Vocal pitch shifting has become a normal part of music-making, but it wasn’t always so easy to accomplish. Before computers were capable of pitch shifting, tapes had to be manually sped up or slowed down to alter pitch. When digital samplers entered the fray, creators had to choose between time stretching, which often sounded very grainy, or pitch shifting, which often resulted in the “chipmunk” effect. Today, the vocal pitch-shift effect is easy to produce and sounds better than ever with Throat.

How To Use Throat


Throat lets you sculpt a singer’s vocal characteristics using an adjustable physical model of the human vocal tract. Available now with Auto-Tune Unlimited

The Science of Pitch Shifting

Why do voices and vocals sound so odd when pitch shifted? Because voices are complex instruments, and the fundamental frequency of a voice is just one aspect that contributes to its timbre. Vocal sounds also have formant frequencies, which are resonant frequencies defined by the vocal tract. When a real person sings a higher or lower pitch, the formant frequencies remain relatively constant. In contrast, when a vocal is artificially pitch-shifted, the formant frequencies are shifted along with the fundamental pitch, creating an unnatural sound.

Fortunately, the Throat voice-pitch changer automatically corrects the formant frequencies so vocals sound natural when pitch-shifted. Not only that, it actually lets you sculpt your own vocal sound from the ground up, with a sophisticated and fully adjustable physical model of the human throat and vocal cords.

Throat’s powerful processing and simple GUI make pitch shifting easy

The Human Throat, Digitized

The throat modeling in Throat starts with the Model Throat and Model Glottal sections.

The Model Throat section lets you control the length and width of the throat, and includes a fully adjustable graphic diagram of the throat’s geometry. Generally, masculine throats are wider and longer, while feminine throats are shorter and thinner, so bear that in mind if you’re trying to create a voice pitch shift to higher or lower pitches. That said, it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Sometimes you might find that a pitched-up breathy vocal benefits from a wider throat setting, for example.

The Model Glottal section models the glottal waveform, which is produced by the vocal cords. The glottal waveform is determined both by the singer’s anatomy and the intensity of the performance.

In the Settings section, you’ll find some important controls that’ll help you get the best sound out of Throat. Vocal Range should match the range of the source vocal, while Source Glottal Voice Type should represent the intensity of the singing in the dry audio. Source Throat Precision is set based on how extreme the settings are—from subtle, for shifting a couple semitones; to extreme, for more radical pitch and throat changes.

The Pitch control is a simple +/- 12 semitones pitch shift fader. Note that the pitch control in Throat automatically corrects the formant frequencies to avoid the “chipmunk” or “monster” sounds that can come with an extreme vocal pitch shift.

Natural Movement

The most immediate use for Throat involves making pitch-shifted vocals sound more natural. In this example, I’ll start with a dry pop vocal:

Let’s say I need to shift the vocal down six semitones to fit with the instrumental for a track. I can try doing it using the raw pitch controls on the audio in my DAW, but the results end up sounding pretty alien:

Sometimes I might want that sound, but in this case I’d like something more natural. So let’s use throat to clean up the sound a bit – I’m setting the length to be shorter and width to be thinner, to keep things more feminine even as the vocal is shifted down half an octave:

New Voices

Sometimes the most fun you can have with a tool like Throat is when things get rather unnatural. In this case, I’ve got a track in the style of Burial, with a vocal that I’ve processed and pitch-shifted up an octave using Auto-Tune:

You can already hear the chipmunk sound coming in. While I don’t necessarily need the vocal to sound “natural”, the singer is male and I’d like to take things up another octave and have it sound more feminine. Adjusting the length shorter and width longer gives me a haunting, breathy, more feminine sound:

Now, let’s here both voices doing a call-and-response routine in the context of the track:

Sad and spooky, just like I wanted it! The voice isn’t just shifted, it’s truly transformed to sound like a different singer.

Custom Shaping

If you want to get really specific and advanced with Throat, the graphic display in the top half of the plugin allows for custom Throat shaping. Whether you’re looking to tune a vocal so that it sounds perfectly natural, or working on a sci-fi alien voice (for which you can nicely pair Throat with Mutator), Throat is a versatile and unique tool for vocal customization.

What is Vocal Pitch Shifting?

Vocal pitch shifting is a process or technique that raises or lowers the pitch of a voice sound. In its simplest form, vocal pitch-shifting is performed by playing a waveform at a different speed than it was recorded. But, as we outlined above, this process can create telltale unnatural-sounding effects, because it doesn’t preserve formants, those resonances in the vocal tract that contribute to a voice’s timbre and other unique qualities. More sophisticated vocal pitch-shifting tools, such as Throat, employ digital signal processing that lets users preserve or manipulate voice characteristics to create both natural sounds and otherworldly effects.

Throat and Auto-Tune Unlimited

If you’re ready to explore the possibilities with Throat, download a free trial of Auto-Tune Unlimited. Available through subscription, Auto-Tune Unlimited comes complete with Throat, every current edition of Auto-Tune, 13 powerful vocal effects, and FREE tutorials and upgrades.