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Quick Tip: Creating Vocal Harmonies Using MIDI

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A great way to control the parameters of your plugins is to link them to your MIDI channel. In this quick tip, I show you how to do that in Cubase, using Antares' Harmony Engine as an example.

I was recently working on a project and wanted to add some harmonies on the chorus part. Since the vocalist had already left, I decided to go for Antares’ Harmony Engine. Like Autotune, it has the option for MIDI input. This means you can control the notes of the vocals through MIDI. You can also use this method live, which makes controlling the pitch or adding harmonies very much easy.

The default settings of Harmony Engine (i.e. without the MIDI input) will also work fine for harmonizing a song, but with MIDI, you have a lot more control. For example, if you're planning to use the Asus4 and A major chords for a part, the MIDI track can be set up to help you in this. But without the MIDI, it would be a very difficult task.

This quick tip can be applied to any VST or plugin which supports MIDI input. So let’s get started.

Step 1. Set Up The MIDI Track

Before you begin, you must set up the MIDI track which contains the notes of the harmonies. To add a MIDI track, select MIDI from the Add Track submenu of the Project menu. Select the number of tracks you want, in this case we will be needing only one, and press OK.

Next, select the draw tool, or directly record MIDI data onto the track. If you are using the draw tool, open up the MIDI track and manually draw the notes that you want. Make sure you quantize the MIDI data to the chord pattern of the song, so that the harmonies will be tight and perfect.

Step 2. Set Up Harmony Engine

There are two ways you can add the Harmony Engine VST to a track. One is through the Inserts and the other is through the FX Channel track. In this quick tip, I'll use the FX Channel.

Select FX Channel Track from the Add Track submenu. In the drop menu that appears, select Harmony Engine and press OK.


The Harmony Engine interface will appear. Here, go to the Harmony Source option, and select Chord via MIDI. You can further edit the vocal settings at a later stage.


Step 3. Link Them Together

Now comes the interesting task of linking them together. In order to link these two tracks together, you need to change the output routing of the MIDI channel to the FX Channel that we have set up.

To change this, go to the MIDI channel's inspector, and select the Harmony Engine FX channel from the Output Routing dropdown menu.


Now, the harmonies of the Harmony Engine VST will be singing the notes that are specified in the MIDI track.


This technique is very useful and important while working with plugins and VSTs which support the use of MIDI. You can use it with different chords and patterns and create very interesting pieces of music. You can also use this tip live, which can really impress your audience.

Now all you have to do is to start experimenting with these tips and start making better music.

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