When you hear “vocal tuning,” your mind probably jumped straight to that robotic, futuristic sound coming out of artists like T-Pain, Ke$ha, and Lil Wayne. What most people don’t know is that vocal tuning is used in just about every single song out there on the radio, from that new folksy indie band to Adele.
(OK, maybe not Adele.)
The point is that vocal tuning is essentially an industry standard now for any artist looking to be taken seriously. No song hits the airwaves without a long, heavy session with some professional audio mixing.
There’s a reason why it’s a virtually ubiquitous practice—vocals are the heart and soul of every song. Their undeniable ability to make or break a song is what makes all possible improvements to the vocals completely worthwhile, hence vocal tuning. Vocal tuning can correct small mistakes in pitch while retaining the tone and, keeping it natural sounding. Expert vocal tuning can elevate a mix to a higher level, with the listener none the wiser.
Now, there’s also a reason why vocal tuning is virtually non-existent among new artists—it is expensive and requires a high level of expertise to make it sound right. We know from experience that vocal tuning from professional mixing studios can cost literally hundreds of dollars—not a bill easily footed by someone shacking it up in their mom’s basement.
We also know that in some ways, the price tag for professional audio mixing is justified. For a physical studio, the cost of rent and equipment doesn’t come cheap. Most of all, the experience and technical know-how required to naturally tune vocals in a mix is nothing short of insane. We’ve seen people with the exact same tools and plug-ins end up with grossly different mixes, due to differences in experience.
Of course there will be those musicians who just don’t have any money to shell out for audio mixing, and that’s OK. However, these artists will need to come to terms with the fact that they cannot just “pick up” audio mixing, and expect an industry-standard sound. Audio mixing is an art that professional engineers develop over years of work and experience.
For musicians with some money to spend, we highly encourage you to look at some audio mixing services. It makes all the difference in your final product. If you have not so much money, check out online mixing services. Online mixing and mastering services do the same thing as the pros, but without the brick-and-mortar store business, and thus the lower prices. Some of the better online services use only pro engineers from top commercial studios for all their projects. You will literally have the same engineers working on your song as you would if you went to an expensive commercial studio except you will get it at a fraction of the cost.
(Mix Pro Studios provides online mixing services, hint hint.)
In all seriousness, if you have the resources, invest in some vocal tuning. You’re not obligated to get all your songs tuned—try it out for a few songs that have potential to be hits, and hear the difference for yourself.