3 Ways To Use Autotune Realtime Advanced by Genre

Three ways to use Autotune Realtime Advanced | The definitive guide to Vocal Tuning

About Autotune Realtime Advanced

Voice tuners are a must in music production. The original Antares Autotune – first released in 1997 – has been redesigned by Universal Audio as “Autotune Realtime Advanced”. Everyone looking to autotune voice tracks NEEDS this tool!

In this “3 ways to tune vocals” BLOG, Pyramind’s Matt Donner uses Autotune Realtime Advanced on 3 track types and in 3 ways with 3 very different approaches.

Thanks to Pyramind Alums “The Ghostwriterz (“Nightmare” – EDM), Abby Diamond (“Yes, my heart is open” – Singer-songwriter) and DJPJ (“Bioshock” – Trap/Step) for their tracks and contributions. You can watch and hear all 3 ways in action in the video after the text.


 Autotune Realtime Advanced - the Default View Autotune Realtime Advanced – the Default View

A quick history on Autotune

Auto-Tune is an audio processor created by, and registered trademark of, Antares Audio Technologies. It uses a proprietary device to measure and alter pitch in vocal and instrumental music recording and performances. Originally intended to disguise or fix off-key notes in vocals, it has been used and over-used to dramatic effect for over 20 years!

Starting with Cher’s 1998 hit “Believe”, producers began to use Auto-Tune as a sound effect, to deliberately distort vocals. By 2018, music critic Simon Reynolds observed that Auto-Tune had “revolutionized popular music”, calling its use for effects “the fad that just wouldn’t fade. Its use is now more entrenched than ever.”

Auto-Tune remains THE professional standard for pitch correction, and the tool of choice for the most iconic vocal effect in popular music.

Here are 3 ways to tune vocals with Autotune Realtime Advanced:


Vocal Tuning Method #1 – Set and Forget (EDM Tracks)

In the first track, “Nightmare” by Pyramind Alum The Ghostwriterz, a female vocalist sings in subtle fashion of how she’s going to destroy her “ex”. The soft vocals bely the rage underneath and I’d be remiss if I didn’t quote the old adage “hell hath no fury as a woman scorned”. If she were my ex, I’d be having nightmares too…

Her performance is good – solid and emotive – but not perfect. Since replacing the singer OR getting her to make 1000 takes for editing isn’t always practical. So, the next-best thing is to “fix” the vocal.

Enter Autotune Realtime Advanced.

As the title suggests, this tool is designed to act in realtime – you can easily place this on any input channel of your Universal Audio console input path and tune the vocals “to tape”! For our purposes, since the vocal is pre-recorded, we’ll simply fix it.

In the default view, there are only 4 knobs. Really – it doesn’t get much simpler. Two of these knobs are going to cover about 80% of the job and the other 2 might not even get used. The default also assumes you have no idea about music theory, pitch, key or anything of the sort. It defaults expecting that any note can (and will) be corrected and that all notes are valid.

 Autotune Realtime Advanced - 4 Knobs Autotune Realtime Advanced – 4 Knobs

Knob #1 – Retune Speed

This is THE most important knob in the tool. Lower settings are on the right (knob is maxed out) and the values are measured in milliseconds. Note it goes down to 0 which implies instantaneous. It doesn’t get faster than that!

While you might think that instant should be the only speed worth exploring, you’ll find that the effect is more radical. You also risk “anomalies” – glitches and “bubbles” of weird pitch results that can make things way, way worse.

Try to find a speed that’s fast enough to catch problems but not misbehave. For EDM, I’d err on the side of faster – the “digital” artifacts of faster processing is somewhat desired in this style and subtlety of pitch correction is not called for.

Knob #2 – Flex Tune

Between Retune Speed and Flex Tune, you might be covered. Flex Tune works slightly against Retune Speed and creates more ‘humanness’ in the final pitch of the vocal. Think of it as a “gentleness” knob. Higher settings “mellow” the effect of the Retune Speed.

Taken together, for EDM music, choose a faster speed to get a more radical result, then add some Flex Tune to the process for the correct blend. There’s no “right” value here – only the one that works for your needs. For “Nightmare”, I opted for a Retune Speed of “0” and Flex Tune of ““79”. Both very high settings. Again, for EDM, I wanted a “noticeably tuned vocal” effect so the higher settings worked great for me.

Knob #3 – Humanize

This knob helps with elongated notes where the singer holds a note over time (without vibrato) but wavers in pitch. In this track, towards the end of the verses, she holds notes a bit long and her pitch “shakes”. By adding some Humanize to the setting, her pitch stayed “on pitch” during these longer notes and the result was a more confident vocal.

If your singer doesn’t give you long notes, this might not be necessary. Note that this does not actually “humanize” the pitch correction – that’s what Flex Tune does. Perhaps a re-name is in order? Just sayin…

In “Nightmare”, I opted to add about 48 to the sound. At the end of phrases, I didn’t like the vibrato that was delivered so I used Humanize to “fix” the pitch to a more solid note. This plus knob #4 made a big difference…

Knob #4 – Natural Vibrato

Here, the object is to either add or remove pitch vibrato. For those who don’t know, this is when a singer “shakes” the pitch. Usually added at the end of a phrase or stanza, it’s a technique to show emotion but shows a bit ‘laziness’. For singers who can’t hold pitches over time, vibrato gives them the freedom to hold a note but not keep the pitch fixed.

For notes that don’t have vibrato but need it, turn this knob up to introduce pitch “shaking”. Keep it simple though – this is not something to have on all the time at high values!

In the case of Nightmare, she shakes the notes poorly at the end of the stanza (I didn’t like it) so I removed vibrato by adding negative value of -8.9. This way, if she shakes a bit, Humanize fixes the central pitch while Natural Vibrato removes the shaking. The result is a well-tuned vocal with strong, held notes at the end without shaking.

Perfect…


Vocal Tuning Method #2 – Hard-To-Fix Organic Vocals (Singer-Songwriter)

In the second track, “Yes, my heart is open” by Pyramind Alum Abby Diamond, the female vocal presents a different problem – when to use certain pitches and how to fix troubled moments.

Here, we introduce the concept of key and picking / choosing notes to keep or not. For many of you, this part will be hard because you’ll need to know music theory a bit to know which notes are “good” and which are not.

Knob #5 – The Key, Scale and Keyboard Pitch Settings

Autotune Realtime Advanced gives you two places to see the notes happening and to make decisions about them. In the exposed keyboard across the bottom, you can see the pitches of the notes being sung. This is the “input” pitch of the track. If you can read these notes, you can make informed decisions on the notes that the singer meant to sing. However, if the pitch is really bad, this might not help you.

The dial in the center of the tool shows you the output notes – what Autotune thinks are the correct pitches. However, if the incoming notes are wildly off AND you never specified the key of the song, Autotune Realtime Advanced takes its best guess – and might be dead wrong.

The advantage to knowing the key is that you can set it in the “Key” and “Scale” sections across the top. In the case of “Yes, my heart is open”, this took some doing. In the verses, she uses notes she does not use in the chorus and each section called for tuning in different ways. Ultimately, I settled on the key of G major which fit the song well.

Note that in the verses, she used the note F# well but in the chorus it was a problem. So, I sliced the vocal into two tracks and in the verses, I fixed the Key to G and the Scale to Major. The result was perfect. In the chorus, I removed ALL F# notes as it made her sound terrible! She meant to sing from E -> G but kept getting “stuck” on F#.

So I killed it.

Boom. Fixed.

 Autotune Realtime Advanced - F# is Removed from the Keyboard Autotune Realtime Advanced – F# is Removed from the Keyboard

Knob #1 – Retune Speed

Since Singer-Songwriter music isn’t about technology, a slower Retune Speed should work for you. The idea is to correct the pitch but not be noticed. Autotune Realtime Advanced is so good at correcting that with a slow speed and some Flex Tune, you should have a corrected vocal without even noticing the correction!

Knob #2 – Flex Tune

Same here as with Retune Speed. I opted for a higher value here to minimize the actual effect of the Retune Speed and to achieve a slightly more natural performance. Keep in mind that since I split the vocal into Verse and Chorus tracks, different settings might be needed here to achieve different fixes per section.

Knob #3 – Humanize

Here, I jacked the value to 75! Especially in the choruses, some of her elongated notes suffered from pitch indecision – she couldn’t settle on G or F# – so I helped by saying “stay on G longer and stronger”. Worked really well in the choruses.

Knob #4 – Natural Vibrato

Particularly in the verses, her vibrato was fine – natural and organic – and fit the Singer-Songwriter format well. So I didn’t touch this one.

Again, knobs 1 and 2 are the two dominant knobs so the fact that I even used 3 and 4 at all was impressive :).


Vocal Tuning Method #3 – Time for Robots! (Trap|Dubstep Tracks)

In the third track, “Bioshock” by Pyramind Alum DJPJ (Booty Drop Records), a male rapper drops bombs through the verse.

Since there’s no real “singing” here, the question has to be asked – “why bother with Autotune”? Because Robots. That’s why.

So the idea struck me – what happens if you stack ATRA one-after-the-other to really mess with pitch? Could you create robots?

While fun, this effect didn’t give me quite what I wanted. However, I could see the value in doing it for pesky notes that needed more than one “washing” with Autotune Realtime Advanced. But it didn’t give me robots so I went further.

Using the same pitch detection technique as I used with “Yes, my heart is open”, I looked to see that the relative pitch of the rapping started on the note “E” and slowly moved up to “G”. So I chose a note in the middle – “F” – and set the keyboard to ONLY allow that note through.

When you fix the keyboard to a single note like this, any note coming in only goes out as that pitch. This is how you make vocal robots with Autotune Realtime Advanced.

 Autotune Realtime Advanced - One-pitch Robot Setting Autotune Realtime Advanced – One-pitch Robot Setting

After some solid laughing out loud (and quite a few pats on my own back), I went even further-er! One robot was not enough for me, so I duplicated the track (also like technique 2) and pitched the vocal to 2 pitches – “F” for the main voice and a lower “C” for a Trap-style de-tuned voice.

Then, choosing select phrases to re-tune, I had the vocal go back-and-forth between the two along with the words. This technique really made certain lines stand out with more meaning and it was obvious to the listener that each line meant something different.

Worked great IMHO.

Knob #1 – Retune Speed

For most Trap / Dubstep tracks where you want vocal robots, you set this to “0” and walk away. I think I backed away from “0” due to some pesky notes but hey – every track is different and who knows what works for you?

Knob #2 – Flex Tune

I played with this a bit but in the end, I kept it pretty high. Again, a pesky note gave me issue so I had to mellow this out a hair.

Knob #3 – Humanize

No thank you. Robot, not humans. That’s why. “0” and done.

Knob #4 – Natural Vibrato

Robots don’t shake. “0” and done.


Conclusion:

Autotune Realtime Advanced is effing amazing. It’s SO simple (and way simpler than previous versions of the tool) that I found it almost too easy to fix vocals.

Again, each genre or track presents its own challenges and you might have to “crack open the hood” to get deep with certain notes in certain places as I did with “Yes, my heart is open” and “Bioshock.” However, for most of your uses, only 2 knobs will do and it shouldn’t take but 25 seconds to tune a vocal track to perfection.

Having used Autotune version 1.0 back in 1998, I can tell you that this is NOT your “father’s Autotune”. Back then, the process was laborious – we’d have to first capture the pitches, then draw curves to perfect the re-tuning, then re-record the section to a new track. AND we had to do this section by section because the tool would freak out it you tried to fix a whole verse.

So what used to take about 4 hours, now takes 25 seconds. So yeah, I’d say “Realtime” and “Advanced” are absolutely perfect titles for this guy.

Congrats to Universal Audio for this amazing upgrade to an industry standard! Thanks again to the Pyramind Alums who provided tracks for me to mangle (!) and thanks to Harris Barnard of UA (ahem…also a Pyramind alum!) for the hookup with the tool and a Twin.

You’re the man.


Watch Autotune Realtime Advanced in Action!


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