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Getting that digital voice

singer at mike

Anyone who's listened to chart, pop, rap, R&B or dance music in the past few years will know about the influx of songs where the voice sounds digital and slides up and down between the notes. Some big stars including Kanye West, T-Pain and Rihanna are using this on their records. These are all great singers, but with this effect people really don't have to be. They just use a plugin on their computer called Auto-Tune. It was originally used by recording engineers to correct any tuning problems in the singer's performance.

Oops! Sorry we let the secret out! Yes, your favourite star may not actually be able to always sing in tune! The engineers fix it for them, tweaking the pitches graphically to what the notes should have been so that we listeners don't realise the vocal was a bit off-par.

Auto-Tune also has an automatic mode, and somewhere along the line someone realised that the digital side effects of using the auto mode were not actually unpleasant. In fact they created a good effect. Those familiar with musical techniques will realise that all it does is pushes the note up or down to be perfectly in tune with a certain musical scale.

Auto-Tune is an expensive piece of software and boasts that it is used by major recording studios worldwide, but there's actually a free alternative for those of us dreaming of being the next rap star or producer. It's called GSnap and is available from www.gvst.co.uk.

According to the manual it can be used to subtly correct the pitch of a vocal, or, with more extreme settings, to create a robot voice effect. That sounds like a free version of Auto-Tune to us!

GSnap has many more features. It allows you to set how strong the tuning effect is, what musical scale you would like to use and how fast the notes are moved up/down to the correct pitch. GSnap can be used in lots of your favourite Windows-based recording software, including Audacity (which is another free piece of music making software). So give it a try on your new track, it may just add the effect that you need.