Perhaps the greatest tool utilized in every studio these days is some form of pitch correction, and nobody makes a more powerful tool for pitch correction than Celemony. Melodyne Editor provides just about every imaginable adjustment, not only dealing with pitch, but also timbre, timing, modulation, and more! While there are several options on the market for corrective editing, and several DAWs with built-in options, Melodyne Editor has revolutionized the way professionals work with audio and has defined itself as a necessity for any sessions requiring even the most minimal corrections.
Melodyne Editor has dozens of features that are easily accessible while working within the program, which is available as RTAS, AU, and VST plug-ins, as well as in a standalone version called Melodyne Singletrack. The features are the same across the board, making it equally as powerful regardless of your DAW. More importantly, the controls/key commands/functions are the same in every format, making it easy for engineers accustomed to Pro Tools use Melodyne just as fluently in say Cubase or Studio One. Melodyne’s basics are easy to learn very quickly, with advanced techniques allowing for seamless audio editing with experimentation. Looking at a few sections of Melodyne will show just how intuitive the software is.
The first thing users of Melodyne need to do is import their audio, which is as simple as hitting record in the top left of the standalone version, or selecting “Transfer” and playing back audio in your DAW. Melodyne scans the sound, analyzes it, then transcribes the audio to a piano style interface. During this process, other critical information is captured by the program, including an attempt at figuring out the key of the audio. I’ve found the assumed key to almost always be correct, making quick correction a breeze. In the event it’s wrong, Melodyne provides the option to edit the key/scale/tuning of the program. The transport section in the standalone software is pretty straightforward from there, including play/stop controls, tempo/time signature controls, and a metronome for reference. In the plug-in, you have the option to link/unlink the tempo instead of the traditional playback options.
The editing tools replace your pointer in Melodyne, and can be switched in a box next to the Transport, or by right-clicking anywhere in the program. The right-click feature allows some of the fastest switching in the program; faster switching than any DAW controls I’ve come across in the past. This feature in particular allows me to use a standard mouse or trackpad without sacrificing speed. The tools are split into five icons with drastically different purposes. Three of the icons include drop-down menus for more specific tools. This form of tool access is more reminiscent of picture editing software like Adobe Photoshop, but proves to be an easy way to remember where everything is.
The first icon/menu is vital for navigation and editing, giving access to most of the necessary tools to get a decent sound. At its base level, the “Main Tool” acts a lot like a smart tool in Pro Tools, detecting what it thinks you want to do based on the position of your pointer. Underneath, in the drop-down menu, you have a scroll tool (looks like a hand) for moving through your audio, and a zoom tool allowing you to zoom in on both time and the range of notes. Once you find a range for the song, zooming isn’t really necessary, but becomes extremely useful for something that jumps several octaves (Mariah Carey vocal take?) in a song.
The second menu is perhaps the most useful section, defaulting to Melodyne’s default function: pitch correction. Users are quickly able to drag notes up and down on the keyboard, and double-clicking centers the note to that frequency, almost like retuning a flat guitar string. The two other options in this menu, pitch modulation & pitch drift, operate in a similar manner. The modulation tool acts to increase or decrease the amount of vibrato in a given tone. Similarly, the pitch drift affects how far a note can go sharp or flat while remaining connected as a single note.
The next three tools I utilize less frequently, but each have a specific function that may be useful to some. The formant tool changes the sound of audio in a drastic way. The most simplified explanation of formant is variations in how different voices sound, even when singing the same pitch. The more drastic uses could be sound design to create the voice of a chipmunk by raising the formant, or a demon by lowering it. The most realistic use I could find would be using the formant to change a singer’s voice slightly if they sing their own backgrounds, just to add variation. To the left of the formant are the amplitude and timing controls, which I usually don’t use since I can utilize volume automation and elastic audio in Pro Tools.
The final tool in the menu is one of my most frequently used when I have a session that needs heavy pitch correction. In order to keep the interface simple, Melodyne limits itself on notes in a set amount of time, and sometimes combines two or three notes into one close one. The separation tool puts this control in the engineers hands, by allowing you to chop up a single note into as many little pieces as you want. Most of the time I don’t need to worry, but on the rare occasion I do need to split something up, this tool makes it quick and simple.
Where To Start?
In almost every case, I start using Melodyne by looking over the track to make sure there are no extreme miscalculations about what note is being played/sung. After verifying that everything looks okay, I use Melodyne’s “Correct Pitch” feature to do some automatic tuning for me, then spot check the rest myself. This tool allows to you decide how exact you want each note, as well as how much drift each note can have on a percentage of 1-100. This quick option has saved me hours of pitch correction, and works transparently on almost anything I’ve tried it on. There is also an option to automatically quantize the timing of the vocal, which works great if you have a straight-forward, grid-locked vocal. I usually prefer to pocket my vocals into a song, which is easier done in tracking or using elastic audio.
Melodyne is an unparalleled powerhouse piece of software that no studio should be without. It’s transparency and ease-of-use allows anything to sound natural, which is key to a properly tuned vocals. For those more interested in twisting audio into something unnatural, a few adjustments will allow for “auto-tune” style effects, or you could mess around with the formant tool. For more information, or to purchase your copy, visit Celemony’s website.