There are many different ways to process vocal tracks for tuning and timing. Each method has pros and cons and varying degrees of effectiveness.
Celemony Melodyne: Melodyne is incredibly power software. It analyzes audio and splits it up into blobs you can freely move up and down in pitch and left and right timestretching. It’s processing is not in realtime however. Melodyne makes creating harmony parts extremely easy. Melodyne is a great tool, but I don’t feel that the sound quality is quite good enough yet.
Antares Auto-tune: Antares Auto-tune is one of the most hated and abused effects of modern recording. It is available in both hardware and software versions and can automatically correct monophonic audio in real time. Used gently it can be pretty transparent (especially in Graphical mode), pushed to its limits results in some unique effects that very obvious. Think Cher’s robotic vocals on ‘Believe’ and T-Pain’s whole gimmick.
Roland V-Vocal: Included with Cakewalk Sonar Producer Edition, V-Vocal has the best integration within the DAW of them all. It works very much like Graphical mode in Auto-Tune, but with some additional features like pitch to MIDI conversion. I can’t comment on the sound of this one yet as I haven’t used it.
Digidesign Elastic Audio: While it doesn’t correct pitch (yet), it’s become an essential part of my vocal editing. I use it for adjusting the phrasing of a lead vocal, then on any doubled and harmony tracks to get them uber tight. I essentially use it as one would use Vocalign.
Synchro Arts VocALign Project: Very simple to use Pro Tools Audiosuite (non-realtime) plugin. You select a region and set that as the guide track, now select the track you want to conform and set that as the dub track, process. Its very easy, once again though, this is not pitch correction, just timing.
These powerful tools, as intuitive as they may be, take some time to get professional results. When you haven’t got the time, or the tools, its nice to know there is now an online service for this sort of thing.
VocalTuning.com: For $39 per file your vocals are professionally re-tuned and ready for mixing. The vocals can make or break a song, you don’t want the vocal tracks ruined by careless Auto-tune artifacts. For a very reasonable price you get engineers with years of vocal correction experience on your side. If T-Pain is your thing, well they can do that too!
What are your favorite tools for fixing up vocal tracks?