The Ultimate Guide to Auto-tune

Ultimate Guide to auto-tuneAuto-Tune is designed to help pitch correct vocals and instruments.  Its main purpose is for pitch correction on vocal tracks.  It can save a lot of time, but it can also degrade the sound quality of a track if not used carefully.  It is not effective on stereo instruments or polyphonic material.  There is a simple process to follow to edit correctly and efficiently, but ear training is always the most important aspect of learning to tune well.  The method we teach for Auto-Tune is to selectively tune individual notes, and can be done very transparently and quickly.  It does have limitations, however, and it’s important to be attentive to be sure you aren’t degrading the sound quality of your track.

Always Duplicate the playlists that you intend to edit before changing any audio.  This is a universal guideline, preventing you from accidentally losing your clients data.  It’s also best to do a Save AS on your PT session and add the suffix AT after the session name.   

For ease of navigation, it’s best if your Pro Tools counter is set to Min: Secs, as this the format that will be displayed in the Auto-Tune window.   This will enable you to accurately jump to specific times within the song.

Often, toggling Insertion follows Playback on and using a Pre-Roll of one or two seconds can speed the workflow.


-On the track you wish to edit, insert Auto-Tune EVO Plug-In as the first insert.

-Select Input Type and choose the most appropriate setting for your audio.  Most male vocals will be set as Low Male Vocal, high males and most females will be Alto/Tenor, and very high females will be Soprano.  If tuning bass guitar use the Bass Inst setting.  Other monophonic instruments such as brass, strings, guitar leads, etc. can often be tuned using the Instrument setting.

-Select Key and Scale to match your song.

-Place your Pro Tools playhead before the first note of the audio and press Track Pitch, then play the entire length of the audio file to allow it to detect the original pitches of your audio.

-Once Auto-Tune has tracked the audio in and has finished its pitch detection, it will draw a red line where the pitch was detected, it will also show the waveforms below the scroll bar as a reference.


While in the process of tuning, work in small sections of perhaps one phrase at a time, and check your work frequently.

-Using the Line Tool (Access this tool by pressing 1), target the pitch for each note that you wish to tune.  Do this by clicking once where the pitch correction should begin and double clicking where the pitch correction should end.

-If you need to edit your line, use the other tools (numbers 2-8) to create line breakpoints, move breakpoints or lines, or select entire areas for various purposes.

-Be careful to avoid drawing the line over note transitions, as this can cause tuning artifacts.  Listen especially carefully to vibrato, which Auto-Tune cannot always tune this way without phasey high frequency artifacts.

Some notes, transitions, or vibratos cannot be tuned effectively using the line tool.

-For these it is sometimes effective to use the Make Curve and/or Import Auto functions.   To use these tools, first select the desired pitches using the Selection Tool (Number 7).  With your desired note selected, press Make Curve.  This will create a target line exactly the same as the original, and it is not yet applying any tuning changes.

-Using the Arrow Tool (Number 4), move either the entire pitch or the individual segment breaks at the edge of your selection so that the performance is in tune.  Listen carefully, as this is not a foolproof backup to the Line Tool.

-Another option is to try the Import Auto tool.  This will simultaneously make a curve and pull it towards nearby pitches.  It sometimes works quicker than Make Curve, but it is also less reliably transparent.

-If you still cannot get the tuning to operate transparently, try selecting the trouble area and adjusting Retune Speed or Adjust Vibrato controls at the bottom of the screen.  This will change the setting on only your selected area, and can help transitions to be less artificial.


-Once you have corrected pitch, it’s vital to check the entire track for errors or omissions, as there will inevitably be something you have missed.

-Watch and listen as you play through to correct any wrong notes, any pitches that didn’t get pulled accurately to the center of their note, and transitions that sound artificial or abrupt.

Learn the sound of bad tuning so you can avoid it.  Better yet, learn and understand how great singers negotiate pitch in their performances.  This may help you to avoid the trap of overtuning because it LOOKS bad.


-After approving the edited vocal, create a new Audio Track (with an appropriately descriptive name) to record the output of your Auto-Tuned track.  Be certain that Auto-Tune is the only plug-in active on the original track, and that the output volume is set to unity.

-Use ProTools’ bussing to route into the new Audio Track and record from the start of the song.  This will save your tuned track as a new audio file which can be played back on any computer, not just one authorized for Auto-Tune.

-Bring the newly printed audio up to a new empty playlist on your original track.  This will keep all versions of this track in one location. It’s best to perform a Save As at this point so that if you want to get back to your tuning information you can quickly and easily do so. Once your editing is safe and secure, don’t forget to remove or make your Auto-Tune plug-in inactive.

Do you have any tips or questions about Auto-tune?  Comment Below.

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