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What is pitch correction? - Can singers actually
by Michael Oliphant
Not all that long ago, record producers and engineers used to
spend long hours with singers in the studio making sure that
they got the best possible take of their performance. It was
very important to make sure that the singer sang everything
in tune and that there was no 'pitchiness' or parts of the melody
that were sung a little flat or sharp. This was critical for
it meant that when it came time to mix the track, there was
simply no way to correct a performance for pitch.
This all changed with the invention of pitch correction software.
Most studio recordings these days are done on what is known
as a 'DAW'. This stands for Digital Audio Workstation and has
become the standard throughout the music industry replacing
tape based multitrack machines.
Because the process is entirely digital it means that the recorded
audio can be processed in ways that most musicians never even
dreamed of in years passed.
Remember when Cher had a huge hit with a song called 'Believe'?
That strange warbling effect on the vocal is actually created
by the pitch correction software. Someone discovered that by
setting it to over-correct it would actually produce a pleasing
effect. Like all these things it has been over-used since by
Pitch correction works by analysing the audio and resampling
it back to correct pitch. It operates in real time which means
that a studio engineer can apply pitch correction to a vocal
where and when it is needed. Many regard pitch correction as
a lifesaver in the studio. Singers often feel relieved that
a great performance need not be erased and redone simply because
one or two notes may have been a little flat or sharp. Studios
often see it as a great time saver as it reduces the need to
record many takes in the hope of getting a performance that
is completely in key.
There is however, a downside to all this. Many studio producers
now argue that singers have become overly reliant on this technology
and have almost forgotten one of the most basic requirements
of great singing- singing in key.
Can you tell when pitch correction has been used on a singer
in a recording? The software is now so good that, in experienced
hands, it is nearly impossible to tell when it is used subtly.
Many vocal recordings made these days on current cds use
some form of pitch correction. Does that surprise you? From
the singers perspective it is a very seductive technology.
It can certainly make a pitchy singer sound very
much in key without revealing any lack of ability in that area.
We have become so used to the effect of technology on our music
that much of this technological innovation becomes the norm
in a very short while. Remember a band called Milli Vanilli?
They became the laughing stock of the music business and ended
their careers when it was discovered that they had not even
sung on their own recordings! Yet we seem completely comfortable
now with the idea that singers dont need to be able to
sing in tune when they record.
The funny thing is that singing in key is just a learned technique
like most other musical skills. It requires practice and solid
singing technique but there are few people who cannot do it
at all. Singing in a recording studio can be an unnerving experience
for the first timer. The studio environment is designed to reveal
all the nuance of the human voice and can tax even an accomplished
singer at times.
Pitch correction is one of the most practical and useful tools
in recording today but remember that it wont make you
a great singer. Only you can do that.
About the Author
Michael Oliphant is a successful musician,producer,songwriter
and web developer.He is co-producer of Explore Your Voice, the
innovative and successful online singing course that streams
to your pc.
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