This week I mixed a R&B tune with a lot of great vocal harmonies and layers. Some of the harmonies were a little off key, so I practiced my autotune skills in order to tighten up the harmonies. Autotune can be overwhelming at first, the interface has lots of buttons and knobs that aren't completely clear as to what they control or adjust. But after playing around with it for a bit, I was able to get some pretty convincing results. Here is a screenshot of what the autotune window looks like while operating in real time on the lead vocal.
As you can see, the vocalist was a little flat on that particular note, which is why the blue meter is glowing to the right. If the note was sharp, it would glow to the left. It is easy to push the plugin too hard, and that results in the "T-Pain" effect, where the notes get retuned so fast that it sounds unnatural and robotic. Sometimes that is exactly the kind of sound that is desired, and other times it is not. In this case, I wanted a smooth and unnoticeable autotune effect. I set the algorithm to a moderately quick retune speed, and a fairly high "humanize" setting. Humanizing the algorithm helps to prevent the robotic sound mentioned above. Below is a screenshot of the keyboard interface that identifies which note is being sung in real time.
In this case, an E was being sung, according to the blue highlighted note. Sometimes the keyboard doesn't know exactly which note to pinpoint, which is why I have removed certain notes from the keyboard, as shown in grey. Removing these notes tells the plugin that these notes are not an option to retune the vocalist to. I effectively identified the key in which the song is sung, so that only the notes within the key are an option to adjust to. This step made a huge difference in the accuracy of the tuning. The unnatural wavering and incorrect notes that the plugin that were correct were eliminated, and the harmonies sounded excellent when blended all together. Here is the track below, check it out!