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In Praise of Pitch Correction

permalink   Fri, Sep 18, 2009 @ 12:22 PM
While pitch correction technology has been in the news recently as an effect for it’s own sake, I wanted to take a moment to praise this technology when it’s applied transparently. While pitch correction is probably mostly applied to vocals, it can also be used for instrumental melodies or bass lines.

Singing well for a recording is really, really hard. I admire good singing more than I can express here. In most singing, several dimensions must be nailed for a great “take”. This is already simplifying things, but I like to think of a great performance as having the right:

- annunciation of the words
- energy of the performance (volume, intensity and such)
- pitch

It’s really hard to nail all three of those during the same take. That’s why great vocal recordings have often been the result of hundreds of takes.

Today’s recording technology can make only relatively small fixes to annunciation (like fixing S’s) and energy levels (volume can be fixed via compression, but a “listless” performance less so).

However, today’s technology can fix pitch issues. Quite easily and stunningly well.

That’s why I’m always a bit saddened when a great remix has out of tune vocals on it, because it’s technically so easy to fix. To my subjective ears, out-of-tune is the number one issue turning good music into bad music (badly mismatched chords probably being the second worst to my ears, but chording is always more arguable).

Who should apply the pitch correction? In traditional studios it’s typically a part of the studio gear, not the vocalist’s arsenal. So as a remixer/producer I’ve always thought it should be in my toolkit.

However if I was a vocalist, I would probably apply pitch correction to all of my recordings before I ever hit the upload button, just to put my own performance in the best light possible.

While many other studio effects are available in entry level versions for little or no money, I don’t think this is the case with pitch correction technology yet. So one would have to allocate some funds to it.

I have used 4 different technologies so far, and all of them do a very credible job:

Anatares Autotune (this can be gotten in software and hardware)
Celemony Melodyne (software)
Cubase 5’s new built-in pitch correction tools (software)
TC-Helicon VoiceLive (hardware only)

I believe there are some others, but I don’t have personal experience with their use.

Bottom line: If there’s room in your musical budget and if you produce or create vocal melody based music, you may want to seriously consider investing in pitch correction technology. It can make a bigger quality difference in the end result than many other expenditures.
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permalink   victor Fri, Sep 18, 2009 @ 11:15 PM
Sorry, but it is not ok to be wantonly off pitch or off beat. If you can fix it, you should fix it.

While I agree that a certain amount of casual slacking is an essential element to the coolness of the site, the ultimate reason we continue to attract smart, fun, talented artists and why our music is featured in 10s of millions of downloads via YouTube, is because, at the end of the day, we give a shit if the vocals are out of tune.

I just can’t believe any of this would work if the collective standards were as low as all that.
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permalink   victor Sat, Sep 19, 2009 @ 10:06 AM
Quote: … are you speaking as FS the remixer/producer…or as a representative of ccM

neither. I’m speaking as a member of a community who values the collective face we put on our output. When you post here you are not an individual making decisions without consequnce to others. You are speaking for all of us. If a singer is pitchy and that’s the best they can do then it’s up to the producer to fix it. Whoever is best suited to put the best face on what we are doing and saying together. Because thats what we do - we make
each other better artists than we would be in a solitary space.