How to Use Auto Tune in GarageBand

When it comes to choosing a perfect Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) to develop and produce your music, GarageBand is the first application that comes to mind. Developed by Apple INC, GarageBand has the potential and features to transform your music to a whole new level. Be it an instrumental piece, a simple music track or an entire album, GarageBand serves the purpose for production of all of the aforementioned music items. Derived from Logic Pro X, the application has successfully retained all of the features of Logic Pro X while keeping the user interface much simpler for people of all competencies to use and benefit from.

Like you can use the MIDI Instrument facility to either record a piece from a USB connected MIDI instrument or by typing on the device keyboard using the Musical Typing feature, GarageBand also makes sure any kind of vocals used in a track is enhanced with the help of certain features. One of the most prominently used features of GarageBand is the Auto Tune setting. Auto Tune is used in places where the vocals have gone off tune and are not matching with the scale of the backing track. What this effect essentially does is automatically corrects the pitch or frequency of those off-scale notes and brings them to key. Even though this feature is extremely simple to use and takes off a lot of work from singers and vocalists while allowing them some margin of error during recording, judicious use of this feature is very important. Every time Auto Tune is used, it adds an electronic effect to the track. The more you use it, the more electronic your track will sound thereby losing its natural flair. The best way to use Auto Tune is listed below in this article.

  •       To start off with using Auto Tune or the Pitch Correction feature of GarageBand, you will need to open up a track to use the effect on. You can either use an existing project where you have a few tracks loaded up or start afresh with a New Project. Let’s start with a new project here. Open up a New Project in GarageBand. A pop-up window will appear asking you to choose the type of track you want to insert into the project. As we will not be playing any MIDI Instrument here neither will we be recording guitar or keyboards, choose the option with the symbol of a microphone. Click on the ‘Import’ button to import audio on which you would like to apply Auto Tune.
  •       Getting to the AutoTune feature is quite simple. Select the lead vocals track of your project and click on the small scissors button (the GarageBand editor) on the top left corner of your screen. This will open up the Piano Roll and the Scroll editor by default. From the column to the button left of your screen beside the editor, click on Track and you will find the Pitch Correction slider there. This is effectively the Auto Tune feature of GarageBand.
  •       The Pitch Correction slider determines the intensity of the pitch or high or low the pitch is going to be. Higher the pitch, a more robotic effect will be produced and lower the pitch, your natural vocals will be preserved. Just below the slider, you will find two more options known as the Limit to Key feature and the Enable Flex feature. On selecting Limit to Key, the Pitch Corrector will automatically correct the pitch of the track in conformity with the scale of the backing track. The pitch of the vocals will be limited or bounded by the pitch of the track being used as a reference. Enable flexing is where you can fiddle with each section of a track and play around with the frequencies to know what pitch suits best for your production.
  •       GarageBand does not automatically recognize the key of the song. If you want to tune a certain track to a particular scale, you will have to set the Key Signature to that particular scale. There are two options to set the scale. The first one makes use of the Tuner button present on the bar on top. You will require a microphone connected to the system. Hum the scale you want to set on your microphone and the tuner will detect the scale. This option should only be used if you are sure you will not go off the scale while setting the scale. Otherwise, the second option is to manually select a key from a drop-down list containing all the major and minor scales. A much simpler method, all you need to do is click on the Key Signature. A list will appear. Choose a particular scale from the list and close the Key Signature. Now you will be able to see the name of the scale you have set on the Key Signature display. Both options will require you to know the scale of the track beforehand. There are several third-party applications that automatically detect the bpm and scale of any song that you feed into it. You can always take the help of such an application in finding the key to a song.
  •       Using auto-tune for basic songs with simple 4 chord progression is quite simple. But the real challenge comes when you have several musical details in a song. The natural tendency of Auto Tune is always to either scale up or down a wrong note to match the set Key Signature. When it comes to songs that are written on a major scale but have some minor notes in it, the real problem arises. In the context of Indian Music, a typical example would be Rabindrasangeet (Songs written and composed by Rabindranath Tagore). Most of these songs are so incredibly rich in detailing and have a constant mix of scales, scale jumps, and accidental notes which in no way go with the original scale but adds to the dramatic effect of a song. A general auto tune in such places will absolutely crumble the vocals as the effect will try to pull up a minor note into a major one. Specifically, for those parts, the auto tune has to be turned off so that it does not interfere with the natural flow of the song.
  •       Just as an experiment, you can play around with the Auto Tune feature by changing scales just to get a flavor of how this feature works and how different or electronic the vocals sound. This also helps you master using Auto Tune as the more you fiddle around, the better your musical sense becomes.

There is no perfect guide to auto tune successfully. It all depends on what you think sounds good or bad. All you need to make sure is that Auto Tune does not spoil your track in any way and that it keeps the originality of your voice intact!