Fig. 2. Melodyne transforms audio into editable “blobs,” much like a MIDI piano roll editor. Pitch
Center and Pitch Drift are being lightly corrected for the selected group of notes toward the left.
Price: $349 MSRP,
The Melodyne line consists of several
products: Assistant (pitch correction
and processing essentials), Studio (editing
on multiple tracks, with arranging
and mixing), and Editor—the subject of
this review. Editor works in stand-alone
or plug-in mode, and is the first Celemony
product to include their DNA
(Direct Note Access) technology. DNA
can extract individual notes from polyphonic
material for editing, which isn’t
really relevant to vocals but—with certain
limitations—can work miracles with guitar,
piano, and other instruments.
We won’t dwell on DNA here,
because of the focus on vocals. To summarize,
though, it works better than
expected, because I wouldn’t expect
this kind of technology to work at all!
Depending on the source material, DNA
requires “prepping” the file before Melodyne
can work its magic. This can be
anything from minimal—with classical
guitar, I was shocked at how effortlessly
DNA did the job with no prepping whatsoever—
to impossible, as there was no
way to separate out the notes from a
distorted power chord. It seems DNA
likes distinct, defined notes with clearly
identifiable harmonic structures and
start times, and wants to work on a single
instrument at a time. Within those
constraints, and if you’re willing to do
any required preparations, DNA is more
like science fiction than a plug-in.
Note that in addition to DNA, Melodyne
Editor has algorithms for melodic
and percussive material. I used the
melodic algorithm for vocals.
Melodyne has a reputation for retaining excellent
sound quality when shifting pitch, but part of that is
due to an inherent advantage: Unlike most audio
plug-ins, it doesn’t process in real time. Instead, you
record the audio you want to process into Melodyne
(the “transfer” process), which analyzes the audio.
You then work with the audio in Melodyne; when you
start playback on the host, transferred material plays
back through Melodyne. This process happens in real
time, without hiccups (I moved the original audio just
to prove to myself that I wasn’t hearing it instead).
After analysis, Melodyne displays the notes as
audio “blobs” that not only resemble MIDI piano roll
notation, but can be manipulated in the same ways:
transpose, move, change start time, lengthen, and
shorten (Figure 2). There are also audio-specific tools
that work “inside” the note; two of my favorites are
the Pitch Drift and Pitch Modulation correction tools.
Pitch Drift linearizes pitch changes within a note.
For example, if the pitch sort of drifts flat toward the
end of the note, you can lessen (or even eliminate)
this drift. Pitch Modulation can increase vibrato or
flatten it—and even change the vibrato’s phase.
Other tools include change amplitude, change formant,
and even copy/paste so you can build harmonies
and doubling based on the original vocal.
It’s possible to work on anything from individual
notes to groups of notes, but the important point is
that—like “quantize strength” commands in MIDI—you can make subtle or obvious edits. For example,
if you select Correct Pitch, you can nudge the notes
a little closer to pitch, or quantize them precisely to
pitch—it’s the same with Correct Pitch Drift.
Full disclosure: When I contacted the company for a
copy to review, I was upfront and said I really wasn’t
that interested, because I rarely use pitch correction.
Also, I had used some very early versions of Melodyne,
and while impressed by the technology, it
seemed awkward to use. I also had doubts about
whether DNA could actually work, so I reviewed this
more out of a sense of duty to the readers than personal
Well, I stand corrected. Melodyne was easy to
use, and gave zero problems. The classical guitar
DNA experience was very impressive, and when
modifying vocals, the sound quality was far more
natural than I expected; with relatively minor edits,
you cannot tell edits were made. But I also liked that
I could completely transform voices if I wanted to,
and make no-apology alien voices. When you couple
all those capabilities with a clean interface and
excellent documentation, and solid online support,
you have a winner.
This isn’t just about pitch correction; it’s also
about vocal processing. After spending some quality
time with Melodyne, I think I’m going to give it quite
a bit of use in the future.
The Great Big Vocal Roundup
Realistic Pitch Correction With Auto-Tune Evo
Ten Do’s And Don’ts For Solid Vocals
Bruce Swedien’s Six Tips On Recording In Small Rooms
Bruce Swedien On The Proximity Effect And Directivity
The Vocal Tips Roundtable