So I've got to know if you want to go
So you may think that someone like Louise here would not be able to become a world class
Not with that voice right?!
But with modern vocal production, it's more than possible.
Let me show you how.
Hello, and Welcome to “Pop Theory”, the series where we dive into the secrets of modern
This episode is all about vocal production, that is, how to make a singer sound as good
as possible in the studio.
You’re probably already familiar with Auto-Tune, or rather, pitch correction.
Do you know what auto-tune is?
It sounds a little bit like a robot.
Like a robot?
When you don’t really have a lot of talent, press the Auto-Tune and make it sound perfect.
If I would tell you that Taylor Swift uses Auto-Tune, would that change…
I don't think that Taylor uses that kind of stuff.
Justin Bieber uses auto-tune?!
For most people “Auto-Tune” has become synonymous for all kinds vocal processing.
But actually, the branded processor Auto-Tune can only do a specific set of things.
The first hit single to use Auto-Tune was Cher’s “Believe,” and it used the most
extreme setting, making it sound robotic in a way.
That kind of sound had not been heard before, so within a year of the release of “Believe,”
Auto-Tune had been sold to every major studio in the world.
The inventor said that Auto-Tune might be to music what Photoshop is to photography:
everyone uses it, but not many are keen to admit it.
Let’s quickly listen to what Auto-Tune can do.
Here I have a short phrase of me singing.
“Just because I…
I want you to love me.”
Okay, so let’s try to put Auto-Tune on it.
“Just because I…
I want you to love me.”
Can you hear the subtle difference?
It’s a bit more accurate and you could say that it’s got more of a “pop” sound to it
This is the Retune Speed wheel which changes how extreme the effect is.
You can get the effect from Cher’s “Believe” by turning the wheel to 0, while turning it
the other way will make the effect less and less noticeable.
Basically, Auto-Tune takes the incoming signal, that is, the voice, and takes it to the closest
note, making it in pitch.
You can think of it sort of like a guitar where wherever you push on the neck, you’ll
get a real note because of the frets, but the voice without Auto-Tune is more like a
violin, where you have to kind of slide around sometimes to get to the note you want.
The pitch of a note is defined by its frequency, and is measured in Hertz.
The note A has a frequency of about 440 Hz while the closest note above it, A sharp,
has a frequency of about 466.
So if I would sing a note in between these two frequencies, Auto-Tune would try to correct
it either to A sharp or to A. And if the note I’m singing is actually pretty much perfectly
inbetween these two notes Auto-Tune might have trouble identifying which note I am going
for and it would create a “warbling” effect, like this.
“I want you to love me.”
But changing the frequency is only part of what Auto-Tune does.
Have you ever wondered why speeding up a song sounds like a chipmunk is singing?
It’s because you are increasing the frequency of the sound.
But it also means you’re shortening the note.
So the cool thing that Auto-Tune does is that it changes the frequency AND the length of
First, we record every phrase of the song on its own five times.
We make sure that Louise sings in a few different ways so we have more options later.
“That’s perfect, let’s do that” Once we have the best possible takes from the singer,
let’s get to the production magic.
Through a process known as “comping,” we’ll listen and find the best parts of
every take we recorded, and combine them.
This creates a sort of Frankenstein’s Monster where sometimes every note comes from a different take!
Then we do some cutting and time-stretching to make sure that every note is exactly as long as we want.
Now, I’ll use a combination of two separate tools, Melodyne and Auto-Tune, to sort out
“I can’t make it on my own, I can’t make it on my own."
Finally, I use the original vocal to generate dubs and backing vocals to give it a bigger,
“I can’t make it on my own…”
Do you think that you guys could be pop singers?
Anyone can be nowadays.
You can get anyone off the street, Auto-Tune it.
(Singing) And then Auto-Tune kind of…
(Singing) Brings it together.
*random man passing by singing*
So is vocal production a bad thing?
As with anything, I wouldn’t say that the answer is a clear “yes” or “no”.
There are a few positive things that modern vocal production has allowed for in music.
First off, more precise vocal recordings.
And secondly, it has allowed for faster work flows in the studio meaning that your favourite
artists can make music way faster.
And thirdly, it has allowed people like T-pain, Kanye, and Drake to make music in new ways
sounding kind of like robots, but it’s like a new aesthetic for singing.
So even though your favourite artist probably “cheats” a bit in the studio, try to remember
that the tracks that you love by them might not have existed without this technology speeding
up their workflow.
So with that in mind let’s listen to what vocal production has done for Louise.
I don’t want to be alone anymore, anymore.
I can’t make it on my own anymore, anymore.
So I gotta know
If you want to go
Grab a cup of joe
And then buy me a dog, a dog, a dog, a dog