Pitch correction manually tunes the vocals in your track so they are on key. At the same time, autotune is an automated version of pitch correction that tunes your vocal track based on parameters you set. Pitch correction is corrective, and autotune is more of a vocal effect.
Tuning plays a major role in the vocal mixing process in modern music production.
Knowing when to use pitch correction or autotune for vocal tuning will help you achieve the vocal mix that you are hearing in your head.
I find myself using both pitch correction and autotune depending on the type of track that I’m producing.
This in-depth comparison article will look at pitch correction vs autotune and when you should use each.
Pitch Correction and Autotune
Let’s look at pitch correction and autotune and what they both do to your vocal track.
A lot of plugins have both pitch correction and autotune included.
What Is Pitch Correction?
Pitch correction is tuning a vocal track by manually setting each note where it should be on the musical staff.
Typically, pitch correction has far fewer features and functions than autotune. This is because pitch correction is more about tuning individual notes rather than setting parameters to tune to.
Here is what a pitch correction plugin looks like in real-time.
You should use pitch correction if your goal is to tune your vocal track, so it is in key with the rest of the music.
Note that pitch correction is not a type of vocal effect. It is a corrective measure that you use to tune vocals smoothly.
What Is Autotune?
Autotune is a method of tuning a vocal track in which you set your parameters and a musical scale to tune to. The plugin automatically adjusts your vocal track.
Autotune has far more features and parameters that you can adjust than pitch correction, mainly depending on which tuning plugin you are using.
Here is what the interface for REAPER’s tuning plugin, ‘ReaTune’, looks like.
You should use autotune if you are trying to achieve more of a robotic vocal effect, not necessarily if you just want to correct the pitch of your vocals.
Shared Features Of Each
The only feature that pitch correction and autotune have in common is that they change the pitch of an audio track.
Keep in mind that it comes down to how they change the pitch of a track.
You typically use pitch correction to correct the tuning of your vocal track and autotune to give your vocal track a robotic effect.
Aside from this, pitch correction and autotune do not really share any features.
Stand Out Features
Let’s take a gander at the unique features of both types of vocal tuning methods.
Here is a list of the features that you will find in the typical pitch correction plugin:
Visual display: a visual interface of the notes of your vocal track.
Click and drag to tune: the method for using most pitch correction plugins is to click and drag where you want to tune your notes to.
Top-of-the-line pitch correction plugins also have more settings that you can adjust, but these are the main features of pitch correction.
When it comes to tuning vocals, the simpler, the better, in my opinion.
Here is a list of the features that you see in most autotune plugins:
Musical scale: this is where you select the musical scale or set of notes you want to tune to.
Maximum/minimum pitch: use this to set the maximum and minimum pitch your autotune plugin tunes to.
Attack time: this setting controls how fast the autotune plugins tunes your vocals (the faster the attack time, the more drastic the robotic autotune vocal effect will be).
Stereo correction: use this to designate if you want the vocals in the whole stereo field to be tuned.
The more fancy autotune plugins like this one (MetaTune) might have additional features such as presets, a built-in doubler, an amount knob, etc.
Is Pitch Correction Autotune?
No, pitch correction and autotune are not the same things. They are two different methods of tuning vocals that will both give you different results.
Pitch correction is manually tuning vocals to the key of your track, and autotune is setting parameters and letting the plugin automatically tune your vocals.
Pitch correction is a corrective measure, and autotune is used to achieve the ‘Robo‘ vocal effect you hear in pop, Hip Hop, and EDM songs.
A modern music producer needs to know when to use each method of vocal tuning.
Difference Between Autotune And Pitch Correction
Here is the difference between autotune and pitch correction:
- Autotune automatically tunes your vocal track in real-time based on your set parameters.
- Pitch correction is a way for you to manually put each note of a vocal track in key with the song you are working on.
Although both methods of tuning vocals are helpful at different times, they are not the same.
What Is Pitch Correction For Vocals?
Pitch correction for vocals is a way to manually tune a vocal track by clicking and dragging where you want each note to land. This is a way to make your vocals sound clean and in tune with your song without having an unnatural robotic effect.
I’ll put it this way, pretty much any modern song featuring someone singing uses pitch correction, but only songs that require a robotic vocal effect use autotune.
Do Professional Singers Use Pitch Correction?
Yes, even the best professional singers use pitch correction in the studio and in live performances.
Remember, pitch correction will not make a lousy singer good. It will just make a good singer sound even better!
What Autotune Do Pros Use?
Here is a list of a few of the best autotune plugins that professionals use:
In my opinion, Melodyne is the authority in autotune plugins. Professional audio engineers and music producers widely use it.
Check out Melodyne HERE.
Antares Autotune is another extremely popular autotune plugin. This is the autotune that Travis Scott uses to achieve his signature vocal sound.
Check out Antares Auto tune HERE.
Waves Tune Real-Time
Waves only release excellent plugins, in my opinion. The Waves Tune Real-Time plugin is no exception. This is an incredible vocal tuning plugin.
Check out Waves Tune Real-Time HERE.
This last autotune plugin is not as popular as some of the others I’ve mentioned, but it is super powerful and features a built-in doubler as well as a bunch of great presets.
Check out Meta Tune HERE.
Keep in mind that if you can’t afford a fancy autotune plugin, your stock DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)vocal tuning plugin will work just fine if you know what you are doing.
Can Autotune Make People Sound Good?
Autotune cannot make a bad vocalist sound good. It will just make them sound like a sci-fi movie characters.
Applying autotune to a vocal track that is super pitchy and out of tune will not make the vocals sound any better.
However, applying autotune to a good vocal track can enhance it and add a fantastic effect!
Is Pitch Correction Cheating?
If using a pitch correction tool is cheating, then pretty much every vocalist/producer nowadays (including the pros) is a cheater.
Pitch correction has become very common in audio engineering and music production. In my opinion, you should not shy away from reaping its benefits.
Remember, pitch correction is not the same as autotune, and it does not give your vocal tracks the ‘Robo’ effect. It is a corrective measure for tuning vocals that might be slightly out of key.
Are All Songs Autotuned?
While most songs nowadays are pitch-corrected, they are not all autotuned.
Pitch correction is a way of manually tuning a vocal track to the key of your song. At the same time, autotune is a method of automatically tuning a vocal track based on parameters that you apply.
Pitch correction smoothly tunes your vocal track, while autotune gives your vocal track the classic vocal effect you hear in certain pop, EDM, and Hip Hop songs.
When Did Artists Start Using Autotune?
The 1998 super hit by Cher’ Believe’ is the first commercial release to feature the robotic autotune vocal effect.
Although it didn’t catch on for every other artist immediately, 1998 marks the first year it was used in a popular song.
These days, you can hear examples of artists using autotune all over popular music.
Why Do Singers Use Auto tune?
The reason that singers use autotune is to not only put their vocals in tune/in key with the song but also to give their vocal track a robotic sound effect.
Try using pitch correction instead of autotuning if you want to tune your vocal track without adding the robotic sound effect.
Does REAPER Have An Auto tune Plugin?
Yes, REAPER has a tuning plugin called ‘ReaTune.’
ReaTune offers both manual pitch correction and autotune. It also has a tuner feature that you can use to check the pitch of and tune instruments.
What Does a Music Producer Do?
The overall job of a music producer is to help an artist or musician create the best work possible.
– Here are some of the main tasks of a music producer:
– Managing recording and production sessions
– Coaching a singer/musician to get the best in-studio performances possible
– Creating instrumental tracks and beats for artists
– Mixing and mastering tracks
– Providing general advice and guidance for artists
As you can see, although pitch correction and autotune both perform the task of tuning vocals, they are not the same by any means. They both serve entirely different purposes in the vocal mixing process.
You should use pitch correction if you just want to correct the pitch of your vocal track and make it in key with the rest of your song.
If you want your vocal track to be in key and have a robotic effect as you hear in certain pop, EDM, and Hip Hop songs, you should use autotune to achieve this.
Remember that pitch correction and autotune are different, and there is a time and place for using either.
Check the following article for a guide on using Melodyne in Studio One.
about the author
I’m Jack Oberkirsch, a film and media composer residing in Denver, Colorado. I play in several local bands and have been touring the country for nearly a decade.
Since 2016 I’ve been focusing on studio work and production and have moved into the realm of film and media composition.
I like to combine and implement many different musical instruments and styles to convey the director’s vision on any given project.
I also enjoy writing material for music libraries and sync placements.