Autotune Microphones
Is it a real thing?

Home » Autotune Microphones Is it a real thing?

In short, there’s no such thing as an autotune microphone that lets anyone become a vocal virtuoso by simply coughing through a magical microphone—this is real life, not a movie! For better or worse, technology hasn’t quite caught up with the whims of teenage boys and girls and the reality of autotune microphones is a little more mundane. 

Autotune microphones are actually controllers that work in conjunction with pitch correction or autotune pedals.

Autotune microphone controller

If you have a pitch correction pedal or any pedal that functions with a specific autotune microphone controller, then what you have is a microphone that allows you to quickly turn respective effects on and off via the buttons on the microphone.

They offer fluidity for a vocalist who wants to switch on an autotune pedal for a specific section of a song without having to interact with the pedal itself. They’re not just for autotune pedals though they work with a variety of effects, make sure you know what vocal processing pedals the controller will work with because they’re not all designed to work with every pedal.

The TC Helicon MP76 is perhaps the most notable controller on the market, but it only works in conjunction with TC products. As I said, the reality is much more mundane. If you are a particularly lively performer but need to cycle through effects quickly without the painstaking task of turning pedals on and off, then these types of controllers might be for you.

Do microphones have autotune?

This is possibly the biggest misconception about autotune. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s easy to be swept by the fantastical idea of a magical microphone that turns a bad singer into a good one. While some microphone manufacturers are quite misleading with their “autotune microphones,” it’s not quite snake-oil, but it’s certainly not magical.

How can I autotune my voice?

The easiest and simplest way to autotune your voice is through an autotune effects pedal. Having an autotune pedal means that you can provide your voice with the effect on the fly. For live performances, it goes without saying that this is certainly a boon.

Some pedals want a little music theory knowledge from you meaning that you have to set what scale you’re in, but it’s not always necessary. There are autotune pedals out there that work chromatically. For those not up on their theory, essentially, pedals like the TC Helicon Mic Mechanic will correct the vocal pitch without you knowing so much as a C Major scale.

What about autotune VST plug-ins?

Autotune VST plug-ins work in the exact same way as autotune pedals do, but they’re tailored specifically for DAWs — rather than a pedal, they are digital plug-ins.

For the bedroom recording aficionado or for studio use, autotune plug-ins are a direct way to get the effect without a pedal. Most recording software have autotune as standard, but they often leave much to be desired. They’re often too robotic or too finicky to operate, it’s much better to buy a separate autotune plug-in that’s devoted specifically to the effect.

How can you tell if a singer is using autotune?

In short, except from maybe a few particularly discerning vocalists, a good quality autotunes should sound seamless to most ears. This all sounds like witchcraft, but the truth is if your voice is completely out of tune, the effect might make your voice sound artificial and robotic. Because the pedal is raising or lowering the note, the further you are away from it, the harder the effect has to work, so it’s more audible. When you hear a vocal performance that seemingly jumps from one note to the other, you’re most likely hearing autotune — essentially, the closer you are to the note, the more authentic the effect sounds.

That being said, the quick and robotic sound of autotune jumping to notes has actually become something of a staple for some music genres. Think of pretty much every modern rapper, that artificial android sound you’re hearing is autotuned quickly correcting the vocal pitch — it is purposefully used in a creative way.

For the vocal purists, autotune is their kryptonite. However, in the real world, singers inevitably don’t catch every note perfectly. Autotune is just a tool to automatically bump that slightly flat note into tune meaning that it shouldn’t be all that noticeable.