Vocal Tuning: Why you should probably do it

One of the most polarizing modern music production techniques is tuning. With the advent of technology like Melodyne and Antares Autotune, there is nothing that producers and audio engineers won’t tune. I’ve seen everything from bass, violin, and guitars, even pianos get tuned. While most of this tuning goes on without any of the players even knowing, the most controversial thing that gets tuned the most is vocals. Many singers feel that having their vocals tuned makes them inadequate or inferior performers, but I’m here to assure you that’s not the case! Even the best singers in the industry today get a little tuning touch up here and there on recordings. Here’s a few reasons why you should absolutely consider vocal tuning:

It’ll make your song sound more finished

No matter what your feelings on vocal tuning, one thing is for sure – almost every song you’ve heard that was made in the last five to ten years has some level of tuning on it. Tuning has become so commonplace that we have become conditioned to hearing at least moderately tuned vocals. Without tuning, your song risks having an unfinished quality that will be hard to put your finger on.

Our songs are more in tune than ever before

An often-overlooked aspect of a recording’s intonation is how the instrumentalists tune. Classic “pitch perfect” singers were actually far from. The bands of classic recordings would have the bandleader tune by ear to a metal tuning fork, and the rest of the band would tune by ear to his instrument. This imprecise tuning means the different instruments were sometimes as much as five to ten cents off from the bandleader, giving the singer an awful lot of wiggle room to sing sharp or flat without being noticeable.

While it’s true that tuning vocals with the precision we’re accustomed to today is a very recent ability, engineers have been using tuning tricks for decades. While the greats of the 60s and 70s didn’t have AutoTune or Melodyne on their sessions, there were very skilled engineers using tape speed and EQ tricks to make sure their singers were always on key. Tuning vocals is nothing new, only the level of precision and quality of tuning are relatively new.

Your record should be the best representation of your song possible

You’re spending many hours of your time and energy, as well as hundreds or thousands of dollars recording your songs. If the tools were available, why would you not want to make the recording the absolute best that you can? If you start with a high quality performance, a professional tuning job will be completely transparent. If done right, you will never be able to tell that a vocal has been tuned (unless, of course, you are hard-tuning for effect). If you were building a house, would you still use a hammer when you have a nail gun? Think of tuning as your vocal nail gun.

There are definitely cases where tuning vocals would be inappropriate, but it’s more likely than not that your project would benefit from a professional, high quality vocal tuning. Contact me today if you have any additional questions about tuning, or would like to have vocals tuned on your project!

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