Auto-Tune Software for Studio Bass Today

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by CaseyVancouver, Jan 12, 2022 at 8:55 PM.

  1. CaseyVancouver


    Nov 4, 2012
    Anyone have a handle on how often computer soft ware is being used to make basses sound artificially in tune in the studio these days? Is everybody doing it?

    ‘Auto-Tune’ has been around for 24 years. There are copies and variations on this software.

    The reason I ask is I’m hearing players who sound just too good. I’m not just talking about Lev Weksler, who is obvious.

    I asked a friend I grew up with, who owns a major studio, he said it is used way too much, even for big names. He also said he recently recorded two top upright players and they did not play perfectly in tune.

    What’s going on in the studios?

    Personally I would rather hear a guy like Gary Karr, Rinat Ibragimov or Rodion Azarkhin play a bit out of tune, than a doctored studio bass perfectly and antiseptically in tune. I like players who play, not artificial intelligence.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2022 at 9:39 PM
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  2. Anthony White

    Anthony White Supporting Member

    Dec 31, 2010
    Auckland, New Zealand

    This was fascinating.
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The top intonation software today AFAIK is Melodyne. It's actually creepy how well it works on everything from vocal to strings. Last time I was in the studio the engineer mentioned he could use it on a low Ab I had played pretty badly out of tune on an otherwise good take, but he said it would be easier to just grab the same note from the out head of the same tune, so he did that instead and pasted it in on the in head. If I hadn't seen him do it I would never have known.
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  4. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Our studio tech / studio owner did the same "copy and paste" in a number of places with our recent album (2019, 27 songs, 2 CDs).

    I don't remember him using the tuning software with this recent album, but I'm absolutely sure he has that ability because I remember him using it on at least one of our previous albums, one time specifically when the mandolin player missed a high passage by a half step (1 fret).

    A few taps of the mouse and presto, it's fixed. Pure magic, it is.

    Regarding selecting to hear the "sound pimples" instead of fixing them, that's a call that the artists have to make. Most competent studios and techs have the ability.

    For us, it wasn't so much a matter of perfection as just wanting a professional sounding result in the studio for this last album. For our first three albums we selected to record everything together in the largest studio room, live. It produced powerful, high energy recordings, but then we just had to live with most of the "sound pimples".

    For our most recent album we still played simultaneously, but each of us recorded separate tracks in separate sound rooms at the studio, and then we were each pretty meticulous about making corrections. It was much more expensive, but we figure it's probably our last album, so why not. When you're spending significant time and money in a studio, it's hard not to justify getting things done as well as possible.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2022 at 10:55 PM
  5. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Bay Area
    I think there is a big difference between fixing a few bum notes with copy and paste and running an entire track through software to perfect the pitch. In the former case, you are still hearing the artist's performance. In the latter case, you are hearing the software's version of the artist's performance. That's just my opinion, coming from someone who could benefit immensely from said software probably....:laugh:
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  6. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    To be fair, if you're recording at a digital studio (which is what most studios today are), that's what is happening anyway; you just may or may not also be hearing corrections. There are very very few analog (tape or other magnetic media) studios left today.

    But your point about corrections is accurate.
  7. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Bay Area
    My point wasn’t about digital v analog.
  8. zootsaxes

    zootsaxes Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 6, 2015
    Memphis TN
    Melodyne is specifically the reason why I fell out-of-love with being a recording engineer, sold my studio, and vowed not to play that game anymore (commercially). It's liberal use is downright EXPECTED these days. I've tracked where the singer/upright player had absolutely ZERO sense of pitch or time (imagine the worst singer/player you've ever heard). You take these sessions, as painful as they are, and you try to stay nonjudgmental and vanilla and just get it recorded and get paid, right? Well - this one guy in particular I got to hear after it was 'mixed and mastered' by some 'top LA studio guys' and it came back like dude was freakin Sinatra and Ron Carter rolled into one. And then they proceeded to blame my tracking for as to why it didn't sound like that on the front end. It was unbelievable. I want no part of that dark magic and feel gross just talking about it...
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2022 at 5:24 AM
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  9. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Maybe studio recording needs the equivalent of the punk rock movement, where what is recorded and published is what the musician actually played.

    Personally I find pretty much all pop music of today to be SO bland, and SO much all the same, that I just can't even listen. Absolutely everything sounds like mall music to me. Let's put the musicians back in music!
  10. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    After 3 albums with him, our studio-owner / tech-guy has also become a member of our band; he is officially our bassist, but he is best known in bluegrass circles (and in Nashville) for his singing, guitar playing and studio work. On our 4th album (and for performances) we switch him around onto different instruments for different songs. We feel lucky to have him in our band.

    As a technician, he's marvelous because he knows roots acoustic instrument sound and he knows roots vocal sound. And he does speak about needing to be careful about producing tracks that are "too perfect". That would never have been a worry with our first 3 albums; we had built in permanent imperfections by deciding to record live in the same room where tracks were hard to completely separate. But on our newest album, where everything was on separate tracks which were pretty easy to tweak, we did have to be careful about when to say that's enough. And our tech-guy told us that a few times.

    Our band is pretty small time and we basically have done our own productions including financing; our albums are probably what most pros would consider amateur, except perhaps for the studio tech work. For people who have multiple studios to worry about, or who have major production companies, all who have something to say about product quality, I can imagine that must be a mess. For us as a band, primarily because our owner / tech-guy is so easy to work with, studio time is a joy and we look forward to it. Decisions like "no more fixes" come easily and without stress.
  11. CaseyVancouver


    Nov 4, 2012
    This is what we all expect is going on …but don’t want to hear.

    The PBS expert panel states that some classical recordings have 900 and 1,000 edits.
    And one also states that pianist’s issued recording may be perfect but later his feature performance in front of a live paying audience is not. Implies there are cases of soloists bypassing any audition process and getting hired for concerts based on their perfect recordings. And good looks lol.

    And a symphony that recorded a difficult piece half speed then was doubled by the engineer?
    Can you imagine the conductor saying ‘ok, we are going to play this Andante. But don’t worry the engineer will make it Vivace. And don’t worry about intonation, he will fix that too’.

    As turf3 stated, we should have recordings that are what the musician played.
    Unmolested by software. Would be nice to have a choice.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2022 at 3:00 PM
  12. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Good point, it is exactly the added pressure that performers experience when they play on stage... And that is precisely why some artists play/sing on stage to recordings of themselves in "live" performances at venues which allow it.

    And to be fair, this is exactly what movies and TV do (and have done for nearly a century). Sound, especially music, is recorded and tweaked, and then dubbed after the video work is done. So it's no surprise audiences expect that level of perfection at live performances.

    If you really want to hear someone as they sound in the shower, you have to actually be there.

    Last edited: Jan 13, 2022 at 4:12 PM
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  13. CryingBass

    CryingBass Ours' is the only Reality of Consequence Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2016
    So: Are we mixing/mastering to our ears ( in my case, old but trained), or the buyers' ears?

    Making righteous music is what God intended ( Perfect Pitch anyone? ). Making music for money?

    Well, you know...
  14. CryingBass

    CryingBass Ours' is the only Reality of Consequence Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2016
    You just outed an Industry. Better get some personal security guys :)
  15. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    I'll say again, it should be the artists choice... There are a lot of influences that go into making a decision to-fix or to-not-fix, most which are hard to imagine unless you're the person making that decision. As obsessed DB players that's hard for us to see sometimes.

    I'd submit that if [name of favorite DB artist] selected to produce and sell a raw recording with no fixes, we'd be talking about all the inevitable problems in that recording-- be they either studio technology mistakes or musical performance mistakes -- instead of talking about studio technician corrections in this thread...

    If you were that artist, which would you prefer people to talk about?
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2022 at 10:27 PM
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  16. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I'll fess up and admit to using Melodyne. It's currently the only pitch editor that works on polyphonic material, so it can correct things like a guitar or piano that's out of tune. I'm just recording at home for my own enjoyment and I fix notes here and there when my intonation is way off. If I simply played a wrong note, I'll either do a new take or a punchin rather than correcting the pitch.

    The engineer can control how strongly the pitch is corrected, from 100% (perfect) to 0 (no correction). This is similar to quantizing in sequencers for those of you familiar with synthesizers. I usually set it between 50 and 70% for the DB.

    If it's a poorly intonated (or just out of tune) guitar creating sour chords, I might crank it up to 100%. It is rather unnerving to hear the finished product after deliberately detuning a guitar before recording.

    I recall people getting all up in arms over Ron Carter's album "The Golden Striker" about what they heard as bad intonation (disclaimer: I have never heard it myself). I also am used to hearing intonation issues when transcribing bass parts. It only bothers me when I'm having trouble figuring out what note the bassist actually meant to play:whistle:
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2022 at 2:21 AM
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  17. ctrlzjones


    Jul 11, 2013
    Max Weber pinpoined this as “rationalisation”; a driving force of technology (invention or engineering) is always a need for a better relation of effort/time regarding the result. You can see this in all lines of production, agriculture, cars and also in music. Everything needs to be done faster with better results. The products also went to be cheaper and better in quality.

    Then there was a point when technology took over and set standards that were so good that we humans cannot compare anymore in regard to “perfection”. This also affects the notion of “beauty” (also in art).
    From the 18th century writing automatons to paintings done be AIsystems, the art produced by machines has always been appealing, fascinating. With the advent of the transistor in the 70s we were given machines that could make music by themselves, only being operated by us humans. The multitrack recording and the drum machine imposed a recording technology, a music production “to the tick”, culminating in the “four to the floor” sound of techno music (hence the term).

    The desirable perfection or ideal in most kinds music, that Why people are listening and making it, is no longer that of a (complex) unique human expression but that of a clean, unified and easily reproduceable product.

    Meanwhile the players and the listeners of classical music and Jazz, and also some other lines of music, have managed to claim values (and sounds) that condemn the aesthetics of mechanical, or as of today: digital, (re)production.

    But observing the rising use of autotune it could well be that this is also finding its final decade… Only think about how few people today are able to ride a horse; or the art of cooking their own food. Cars and processed food are so much more convinient. And so we humans are growing accustomed to the face of technology more and more, even becoming its integral parts. Cyborg, here I come.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2022 at 6:23 AM
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  18. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    And yet there are groups of people who get together and make music by themselves, for themselves, and are easily able to embrace imperfection. Visit a bluegrass jam sometime.

    Really, it's like the thing we've called "music" is dividing into two things:

    1) A standardized commercial audio product, intended for dance clubs, mall sound systems, restaurants, etc., wherein the actual participation of humans decreases every year and really is hardly important any more.

    2) An art form practiced by humans, complete with human characteristics like imperfection, memory lapses, humour, sadness, etc.

    Just as there are people who continue to ride horses, cook their own food, and use hand tools to make furniture, there will be people who play item (2); while others go everywhere in the car, buy all their food processed, and sit on IKEA pressboard objects.
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  19. By experience, in a studio, as work progresses, we get more and more focussed on our own playing and listen less and less to the others playing with us. We'll go three takes before realizing on playback that the guitar is flat relative to the other instruments or whatever.

    Also, the temptation to "fix it in the mix" is undeniable, and leads to some anemic performances when everything is gridlocked and autotuned.

    That said, I am sur autotune is all over records we love and we have absolutely no idea because the fixes are subtle and sporadic.
  20. lokikallas

    lokikallas Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
    It seems so silly to me. If it sounds off, re-record it until you get it right, or live with the imperfect take. Musicians who allow auto-tune to "fix" their tracks are just lazy, and or cheap.
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