Auto Tune Vs. Pitch Correction: What’s The Difference?

Yes, we all know you’re a fantastic singer. But no singer is perfect, not even the best.

Auto tune vs. pitch correction
Daft Punk, a band that loves to use auto tune

That’s why pitch correction and auto tune can come in handy as tools (not as crutches).

So what’s the difference between pitch correction and auto tune? When should you use each?

Pitch Correction

Even the greatest singers of all time rarely have absolute perfect pitch throughout an entire vocal session.

Pitch correction is just a way to correct specific notes you sing, bumping them flatter or sharper to be more exact.

And no, you can’t just “fix it in the mix.” If that were the case, anybody could fake being a great singer.

This is a manual process, so whoever is doing the engineering and editing could spend hours correcting pitch, depending on how good the singer is and how perfect the singer tried to perform in the studio.

Auto Tune

Auto tune became famous when artists like T-Pain and Daft Punk hit pop culture with their heavily autotuned songs. You’d know the sound when you hear it.

Auto tune is an automated but less precise version of pitch correction.

Basically, auto tune allows you to choose the key you’re working in so the notes you sing will be automatically adjusted to fit the closest note. That’s why auto tune makes you sound like a robot.

Which Should You Use — Pitch Correction or Auto Tune?

The answer is both. Or you shouldn’t use either.

First, it depends on what style you’re going for.

If you want to sound like T-Pain, then go crazy with the auto tune. But if you want listeners to hear your raw natural voice, then maybe don’t use either.

But probably, you’ll want to use just a bit of pitch correction here and there.

Not too much that you hide your beautiful voice behind it, but not too little that melodies sound off from their respective harmonies.

But the only way to really know is to try it out for yourself!

Here’s an example of some heavy-handed use of auto tune:


I first wrote a version of this article for iSing Magazine

3 Ways Nina Simone Was Unique (And What She Can Teach Us)

It might be stupid to ask, “What was so special about Nina Simone?”

DIY musician tips
Nina Simone (photo via NPR)

The real question is, “What wasn’t special about her?”

But just to set the record straight, here are the three main reasons why Simone stood out and was a tidal wave of influence in the music industry and society as a whole.

Her unique tone

That full, strong voice that could jump an octave and still keep a rapid vibrato — that’s really what made Nina Simone special. It’s what made her stand out among her peers. No one had a voice like her, and we won’t hear another voice like hers for a long time.

And she wasn’t just born with an amazing voice — she worked hard.

She attended Juilliard School of Music in New York (she dropped out for financial reasons). She practiced, and that practice led to her timeless voice.

She was a Civil Rights singer

Simone wasn’t just a singer, she was a Civil Rights singer. She became known as the voice of the Civil Rights Movement in the music world.

Her song “Mississippi Goddam” was in direct response to the 1963 assassination of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evans and the bombing at the Birmingham church.

And after the 1968 murder of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Simone’s bassist wrote “Why (The King of Love Is Dead)” and Simone performed it with her band at the Westbury Music Festival.

These are only a couple examples of how she was a voice for a lot of African-American folks in the 50s and 60s.

She was versatile

Not only did she have great vocal range, but she sang more than just one genre of music as a lot of singers often do.

She could sing jazz, blues, and folk music, even covering Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun.”

But in everything she did, her classical training shined through.

But still, people saw her as a soul singer, often calling her the “High Priestess of Soul,” even though she hated that nickname.

“If I had to be called something, it should have been a folk singer because there was more folk and blues than jazz in my playing,” she wrote in her autobiography, according to Biography.com.

Simone is someone every aspiring singer should study.

What can DIY musicians learn from her?

This: if you want to be good, you gotta learn your craft, practice a ton, stand for something good, and be open to different types of music.


I first wrote a version of this article for iSing Magazine.

How To Get Better At Songwriting

For those of us who love songwriting, we find it frustrating. Sometimes it’s just the worst.

Songwriting
How songwriting feels sometimes

It’s difficult, but practice is what makes us better at spitting rhymes and stringing together melodies.

Professional lyric and songwriters didn’t start there — they, like a lot of us, started as amateurs. So with that in mind, here are four tips on how to become a pro at writing song lyrics.

Study The Pros

Songwriting
Leonard Cohen

The greats learned from the greats, and so should you. Study the best of the best, print off their lyrics, break down their phrasing, rhyming, imagery, and storytelling. Use their techniques.

Some pros you could start studying are Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and John Lennon — these guys knew how to put words together in a beautiful way.

It’s time to become a student again and stay one until you’re done writing songs (which should be never).

Copy The Pros

Songwriting
Bob Dylan

Austin Kleon is an artist and author who wrote a book called Steal Like An Artist. The whole idea of the book is to take ideas from others (i.e. the pros), add your own spice, and create something of your own.

For example, if you, just for fun, rewrite “Like A Rolling Stone” by Dylan, you’ll get a better feel for how he structures his words, how he describes things, and his storytelling process.

Then jot down what you’ve learned and try using the same methods on your own song.

Be Consistent Like The Pros

Songwriting
Paul Simon

Malcolm Gladwell, a best-selling, deep-thinking author who does meticulous journalistic research, writes in his book Outliers  that “ten thousand hours [of practice] is the magic number of greatness.”

He cites Bill Gates, who started coding as a teenager, and The Beatles, who played an extremely high number of gigs before becoming stars in the States.

The point is, practice songwriting like heck. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. You’re not born amazing, you have to earn it.

RELATED: How To Write A Song In 5 Simple Steps

Re-write

Songwriting
Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway writes in his book A Moveable Feast, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.” And, boy, that’s true.

The first thing you put down on paper is not always the best. The first draft is almost never the last. Rewriting your lyrics is part of the songwriting process.


I first wrote a version of this article for iSing Magazine

What Singers Need To Know About Breaks In Music

Music wouldn’t be listenable if it weren’t for breaks. And as a singer, you need to be familiar with them – knowing when not to sing is as important as knowing when to sing.

Singing
Harry Styles, formerly of One Direction

I’m going to go over what you need to know about breaks in music, but first let’s cover what a “break” actually means.

Simply put, a break in a song is a section consisting of just instruments or percussion, usually allowing a solo instrument or the voice to take the spotlight.

A classic example of this is Aretha Franklin’s version of “Respect.” At 1:17 the saxophone is featured for 8 bars, then at 1:55 when Aretha spells out R-E-S-P-E-C-T (which Otis Redding didn’t do in the original), the band plays stop-time for 4 bars i.e. on only the 1st beat of the bar, so her powerful vocals jump to the front and shine.


RELATED: How Aretha Franklin Took A Chauvinist Song And Made It A Feminist Song


A more modern example of breaks in a song is in “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. This song is full of breaks. Sometimes only some of the instruments break while other times everything cuts out, allowing Ronson’s and Mars’ vocals to step forward in the recording.

Check it out in the video e.g. at 1:23 and 2:05…

So here’s what you need to know about breaks in music…

They are necessary

Imagine “Uptown Funk” with no breaks. Try to hear “Respect” without those perfectly timed stops. They just wouldn’t sound right.

A song without breaks will be monotone, monochromatic, and any other “mono” you can think of. Breaks within songs are needed for breathing room and variation. As a singer needs to breathe, so does a song.

They can be overdone

Just as lack of breaks can spoil a song, too many can do the same. If we overdo the breaks, they lose their impact. In the same way a skilled singer will only hit those big, high notes for impact and highlight, musical breaks should be used only when needed and in limited amounts.

Breaks need to be pleasant surprise that will elevate the song. Keyword: surprise. If the audience is expecting something, it’s no longer a surprise.

You must know when they’re coming

If you forget that the song is going to the break the band won’t be happy, the song flow may falter and the audience will probably notice. Or vice versa, if you think a break is coming when it’s not and you decide to do a killer vocal run, the music will sound messy.

More importantly no one will hear that standing-ovation-level vocal run you just did! Make sure you practice the song breaks as much as you do the body of the song.

You must know when they’re going

Just as important as knowing when breaks are coming is knowing how long they are for. Is it 4 bars or 8, shorter or longer?

Generally groups of 4 bar lengths are the most common e.g. 4, 8 or 16 bars. Whatever the length of the break you need to know when you need to come back in to the song, and where — is it the verse, chorus or something else. This is the singer’s job.

So learn how to count the bars or listen closely to the musical landmarks that indicate where you are in the break, don’t rely on someone else to bring you in, they might forget, and that’ll be just plain awkward!

The point is, know your breaks!


I originally wrote this for iSing Magazine