Love it or hate it, vocal tuning is a part of our reality nowadays and that is not set to change any time soon. Vocal pitching has become inseparable from pop music, but is also regularly used across the board. It also accounts for pretty much the only requests about software I get from potential new clients. “Do you have Melodyne? What about Antares Auto Tune? Waves Tune?” Even if the singer nails the performance, vocal tuning in some form is often requested as an effect since our ears are so accustomed to that ‘polished’ or ‘album ready’
sound, post tuning! I know that even though The Weekend nails a lot of his takes, they purposely put an old software pitch corrector on his voice just for ‘that’ sound and to make the vocal track appear “smoother”. To me though, those quick fix vsts serve a different purpose and are in an entirely different ballpark than programs that let you adjust pitch manually. These include Melodyne, Waves Tune, Logic Flex Pitch, Cubase Vari-Audio, and one that I let fly under the radar for far too long – Synchro Art’s Revoice Pro 3.
“vocal tuning in some form is often requested as an effect since our ears are so accustomed to that ‘polished’ or ‘album ready’ sound…”
I personally find vocal tuning to be a helpful and sometimes necessary stage of the editing / mixing process. But to me, I love the mantra “The greatest edit you’ve never heard” when it comes to the bulk of my general pitch correction (You nailed it… Ed). Sometimes, depending on the vocalist, it is more logical to spend 15 minutes tuning a note
that they are having a hard time nailing than spending 2 hours recording 517 takes trying to get it perfect while tracking. It’s
my responsibility to be considerate of my client’s budgets and, if that’ll save them nearly 2 hours of studio fees with me, then so be it. Don’t get me wrong, based on how I was trained I’m firmly in the “fix as little as possible in the mix” camp, and strongly believe the better you get the recording, the better the song will turn out.
There are times though when even after you get the best recordings possible that tuning, time alignment, and even artificial doubling is necessary in the mix stage – just like how it is also our job to tighten up the drums if need be. To create “radio-ready music”, it’s all part of the job description now, but this also must go hand in hand with quality tracking dates. But god… spending hours and hours and hours tuning and time aligning tracks can get old. Like many, it is probably my least favorite pastime relating to audio. But all the quick ways seem to leave lots of artifacts, right? And what about instances where you aren’t trying to go to an exact note to leave things more natural sounding?
“…what about instances where you aren’t trying to go to an exact note – to leave things more natural sounding?”
“Snap to grid” features built into most DAWs relating to both time and pitch are normally far from perfect, so you couldn’t even really take short cuts if you wanted to without jeopardizing the quality of the song. I am lucky to have served my dues to where I normally don’t accept projects requiring me to tune or align every note and bar of every vocal track, but there are exceptions. Even subtle, routine tuning and alignment takes a considerable amount of time and very recently, I started work on a song that is in D Major, tuned ¼ step up. Yes, ¼ step. Anything that can help me to meet deadlines, I’m in.
“Anything that can help me to meet deadlines, I’m in.”
It was at this time I knew I was in for some long nights if I wanted to use my tried and true Cubase Vari-Audio (which I love, cause Steinberg actually invented the algorithm the biggest transparent tuning software company uses, simply licensing it out, believe it or not) or any of the other tuning programs I have. Then it hit me… I’d heard about a tuning software from the company that makes Vocalign? In fact, didn’t it win some blind shootout against all the big dogs? The answer was yes to both – so I ran it by my editor who talked to Synchro Arts (who are awesome, btw) and here we are.
Upon opening it up for the first time, I came to the conclusion that this was going to be like basically learning a new mini-DAW – based on its layout and format (ReVoice Pro 3 is primarily a standalone app). I also realized it used a bridging system much like older Melodyne versions (if you aren’t using Pro Tools) which I didn’t originally expect and, to be honest, it kind of bummed me out since I love doing everything from within my DAW whenever possible. Synchro Arts actually has a whole page of their website dedicated to why they went this route which is well worth reading – look here.
I originally learned Melodyne as a standalone. I learned and regularly use Izotope RX 5 & 6 which is standalone (for access to the more complex processing) – so I could do it again! The extraordinary promise of ReVoice Pro 3 made me more than willing to get right to it.
To use Revoice Pro 3
- Open the standalone application,
- Create and name tracks in Revoice just like you would a DAW
- Insert the handy Revoice Pro Link plugin at the beginning of the chain of every track you want to process (like other tuning options, you normally want this as insert #1)
- Hit the capture button on each link plugin
- Then hit play on your DAW.
“The extraordinary looking promise of ReVoice Pro 3 made me more than willing to get right to it.”
You then let it play through the entire song, therefore capturing the vocal tracks into Revoice, which I found to be the most convenient method. You can also drag the files directly into the app, but I liked the capture feature since it assured me that all my vocal regions would be lined up, just like they are in my DAW. You can also just capture specific parts of your vocal tracks. There are a couple prerequisites to capturing audio this way that initially caused me some slight inconvenience, though this was fixed with some simple steps and subtle changes to workflow. To capture the entirety of a vocal track all in a single play through, you MUST have each vocal (or instrument) track consolidated as one continuous file.
I for one like to clean all of the mouth noise, potential rustle, and other unwanted noise from my vocal tracks once they are comp’d. Because of this, the Revoice Pro Link plugin would only capture one segment of many of my vocal tracks at a time. Once there was a gap in the vocal track where I had cut out some noise, or with double or back –
ground tracks where there is only a phrase here and there, the capture mode would disarm itself after about 5 seconds of silence. I believe addressing this would make a fantastic update to Revoice Pro 3, since every second is valuable when you’re on a tight deadline. With this being said, there are quick fixes to this…
APT Audio Examples
Doubler Audio Examples
Manual Tuning Audio Examples
1. Duplicate Mix
Create a new alternative of your mix, bypass every plugin and bus on your vocal tracks (+ the mix bus), center the pan, 0 the fader, and export each vocal track so each segment of each vocal part is combined into what your DAW and Revoice will view as one continuous audio file. (If you use Ableton Live you can simply Consolidate or Freeze and Flatten your tracks). Now you can arm the capture button and have it transfer the entire region into the standalone application. You can also manually load each file into ReVoice once they’re all exported so you can be sure they all line up.
2. Individual Capture
Capture each vocal segment or phrase one at a time, stop your DAW and then re-arm the ReVoice capture function, before capturing the next, likely tuning as you go. I would say this was, generally speaking, a little hit or miss though. For one, it would sometimes put each segment of the same vocal part at the right place in ReVoice so they would line up with my DAWs timeline and therefore each other – though occasionally it didn’t. Sometimes this can be the faster method (if the song doesn’t have many vocal tracks), but in my case, with 12 vocal tracks, option One was the way to go.
3. Revoice Link
Finally, I did find a sweet workaround at the very end of this test. If you have ReVoice Link plugins set up on every track you want to capture in certain DAWs (like Logic Pro X), and simply render out the mix, they will automatically capture into the standalone application whilst the song bounces. This spares you from having to listen to the track all the way through like in option One, which saves some additional time. I can’t attest to what DAWs this does and does not work in (besides Logic Pro X and Cubase Pro 9). Keep in mind that tracks/regions still have to be continuous for this to work though.
Synchro Arts have used every advantage offered by the standalone architecture design choice to make the ReVoice Pro 3 the most powerful software possible.
There are “Quick APT” and “Quick Doubler” plugins for AAX / Pro Tools but, since I use Pro Tools so little (keeping my PT iLok at another studio) I was unable to test these. After spending time with the main application though, I would definitely appreciate being able to access these plugins from other DAWS.
I wanted to start with the challenge I mentioned earlier – tuning the D Major tuned up ¼ step song. Being that I had to tune strictly based on my ears, I figured this would be a perfect candidate. It’s actually also the song I used to demonstrate Acustica Audio’s Cobalt, which is a song by Jamiah Hudson called ‘Tell Me’, so if it sounds familiar that’s why. Luckily, I was at the tuning stage of this project which I normally do near the middle or end of the process – after the artist has approved the comps and general mix. Being that this song not only had a weird tuning, but was also heavily influenced by old jazz records, transparency was vital as far as tuning the lead vocal was concerned, to keep things sounding natural.
“…even create new double tracks from scratch which in my opinion, is what really has ReVoice standing out from the crowd of alternatives.”
Once you have your vocal(s) tuned, this is where the fun starts as far as using it as a guide track on your doubles and harmonies, or to even create new double tracks from scratch which, in my opinion, is what really has ReVoice standing out from the crowd of alternatives. I had a pair of adlibs that harmonized with one another but really just didn’t have enough substance, being that they weren’t stacked with the lead vocal tracks. Soloing the adlib I wanted, I hit the “B” key on my keyboard to open up the processes window. Using the “Selected Process” drop down, I simply chose the “Doubler” option, the track I wanted to double (Harmony 3), and the output destination in ReVoice which is a new, empty track I labeled “Harm 3 Dub”.
Next comes my favorite part. You get to select from a wide range of doubling presets covering all kinds of bases. Everything from a slap delay effect to strong vibrato option is available. My favorite part is that you get to choose whether your double track is a mono or stereo double… how cool is that?! I chose a more traditional doubling option labeled called “Stereo Vocal Loose Timing”, selecting which part I wanted doubled, and clicked ‘new process’. Just like that, I had created a very believable and natural sounding stereo double track from a mono adlib track, which did a world of good as far as filling in the phrase. When you’re satisfied with your results, simply shift+alt click and drag your new doubles back to your DAW.
No longer do you have to create two mono double tracks and pan one left and one right, Synchro Arts handles that part for us. I enjoyed doing this so much that I can see myself opening up the application strictly to create some doubles – though I would really prefer the simplicity of the separate “Quick Doubler” plugin if it were available for other DAWs. The presets aren’t just geared towards vocals though; there are a whole slew of instrument selections as well. Imagine the possibilities with that. For example, if you are unable to record guitar doubles, you could slap it in Revoice Pro 3, hit a few buttons, and be on your way. Guitars, keys, and anything else you can think of, believably doubled in an instant.
the process type, selecting your guide track (in my case, the lead vocal), your preset (I found the most fitting in my case to be the Loose Time and Pitch settings), clicking “Fix Onset”, and then selecting all of the doubles you wish to align and tune to the lead vocal. You can process as many doubles as you want at one time by clicking the “Multiple Processes” dropdown and typing in the number of tracks you are going to be tightening to you guide track and setting your input and output accordingly. Boom! Like magic, you get your doubles all brushed up like you had the best damn session singer in the world in the studio that day. Granted, I’m the kind of engineer/producer who is infinitely saying “just one more take” so I don’t have any rec –
ordings that are drastically off at the moment. I did have a project from hell a few months ago where Revoice would have saved me hours of stressful tuning, but at least I know I’m covered for the future. I was ecstatic to discover there’s even a preset that automatically detects phrase gaps in your double track, so if a few words are left out on the double for emphasis purposes, it doesn’t screw with the alignment algorithm at all. Revoice’s APT process (and Vocalign, which is Synchro Arts’ plugin / software dealing strictly with time alignment) is known to be so accurate, that it is often used to re-synch actor’s voices for post-production when there is too much background noise, etc. Certainly beats splicing tape, that’s for sure.
One cool little trick I came across was the ability to make very solid sounding artificial harmonies, that I can see being a godsend for many. So, like you would in any other program, duplicate your track within Revoice and manually adjust the pitch up or down to create a harmony with your main track. Big whoop, right? To my ears at least, it is very obvious when this was done to create an artificial harmony and being a typical artificial harmony, it obviously doesn’t sound too natural. Well, this is where the Doubler function shines through once again. Once you create this artificial harmony, simply run it through a Doubler process with the “Loose Timing” preset to pop out a much more realistic sounding harmony – full blown computer wizardry. You can then double the double you just created and pan the new harmony and its double however you want them (or choose a stereo double preset if you just want a hard left and hard right effect). Not only does this make it sound like 2 different takes of the same harmony, but it helps prevent any phase problems. So, with a little practice and patience you can really go nuts with what Synchro Arts has created. No longer do we have to move each phrase of each vocal track left and right manually (though Revoice allows you to do so if you wish) or use an Elastic Audio / Flex Time type function (which Revoice also includes under the guise of the ‘Warp Point’ tool). It’s a combination of all the available tools that really makes ReVoice a choice environment; from subtle correction to creating completely new melodies with a take using a combination of the Cutter or Warp Point, and Smooth Join tools, followed by the Pencil tool to draw in new vibrato if stretching or shorting a note with Warp Point messed with things.
In a lot of ways, Revoice Pro 3 is more than a simple time and pitch correction software – it’s a full-blown time and pitch correction DAW. With an ample selection of both manual and automatic / guided correction avenues to take, there is a method here to fit just about every workflow. While it takes some getting used to and while every DAW but Pro Tools is devoid of Quick Doubler and Quick APT support, once you spend some time getting your Revoice chops up and learning the key commands, you’ll be flying around completing your tuning and alignment at breakneck speeds in no time. Quite transparently, I may add. And with the 30% off sale Synchro Arts is offering until September 10th at midnight (GMT), it is a hell of a bargain too… causing my very solid 4/5 value rating to easily jump up to a 5/5 during that time.
“ReVoice Pro 3 is more than a simple time and pitch correction software – it’s a full-blown time and pitch correction DAW.”
Price and Availability
Synchro Arts’ Revoice Pro 3 weighs in at a hefty $599 USD and is available to buy directly from here.
Synchro Arts are also one of the only devs on the internet to offer a Rent-To-Own scheme, which APN highly recommends.
Rent to Own: $179.78 USD per 4 months (5 rentals to own),
More info available from here.
**Revoice Pro requires an iLok 1, 2 or 3 USB Dongle
Compatible on Mac:
Mac OS X 10.6.8 or Higher: AU, VST2, VST3, AAX (all with timecode)
Compatible on Windows:
Windows Vista (Service Pack 2) – Windows 10: VST2, VST3, AAX (all with timecode)
- All inclusive and transparent
- Light on CPU
- Unique feature set
- Unable to capture / link non continuous tracks outside PT
- No Quick APT or Quick Doubler support outside PT or Studio One
- Definite learning curve