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How Melodyne Is Used In Music Production

Updated on November 8, 2014

Autotune - The Secret Pop Producers Can't Live Without

Auto tuning software - what are its pros and cons? Have you heard of melodyne? What is melodyne? What is autotuning software? How do autotune and melodyne compare?

This page is all about autotune and melodyne. If you want a superb illustration of everything autotune is about, and how the pop industry uses it to produce a certain type of sound, listen to Jason Derulo. (Forget the fact that he is an amazing mover, close your eyes and just listen....)

Intro image is my own design, please do not copy

The creative use of Autotune Evo and Melodyne Studio

The purpose of tuning software

The creative use of Autotune Evo and Melodyne Studio doesn't mask the true purpose of tuning software - removing tuning errors from singers. In the olden days, it used to be that if you couldn't carry a tune at all, you couldn't sell a record. Sometimes bands sounded a little out of time or off key but we loved them all the better for it. Can you imagine tuning up the Beatles or The Animals favourite tracks? Heresy! It was part of the sound.

Multitracking arrived big time in the 1980s. In the digital revolution, the music business became the music industry and million dollar studios were created to turn eager kids into overnight sensations. This still happens. The biggest unspoken secret was Autotune. With this arcane programme you could actually change the note a singer produced and tune up every error. Stars performed live, audiences thought their live performances sucked, so onboard units were produced to tune notes between microphone and speaker!

Sometimes if you listen VERY carefully you can hear it done. Sometimes it is deliberately overdone to produce that Akon voice. Unless you have worked with this technology you have no idea how powerful it is. This lens is to tell you about Autotune and my Adventures with Melodyne!

Recording Glossary

A Short Explanation of Tech Speak

DAW - Digital Audio Workstation - can be a home computer running Freeware.

Analogue Recording - Recording direct to a mixing desk in real time.

Autotune - software that corrects tuning errors or otherwise manipulates pitch.

Dongle Port - I am told that it has nothing to do with sailors.....

iLok - a way of storing software registration on line so that multiple computers can run the same program.

Sound On Sound - major reviewer of music equipment and software.

Autotune - the Secret Pop Producers Can't Do Without!

What are people saying about autotune? What does the industry think? Which artist wants royalties each time autotune is used? Can X-Factor contestants really sing? These are the questions you can answer here!

Autotune - the Industry Standard?

An Exceptional Programme, but....

First of all I am going to explain first why I didn't purchase Autotune for my little choral music projects. It can sound quite robotic for one thing, but more importantly for me was the cost of equipment needed. To run Autotune, you need to upgrade all mixing software to the full professional versions to be sure of it working. It works in tandem with most of the major DAWs (digital audio workstation) in a vst environment (virtual studio). This includes Pro-Tools, Cubase and other major digital mixers. Autotune's manufacturers - used to be Antares, but I believe they were taken over by Avid - list suitable programmes on site. Some have limited functionality.

You also need a digital recording desk, a new dedicated Dongle Port and you even need to purchase an iLok key before you can register and use Autotune. This set-up can and will cost you thousands of dollars, not counting the computer itself , the monitors or the instruments. It is all very techy and off-putting to a middle-aged someone who just basically wants to use it as a composer and eventually produce demos of choral compositions.

I didn't want to buy a new DAW - the first and last time I tried Cubase it crashed my computer. I am so tech minded I am not even sure what a Dongle Port is and nobody would tell me what or where to buy an iLok.... Autotune lost the sale for that simple reason. Had they included an iLok, or even explained what a Dongle was I would have bought their programme....

Melodyne Rides To The Rescue

DNA and Peter Gabriel clinched it....

No, not THAT kind of DNA and I have no idea how distantly related I am to THE Mr Gabriel.... DNA means Direct Note Access, a new system offered by Melodyne Editor. Peter Gabriel is one of the enthusiastic Melodyne users who turned my thinking around....

Now, for someone who IS a musician and composer, not a computer geek, the write up comparison in Sound On Sound clinched it for me. Melodyne had an interface that would show me notation as well as annoying little boxes and wiggly lines. I could SEE if a wrong note had crept in and tune that note individually to be almost perfect.

Melodyne will transpose, which makes singing all parts of my choral pieces a distinct possibility so I can produce demos interested choirs can hear. Not only could it tranpose my voice up or down to notes I could never dream of reaching, but it could also make me sound like a bass or a coloratura soprano instead of a light mezzo with an added tenor range....

My tuning isn't too bad by some standards (hear me out singing Celtic Dream on iTunes - that is not tuned or tweaked) BUT when I am at the extreme of my range I sometimes try too hard and sing sharp. Melodyne offered the possibility of discreetly correcting these errors.

I ordered up the demo version and tried it out. The samples they had were so annoying, but I could see how easy it was to work with and within hours Amazon had the order.

My album Flying to meet the Sunrise features both tuned and untuned tracks

Retrofitting Rhythms....

Melodyne does more than tune files

As a practical musician with a taste for subtle orchestrations, I occasionally find myself in the position of wanting a "flute" or "fiddle" added at a later stage. If the guitar parts are recorded live first this makes it difficult to insert the track. Melodyne gives you the ability to insert and quantize. I used it recently however just to determine the speed of a file made with a drum machine. I wanted to write a fiddle part, but could not get the speed right. With Melodyne, I determined the actual speed was 119.916, reset the metronome mark on Sibelius to 119.916, and thus did not have to quantize the song and risk losing subtlety. It is a killer app!

Melodyne Studio - Melodyne's Top of the Range Product

This is the Top of the Range Melodyne product - the full professional version is also due to be updated this coming week!

Celemony Melodyne Studio Bundle
Celemony Melodyne Studio Bundle
I may well upgrade from Editor to Studio in the near future. I am so satisfied with Melodyne's performance so far but I have not got much spare cash at present. It might be my birthday treat.... Who knows....

Melodyne in Action

I am very impressed

My order arrived next day and I couldn't wait to use it, but for work and then personal reasons it had to wait until the following evening. I then spent a joyful three hours experimenting with the Akon effect, the chipmunk voice and the jolly green giant before I set it to some proper tasks.

The big advantage of Melodyne for me is that I can use this programme in stand alone mode. I can tweak samples I have recorded, then mix them in my cheap and cheerful NCH Mix Pad and Wave Pad software. Finally I can check the complete mix and fine tune anything the effects chain has moved. This is a HUGE advantage for someone who works with budget mixing software. It doesn't require you to upgrade from a free or cheap DAW because it has stand alone mode!

It does take quite a while to load samples as it uses a ton of computer memory at the loading stage, but after that it works like a dream!

White In The Moon - Song for Piano and Voice....

Melodyne in action, producing a classical song track for download on Amazon.

White In The Moon
White In The Moon
This song was written as a setting of A.E.Housman's poem for tenor and piano. I wanted to showcase the song to real tenor singers, and yes, I can reach all the notes - just, but not always in tune! Melodyne enabled me to tune up one or two crunches on the lower notes and create a smoother sound. I did not use the autotune plug-in, but the individual note DNA approach for a more naturalistic effect.

Lisa Marie Gabriel On Napster - Members can stream my music for free....

If you have Napster, you can stream unlimited music, with free Napster (states only) you can stream three times before you have to buy. This is a way I can get my music heard by people who might enjoy it. This link should work for those with membership, for non-members it will lead to a sign up page.

Melodyne's other products - Digital Music Software....

You can even search for Autotune if you would rather....

My Melodyne Project - White In The Moon on Sibelius Music

I sang this in the EXACT key you hear on the MP3. This is in tenor register and very low indeed for me, so it was difficult to sing everything exactly in tune and some of my notes were quite significantly sharp. Also, to make the singing more powerful I recorded the vocal several times and "tracked it" to produce a soft and natural chorus. This made it necessary to tidy the final result. I used Melodyne to do this and was quite happy with the result.

Now some Autotune products will do a LOT more than just tidy up the mix, and if you have the right gear already you might consider using Autotune instead of Melodyne. They are both excellent programmes.

Personally, I hate to see this software used to excess. I prefer a natural sound, but the modern consumer is used to the perfection big studios offer. If you can't sing a note it doesn't matter, if you are an average to good singer you can be made to sound like an angel. I hate it when instrumentalists use it though... they sound like computers!

Autotune and Melodyne can be used discreetly or used clumsily (or to excess) We don't ban antibiotics for everyone because some people are allergic, we just use them with care - and that is how these programmes should be used.

Perhaps you have been thinking about cleaning up some vocals?

Perhaps the idea makes your blood run cold.

Here is the place to have your say.

© 2010 Lisa Marie Gabriel


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