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Creating the Auto-Tune Effect in Auto-Tune

There’s a lot that you can do with Auto-Tune. From subtle pitch correction to adding liveliness to a performance, it’s a power tool for vocal production. But sometimes, what you really want is the Auto-Tune Effect.

Far from subtle, the Auto-Tune Effect gives vocals those blocky, robotic vibes that sound like they’re coming from the future. In this article, we'll show you how to make "Auto-Tune: The Plug-in" sound like “Auto-Tune: The Cultural Phenomenon." {One quick note: the images in this piece feature Auto-Tune Pro, but most of these tips also apply to other versions of Auto-Tune.}

"I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords."

Setting the Scene

The most essential setting to getting the Auto-Tune Effect sound is a fast Retune Speed. In Auto-Tune, Retune Speed refers to how quickly the plugin adjusts the pitch of an incoming note to correct it. So, naturally, the faster the Retune Speed, the more inhuman and apparent the effect. To start with, set your Retune Speed to 0 (in Auto-Tune Pro/Artist/EFX+), or to Fast (in Auto-Tune Access). The knob should be turned all the way up, to the right.

How all four knobs in Auto-Tune should look (in the Pro and Artist versions).

 

You’ll want to further dehumanize Auto-Tune’s effect by setting the other major parameters to 0 – in Pro and Artist this means that Flex-Tune (which makes the retuning effect less aggressive) and Humanize (which slows down retuning during longer sustained notes) should be all the way off, fully to the left. We’re going to leave Natural Vibrato alone for now – you can experiment with it later, but for now leave it at its default setting of 0.0 (12 o’clock).

Moving at Scale

Now we’ve got our parameters set up, but there’s still something missing—namely, a scale. By default, Auto-Tune will correct to a chromatic scale, meaning that incoming audio will be corrected to any of the semitones. This doesn’t result in super audible correction, so let’s adjust. In this example, the song is in G Major / E Minor, so we’re going to set Auto-Tune’s scale to G Major.

 

Customizing the scale in Auto-Tune Pro.

 

One more note about scale: it’s also possible to add/remove notes or create a custom scale with Auto-Tune. This can be helpful in making effects much more exaggerated by removing options, but be careful! (Unless you’re just making a meme.)

What about Input Type?

Input Type is a feature that helps optimize how Auto-Tune handles incoming audio, by setting it to receive different pitched ranges of human voice or instruments. This is an important and often-overlooked parameter which can really help you get the most out of Auto-Tune! Match the Input Type setting to the range of your vocal for best results.

Hamming it Up

Before we go further, let’s step back in time to Kanye West’s classic, Love Lockdown. Pay extra attention to the beginning of the track, when it’s just his voice and an 808.

Did you notice where the Auto-Tune effect was most audible? It’s when he’s transitioning between notes that you can most hear the blocky, futuristic sound. The effect was a critical part of Kanye’s album, 808s & Heartbreak, and, tellingly, he purposefully sang with exaggerated flourishes to trigger the Auto-Tune effect.

Auto-Tune works better the more melismatic (moving frequently between notes) a singer performs. Conversely, long, sustained notes won’t do much to trigger the Auto-Tune effect. If you want to really get those blocky, robotic sounds, you’re going to have to exaggerate the transitions and extra notes in your singing. It might even help if you can purposefully “miss” a few notes here and there.

 

 

Listen to these examples to hear how it works:

The thing about Auto-Tune’s retuning is that you’ll hear it the most during transitions between notes. This means that, if you’re looking for an “Auto-Tune” sound, you want to add more transitional flourishes between notes, and do a poor job of holding sustained notes. Think of the flourishes that singers like Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera add to their music, then do that terribly (like I did above). It’s worth it for the effect!

Graph Mode: For The Pros

So far, we’ve covered things exclusively using the common mode available in all editions of Auto-Tune. In Auto-Tune Pro, this mode is known as Auto Mode. The other mode available in Auto-tune Pro, called Graph Mode, gives us a number of options that we can use to get an even more pronounced effect.

When you first open Graph Mode, it will be empty—you’ll need to play a segment of audio and set Graph Mode to Track either Pitch or both Pitch + Time. There are other more complex options here, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ve had Graph Mode track just two measures of some vocalizing.

Listen to this clip to hear how the audio matches up to the Graph Mode display:

The Graph Mode display in Auto-Tune Pro

 

Here’s what you’re seeing in the graph:

  • The red line represents the curve of the pitch of the audio, as determined by Auto-Tune’s pitch detection algorithm.
  • The green line represents where we’ve drawn in the pitch curve and the blocks represent individual sustained notes.

The best way to get to know Graph Mode is to experiment—it’s a great feature for setting things a bit wild. In the second repetition in the audio clip above, you can hear that the notes are a bit all over the place, and we’ve also done a bit of time stretching (another Graph Mode feature). It might not be exactly what you want on the first attempt, but it’s definitely a pronounced effect showing what you have to work with.

Note that Graph Mode has a separate control for retuning, so you’ll need to set that control to “0” again to get the most pronounced effect. Additionally, Graph Mode features advanced formant correction tools (including Antares’ throat-modeling technology). This allows you to accomplish much wide pitch-shifts (beyond +/- 12 semitones as Auto Mode is limited to), without having “chipmunk” or “monster” sounding vocals at the high and low ends, respectively.

Lastly, Graph Mode offers the ability to input MIDI notes in real time or on the Graph. (We’ll cover that feature more in-depth in a future article.)

Spread the Robot Love

Now that you know how to create the Auto-Tune Effect, we’d love to hear how you’re using it on your tracks. Please share your tracks with the hashtag #AutoTune and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

The Auto-Tune Effect is perhaps the most recognizable vocal treatment since reverb. Check out these artists who have mastered the creative use of the Auto-Tune Effect.

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