2 Pitch Editor, Melodyne, Waves Tune, Gsnap, Auto-Tune EFX 3.

Gsnap - Free

Lets start with the smallest and least capable plugin, which is Gsnap. It's free and also comes pre-installed with Mixcraft 8.
You won't be manually editing a vocal recording in this one, it's more of a real time pitch correction utility. The one thing it's very good at is the whole T-Pain/Cher overly ridiculous pitch changing trick. Just pull up it's preset called "Less subtle pitch correction" and set your key (unless you are rapping in which key is not a thing).

There's no graph mode for this one and it has just a few basic settings to tweak. For free, it's a useful tool if you are looking for that T-Pain effect explained above.
You can also find Gsnap for free download at the usual vst sites like KVR.

Auto-Tune EFX 3 - $129


Auto-Tune EFX 3 is a sort of live version of Auto-Tune which is the most similar to the above Gsnap. Which is why I am reviewing it next in this list.

It's best used for following a vocal track or live vocal and fixing it on the fly. The trick is to tweak the settings so it doesn't sound obvious. Once of the features it has over Gsnap is the corrected notes are lit up and displayed on the interface so you know exactly what it is doing to your otherwise Grammy worthy vocal track.

Auto-Tune EFX 3 allows you to select the vocal type (Baritone, Alto, Soprano), the key, scale and a few other functions like humanize.

If you've got a live situation that needs some real time pitch correction, I would look into this one.

Melodyne 4 Essential - $99

This is probably the most capable and easy to use product in the list. Keep in mind that the "essential" version is a light version. If you want full bad-ass-ness you can get their Melodyne Studio which is going to cost you $700

Like some others, you need to "transfer" your track audio to the plugin before working on it. Unless you have Mixcraft 8 or greater, where any version of Melodyne you have installed will show up in the sound editor tab, integrated right into the DAW! Here's a kick ass screen shot to transfer my excitement to you!

Melodyne has these functions called macros (sort of different than a macro I am used to using) where it will automatically change the pitch, vibrato and time of your "blobs" (wave form clumps) to where it thinks they should be. It's right about 8 times out of 10.

This plugin is not for real time use, you need to edit and change the audio within the plugin to hear changes on your next playback.

Izotope Nectar 2 Pitch Editor - $229 (Suite of 7 tools)

This one is similar in functionality to Melodyne in that it's a graph, non-real time, editor where you have to transfer the audio to it first.

After transferring, the first thing I noticed is the interface is way too small for me to do any serious editing. It is resizable via a handle at bottom right, but still doesn't quite get there. The other thing I didn't like is the lack of undo, but rather a "history" section showing previous changes to revert to. This is probably just a preference.

You can set vocal range, root note and scale, along with correction strength, speed and other functions. You can also manually drag the wave forms around.

It's a nice and capable plugin, no legit complaints.

Waves Tune - $249

From the famous Waves, comes a pitch correction plugin that is again similar to Melodyne. The transfer function is one step easier in that you do not have to do anything but play your track. The plugin will capture it automatically.

It's got all the usual functions such as setting the key, scale, speed, vibrato, along with many options for the vibrato for extra human-like sound.

There's one thing about this one that would keep me from using it regularly, and that is the small interface with no resize option. Which would be fine if you were just going to let the software do everything automatically, but if that were the case, wouldn't you opt to use one of the less expensive plugins like Auto-Tune EFX 3?

I hope this helps you to learn a little about each plugin so you can make a better decision when purchasing. I will say that I use Melodyne regularly because it seems the most capable to me, and because it is integrated into Mixcraft 8, and Auto-Tune EFX 3 fairly regularly.

So stop sucking at singing. Impress your girlfriend, wow your Mom. Get a pitch correction plugin and spare the world your out of key madness :-)
Oh no, who put that picture of the Fridays girl over there?