Hard Truths: Everybody Uses Pitch Correction

Every recording engineer has to work with the equipment available to them in the moment.

Those tools and technologies put a distinctive stamp on the music they record. An album from 1955 sounds radically different than an album from 1985.

The modern era of recording is no different. Developments like DAWs, compact audio interfaces and plugins all contribute to sound of modern music.

What has changed is the pace of technology.  Things that were considered impossible in the past are trivial for modern producers.

One of those major breakthroughs is vocal pitch correction.

This powerful technology may seem like cheating, but it’s just another tool modern engineers have at their disposal—it can be used well, or poorly.

Here’s my hard truth for today: everyone uses pitch correction, even the pros. I’ll explain why.

To tune or not to tune?

Pitch correction software has been a divisive technology since its introduction.

The idea that a singer’s skill could be artificially enhanced by a plugin sparked heated debate about authenticity in music.

The idea that a singer’s skill could be artificially enhanced by a plugin sparked heated debate about authenticity in music.

Traditionally anti-establishment genres like rock and punk often put a premium on values like authenticity and artfulness.

To those on this side of the argument, pitch correction is just another way for commercially motivated pop producers to put visual aesthetics before musical ability.

But artists who aren’t bogged down by these issues don’t hesitate to use pitch correction as a creative tool.


The reality is that pitch correction has been widely adopted by the industry for a few key reasons—and propping up bad pop stars isn’t the main one!

Time is money

Pitch correction is a must-have tool—but not for the reasons you’re thinking.

Pitch correction is a must-have tool—but not for the reasons you’re thinking.

The vast majority of vocalists are actually pretty capable in the studio. They may not be Ella Fitzgerald, but most singers can produce usable results if they put in the effort.

Even if you don’t use pitch correction there are a lot of conventional studio tricks to help a not-so-strong singer get a good finished product.

I’m talking about techniques like comping the best moments from different takes together or isolating certain instruments and punching in for difficult sections.



And just like anything in music, singing is a skill that can be improved with practice. If you’re willing to sit in a vocal booth for hours on end, you can probably get a functional take.

The problem is that studio vocals are under a lot of scrutiny. Modern mixes require big, bold, perfect sounding vocals that dominate in the mix.

Put any unedited take under that microscope and you’ll probably find something that could be improved

Put any unedited take under the microscope and you’ll probably find something that could be improved.

In the past, if an otherwise usable take had a small imperfection you’d either have to live with it or bring the artist back to record it again.

Pitch correction is a godsend for these situations. But not only for practical purposes…

Vibe is hard to repeat

Vocals communicate the emotional intensity of a song for most listeners. Why settle for a less passionate performance when the errors in the take you prefer can be fixed with pitch correction?

Getting the artist back into the studio may not always be possible. Even if it is, you can’t go back in time and achieve exactly the same vibe as the original takes.

And if the singer is just stuck on some difficult part, slowing the pace of the session to a crawl to get it right isn’t always the best choice.


The vocalist might be able to nail a take eventually—but why waste everyone’s time?

The vocalist might be able to nail a take eventually—but why waste everyone’s time?

Using pitch correction intelligently saves your time and theirs. Moving on and getting more material finished is often a better choice anyway.

And in most cases, the issues that need to be fixed aren’t even that extreme.

Subtle tweaks

Here’s the related truth: if an engineer doesn’t want you to hear the effect of pitch correction, you’ll never notice.

As a producer, you should take advantage of every opportunity you have to make your sound better in your mix.

Those with a ton of experience can sometimes tell if a track has been manipulated extensively.

But subtle correction is virtually invisible in moments where the singer was close but didn’t quite hit the mark.

These types of issues might pass in a less demanding environment like a live show, but they’re often worth correcting for a polished pop vocal.

This is where pitch correction truly shines as a production tool.

You can improve an already great take considerably by using pitch correction—just in the spots where it’s most needed.

That’s how the majority of pro engineers use this technology in their workflow.

As long as you respect your source material and don’t go too far, pitch correction is a helpful tool. When you’re tracking a great singer you have to make sure you don’t do more harm than good!

If you’ve got it, use it

As a producer you should take advantage of every opportunity you have to make your sound better in your mix.

That’s why pitch correction finds its way into almost every type of vocal production workflow.

If you have the ability to musically and transparently improve your raw tracks, why wouldn’t you do it?

Those who get caught up in concerns about authenticity are missing the point. Any technique is valid if it leads you to a better final product.

In big production environments, vocal pitch correction is often considered part of the editing phase and won’t even be seen by the main engineer working on the project.

They might not even know that some vocal parts have been corrected by assistants during the edit—and neither will the artist!

The pros aren’t afraid to use vocal pitch correction in their work. And you shouldn’t be either.

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