Over the last decade, autotune has evolved from a subtlety producers and engineers use to alter vocals and correct out-of-tune notes to a full-blown identity for certain musicians. Now, predominantly used in the realms of trap and left-field pop music, fans will even be able to identify an artist just by the way their distinct autotune sounds. There are a variety of plugins available which can generate these desired sounds, so to help you get to grips with what autotune does and the best tools for the job, we’ve put together a list of the best autotune plugins on the market.
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What is Autotune?
Autotune essentially is a piece of digital software which can alter the pitch of a singer’s voice during a live performance or afterwards in post-production. The way autotune works is by changing the speed of the vibration of a certain note to increase or decrease the pitch. To create a seamless and smooth sound, autotune can then remove or add vibrations to keep the duration of the note the required length. Although this highly sought after robotic effect can be created by a vocoder and talkbox it’s important not to get them confused. The vocoder, which was invented in 1938, synthesizes human speech using different band frequencies whereas a talkbox lets musicians shape the sound of an instrument using their mouth and a plastic tube.
As the original developers and registered trademark owners of the autotune effect, it only seems right to head up our list with Antares Audio Technologies Auto-Tune. Since its initial release in 1997 Antares Auto-Tune plugins have come a long way. They now have a number of different versions available such as their flagship Auto-Tune Pro ($399) which is the most complete and advanced edition of Auto-Tune to their affordable Auto-Key ($49) and everything in between. Antares Auto-Tune is great for both detailed transparent tuning and creating that extreme autotune effect using a MIDI keyboard. Check out their different audio devices here.
Our partners, Waves Audio, are renowned for the quality of their audio plugins – and their autotune plugin is no different. OVox is an all in one powerhouse which enables you to pitch, tune, harmonize and arpeggiate vocals as well as create classic vocoder & talkbox effects. The Note Mapper allows you to easily work with chords, scales and harmonies adding Daft Punk-style robotic tones to your vocals.
Although Antares were the first to create the autotune effect, Celemony developed their own stand-out take on the effect with Melodyne. Melodyne enables music producers and sound engineers to edit audio in crystal clear ways by editing notes directly. The ability to manipulate the pitch, formants, dynamics and timing of the on-screen notes allows you to reimagine and edit vocals, piano, guitar, synth and more hours, weeks or even years after the recording session. Although not the best for extreme autotune effects the 99€ essential version is great for detailed transparent tuning.
From Tim Exile, the man who brought us ‘The Finger‘, The Mouth helps generate melodies and harmonies out of any audio you feed into it. Whether you’re a singer, beatboxer, bass guitarist or synth player, you’ll be able to channel your sounds into The Mouth. The plugin is able to detect the pitch of an incoming audio source, autotune it and transform it into a scale or customised melody from MIDI notes.
Logic Pro’s inbuilt Flex Pitch is a stock plugin which can yield fantastic results. When activated, Flex Pitch splits your vocal or audio sample up into separate pitches so it’s easy to see which notes are being triggered by the sound. Once editing your audio samples you’ll be able to automate the volume, adjust vibrato, the formant and more giving you complete control of how your sound will end up. Take it to the extreme or keep your edits subtle with Logic’s Flex Pitch.
Our friends over at BeatLab have modded Cycling 74 Autotuna which is included in Max 7 Pitch and Time Machine pack. Now, with BeatLab’s moded autotune, you can easily select which scale you want to pitch correctly. It’s incredibly simple and easy to use – see for yourself by watching the video here.
The above list is by no means exhaustive and represents just a small amount of the very best of the wealth of autotune plugins available to producers today. Though the above plugins are, in our opinion, our favourite and most used in our own productions, it’s always best to experiment with others to find out what works for you.
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