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Why You Should *Never* Tune Your Vocals

It’s not that you should never tune vocals, you just have to tell yourself you’re not going to.

You’d be surprised at what this little mind trick can actually do for your productions.

When you’re recording your vocals, you should be telling yourself that you’re never going to use tuning software on them. Make yourself record the part ten times if that’s what it takes.

The rewards for such mind games are pretty amazing – here’s the three things you’ll see happen in your productions.

1. The vocals will “magically” become much better overall. Because of course you’re going to want to touch them up in some way after they’ve been tracked (depending on the style of music, of course.) If you wait to accept that you’re going to be tuning your vocals until after you’ve recorded them, you’ll be working with much better material, ultimately leading to a much better product.

2. You’ll start to improve your critical listening skills. If you keep telling yourself, “oh, it’s pretty good, but I’ll make it better in post” – or worse – “I’ll fix it in post,” you’ll start to listen a little looser. Which isn’t a good thing for a producer or engineer to do. So by forcing yourself to get the vocals right *before* tuning or extreme editing, you’ll be improving your ear.

3. You’ll learn what to tune and what not to tune in order to end up with a natural sounding vocal. This is key – and it’s something that a lot of people who are new to pitch correction seem to struggle with. Creating a natural performance is a lot more complicated than simply snapping all the notes to a scale grid. By getting it “right” before it goes to tuning, you’ll be able to learn what notes should be tuned and which should be left alone in order to end up with a great final product.

So as you can see, there are definitely some benefits to telling yourself that you’re never going to tune your vocals. You might be surprised at what you can come up with – it might be perfect without it. However, if it needs just the finishing touches, a few tuned up notes might be just the thing. Happy tuning! 🙂

Edit: Our friend Josh Hayward has some additional tips for getting the best from your vocalist. Well Said Josh!

1. Memorize your lyrics, BECOME your lyrics. Staring at a piece of paper only distracts you from EMOTION. It’s similar to reading a book to a group if you’re looking at the paper.

2. If a phrase is formed as a question, add that inflection, as if you’re asking someone in front of you. Do this when you practice outside the studio as well and work on inflections to make the delivery realistic and impactful.

3. Don’t get frustrated with yourself if you have a trouble spot, some lyrics are just difficult to nail down stylistically, we can always come back to it at a later time.

4. I have to stress the word EMOTE. Delivery is everything as a vocalist or rapper, you are the connection between the rest of the music and your audience. Emotional connection is what sells songs. Relatable lyrics go much further than pretending you’re a baller with a fantasy life.

5. If you need a break, ask! Sometimes a 15 minute break will do wonders for you, vocals are VERY stressful recording sessions for many reasons. Drink plenty of water as well.

All these aspects lead to a stellar performance as well. Breaks are vastly unappreciated IMO.

2 thoughts on “Why You Should *Never* Tune Your Vocals”

  1. Get outta my head! I tell artists “Don’t think you’re going to come in here and one shot a vocal. I will drill you until it’s right. If it takes 20 times, it takes 20 times. Delivery and emotion is EVERYTHING. THAT is what sells a song.”

    Here are some of my tips: Feel free to slap em up.

    1. Memorize your lyrics, BECOME your lyrics. Staring at a piece of paper only distracts you from EMOTION. It’s similar to reading a book to a group if you’re looking at the paper.

    2. If a phrase is formed as a question, add that inflection, as if you’re asking someone in front of you. Do this when you practice outside the studio as well and work on inflections to make the delivery realistic and impactful.

    3. Don’t get frustrated with yourself if you have a trouble spot, some lyrics are just difficult to nail down stylistically, we can always come back to it at a later time.

    4. I have to stress the word EMOTE. Delivery is everything as a vocalist or rapper, you are the connection between the rest of the music and your audience. Emotional connection is what sells songs. Relatable lyrics go much further than pretending you’re a baller with a fantasy life.

    5. If you need a break, ask! Sometimes a 15 minute break will do wonders for you, vocals are VERY stressful recording sessions for many reasons. Drink plenty of water as well.

    All these aspects lead to a stellar performance as well. Breaks are vastly unappreciated IMO.

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