Pitch correction entails being able to identify the pitch, determine the correct pitch, and process the track with the pitch correction. However, being able to correct a pitch in the studio has been a recent technological advancement. Since the beginning of digital audio workstations (DAW`s), there have been techniques to adjust the pitch of the tracks. This pitch adjustment would adjust the pitch of the entire audio region. This was not the best algorithm for adjusting the pitch of the lead vocal, as the result would have an artificial sound.
With the advance of processing and technology, pitch correction evolved into algorithms that were able to identify and correct the pitch with minimal artifacts. This pitch correction is able to confirm identifiable pitches to a predetermined scale. This was the beginning of the modern era of perfectly intonated vocals. Nowadays, having a vocal track on a pop record with slight fluctuations in pitch has become rare. Since correcting the pitch in the studio has become easy to do, the standard has become to apply it almost all the time. This has led to sterility in the sound of the vocals on a pop recording. Much of the emotion carried by the vocalist is through the subtle variations of the pitch.
For years, pitch correction has only worked across a monophonic track. This is because it is easier to identify the pitch from a monophonic sound source, as it has a periodic waveform. This periodic waveform is easier to recreate into a different pitch. Nevertheless, more recent advancements have allowed for pitch adjustment beyond that of the monophonic instrument. This involves a much more complex process of identifying the fundamentals and harmonics of individual notes on a track.
Good or bad?
There is an ongoing debate over whether or not pitch correction has helped or hurt the quality of the recordings. On one hand, some artistry and work that vocalist go through to hone their craft have been eliminated. They no longer need to record every single line as accurately as possible. However, more emphasis has been placed on getting the best feeling and inflection in the voice, which can lead to a better vocal performance for a song.
Pitch correction and music styles
Many people associate the use of the pitch correction with disposable pop music. Nevertheless, it is a fact that every style of music uses pitch correction. Even country and folk music, which has traditionally utilized vocalists with imperfections, such as Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, has replaced their vocal stylings with much more pop-oriented, perfect vocal sound.
The more an engineer utilizes pitch correction, the more he or she is able to hear the processing done on commercially released recordings. There is a noticeable sound to the pitch correction. However, it is done so often that the general public has come to expect the perfectly pitched vocal.
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