In this post, we’ll compare different auto-tune software options to BandLab’s AutoPitch. How are they different? What does that mean for you when dialing in your sound? Read on to get your answers. We even threw in a quick history lesson on pitch correction software.
TL;DR? Auto-Tune was invented by Antares and defined the niche for pro-grade vocal processing. It’s the word often used interchangeably with “pitch correction”, the process of altering the pitch of someone’s vocals. BandLab’s AutoPitch on the other hand is a free alternative to Auto-Tune. It provides the quickest route to getting expertly-tuned lead vocals with a bunch of vocal effects to boot. All from your phone or desktop.
What is AutoPitch?
If you’re planning on recording vocals in BandLab, then you’ll want to try AutoPitch. Freshly updated with a bunch of vocal effects, this free autotune alternative provides the fastest pathway to chart-ready vocal character and shape. Sound too good to be true? Give it a go via the BandLab app. Just sing, select your key and scale, then dial in how strong you want your vocal effect to be. Simple right?
AutoPitch builds on a rich history in the music industry. That being of pitch correction. Prior to the invention of real-time pitch correction, laborious re-recording was required until every note was locked into the song’s key. This ‘practice makes perfect’ approach naturally favored those who had extraordinary voices from the outset. It wasn’t until 1997, and the introduction of Antares Auto-Tune, that a new machine-aided route to achieving release-quality music became available to those at the top.
How does autotune work? What’s its history?
Auto-Tune (the product by Antares) relied on a principle called autocorrelation to nudge off-tone pitches into key without compromising the other particular qualities of the human voice. That’s how autotune works at its foundations. This vocal pitch correction software was mainly designed with subtle chromatic adjustment in mind. However, just a year after its initial release, the heavily processed Believe by Cher highlighted the potential that would soon take over pop music. The song’s producers, Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling, accomplished this by aggressively shifting Cher’s vocals into key. This created a distorted, unnatural feel that recalled the robotic vocoders of old, yet retained the qualities of a lead vocal that was still, unmistakably, Cher.
As the first mover, Auto-Tune fast became the byword for vocal pitch correction, which would soon become a crowded playing field. Additional software introduced later could analyze and affect intonation at a deeper level, while others zoned in on the creative opportunities to take vocals into new frontiers.
The growth of vocal pitch correction
The space has grown since Auto-Tune made waves. We’ve seen the likes of Celemony’s Melodyne getting granular, Waves Tune Real Time, iZotope’s Nectar 3 Plus, and others offering paid-for plugins. Despite their different specialties, they have one thing in common. They fix intonation without affecting the human voice’s characteristics.
While some naysayers criticize the growth of pitch correction, software of this type is frequently used by default when shaping lead and backing vocals today.
Back to AutoPitch. How does it differ?
With all that in mind, let’s return to AutoPitch. Quite simply, AutoPitch builds on the success of the auto-tune category while adding more functionality when it comes to vocal effects. We’ve aimed to make it the easiest-to-use vocal pitch correction and processing tool available. All completely free. All from your phone or desktop.
AutoPitch manipulates the vocals that you provide, allowing you to choose a key and scale. Pretty straightforward in pitch-correcting terms. Here’s the kicker. Once you’ve locked in your pitch, you can choose one of five stereo effects that totally transform your vocals into something more polished. Here are the five main settings:
Classic – Subtle vocal tuning for a clean, classic sound
Modern Rap – Adds a stylized beefy second voice, a familiar process used a lot in modern rap
Robot – Applies a machine-like vocoder effect to your voice
Big Harmony – Builds the illusion of multiple voices surrounding your take to enhance a single voice
Duet – Adds a second harmony voice as a chromatic mirror or variant to bolster the strength of your voice
Selecting one of the above will change the surrounding visuals of the knob, which now affects the rate at which the particular effect is applied to the dry vocal. While rappers will undoubtedly be intrigued by the Modern Rap sound, and those looking for Billie Eilish-sized harmonies will be drawn to Big Harmony, dabbling with what each of these new textures can do to your vocals creatively is a recommended first step.
Off to the right-hand side of the central knob, you’ll see a range of notes and a drop-down menu. Here, you can cycle between Major, Minor, Major Pentatonic, and Minor Pentatonic scales, or leave the setting as Chromatic to simply adjust the notes by a ½ step. As you play back your vocal, the most comfortable key-snapped note will light up, indicating which note your vocal is now locked into.
Best ways to use AutoPitch
If you’re mainly interested in cleaning up and smoothing out your vocal’s pitch, then a subtler application of the Classic tone in Chromatic mode is the way to go. Make incremental adjustments to the central knob to find your sweet spot, which will smoothly tighten up any wayward notes in your take. Dial it up for a more dramatic pitch corrention effect.
More extreme effects, like Robot and Big Harmony, are perfect for underscoring the changing dynamics of your track. Think less of these as constant lead vocal textures. Instead, try using them at key moments to emphasize certain lyrics, add flavor to hooks, or using them to mold some more abstract sonic flavor around your vocal in the stereo field.
So, which autotune software/plugin is best?
With a quick overview of each pitch correction product and an understanding of how they work, you can start to get a feel for which is right for you. They all have their advantages. Antares Auto-Tune is a great choice as a top-tier paid option for pros. BandLab’s AutoPitch is free, useable from anywhere via your phone, and is yet another addition to an already robust music-making platform.
About the author: Andy Price is the former editor of MusicTech magazine and website. He has subsequently written on music making and listening for NME, MusicRadar, Uncut, Guitar.com and Computer Music amongst others.