Recording Metal with Eyal Levi: A Bootcamp

Lesson 57/74 - Vocal Tuning and Editing


Recording Metal with Eyal Levi: A Bootcamp


Lesson Info

Vocal Tuning and Editing

Hi, I'm John Douglas, and I'm gonna be going over the workflow I've been using for tuning vocals in Pro Tools. I'm going to be using Auto-Tune 8.1 but everything I discuss should be applicable to version six and seven as well and some of the larger concepts should apply to any tuning softwares, I've tuned entire records of vocals with waves tuned, but my personal preference right now is Auto-Tune and that's mainly because of how transparent it can be when you're using it in the graphical mode and you really know the tools well. I'm a fan of big vocal arrangements with lots of layers and doubling but tuning and time correcting that many layers individually can be extremely tedious and slow if you aren't totally proficient with the tools at hand so I'm gonna show you some ways to make that process more efficient and less mentally exhausting. Now, in this workflow, we're gonna be using the audio suite version of Auto-Tune so rather than using Auto-Tune as an insert on a track, we're going...

to print the result of the tuning back to our audio track, replacing the untuned version, and generally, we're gonna do this one phrase at a time. Now as a result, you may end up opening and closing the Auto-Tune window a good bit so one of the first things we're gonna do is set up a way for you to open Auto-Tune with a key command rather than having to go through the audio suite menu and find it. On every one of these tutorial videos I've made for Creative Live, I've evangelized this Quick Keys app for OSX, which lets you create custom macros to speed up repetitive tasks and it's a very graphical and easy to use system, and true to form, I have created some Auto-Tune related macros for Quick Keys including one that opens Auto-Tune using a keystroke but if you're not interested in using Quick Keys, there is another way to set up opening Auto-Tune with just a keystroke, and to do that, you're gonna go into system preferences, keyboard, shortcuts, now I'm in mavericks which is 10.9. but every version of OSX I've used thus far has had a similar way of specifying these sort of shortcuts so you just go to app shortcuts, we're just gonna hit the plus button, we're gonna set the application to Pro Tools, the menu title will be Auto-Tune 8. unless you're not using Auto-Tune 8. in which case you can find the exact name here. We're gonna assign the keyboard shortcut shift alt P and hit add and then when we switch back to Pro Tools, we hit shift alt P, we get the Auto-Tune window. Now by default, your Auto-Tune window is gonna open like this so the next thing we're gonna do is set up our default settings so that those settings open every time you open Auto-Tune. First thing we're gonna do is set the tracking all the way to 100, what that does is when you scan the vocals into the plugin, you'll have more lines and pitch information to manipulate. Now we're dealing with a tenor singer so we're gonna change the setting to alto tenor and we're gonna flip over to graphical mode and then we're gonna go into options, so first of all, we're gonna set our default retuning speeds. Now this default retune speed of 30 for lines is my personal preference although I will change it per project depending on how much help the singer needs. The lower the number, the harder Auto-Tune is gonna work on the signal. Now for curves, typically we're trying to keep as exact a representation of what the singer did as we can so we wanna leave the default retune speed at zero and for this workflow, we're gonna set our default retune speed for note objects at zero as well. We're gonna use these note objects to discover what notes the singer intended to hit and make sure we know what the melody should be before we try and tune it. Now look at these key bindings here, you don't have to copy these but I would recommend that you start with something like this. You're gonna wanna have access to the make curves function which is typically just a button and you're gonna wanna have access to this toggle track pitch which is what you use for scanning audio into the plugin. I've made a Quick Keys shortcut for resetting the zoom level to where I like it using these zoom in vertical and zoom out vertical shortcuts and you may wanna keep that or you may find that you just wanna click on these zoom buttons. You're gonna wanna have access to the iBeam tool and you're gonna wanna have access to toggling snap to note. The main tools we use to manipulate the audio are going to be draw lines, draw notes, arrow, and scissors. So now let's save those options and we're going to go to preset, save settings as, you can save it as whatever you want, then you're gonna go to preset, set as user default, then settings preferences, set plugin default to user setting. Now when you reopen Auto-Tune, it doesn't go to the auto pane, it goes to the graphic pane and it comes up with all your options and your tracking and your alto tenor. Keeping big stacks of harmonies in tune relative to the song can be a big challenge and most of the time, people are not gonna provide you with a mini reference of what all the harmonies are doing, although that's possible. Especially when you're writing, though, notating out a complex part in Midi can save you headaches when you're trying to figure out which part of a four- or five-part harmony is causing the dissonance that you're hearing. And retuning the same parts over and over because you thought a note was supposed to be a half-step lower or higher than you now think it is, is a bummer and it's gonna drain your motivation and momentum. Keep in mind that different people can have wildly different perceptions of pitch from those who can pick out one barely out of two note in a dense arrangement to those who will swear up and down that a part makes musical sense when it's clear to everyone else that it doesn't. With that in mind, I'm gonna try and show you a couple different ways of approaching, making sure that you're tuning the notes to the right place. So before we actually get to editing any vocals, first let's make sure we have a backup of all of the untuned, unedited vocals by selecting the tracks that we're working on, holding shift and option, clicking the playlist arrow, and hitting duplicate. Now we'll continue to hold shift and option and switch back to our main playlist just to keep things nice and neat. There's a stack of four tracks that make up this harmony part. (rock music plays) I think this is a good place to start because it's a very simple, melodic line, and all four layers are doing the same thing except for at the very end, so it's gonna let me show you a technique I use on background vocals sometimes to speed up the tuning process. So we're gonna go ahead and make our selection on the first phrase that we need to tune and open up Auto-Tune, so before we scan the audio in I should mention that I've made these shortcuts in Quick Keys that let me assign keyboard shortcuts to the audio suite preview render and bypass buttons. And it does that by just clicking on a specified area in relation to the window. Here are the settings if you wanna copy them down and use them on your own machine, that's for preview, this is for render, and this is for bypass. So now we're gonna use our track pitch shortcut to toggle that on and then use our audio suite preview shortcut to scan in the audio. ♫ Who am I So you notice that when I scan the audio in, Auto-Tune automatically zoomed out, giving us a whole lot of blank space on the screen that we don't really need. So I mentioned this earlier, I have this shortcut that sets Auto-Tune's vertical zoom to the level that I usually like to tune at. And basically all it's doing is mashing this button a bunch and then hitting this minus button once and that's usually the zoom level I like to work at. So generally, I want my lead vocal to sound as natural and untuned as possible and my harmony tracks, I want to be tighter so that big stacks of harmonies don't sound sloppy and my lead vocal can be as loud as it needs to be without the listener hearing tuning artifacts in it, so as a result, we're gonna use the curve tool and line tool a lot on lead vocals, we're gonna tend to use the note tool more for background vocals and just getting a sense of what the melody is. My go-to strategy with this is using the note tool set to a zero retune speed, which creates what you might call the Cher or T-Pain effect, but basically flattens out the pitch to the point where it sounds almost like a synth. It's these pitch variations, whether it's vibrato or sliding, that can make it difficult to determine when something should be slightly higher pitched or lower pitched than it is. One thing you might consider as a downside to tuning this way in the auto suite window is that you're not gonna be listening to the backing music while you are actually tuning the phrase, but we'll talk about that some more when we get to a more intricate vocal line. So we're gonna select our note tool and we're just gonna draw it where we think the notes are. And given how close the singer was to the pitch on this take, it's pretty obvious where the note objects should go. So we're gonna listen back to it and this is with the retune speed set to zero, so we can really make sure that these are the right notes that we should be tuning to. ♫ Who am I Alright, so very robotic. So now what we're gonna do is use the arrow tool and select these three note objects and pull the retune speed back, somewhere between 20 or is probably gonna be your sweet spot, maybe even a little looser if the singer is really good. Just take a listen. ♫ Who am I You can hear some small little fluctuations in the pitch but nothing that would sound wrong in context. Now where you set this retune speed is gonna determine how far away from dead on the pitch the singer is allowed to get, and as you tune more and more vocals, you're gonna get a sense of how far from the pitch line you can let a singer get before it sounds wrong to your ears. Keep in mind too that as you stack things, your perception of what is too much pitch variation may change. If you tune notes too hard, you may find that it has this robotic feel to the background vocals that we don't want, we want it to sound really tight but we don't want it to sound like a vocoder or something like that, so I think what we've got here is pretty good, I think we're just gonna loosen it up just a little bit more. ♫ Who am I And then tighten up the first note just a little bit. ♫ Who am I Okay that's fine. So now we're gonna use our audio suite render shortcut that I made, or you can just click the button down here. Now if we move the window out of the way, we can see that our original clip has been replaced by this tuned clip and we still have the same selection. We're gonna use the semicolon key to move our selection down by one track. Now without using the clear all, we're going to go back to track pitch and scan in the second track. ♫ Who am I We're gonna do our reset the zoom thing again. And it looks like those first two note objects could probably be tightened up just a little bit, let's hear it back. ♫ Who am I So you can see we use the same note objects from the first track on the second track and since the timing of this singer is so tight we didn't even really have to adjust the boundaries to get it to work for the next take. So again, we're gonna render. Move the selection down with semicolon. Scan in. ♫ Who am I So now this one has an extra note so we're gonna have to do a little editing of our note object here. What we'll do is just split it with the scissors tool and then drag it up here and move the bounds a little bit. Let's listen. ♫ Who am I So you can see it looks like he came in a little sharp on the "who," the first word of the phrase so let's tighten that one up a little bit more. ♫ Who am I That should be fine, let's render that, hit semicolon to move to the final, the fourth track. One more time, track pitch. ♫ Who am I Reset zoom, scroll down. We'll edit the boundaries. So I'm using the mouse wheel to scroll up and down and then I'm using, I'm holding shift and using the mouse wheel to scroll left and right. That's a common shortcut that you'll see in a lot of applications, so you might as well get used to it if you haven't already. Alright, let's listen to this. ♫ Who am I I think that sounds good, let's render that. Now we're gonna go ahead and clear all and move the window out of the way. And let's see what we've got. (rock music plays) Sounds good. No most of the time, you're not gonna have four harmonies doing the same thing, but their melodic lines might run parallel to each other to where all you need to do is move all those note objects up or down by a third or a fifth or whatever and adjust a scale degree or two by a semitone and you can apply much of the same technique as we just did. So for example, let's track this harmony here. ♫ Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh Now we're gonna use the note tool to kinda trace this out and we'll zoom in horizontally a little bit since it's a long line all in one breath. Now let's pull all this back a little bit. ♫ Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh Maybe a touch faster on the retune speed and we'll render that and move the selection down and track this harmony. ♫ Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh So now we're gonna select all and use the arrow tool to move all of this up, we'll correct this one and this one and this one and we'll zoom in and check the boundaries. Okay let's have a listen. ♫ Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh Good. Now let's take a look at some of the lead tracks. I wouldn't actually recommend tuning harmonies before the leads, I just wanted to demonstrate the simpler of the two approaches. I think the first line of singing in this song is a good place to start because it has this sort of angular jumping around and it has a harmony and some big note slides, so let's scan in the first line and let's see how transparent we can be in tuning this lead vocal. ♫ I would be wise to lay in So we're gonna start out the same way as before by drawing these note objects to make sure that we know where the intended notes are. Now I'm gonna listen through one more time and see what we need to do with these little in-between jumps. ♫ I would be wise to lay ♫ I would be So you'll notice a lot of times when singers go into a note, they'll come in a little sharp or it will be represented as a little sharp on the graph. Most of the time, you can leave that initial bump at the start of the note more or less as is, as long as it comes down even with the line pretty quickly. That's why I didn't drag this box all the way over to the left, I want it to start tuning around there so it levels it out, but not just totally destroy this curve. But I think right here, we can add an extra little note object so that this bend doesn't really start on an in-between note, let's listen to it again. ♫ I would be wise to lie in Okay so note-wise, that sounds about right. Another way to check your pitches would be if you have a Midi keyboard, you could just kinda play along. ♫ I would wise to lay in (keyboard plays) So now that we're confident about where these notes are supposed to go, let's go ahead and just select all and cut, now this part over here looks like we could just turn this into a curve using our shortcut or clicking the make curve button and then use the arrow to drag it down and that probably doesn't need any further correction. I think this straight portion here needs to be moved down to where our note was, so you could do it like this, we could create a curve and then just pull it down but then there's these gaps here so another way to do it would be to use the line tool and click here and then double click to end the line and shorten the retune speed and that's probably about what we want. Now back towards the beginning, it looks like we could just bring this whole section down a little bit and we wanna center this vibrato over here and then use a line tool from here to here, double click, pull the retune speed down a little bit, now we can even correct this curve a little more by pulling it down. Similarly, we can take this part and pull it closer to the line, again, we can leave this little sharpness going into the note, it's more of the percussive sound of a consonant and if you flatten those out too much, it may sound unnatural, so in the very beginning here, what I'm seeing is this part is a little flat, so we'll make that a curve, and then this part is a little sharp so we're gonna make that a curve as well. In fact, I think I'm gonna make this whole section right here a curve, we'll bring that down a little bit so it's more even with this G and we'll bring this up and since this is a curve, we can actually manipulate it like this, let's see what that sounds like. ♫ I would be wise to lie in I think that'll do it, so we'll hit render. Now since we've used curves, the trick we used before where we reuse the note objects on doubles of the same take is not gonna work so well, now you can alter the retune speed of the curves, something you could try, but any timing differences are gonna make it difficult and most of the time, when I'm dealing with curves and lines I will just print the tuning on the track, hold option, and hit clear all and then just move to the double. The double will still be easier as long as you remember where all the notes were on the first track you tuned. Looking at the double here, you can see a lot of the same curves going on, but if we decided that this sharpness going into this curve was too much, which sometimes it is, or it's too long and too gradual of a fall-off from that initial peak, one thing you could do is turn off snap the note and then use your line tool to draw from the peak down kind of at an angle and then turn, snap the note back on, click there, and then double click here, and then make that a pretty fast retune speed. ♫ I would be wise So here it is before. ♫ I would be wise And after. ♫ I would be wise That's a little bit of a weird jump and some of this comes down to personal preference. You might just have to print it both ways and see which one you like better in context. Another thing you could do with curves is use the scissor tool to split them just like note objects. So right here, I could split this curve and switch back to our arrow and do something like that. Let's look at the second half of this line now. And before we scan it in, we're gonna pull the region boundary back on the main one and the double and the reason I do that is so that when we print it tuned, I'll leave the breath overlapping on both pieces of audio so that I can crossfade them easier. So let's scan the first line in. ♫ Parents of planets sublime So the first thing I notice is that this note needs to be down here, this note right here looks fine, this one's just barely sharp. This one it looks like we can fix by just moving this part, this part up a little bit. This might be an occasion where we would use that line tool to do this. See what that sounds like. ♫ Parents of planets sublime That sounds transparent, let's fix these in-between notes here. This is too much of a variation and kind of a slope. ♫ Parents of planets It doesn't really sound like he's sliding into those notes or should be. So we're just gonna use the line tool here. And we'll use the arrow tool to select both of these and shape our retune speed a little bit and then do the same over here, let's have a listen. ♫ Parents of planets sublime That sounds good to me, let's render that. So now looking at the harmony for this last bit, let's play it back. ♫ Parents of planets sublime Now it's pretty clear to me that the harmony goes like this. (keyboard plays) With a little bend there towards the end. But let's say you weren't sure on that lower note and you couldn't tell whether it was supposed to be. (keyboard plays) Or. (keyboard plays) Then what you could do is set up Auto-Tune as an insert. So what we'll do is mute these vocals and create two new tracks, call it Auto-Tune and Tune. And we're gonna set the output of the Auto-Tune track to the input of the tuned track. And we'll set solo safe by holding command and hitting solo, so we're gonna copy the first harmony to the Auto-Tune track, unmute it, set input monitoring on our tuned track and then add Auto-Tune as an insert. Same procedure, basically, we're gonna do track pitch and hit play. ♫ Parents of planets sublime And if you wanna listen through plugins, you can move your plugins to the tuned track and that way the vocals you're tuning will have the same vocal chain as everything else. Let's use our note object tool to drag out what we think the notes are. And hit play. ♫ Parents of planets sublime That sounds right to my ear, let's try the low note the other way. ♫ Parents of planets sublime ♫ Parents of planets sublime So now based on what the guitars are doing and what I'm hearing with this harmony interacting with the lead line and what the double of this harmony is doing, I can make an educated guess on what the note should be. And then we can just select all, pull the retune speed back and then this part, actually, I think we wanna do with a curve, so we're gonna do something like this and then maybe add a line here. See what that sounds like. ♫ Parents of planets sublime Better. So now we're gonna record enable this track and hit record. ♫ Parents of planets sublime And then we can replace our old clip. There will also be times when Auto-Tune can't track a note, sometimes there'll be too much grit in the voice and that makes Auto-Tune mess up, sometimes it'll just be a fluke and anytime you try and tune that note, Auto-Tune will freak out and make some glitchy noises at you. Now if you have another piece of tuning software like Melodyne or Waves Tune, you can use it as an insert, like I just showed you, to tune that particular piece of audio and then go back to Auto-Tune. At some point, you may run into a singer who does a lot of gritty, pitched yelling and Auto-Tune and Melodyne and all of the software you've tried is having real difficulty picking up any usable pitch data or is making everything sound very artifacty. There aren't really any moments like that in this monument song so I dug up another vocal session to demonstrate how you can manually pitch shift this kind of pitched screaming so that it sounds tight and not horribly digitized, so for example, this word void. ♫ Void Is supposed to be a G. Now I have this synth just playing a sawtooth wave form and I'm gonna select the word that I wanna tune and just open your pitch shifting plugin with audio suite and then you're just gonna loop that word and mess with the pitch while you play the same note on your keyboard and try to get the two as close as possible. Something like this. ♫ Void, void, void, void, void, void, void, void Now that's not bad but we notice that the first part of the word kinda dips down into the second part so let's try tuning the first part separately from the first so we're just gonna loop this first little bit. (repetitive vocalizing) Something like that, let's render that. Now we're gonna drag this back a little bit and loop the rest of it. ♫ Void, void, void, void, void, void, void, void, void, void Render that. Now we're gonna crossfade them and just make that crossfade a little longer. And move around, let's try this. ♫ Void So. ♫ Void Versus the original. ♫ Void You can tell it's not perfect but it's much better and it doesn't sound like it's been drastically digitally altered ♫ Void I hope this video has given you some new ideas about how to improve your vocal editing workflow or at least given you some confidence in the process. If you have any follow-up questions you'd like to ask me about this video, you can find me at, that's J-O-H-N-D-O-U-G-L-A-S-S dot net.

Class Description

Recording Metal with Eyal Levi: A Bootcamp will give you access to one of metal’s most in-demand producers and educators. You’ll also get to watch the talented and seasoned performers of Monuments show you how to record flawless takes and how to prepare to enter the studio.

Recording Metal with Eyal Levi: A Bootcamp is the definitive guide to recording and producing metal. From soup to nuts, start to finish, A to Z, you will learn everything you need to know about recording and producing a metal song.

Eyal Levi will take you inside the studio with Monuments as they record a song from scratch at Clear Lake Recording in Los Angeles. In this bootcamp you will learn how to:

  • Prepare for a session in preproduction by choosing tempos and organizing the session
  • Record flawless drums from selection and reheading/tuning to mic choice and placement to editing
  • Record rhythm guitars
  • Record clean and lead guitars
  • Record bass guitar
  • Record, edit and tune lead vocals, harmonies, and screams
  • Mix and master from session setup to final bounce

What comes with purchase of the class?


1Intro to Bootcamp 2Purpose of Pre-Production 3Technical Side of Preproduction 4Pre-Production: Setting Up the Tempo Map 5Pre-Production: Importing Stems 6Pre-Production: Click Track 7Creating Tracking Templates 8Intro and the Tone Pie 9Drums - Lay of the Land 10Bearing Edges 11Wood Types 12Depths and Sizes 13Hoops 14Sticks and Beaters 15Drum Heads 16Drum Tuning 17Drum Mic Placement Intro 18Basic Drum Mic Setup 19Cymbal Mic Setup 20Touch Up Tuning 21Microphone Choice and Placement 22Drum Tracking Intro 23Getting Tones and Final Placement 24Primary Tracking 25Punching In and Comping Takes 26Guitar Setup and Rhythm Tone Tracking 27Amplifiers - Lay of the Land 28Amplifiers & Cab Shoot Out 29Guitar Cab Mic Choice and Placement 30Guitar Tracking and Signal Chain 31Finalizing Amplifier Tone 32Guitar Mic Shootout Round Robin 33Intro to Rhythm Tracking 34Setting Up Guitars 35Working with a Guitarist 36Final Guitar Tone and Recap 37Guitar Tracking with John 38Guitar Tracking with Ollie 39Final Tracking 40Tracking Quads 41Intro to Bass Tone 42Bass Tone Setup 43Bass Tone Mic Placement 44Bass Tracking 45Intro to Clean and Lead Tones 46Clean Guitar Tones 47Lead Tones 48Vocal Setup for Tracking 49Vocal Mic Selection and Setup 50Vocal Mic Shootout 51Lead Vocal Tracking 52Writing Harmonies 53Harmony Vocal Tracking 54Vocal Warm Ups 55Scream Vocal Tracking 56Vocal Tuning and Editing Introduction 57Vocal Tuning and Editing 58Routing and Bussing 59Color Coding, Labeling and Arranging Channels 60Setting Up Parallel Compression 61Setting Up Drum Triggers 62Gain Staging and Trim 63Drum Mixing - Subtractive EQ 64Drum Mixing - Snare 65Drum Mixing - Kick 66Drum Mixing - Toms 67Drum Mixing - Cymbals and Rooms 68Drum Mixing Recap 69Mixing Bass Guitar 70Mixing Rhythm Guitars 71Basic Vocal Mix 72Mixing Clean and Lead Guitars 73Mixing - Automation 74Mastering - Interview with Joel Wanasek



I'm just part way though and I'm blown away by the quality approach Eyal takes to getting the best out of the sessions. I love how well everything is explained and Eyals calm manner is just awesome it really makes you want to listen to the gems of wisdom he offers.


Amazing knowledge is being presented here. If you want to start out recording, this should be your first step, it'll save you lots of time and get you awesome results. Highly recommended class.


Wow is all I can say. This bootcamp goes in so much depth from tuning drums, setting up guitars, to recording and mixing. I have learned so much by participating in this bootcamp. It has taught me some new recording techniques and signal routing for my mixes. I just want to thank Eyal, Monuments, and Creative Live for taking the time to do this. It has been amazing and I will keep going back to these videos.