Tech Tip:The Antares Vocal Effect


Editor’s note: the following Tech Tip appears courtesy of our friends at Antares.

 

The Auto-Tune Vocal Effect - What it is. How it's done.

 

This month's Newsletter is going to be a bit different, as we're going to focus on one main subject, the Antares Auto-Tune Vocal Effect (i.e., the Cher/T-Pain-style effect).

 

Unless you happened to stop listening to any pop music back in '97 (and if so, check out the YouTube links at the end of this article), you are no doubt aware that in addition to its adoption as the worldwide standard in professional pitch correction, Auto-Tune has also gained renown as the tool of choice for what has become one of the signature vocal sounds of our time.

 

First heard on Cher's 1998 mega-hit "Believe," variations of the Auto-Tune Vocal Effect have gone on to appear on songs from a huge variety of artists. Most recently, its use by T-Pain (and many others in the pop, R&B and hip-hop communities) has rekindled intense interest in it. Since there seems to be a lot of mythology about how it’s accomplished, we thought the time was right to provide the official Antares version. So, here it is.

What is it?

 

Quite simply, the Auto-Tune Vocal Effect is what is technically known as "pitch quantization." That is, instead of allowing all of the small variations in pitch and the gradual transitions between notes that are a normal part of singing (and speaking, for that matter), the Auto-Tune Vocal Effect limits each note to its exact target pitch, stripping out any variation, as well as forcing instantaneous transitions between notes.

How to do it

 

There are basically two key elements to producing the Auto-Tune Vocal Effect:

 

  • Retune Speed = 0
  • Pick the right scale

 

That's pretty much it. Really.

 

There are, however, some possible variations in approach, depending mainly on whether you want to use Automatic Mode or Graphical Mode. Here're the details:

 

Automatic Mode

 

  • As we already mentioned, start by setting Retune Speed to 0.
  • Set the Key and Scale to the key and scale of your track. (If you don't know the key of your track, trial-and-error works pretty well. Start by setting Major or Minor and then just trying one Key after another until one sounds good.)
  • Play your track. If you like the result, you’re done.
  • If you’re not happy with the result, try one or more of the following:
    • Edit the scale notes. Depending on the specific vocal line, adding or removing scale notes can give you distinctly different effects.
    • Try a different key and/or scale.
    • Try the chromatic scale (although our experience is that if you’re going for the classic effect, chromatic rarely provides it).
    • Try a Retune Speed of 1 or 2 or a bit slower. This will allow slight pitch variations and slightly less instant note transitions, but may result in the right effect for a particular performance.
  • Don't forget your host's Bypass function. Limiting the Auto-Tune Vocal Effect just to specific phrases can provide sonic contrast in your song.

 

Graphical Mode

 

  • Start by setting the Graphical Mode's Retune Speed to 0.
  • Switch to Auto Mode and select any Chromatic Scale (the Key doesn't matter).
  • Return to Graphical Mode and track your audio.
  • Select the Line Tool and click the Snap To Note button (if it's not already on).
  • Draw individual lines for each note you want to appear in the melody. To ensure instantaneous transitions between notes, be sure that each line butts up against its neighbors. (You could also draw the entire melody as one interconnected line object, but using one line per note makes subsequent editing a lot easier.)
  • Play your track. If you like the result, you're done.
  • If you're not happy with the result, simply select the Arrow Tool and experiment with changing the pitch or length of individual lines. The beauty of using Lines in Graphical Mode is that you can literally sculpt any melodic contour to get exactly the effect you desire.

 

Either way, have fun!

 

As promised back at the start of this article, a variety of artists maybe seen on YouTube using the Auto-Tune Vocal Effect. Search out the following videos:

 

  • Cher - Believe (the one that started it all)
  • T-Pain - Bartender
  • Akon - I Can't Wait
  • Snoop Dogg - Sexual Seduction
  • Lil Wayne - Lollipop
  • Akon Calls T-Pain

 

Introduction to Voice Thing! on YouTube

 

For those of you who haven't yet checked out Voice Thing!, we've created a brief overview of what it's about (and what it sounds like).

Check it out here.

That's it for this issue. Next issue will be bringing some big news, so be sure to watch your in-box for it.

Thanks for reading!

- The Whole Antares Crew.