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Audio Manipulation with Celemony Melodyne

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Celemony Melodyne is a powerful pitch correction tool commonly used by producers and engineers for vocal pitch corrections. Melodyne can also do much more, all while maintaining a professional and convincing sound. Today, we're going to look at a couple of different ways Melodyne can help you in your next studio project.

Celemony Melodyne has long been used for pitch corrections. Up until recently, it struggled in competition with Antares Autotune, due primarily to the fact that Melodyne functioned as a standalone application, and was linked to your digital audio workstation using another plugin called Melodyne Bridge. Naturally, this bothered many users, because Autotune simply felt more immediate, and many users didn't bother with the advanced functionality of Melodyne simply because it was a hassle as a separate application. Eventually, Celemony realized this and corrected it, offering Melodyne as a studio version (standalone application), and also as a plugin.

Melodyne itself is capable of a variety of things, including transposing audio without altering tempo, and vice versa, as well as allowing for unmatched rearrangement and remixing of songs.

However, Melodyne comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. From smallest to biggest, the Melodyne family goes from Melodyne Uno, Melodyne Cr8, and Melodyne Studio. Additionally, Melodyne can be purchased as a plugin for VST, AU and RTAS. The biggest difference is that Melodyne Studio and Melodyne Cr8 allow for more than one track. Uno is a single editor of a single track, and it lacks the detection features that Studio and Cr8 have, as well as lacking MIDI functionality. However, it's a nice small one-stop editing program. Studio, on the other hand, allows definition of tempo, use of MIDI, and correct detecting. However, if you're just occasionally doing vocal correction, Uno will work fine for you. For this tutorial, I'll be using Melodyne Studio, as it will allow me to cover the most information for you.

Simple Whole-Track Pitch Shifts

Let's start simple, and explore how Melodyne works. The first thing we need to do is open Melodyne. It will ask you what audio driver you would like to use (DirectX for Windows, CoreAudio for Mac). If you're using Pro Tools (or some other DAW that supports it), you might have the option of using an ASIO driver, which is generally recommended.

Once Melodyne is open, you'll see the screen below.

Now, let's open up a track that we can alter. Click File > New Arrangement. You'll then be presented with this screen.

This is the default arrangement window in Melodyne. This is where you manage the various tracks in your project. Next, go to File >Import New Audio File, and choose an audio file that you want to edit. For this part of the tutorial, I'm going to be using an instrumental of the song "Sometimes", produced by Ryan Leslie.

If you double click this track and enter into the editor, you'll see the following setup.

You may be wondering why everything is supposedly the same pitch. For this particular example, I'm going to be editing the whole track. Typically, if you're editing an audio file, it needs to be a .AIFF, .SD2, .WAV and .SND sound file format and sounds must be totally monophonic, single notes, without any post-processing effects. Stereo interlaced tracks, such as what I'm working with, will not really be interpreted properly by Melodyne. Since Melodyne is typically used for vocals, you should have the original WAV or AIFF file. Melodyne can also allow you to import separate right and left audio channels, so you can handle your stereo environments. You can force Melodyne to interpret it by going to Edit >Preferences > Detection, and choosing "Melodic". Then, click Definition > Redetect Audio File, and it will reprocess the file with the new detection algorithm. However, I wouldn't advise this under any normal conditions. If you were to do it, you would end up seeing something similar to this:

Moving along, let's listen to what we currently have, just the raw .wav file.

Sounds pretty good, but let's see just what Melodyne can do with it. Click Window, and click Realtime Play Offsets. This is a neat little window that allows us to edit, in real time, how the track sounds, including Pitch, Formant and Tempo. Obviously is the pitch of the track itself. Formant is a term used to describe the spectral peaks of the sound spectrum, or the meaningful frequency that defines how a sound is articulated. That will sound a little confusing to some readers, I'm sure, but when we play with the setting, it will make more sense. Lastly, tempo naturally refers to the speed of the audio. The great thing about Melodyne is that it can change any of these parameters without affecting the others. This is a relative breakthrough (although not unique to Melodyne) in the world of audio. Remember back to your (or your parents') old record player. When you were to speed up or slow down the record, it would drastically affect the pitch and overall sound of the record. That's usually not a desired effect, so finally engineers came up with some software to get around it. It's not 100% perfect, as there are usually slight artefacts added to the sound, however, when done properly, they aren't audible to the human ear.

Let's try setting the pitch to something else. Just for kicks, try setting it to +320 cents. Notice how the audio is pitched higher, but it's still the same tempo? Listen below to the audio.

Notice that these changes aren't destructively made. This is all just altering in live time. If we want to actually render these changes to a track, we need to click "Fix To Arrangement". If you want to reset the settings back to normal, just click the "Reset" button next to the parameter. Let's click "Fix to Track" and see what happens.

We have an option here, either to apply the changes to the whole track, or just between the locators. As with most DAWs, at the top of the editor, there is a layout of the song length, with various locators. You can set the locators to create a looping section. In this case, we'll apply the changes to the whole track.

Notice how the entire track shifted upwards on the editor screen? We could have just manually dragged the track up higher, but this is a bit easier and more precise.

We can do the same thing with the formant and tempo values (although changes to the formant won't really be noticeable with the current track).

In this section, we looked at doing some simple adjustments to an entire track. In the next section, we'll really look at the more powerful features of Melodyne.

Vocal Corrections

For this part, I went and recorded some vocals in Pro Tools. Unfortunately, I'm not the singer that I wish I was, but this actually works out in this case, as more editing will be required for a better performance. Naturally, no amount of editing can save a bad performance, but in those times when you just need the extra boost, some audio editing can really help.

Let's start by opening the sometimes_vocal.wav file in Melodyne. As I promised, Melodyne correctly detects the file and maps all the notes. Generally, Melodyne gets everything right, but sometimes it can be fooled on some notes. This is especially common when a voice or instrument causes a note to sound artificially higher or lower than it really is. If you think the note was improperly detected, don't just use the editor to fix it. Instead, go to Definition >Correct Detection, and then manually adjust the wrong note to the correct one. In this case, Melodyne got it right.

Let's analyze what we have. Click View > Always Show Pitch Curve. This will show us how the singer drifts from note to note while singing. You can also see areas of vibrato, generally indicated by a sinusoidal curve within a given note. Also, notice how occasionally, the pitch curve drifts higher or lower than the actual note itself. While nobody can sing 100% perfect ptiches, seasoned singers will have less noticeable drift. Since I occasionally struggle with my vocal range, you can see I drifted a little low on some of the lower notes. This will become important, because when we use the automatic pitch correction tool in Melodyne, it will take this into account and actually drop that note lower (which may or may not be desired). In the image below, you can see where my voice went a little too low, and then an area of vibrato in the last section.

Now, click the "Edit Pitch" tool on the toolbar at the top. You should then see a bunch of blue sections appear with each actual note. These are Melodyne's estimations of where the audio would be if the singer hit each note perfectly. Some sections are spot on, whereas others are slightly off. Again, these are just Melodyne's estimations, and sometimes you don't want to hit the note perfectly. However, by that same token, being off on every note isn't exactly ear-pleasing either.

Let's look at correcting the audio. There's two ways we can do this. We can either do it by hand, or let Melodyne do it for us. There's an advantage to each, of course. Doing it by hand gives the overall best control over the performance, so you can choose what to adjust. Letting Melodyne do it gives the most consistent performance, and also is significantly faster. We'll look at how to do each.

Let's start by letting Melodyne automatically fix our vocals. Go to Edit > Correct Pitch. You'll then see this little window that asks for two percentages. First, Melodyne wants to know how much it should correct your pitch center, that is, the actual note that you're hitting. If you choose 100%, it will move the actual audio to the placements determined by the blue sections that I mentioned above. If you choose 50%, it will only move it halfway. Next, Melodyne wants to know how much to correct pitch drift. Pitch drift is indicated by the red lines that I mentioned earlier. If you set the value to 100%, it will try to completely correct pitch drift. If you set it to 50%, it will essentially make the pitch drift 50% less. Just for kicks, let's set both values to 100% and listen to the results.

Some sections sound improved, while other sections sound markedly worse. The reason for this is that, again, Melodyne is making estimations and essentially guesses about what note you were trying to sing. Since I didn't exactly hit each note correctly, it's pushing some notes that I sung flatly down to the next lower note. Of course, we can fix that and just raise them back to where they should be. But first, let's go back and listen to what happens if I only choose 50% for both values.

Again, some notes still sound a little too low, but they're less drastic, and overall the piece holds together pretty well. But I'm not sure it's an improvement from the original. Let's look at doing this by hand now, and see if we can't get the perfect result we want.

Okay, since we're doing this by hand, we need to analyze what parts of the audio we specifically want to fix. The first thing that jumps out at me is the section "about what I thought we had". On the word about, there's a definite microphone pop that should be reduced. So, grab your "Edit Amplitude" tool from the toolbar. Now, find the small audio section for the word "about", and click the amplitude tool drag until it gets smaller.

Sounds better! Normally, these sorts of "pops" are something you can catch with a windscreen or pop filter on your mic, however, this seemed to have gotten through despite my efforts. What else sounds like it needs to be fixed on this? How about the section attempt at "I wish I didn't love you so much, sometimes". The word "love" sounds a little flat to me. Let's take our Pitch Correction tool, and drag it up one note so it's on B. That's okay now. Overall, there isn't too much to fix with the actual pitch. However, we can also edit the Pitch Drift, which is where I had bigger problems. If you click and hold down on the "Edit Pitch" icon on the toolbar, you should see two more buttons appear, which are namely "Edit Pitch Modulation" and "Edit Pitch Drift". We want to edit pitch drift, so select that.

Let's edit pitch drift in a couple locations. Let's start with the phrase "I thought we had." Notice how the word "had" has 2 notes associated with it. Let's reduce the pitch drift between the two notes. Next, let's fix the pitch drift in the word "didn't" in the first "I wish I didn't love you so much." section. Let's reduce the pitch drift there and make it so it doesn't drop below the actual note. Alright, let's have a listen.

Recap

In this tutorial, we looked at Celemony Melodyne and the features and functions it can perform. We used Melodyne to alter the pitch of an entire instrumental, and then we looked at how Melodyne can help you with your vocal projects. Melodyne is a very powerful pitch correcting tool, capable of a lot more than I covered in this tutorial. However, also keep in mind that the quality of the original performance is very important, and programs such as Melodyne can help bring out the dazzling beauty of a vocal work, as long as you have the skills and patience to work with it.

Download the Play Pack for this tutorial (2.3MB)

Contents

  • Melodyne Source Files
  • WAV Samples
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