Firstly, you’ll have to know what exactly you’re looking for, what is autotune and what is pitch correction? Let me give you an introduction to both particularly.
Autotune is a plug-in used to auto correct off key notes in a vocal, meaning make off key notes of the vocal to be on key. Nowadays engineers tend to use autotune even on vocals that are straight rapping with no melody, but what the plugin does technically, is just what I’ve mentioned, even though it can also do more such as pitch shifting and transposing.
A Pitch Corrector on the other hand is a plugin that’s mainly for shifting and modifying the pitch of your vocal, where you can give it a higher thin tone or a lower bassy tone. You can also transpose the vocal into different keys, or shift specific notes to align them with the key of the song. The Cubase stock pitch corrector can also auto correct notes as well. But not as well as autotune does it for me, just as autotune does not nail transposing as good as the Cubase stock pitch corrector for me. I’ll tell you why along the way.
Now I will show you how to apply these processes.
How To Use Autotune On Cubase?
I’ll try to make the process as simple and hopefully less technical as possible, so that it’s easy to understand and follow through. Go ahead and search for the audio file you want to work on, drag it into the software and drop it into the open space, convert it into the projects settings if needs be.
If you don’t already have the vocal on your computer, and you still have to record it, you must drag in your Instrumental, set it’s tempo (the producer must know it). If it’s a downloaded beat, you can use Virtual DJ to search for it, which is a whole different topic. Then go to project and add an audio track.
When you’re adding the track, make sure that the Configuration is set to Mono input
Enable the record icon on your track if it’s not enabled already (it must be red)
Then you press the record icon on the transport panel and record.
We’re all at one place now, where we have this mono vocal track without any plugin on, and we want our vocal to have autotune. On your track options, there’s inserts
when you open them, they’re still empty at this point,
you click on the first one and your plugins show
select your autotune plugin, and boom! You have your autotune on!
Now it’s time to set it how you want it. I’ve encountered a lot of artists setting different keys for different vocals of the same song, and when I start mixing the song I’d have to set the key of the autotune in each and every track to the key of the song to hear the difference, and it always sounds better. So that’s my first advice! Ask the producer of the instrumental for the key of the song or use Virtual DJ if it’s a downloaded instrumental and you can’t contact the producer. There are also specific softwares/plugins that specialize in finding keys for songs, you can do your research on these and use whichever you find interesting and easy to use. Then what you do first is to set your key.
After setting the key for your autotune, increase the retune speed so that the effect is more audible.
Autotune plugins also have the “humanize” nob, that when you twist to your right attempts to make your autotune sound a bit realer and more human than completely robotic, which is the element that makes Autotune plugins the best at their job for me than Pitch Correctors that can also autocorrect notes.
Pitch Correction in Autotune
Autotune plugins can also do Pitch Correction as I’ve mentioned in the intro. There is a formant button (if I can call it a button) on the autotune plugin that when you turn on, then twist the throat length to the left, it gives you a deep bassy voice, and when you twist it to the right, it gives you a thinner voice.
And there’s also a transpose nob, that if you twist to the left, semitone by semitone it will take the key of your song down to whatever lower key you want it at, and if you twist it to the right, semitone by semitone it will take the key of your song up to whatever higher key you want it at.
How To Use Pitch Correction In Cubase?
Amidst a lot of useful stock plugins in Cubase is a plugin called a Pitch Corrector, that specializes in pitch correction (like the name says). Say you already have your vocal in a mono track with your tempo set, and all you want to do now is to edit the pitch of your vocal before you get deep into your mix. Just like you did with autotune, you go to your inserts, you click on one of your insert blocks and all your plugins will show, and you go straight to your Pitch Corrector and boom! It’s inserted!
Now what you want to do is set it to what suits your imagination best (in terms of pitch correction). There’s a “formant” place on it that allows you to make the vocal soft and thin.
you can set it to female and push the formant switch units up, or set it to male and push the units down for a deep bassy sound.
My favorite with this stock plugin is the transpose. The reason why I love how this plugin transposes the vocals is that, when I use it to transpose, it usually gives me a natural sounding effect as if the artist may have sang on the set key. If an artist was singing with a tenor maybe, and you transpose it 12 semi notes up (which brings it back to the key of the song), it sounds like the vocal was sang in falsetto, just like if you transpose it down, it gives a sound sounding like the vocal may have been sung/recorded on that bassy tone and it’s not just technically modified.
Another pitch correction method Cubase has is VariAudio, the reason why I use Cubase to record vocals! While with similar plugins in other softwares you can record the notes of your vocal then edit them, Cubase’s VariAudio does not come as a plugin, but rather as a program setting you just double click on your vocal to start modifying.
After double clicking your vocal, you click ‘VariAudio’,
Then ‘Edit VariAudio’ and it automatically draws your vocal notes on a paino roll, and you can select all the notes and transpose them to whichever key you want.
You can also transpose a single specific note you feel isn’t sitting right, or maybe that you wanna get creative with.
In fact, with that being said, you can even edit the melody if you want. You can also straighten the notes, of which if you overdo might remove the vibrato in the vocal and give it an autotune effect. I personally like my vocals with a vibrato, it makes them feel natural and soulful.
You can also correct the pitch of the vocal notes manually or automatically with one of it’s options on the side.
Last but not least, you can also shift the formant, left if you want a deep voice, right if you want a thin voice.
Differences between Autotune and Pitch Correction
As much as Autotune plugins can give you pitch shifting and formant shifting methods like Pitch Correctors. The autotune purpose though is mainly to auto correct the notes of the vocal, putting the off key ones on key, so that the whole song is in tune. That way, even if the performer isn’t really a good singer, it can make them sound really good.
On the other hand, as much as pitch correction methods can give you the autotune effect, pitch correction is mainly to give you the ability to modify the pitch of your vocal by either transposing it, or shifting the formant to the desirable sound. In Cubase, VariAudio even lets you modify the pitch of specific notes in the vocal.
Now that you know what these processes/processors are, and know how to use them, you can get creative with which ever method you feel suits your goal best. Hopefully making every single product you produce in future, in tune and a pitch that will wow the masses. Enjoy your journey with Cubase using these tips, and more that we’re still to share with you. Til next time…