Can’t quite hit the high or low notes? Melodyne usually can.
by Craig Anderton
If you don’t have a wide vocal range, you have to choose a vocal’s key very carefully—the low parts can’t go below your range, and if you’re going to hit the harmony notes, you have to pay attention to where the highest notes fall as well. Unfortunately the voice sometimes loses power when you start hitting your lower limits, but if you choose the best possible range for your lead vocal then you may have a hard time hitting the harmony’s high notes. What’s a singer to do?
My solution is to choose the optimum key for the lead vocal, then reach for Melodyne Essential to synthesize the harmonies. Most of the time I can hit the harmonies so I’ll sing them “for real” and bring in Melodyne as needed, but I’ve also found merit to using Melodyne to generate the harmony even if I can hit the notes—it gives a different character that works well in some musical contexts.
Generating harmonies requires some manual effort, but it’s worth it.
1. Clone the lead vocal.
2. Create a Melodyne Region FX for the clone.
3. Solo the lead vocal and clone (Dim Solo can be useful for this application so you can hear the vocals in context).
4. Start adjusting the clone’s blob pitches to create the harmony (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1: Thanks to a paint program’s transparent layers, colorization, and cut and paste, this shows the harmony line (blue) superimposed on the lead vocal.
Usually the easiest way to do this is by ear, but if you’re theory-minded, you can always apply those rules to determine which pitches to use for the harmonies.
I highly recommend choosing Edit > Pitch Grid > No Snap and adjusting the harmony pitch by ear. Snapping doesn’t always produce the most musical results.
Also, check out my article Easy Automatic Double Tracking with Melodyne Essential, which describes how to add slight timing and pitch variations to do automatic double tracking. Applying the same technique to the harmony line prevents it from “shadowing” the lead vocal, and helps the harmony establish itself as an independent entity.
There’s a video on my YouTube channel that uses Melodyne Essential for creating both ADT and the harmony effects described in this article. In fact, there’s only one vocal track in the entire song; all the others were derived from it using Melodyne.
Finally, I demoed this technique during the video I did at Berklee College of Music last March. You can see the video here.