Have you ever wondered how professional vocals sound so perfect? Even if you don’t realize it, the engineer most likely tuned the vocals with a tool such as Celemony’s Melodyne or Auto-Tune by Antares.
In today’s day and age tuning vocals is a necessity to commercial recordings. However, doing so requires the right tools and there are a lot of options out there for the beginner audio engineer to choose from.
Melodyne and Auto-Tune remain the industry standard choices for the job but deciding between the two can be tricky. To help in the decision making process we’ve laid out their major differences in the following comparison guide of Melodyne vs Auto-Tune.
Why Tune Vocals?
There’s a lot of stigma around auto-tuning a performance. Unfortunately, Most of society associates it with a lack of talent from the singer. However, this is not the case and even the most talented of artists are tuned today, without the listener even realizing.
This is because even when someone sings amazingly, there will be small discrepancies here and there. In this case, tuning can help to pull everything a little tighter. You may not really hear the difference but you can definitely feel it in the energy of the song.
Not only that, but in today’s day and age most production involves some sort of software instrument. These have very little or no tuning issues at all and the hyper-tuned instrumentation can make it even more apparent when a singer is off key.
Listeners today expect perfection and tuning with Melodyne or Auto-Tune is a great way to add that final polish on an already fantastic performance.
1. Realtime vs Offline Tuning
The biggest difference between Melodyne and Auto-Tune is that Auto-Tune is a realtime linear form of tuning, where as Melodyne is offline and nonlinear.
To explain this in greater detail with Auto-Tune, vocals enter the plugin and are immediately tuned with little latency. This speed can make for a quick workflow but it introduces errors where the plugin is not entirely certain of a note. Some notes can end up tuned to the wrong place and end up sounding even more off.
On the other hand, Melodyne records the audio into it’s software first. The user is then able to go through and manually correct each note and fine-tune any errors the software made. This makes for far more accurate tuning but it can take time to do so properly.
Auto-Tune does offer an option after the initial tuning where users can go through and correct each individual note’s tuning. However, this is merely redrawing the way the plugin reacts to the sound when it passes through in real time.
So, the tuning process is different and will still result in artifacts that leave it more unrealistic than Melodyne’s algorithm.
2. Polyphonic vs Monophonic
An added bonus to Melodyne that Auto-Tune does not feature is the ability to tune polyphonic instruments.
Almost every other Auto-Tune on the market deals exclusively with monophonic tuning. That is to say, it can only deal with sources that produce one note at a time. For example, these include instruments such as vocals, horns or lead guitar. But what happens when you need to correct a wrong note in a complex guitar or piano chord?
This is where Melodyne comes in extremely handy! It’s complicated algorithms actually separates the notes of a polyphonic instrument and tune them independently.
It’s important to note that this is only available in the more expensive versions and that it can be a bit finicky at times. However, this feature makes for a great addition that other plugins don’t offer. Especially when you plan to work with instruments moe than vocals.
3. Scientific vs Artistic
In a nutshell Melodyne can be looked at as a more scientific approach and Auto-Tune as a means of artistic expression.
Many artists actually want to create the effect that their voice is being processed by Auto-Tune. One of the artists to push this effect into contemporary music was Cher with her hit song Believe.
It may sound a little cheesy now, but the same effect is still prevalent in many top pop, RNB and hip-hop songs. If this is the sound you’re after with your vocals, then Auto-Tune will deliver where Melodyne can’t.
However, if what you are hoping for is a more transparent approach to the tuning, Melodyne is the best choice. When used properly, the vocals will be left sounding untouched but perfectly in tune.
This is thanks to the much more scientific approach that Melodyne’s creator took when creating the plugin. Checkout the video below for an interesting an in depth on Melodyne’s inner workings.
4. Live Performances vs Studio Work
One last thing to consider when deciding between Melodyne and Auto-Tune is whether you intend to use it live. In the live scenario everything is happening in real time. So, you need a tool that operates in this fashion.
As previously mentioned, Melodyne works in a nonlinear fashion, first recording the music in and then tuning for playback. So, you may have already assumed that it would be useless in a live concert scenario.
However, Antare’s Auto-Tune operates real time, with no problems aside from the latency of your computer. If you have a computer fast enough that this isn’t an issue it’s very easy to use Auto-Tune in a live performance.
Because of this, pick up Auto-Tune if you want to achieve a tuned vocal effect for a live concert or if you’re working with artists who want to hear the effect of Auto-Tune working as they’re singing.
Universal Audio even offers a UAD version of Antare’s Auto-Tune for use with their Apollo interfaces. This is the best combination for live concerts as it allows for zero latency tuning in real time.
Conclusion: What’s The Purpose Of Your Tuning?
In conclusion, when it comes to Celemony’s Melodyne vs Auto-Tune by Antare’s, each plugin provides its own unique tools. Because of this consider the style of tuning and purpose you need it for when looking to purchase one of them.
Antare’s Auto-Tune is the best option for you if you:
- Want to tune vocals quickly.
- Intend to use it for an artistically noticeable effect.
- Will be using it in a live environment.
On the other hand, Melodyne by Celemony is the right choice if you:
- Would like to achieve a more discreet, transparent tuning.
- Are working in a studio environment where tuning doesn’t need to be linear.
- Require polyphonic tuning
- Don’t mind spending a little extra time and effort perfecting things
Whatever you choose take the time to really research its ins and outs. The real secret to professional tuning with either option is to learn how to use it properly and practice lots.
Both Melodyne and Auto-Tune have a wealth of options not mentioned in this article. Once you get to know them you’ll find even more unique options in each. Most likely down the road you’ll end up purchasing both for separate purposes.
Alternative: Get a Professional
Rather than waste time worrying about the differences between Auto-Tune and Melodyne, let alone learning how to use the tools, why not hire a professional to do all the hard work for you?
If you’re looking for an online recording studio with Auto-Tune or Melodyne, Sundown Sessions is the place to go. We offer industry professionals who can tune your tracks at an affordable rate, saving you the hassle.
Beyond AutoTune and Melodyne, our online recording studio offers tracking, mixing, sessions musicians and more. Head over to our pricing page for more information on all the services our online recording studio has to offer.