In addition to autotune, pitch shifting and time stretching are probably my favorite algorithms in music production. I find that REAPER really excels in this regard, considering all the options, tools and methods that it has to apply these processes to, for both audio and MIDI.
Aside from changing the pitch of the audio itself, REAPER has two stock plug-ins called ReaPitch and ReaTune that can help with pitch adjustment. Let’s explore how they work and when you should choose either one.
ReaPitch lets you statically change the pitch of your audio. This is ideal for when you want to change the tonality of a performance or create effects based on pitch like harmonies, octaviers, the H3000 effect, and much more.
To start out, load ReaPitch on your track. You will notice that there are a lot of parameters and controls, which can be a little overwhelming at first. I will go over each parameter group at a time, and build up to different effect presets with a few examples.
If you’re familiar with reverb and delay plug-ins you may already know what the Dry and Wet faders on the left do. They allow you to blend the pitch shifted signal with the original signal, giving you lots of control without having to create an aux track. I find these particularly useful when I need to slightly thicken the sound without using EQ, shifting the signal down one octave and setting the wet slider to taste.
In addition to that, you can change the pitch shifting algorithm at the bottom. I usually use the most updated version of élastique Pro for general purpose or Soloist for melodic elements. Some people also like the SoundTouch algorithm in its High Quality setting, and Rrreeeaaa is awesome for sound design. But I urge you to try different algorithms to see what suits your trac best.
The ‘Autocorrect master playrate’ changes works wonders if you like to constantly use the Playrate control inside REAPER for changing how fast the project is being played.
The first four sliders top to bottom are the main protagonists labeled Shift. These allow you to change the pitch on different resolution scales.
Full range goes from -2 octaves up to +2, continuously in fractions of a semitone. This makes it very awkward to dial a precise pitch shift amount, but awesome for automating pitch effects like emulating guitar dive-bombs or creating risers for EDM. Here’s an example on how that would sound.
Cents let’s you micro manage the tuning of a performance, so if you’re creating a song that is tuned to A4 = 440 Hz and you happen to have a really good sample or loop that is tuned to another tuning standard like A4 = 432 Hz, you can load ReaPitch with this parameter set to +32 cents.
Semitones will probably be your best friend, this parameter goes from -18 Semitones up to +18 semitones. It is perfect for changing the key of a song, or transposing an already recorded performance. It can also work for creating static harmonies in conjunction with the Dry and Wet sliders, major or minor thirds, perfect fourths or fifths, etc.
Octaves works wonders for when you want to create octaver or POG effects. You may want to smoothen the effect by compensating with the Formant Shift parameters depending on the situation.
The next group of sliders are the Formant Shift parameters. These allow you to change the ‘pitch character’ of the sound without altering the real pitch of the audio source in the track. These parameters are mostly effective for countering the pitch shifting artifacts that cause the audio to feel ‘less natural’.
Let’s say that you wanted to transpose a song up a couple semitones but it starts to sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks, in this case you would turn down the last Formant Shift parameter an equal number of semitones. It would look something like this:
You can also create interesting sound design effects with Formant Shifting. However, keep in mind that not all Pitch shifting algorithms support Formant Shifting, so if you move the parameters and it doesn’t change anything, try another algorithm.
This is my favorite part of ReaPitch. You can create multiple pitch shifters within the same plug-in, each with its own volume and pan settings. Leave the Dry slider at 0 dB and control the total amount of pitch shifted signal to taste using the Wet slider.
This feature is essential for creating an emulation of a POG octaver effect by using two or four shifters. The simpler version is done by setting one shifter down and the other up one octave. But if you want to spice it up a bit, set two shifters down and two up, each panned left and right. Then set one of each 6 cents down and the other 6 cents up. Let me show you a composite where you can see all the tabs on this ReaPitch preset.
Here’s an example of how this sounds on a guitar solo.
I also like to create an H3000 vocal thickening effect using ReaPitch. The simple version involves creating 4 shifters in this order. -9 cents panned hard left, -6 cents panned hard right, +6 cents panned hard left, and +9 cents panned hard right.
There are, however, more involved ways of creating this effect more accurately with multiple tracks, multiple delays and multiple ReaPitch inserts if you’re inclined to do a little research and experiment to get it right.
Here’s an audio example.
I’ve already covered some of the most basic functionality of ReaTune in this article, but oh boy, it can do so much more! ReaTune has three different tabs or functions. The first one works as a basic tuner, the second one is an automatic pitch correction tool, auto-tune style, and the third one is a manual pitch correction tool that lets you draw notes, where they should go in terms of performance.
Let’s start by loading ReaTune into a vocal track and see what it’s capable of.
Once you load ReaTune, go to the second tab, called ‘correction’. In order to activate this mode, just check the first option.
ReaTune is set up for chromatic tuning by default, but you can select between a wide range of keys and scales to follow the tuning. Otherwise you can check or uncheck the notes that ReaTune must correct the performance to.
You can also set a range of notes where the tuning will be effective. This is useful if the intonation of the singer is generally good but there is a register where they fail to properly hit the notes.
The Attack time determines how reactive the pitch correction is. The lower the number the more accurate it will be but it will result in more artifacts, even to the point where it makes the performance sound robotic. For me, the 30 ms mark is a good balance between artifacts and good pitch correction.
I usually turn off the Stereo correction option since I load it on mono tracks and it can create a slightly wobbly stereo sensation.
You can also change the pitch shifting algorithm and select from the options that REAPER has available. You have the same algorithms available for any project, item or track, and even the other Pitch and stretch related stock plug-ins. Still, I bet that élastique Soloist in Monophonic will work the best in most situations, unless you’re trying to get specific artifacts for sound design.
In the manual correction tab, you have to set up the Key, Pitch range, Attack time, Stereo correction and Algorithm in the Correction tab. As in the previous tab, you need to check the Manual correction option to activate it. You can then draw blue bars on the notes you want the performance to follow.
Once you activate Manual Correction, the Track pitch also gets activated. This will allow you to see the approximate pitch of the incoming audio as a red line drawn on the note lines. This setting will be affected by how you set up the first tab, ReaTune – Tuner. In short, for vocals I recommend setting the Window size between 30 ms and 100 ms and the Overlap at 2x or 4x.
To draw a pitch correction bar, simply click and drag to the side. You can delete a bar by selecting it and pressing the Delete key.
You can also select bars and move them around, or change the duration by dragging from the small circles on each side.
To select a pitch correction bar, click on it while holding Ctrl on Windows or Cmd⌘ on Mac.
You can navigate using the scroll bars on the bottom and the right side, or by using the same mouse modifiers you use to move around normally in REAPER, by default they are:
- For horizontal zoom (in or out) scroll with your mouse wheel
- To move side to side scroll while holding Alt or Opt⌥
- To Zoom in vertically, scroll while holding Ctrl or Cmd⌘.
I think REAPER has some of the most versatile built-in tools out there. I have genuinely tried looking for a Pitch shifter that is as good as ReaPitch in the case I have to work with other DAWs but I haven’t found one, fortunately you can download the ReaPlugs suite and have it in your arsenal just in case. On the other hand, I think ReaTune is a really nice free tool, but it probably won’t give you the most precise results in terms of dynamic pitch correction. In the next article I will compare it against Auto-tune from Antares. In the meantime, I hope this information was useful. Happy producing!