Pitch Correction

One of the activities that all of our music training serves us well with is pitch correction. There are lots of great tools out there to change pitch, but if you don't have the musical knowledge and creative understanding you're not going to have good, consistent results.

Pitch Correction is a hot-button topic today. Quite frequently overused and applied heavy-handedly it is nevertheless a fact of life in recording. Pitch imperfections that would typically go unnoticed in a live performance are much more noticeable when they can be repeatedly played back making the standard much higher than for a live show.

It is totally possible to do significant pitch correction without everything sounding mechanistic or robotic, you just have to know what to fix and what to leave alone. Good singers can use pitch control as a means of artistic expression like the way a blues singer will approach the ‘blue note’, or a Brazilian bossa singing slightly flat for a certain effect. Here's a case in point: on the opening words of this song the vocalist sings intentionally flat to give the lyric a sarcastic, disaffected emotion.

If you pitch corrected this opening phrase you would actually be undoing the singer’s artistic expression which would be a destructive element as opposed to making it better. This is where our musician-based approach serves us well; we do just what we need to fix problems and nothing more, to preserve the basic integrity of the performance. We also understand that a good singer uses pitch control as an expressive device as well so we make sure leave those untouched.

We have two examples of pitch correction here, the first is a "before/after" comparison of what can be done to a singer who's an ‘enthusiastic amateur’, and then a project where a client shipped us some professional tracks for pitch correction which we corrected and sent back for inclusion into their master project at their facility. We are hoping that after you hear the great results we get, you'll consider having us pitch correct tracks for you, even if you're working at home. It's not that expensive and the difference is immediately noticeable on the most important track in a recording!  

Below is a video example of an amateur singer singing a popular song she likes after learning it on her own.

Not terribly bad sounding but still there are some things that need taking care of.

Below is a new performance after some vocal coaching with pitch editing applied after the fact. In this example we used a combination of automatic tuning and manual tuning as required on a moment-to-moment basis.

Ok, so lets have an honest discussion about pitch correction. We did a bunch of things to this recording to make it sound more accurate, and probably spent a good two hours doing manual pitch correction, dealing with vibrato (widening or lessening) working with Auto-Tune to fix only the long notes.

Even though it's a lot better it's still not exactly Celine Dion is it? So what does that say? At the heart of it all is 'delivery'. We were able to make her sound a whole lot better, even good, but it still doesn't send chills up your spine does it? That's because the element of "inspired performance" is less than it would be for a trained, professional singer.

So even though we love pitch correction, use it all the time to make those little things better we realize that it's really the most useful when you have a really heartfelt take that just has a few too many rough edges to release untouched. This way you can keep the energy of the great take and fix a few flaws without beating it to death for perfection's sake.

The digital world is a great one, but the musical world is the thing that the tools are meant to serve, not the other way around.

Pitch Correcting Tracks Over the Internet

Here's a job we did for an internet client. Below is a rough mix of the rhythm tracks they sent along with a male and female vocal they wanted corrected. This is the first half of the song; give it a listen and concentrate on vocal pitch…
Insert uncorrected version of Curly Love

So you're probably saying, "What's the big deal? That sounds just fine!" and that's totally true. They're professional singers and this is their umpteenth album out so how bad could it be? Well with recordings that will literally last forever with your name on them, shouldn't they be the absolute best they can be?

So how could this performance be improved? Consider the nature of this song and the melody. It's kind of a quirky little ditty that relies on the twelve note chromatic scale for its melodic interest and has some wide skips to interesting notes. If these little pitch distinctions aren't really solid then most important creative feature of this melody, it's chromaticism, is not presented as best as it could be and that would be a shame, wouldn't it?

So they shipped us the tracks and we went through and looked for anything that was a bit "loose" pitch-wise and really did our best to focus the melody solidly on the intended notes but still keep the playful, wandering quality it has. Also the male vocal doubles some of the female vocal lines down an octave, always a tough thing to keep really 'right' in a recording.

Here is the same segment of the song after pitch correction. Notice how the chromatic melody is just that much tighter, the octave singing is perfectly in tune, and the harmonies on the chorus are "spot on".

The cost to do this was only about $35; doesn't your music deserve to be everything it can be? Please call us to discuss what we might be able to do for you and how we can easily get tracks back and forth to you; you'll love the results

Pitch Correcting Notes in Chords

One of the things professional studios have in their "bag of tricks" is expensive music software that usually is not present in home studios due to high cost or a steep learning curve that takes it out of the realm of all but the most serious setups.

One of these programs is Melodyne with its patented "Direct Note Access" feature. What this thing can do is truly unique, and when you absolutely have to have it, almost magical. We could go on and on about Melodyne but the manufacturer's demo says it about as good as you can say it so take a look at this, and be blown away…

There is one quote in here which we really like by the way, where he says, "but the more I pondered the subject, the more I began to see that what doesn't work in theory can still work in reality", love it!

So please consider sending us some tracks for pitch correction, you'll be thrilled with the results!