Pitch correction is the process of correcting the intonation of an audio signal without affecting other aspects of its sound. Pitch correction first detects the pitch of an audio signal (using a live pitch detection algorithm), then calculates the desired change and modifies the audio signal accordingly. The widest use of pitch correctors is in Western popular music on vocal lines.
Pitch correction was relatively uncommon before 1997, when Antares Audio Technology's Auto-Tune Pitch Correcting Plug-In was introduced. This replaced slow studio techniques with a real-time process that could also be used in live performance.
Auto-Tune is still widely used, as are other pitch-correction algorithms including Celemony's Direct Note Access which allows adjustment of individual notes in a polyphonic audio signal, and Celemony's Melodyne. Pitch correction is now a common feature in digital audio editing software, having first appeared as a Pro Tools plugin and now being found in products such as Apple GarageBand, Apple Logic Pro, Adobe Audition, FL Studio & Steinberg Cubase. It is also available in the form of rackmount hardware, such as the TC-Helicon VoiceOne. A free VST plugin known as GSnap can also be used to get the same effect. In the Linux FOSS community, Autotalent and Zita-AT1 offer this functionality.
Uses of pitch correction
Besides correcting out-of-tune vocals, pitch correction has numerous other applications and is commonly used to add a harmony to certain words or phrases without re-recording those words or phrases again and again at the necessary pitches. Depending on the specific model used, various vocal effects can be added and the better quality devices can be adjusted to allow expression to remain in the music with some pitch correctors even possessing the ability to add vibrato.
With extreme parameter values, pitch correction has also become popular as a distinctively electronic voice effect. A notable example of Auto-Tune-based pitch correction is the Cher effect, so named because producer Mark Taylor originated the effect in her 1998 hit song "Believe". More recently, it has been used by composer John Boswell for his popular Symphony of Science and Symphony of Bang Goes The Theory (a BBC science show) mash-ups.
In 2010, Teddy Riley claimed that the processing of Michael Jackson's voice with Melodyne caused fans to question the authenticity of the voice on the posthumous album Michael. Riley claimed that because he did not have a "final vocal" from Jackson, Melodyne had to be used "to make his voice work with the actual music," "to get him in key" and this resulted in the vibrato sounding "a little off" or "over-processed."
One criticism of pitch correction is that it allows recording engineers to create a perfectly in-tune performance from a vocalist who is otherwise not skilled enough to give one, adding a degree of dishonesty to music. This concept was featured in a 2001 episode of The Simpsons, entitled "New Kids on the Blecch". In the episode, a cartoon representation of a pitch corrector (labeled "Studio Magic") was used to make up for the total lack of singing talent in a manufactured boy band, of which Bart Simpson was a member.
A Chicago Tribune report from 2003 stated that "many successful mainstream artists in most genres of music—perhaps a majority of artists—are using pitch correction". Timothy Powell, a producer/engineer, stated in 2003 that he is "even starting to see vocal tuning devices show up in concert settings"; he states that "That's more of an ethical dilemma—people pay a premium dollar to see artists and artists want people to see them at their best."
- Anderton, Craig. "In Search of the Perfect Pitch; The fix is in". EQ. 2006-07-01. Pg. 46.
- Hodgson, Jay (2010). Understanding Records, p.233. ISBN 978-1-4411-5607-5.
- Sillitoe, Sue & Bell, Matt (1999-02). "Recording Cher's Believe". Sound on Sound. Retrieved on 2008-04-14.
- Collett-White, Mike (2010-12-13). "Voice on Jackson album far from finished article". Reuters (UK Edition). Thomson Reuters.
- Daley, Dan (2003-10). "Vocal Fixes: Modern Vocal Processing In Practice". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 2009-02-12.
- Everett-Green, Robert. (2006-10-14). "Ruled By Frankenmusic; The computer program that cleans up singers' pitch is reshaping the character of pop". The Globe and Mail (Canada). Pg. R1.
- Ryan, Maureen (27 April 2003). "What, no pitch correction?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-04-25.