Musical question (variaudio related)

What do you guys think? When a vocaslist records their parts, how much off perfect pitch is okay? There are 100 cents in each semi-tone. Say they are 50 cents off(half off dead center), or even 100 cents off. Do you go to vari audio and do pitch correction?

Basically, when do YOU reach for that tool and start tuning the vocals?
Also, what is your experience with most artists? Are most of them dead center, half off of perfect pitch, etc?

Thanks everyone.

Also, I’d like to ask, is it REALLY possible to tell if there is tuning to vocals on someone who was, say, 75 cents off, if you DO NOT know how their natural voice sounds? People say there is auto tune on this or that person, but how can you really tell if it is so small and you don’t know how their natural singing voice really sounded to begin with?

Like me for example, I have a little scruff in my voice which can sound electronic at times, but if you didnt know that, you might think i used pitch correction!


When it comes to things like VariAudio or Melodyne you might want to run some of the reference pitches (music tracks) throught it first if you’re not sure, to see if the pitch reference is dead on. That’s often the danger of automatic vocal tuning, the assumption that the music itself is dead on perfect pitch.

I mean, if the entire band is tuned 25 cents off and if the singer is dead on pitch with the band, the vocal will look 25 cents off the grid in VariAudio (you’d think) since it’s own reference is perfect tuning, A440 or whatever.

So, I only tune stuff like vocal phrases that obviously sound a little flat or sharp in context and I still go by ear, not by grid.

I’d take a different view!

If you had a Bob Dylan vocal, or perhaps Frank Sinatra…imagine you had just recorded it, would you be reaching for a correction box? To my ears both artists are well ‘pitchy’ at times but undeniably both super-greats. Would they and their artistry be ‘improved’ by computer tuning? I think not.

I get the tools out with some singers of course, but I encourage good performances and listen for those indefinables such as heart / passion / message. No singer should have to conform to super-accurate tuning. We’ll be banning vibrato next…“hey mate your voice is wobbling all over the place, I can see it on the meter”

So, get the best recording you can, then use your ears to determine if autotune or variaudio is right for your project. There is no magic marker point beyond which lies ‘out of tune’. There is no right or wrong way to approach enhancement. Vocal recording and post-production is as more art than science. That’s why I love it. Make each decision according to your best judgement, not because a few pixels say it’s right or wrong.

Just my opinion of course!!

And that’s a good opinion.

Ears first, machines when they work. Mostly they don’t work because, as is well known to agricultural workers, all machines do basically is move manure around without making it smell better into a nice square heap.

Couldn’t have said it better! +1

Another point if you don’t get Dylan or the likes in your studio, is that a singer might not hear him/herself being a bit flat. I always go by ear, but if I hear it and not the singer, the latter cannot improve. So I do, if it’s too much off to my taste… And if you can’t hear 75 cents off, I’d say you can’t be a singer, for being closer to the next half note.

And, on a sidenote, Parrotspain said ‘We’ll be banning vibrato next’, but that’s already going on. Young singers conform to what they hear, and that’s auto tuned hit music. Hence, a trend is already going on where singers no longer ‘glide’ to the next note, but mimick the note distances that us ‘old’ farts classify as ‘unnatural’. Go figure.

:laughing: :laughing:

I can tell within a cent or two, how far away any sung note is away from the computer’s mean point That’s perhaps a skill, but can also be a burden. The important thing for me is the language. I would say ‘away’ as against ‘off’ which has automatic negative implications. I then try to decide whether tighter tuning control is a positive step, or just a programmed safe response.

Vocalists must be allowed to veer and slide around the notes or else it would be the death of blues, soul and countless other musical genres. David Guetta, Usher et al however would be un-affected…thank you Antares!

Maybe we need to follow in the footsteps of the loudness war and try to hold back the tide of organ note vocals? Arjan P’s comment about the new generation training themselves to mimic autotuning is chilling.

My apologies to mrd777 for soapboxing on the thread, but I do a huge amount of vocal ‘sweetening’ across many genres. I am best pleased when nobody realises what I have done and just say ‘great vocal performance’ as if it was always like that.


edited for spelling mistake


How do I train myself to hear one or two cents!? That is INSANE!!

Please, do tell

try this:-)

I don’t think I am that exceptional. Anybody could do it.

I went pro as a keyboard player in 1975 and started sampling vocal performances and adjusting them with pitchwheel data when Atari St and Steinberg Pro24 came into play (late eighties). When ‘proper’ computer pitch shifting arrived (around 1997 for me), it was a very natural progression. Variaudio is just another step.

I have been in music production 24/7 for so long, it’s almost inevitable that my ears have become attuned. I don’t have perfect pitch, but once I have heard a few notes from music or a keyboard in the morning, I more or less know where I am from there on for the day. The quick prediction of the difference between vocal and mean note in cents started out as guesswork, but when you’ve done it a million times, it gets easy. The only downside is that it’s hard sometimes to switch off and listen to and love music without being analytical!


Parrot, what about my second post on this thread. Had a few other small questions in there. Are you feeling generous enough to answer em today? :slight_smile:

I can’t tell for sure if a particular vocal has been processed, no. Not from within a semitone anyway. The tone of voices varies so much anyway.

Usually, autotune even used quite carefully gives itself away by flattening the little rises and swoops of an unprocessed voice, vibrato tends to sounds more like tremolo (volume not pitch variable), but since these are individual traits, I couldn’t say with any certainty. I have heard people mimic extreme autotuning quite cleverly.

Variaudio used carefully is very good. I abide by a few simple rules though.

1 never shift any ‘s’ elements as they become ‘shushy’ - they don’t contain pitch info to any degree anyway
2 always shift individual notes by hand, don’t highlight loads of notes and bring closer to mean tuning it’s too crude
3 experiment with holding SHIFT moving a block - it defeats the snap
3a while holding SHIFT try pulling at the corner of the note - it ‘warps’ the note - that’s wild!
4 leave notes that ‘warp’ alone where possible or at least find a mean tuning which sounds natural
5 split audio where two notes are contained within one box and treat the notes separately
6 split audio of a song into shortish sections and bounce - variaudio becomes sluggish on my system when processing long files. Doesn’t affect quality, but it’s frustrating
7 rely on ears as final judge - never the screen. Turn the screen off and listen - I think it changes the way I perceive what I am doing

I could waffle on, but you get the idea? Hope this helps.


Parrot! You are awesome! man i can’t thank you enough. this is invaluable to me.

When you say auto tune, are you using it interchangeably with vari audio?
When do YOU personally say, oh, it’s obvious that’s been vari audio’d or whatever. Because I have a big hunch that most people are just trying to sound knowledgeable and look like know it alls when they say “oh that artist used auto tune on this track”. Now i’m not talking about obvious Tpayne stuff, but you get what I’m saying?

Thanks, Parrot!

I try to listen to music without thinking of the tweaking that has made it what it is. It’s fairly rare though that I hear a final vocal which appears entirely untouched. I am not a purist particularly, so it doesn’t really bother me. I work mostly on my own, so I am impressing no-one by nodding sagely and pointing my finger.

What I mean by autotune is the blanket quantising of a vocal to a certain scale, raag, etc. Antares Autotune is the best known software, Cubase’s Pitch Correct is pretty good. I know of Melodyne, but have no personal experience of it and there are some freebies. I used to use these a lot more. I’d make various versions of a vocal with different amounts of processing and suitables scales and then comp the most natural sounding bits.

I find nowadays that unless a client calls for extreme tricks, I rely almost entirely on Variaudio and I’m still finding new ways of using it - I must read the manual sometime…


I see.

It just seems to me that everyone is saying this or that is tuned, and yes you can say that it is based off of the experience of being in the industry and knowing that a lot of vocalists will get tuned, BUT can you say that if you do NOT know them. It’s like, how can you tell if you don’t know by first or second hand knowledge, you know what i mean?

In short, I’m just not sure if I should trust people when they say a certain song is tuned. Because when I listen to it, I have no clue if they were tuned or not. It just seems so hard to tell since I don’t see a before and after. On internet forums and people say , go listen to this song its obviously auto tuned, I go listen and don’t hear and artificial vocals that I could tell of, which leads me to say that they are just trying to sound smart…

i dunnno… just seems like everyone is taking it over the top! Not sure who to trust anymore… but I do trust you, parrot.

Beautiful plumage!

I think that people making those kinds of comments are telling you more about themselves than about the music to which they refer. Feeding some moral superiority complex maybe?

In conclusion, don’t get taken in by pointless bs. Use your ears, keep your own counsel and draw your own conclusions.


Real luxury is recording one take of a song with someone who really can sing! :sunglasses:

When it sounds bad,