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Tuning Vocals 101: How to Tune Vocals

Hi, it’s Warren Huart here. Hope you’re doing marvelously well on this fine morning, as it is here.

Today, I’m going to do a quick recording of myself singing. Yes, it does happen occasionally, of a song I wrote a few years ago. So I’m going to sing the second verse of the song, I’m going to do a very quick comp, and then I’m going to tune it using the wonderful world of Antares Auto-Tune.

So I’ll give you a quick synopsis of how to use Auto-Tune.

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Also, there’s a free download of a track there by a band that I work with called Robert Jon and the Wreck.

Anyway, lots to see there. Let’s get started on the recording. Let’s go an record the vocal.


Okay, so let’s do some tuning of this vocal. So I did a really quick comp. Here’s the comp here. I go back to this playlist, number 5, which is the one I liked most, I just dropped in two elements. The take from number three and a take from number six. A piece from number three and a piece from number six, and I gained up a little bit on this phrase.

So this is super, super quick comp. I just went for performance. You know, the song is kind of vitriolic, so I just wanted a little bit of, you know, I just wanted to go for the performance that felt that way. Okay, so let’s give it a listen.


So let’s have a listen again. I think that this is the one that bothered me most at first was the “Leaving a trail.”


So let’s just highlight the area there. Let’s go to pitch shift and choose our Auto-Tune. Now, with a chord sequence like that, where it’s a descending major chords, it doesn’t really have a key center as such, so I’m going to keep it in chromatic, because you know, that’s a D Major, C Major, B flat Major, A Major is quite a — you know, it’s quite a complicated — I wouldn’t give it any one particular key is what I’m trying to say.

Okay, so we’re going to select Track, Pitch. We’re going to go into process, and we can zoom in using our zoom tool here. Okay, so our melody should be hitting those major thirds. So basically, that should be an F sharp, this should be an E. Listen to the chord sequence.

[full mix]

Cool. So let’s do something simple. What you can do is you can do this if you just put a straight line on where you want the node to be. You see it immediately goes here and gives us actually something that doesn’t look too bad. It makes it very, very simple. Let’s do the same thing here with the E.

Now, what I would suggest actually is if you see below here, I’ve already done this. I have a comp. It’s not consolidated, but it’s also something I can go back to if I don’t like the tuning. So try to have a duplicate copy of what you’ve done.

Okay, so now, we’ve selected that. Now let’s process it and see what it feels like.

[song with tuned vocals]

There’s kind of a little scoop up on that “leaving” which I’d like to lose, so what I’m going to do is I’m going to select just that first part here. If you hit Clear All here, we’ll clear the last one. Track, Pitch, process. Okay.

And this I think is our issue. I’ve got a little scoopy thing going here on an F. It should be, “leaving the trail, leaving the trail” should be one note. So we’re going to get a little contentious here. So let’s draw this in. So go to our line, straight line to over here and draw it in.

Now, you can do that reaching the speed quite drastically. That might sound bad, but let’s have a listen and see what we’ve got. And here, same thing. So you can adjust the reaching speed. It’s pretty drastic. Let’s see what we get. Could be horrific.

[mix, tuned vocal]

That’s actually really good!


So we’re getting a, “leaving, leaving” a much straighter F sharp, where I went, “leaving” and did this awful scoop, I got rid of it. As you can see, it’s not a straight line, it’s still got the implication of the quiver in my voice, so it still sounds like a human being. We’re not doing dance music here, but it’s just correcting those little things that I’m not that good at. I’m not a great singer.

Let’s have a listen here.

[full mix]

It’s pretty good. I mean, there’s a couple of minor moments. Have a listen again.


There’s like, tiny little things in there. I think — the outro stuff, where it gets a little bit more aggressive, I’m willing to live with. Bending notes and stuff, because it adds to the passion, but here, let’s just take this so again, we can go to Clear All, get rid of what’s already there, and so we’ll go data, yes we do, okay, so we’ll Track, Pitch, process, here it is. Zoom in.

The reason why I turn off the auto-scroll is if I don’t, it will — every time I zoom in, it will click to where it wants to. This last phrase is on the C sharp, which is over the A Major chord, so we can straighten that up a little bit. Again, use the retune speed to get a little bit more aggressive. You know, I actually don’t like what I just did, so I’m going to undo that. Just cut it like that.

Just because I don’t want to make that scoop go [emulates scoop] too quick. You can get some awful artifacts in Auto-Tune if you aggressively do something too much.

Okay, so just subtly did the end of that. Same here. Again. Adjust my retune speed. We’re doing a major third, so that should be a D. Actually, no, that should be an E Major. As you can see, I’m all over the place on that D. Let’s correct me there. Again, we can adjust the retune speed. That’s a little aggressive. Let’s come back here.

So I’m still keeping that warble in my voice, but you can see, it’s getting quite aggressive there. Let’s process it and see what it feels like.

[tuned vocals]

It’s not perfect. There’s still some wrongness in there, but it makes it sound like I’m a better singer than I really am.

So let’s have a quick listen to those elements we’ve tuned.

[mix with tuned vocals]

Alright, two more bits. The “destruction” and the “behind.” Very subtle, let’s see what we’ve got. So again, let’s go to Clear All here. Yes, we want to clear it. Let’s track pitch. So I should be doing a D there. So let’s get — this one is going to be quite aggressive, so let’s get — let’s try this. Hopefully, that won’t be too aggressive.

[adjusting vocals]

Much better.

[song with tuned vocals]

And now the B on the “behind.” Again, select all or you can just clear all from here, I should say.

[full mix]

So the behind there is really sharp, I completely missed the notes, but I do like the tonality. So this one is going to be a drastic one.

Okay, so let’s track it. Process. There it is. Now, it should be a D and a C sharp, so we’re quite a long way off here. [laughs] So let’s get a little drastic. So we’re going to select this as a D, believe it or not. And we’ll retune here. I’ll make this the C sharp. Okay. And we’ll process.


There you go! Now we have the melody, which will follow the chords better. Let’s have a listen to the whole thing.

[full mix]

This whole last line here, I love. I don’t mind it. It’s a little pitchy and crazy. There’s a little piece in this that we can improve. Let me just — we’ll grab the whole thing.

Okay, again, let’s clear it. Yes, we want to clear. Okay, let’s track the pitch, process, zoom out a second. If you leave the auto-scroll on, it will go to it, and then you can turn it off afterwards. Okay, so it’s high here, again, zoom in around it.

So it’s not bad here, but we’ll correct it anyway. Just pull it in lightly. We hit the E somewhat. Again, doesn’t have to go crazy, I’m just sort of tugging it closer towards the note. Here’s where it’s sounding a little sour mainly. And here.

The reason why I don’t draw a straight line across the whole thing is if there’s any weird scoopy notes down here, especially super, super low, if you drew a straight line across here, you might pull it up, and you might get that little Auto-Tune [imitates Auto-Tune artifact] sound that, you know, happens quite often. So I’m just trying to zero in on those areas.

Okay, so this looks pretty good. We’re just sort of, you know, getting most of it. I’m going to pull this one in. Click on it here and get a little bit more aggressive. That’s probably too much.

Okay, let’s process then, see how it feels.


It’s pretty good. Okay, I think we may well have it here. Let’s listen to the whole vocal.

[full mix]

Okay, great. So that was me singing on a song I wrote a few years ago, and I use Auto-Tune that way a lot. Sometimes in graphical mode, I will just take the shape, and then push it around. We can do further ones, but that’s like, a basic, quick overview.

Now, that is actually a complicated chord sequence in some ways, because it doesn’t follow a specific key center, because there’s these four major chords moving down. It — most songs, especially pop songs don’t stray very far from formulaic chord sequences, so you can stay in one key if you know the key of the song is just C Major, you can go to C and, you know, you won’t have to deal with sort of understanding the melody in quite the way I do.

However, it does help to have a really good ear, so I think as a producer, and even as an engineer, because engineers are increasingly asked to tune vocals.

You know, build up your ear. Build up your musicality. I think it’s really, really important. Learn to play an instrument if you don’t. Piano I think is fantastic, because — especially if you’re using a MIDI keyboard, it will keep your ear — train your ear really, really well, where when you’re learning guitar like I did, you’re not always perfectly in tune, so if you have to choose one instrument to start off on, I would highly recommend keyboards and then gravitate in different ways.

Anyways, so that’s Auto-Tune. It’s been around for a few years. It’s kind of an industry standard, however, I do also use Melodyne, which I love as well. I use it a lot for creating MIDI, for putting in drum samples, and we can do that in another video as well.

So thank you ever so much for watching, please hit me up with questions. There’s so much to talk about using. You know, Auto-Tune in graphical, this is just scraping the surface, and we can get into much more details.

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at
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