Master Class: Double-Tracking With Melodyne

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Automatic double-tracking—in which tape-delayed copies are combined with the original to simulate the doubling of voices or instruments—dates back to the days of analog tape recording. The tape delay causes subtle timing and pitch variations, which produce irregular discrepancies like the natural variations occurring when a performer records the same part twice. Nowadays, copying tracks is as simple as cutting and pasting text in a word processor. Chorus plug-ins and manual timing offsets produce the necessary pitch and timing variations.

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FIG. 1: The pitch-corrected vocal is sent to three buses, each with an instance of Melodyne Editor with different pitch and timing deviations. The channel strips have separate panning and EQ.

To transfer audio to Melodyne Editor when it is inserted as a plug-in on a track in your DAW, simply press the Transfer button and play the track. For a classic doubling effect, select either some or all of the blobs, right-click to call up the contextual menu, select Copy, and then select Paste. If the pasted duplicates aren''t lined up exactly with the original blobs, enable the timing grid, drag them over, and they will snap into place. With the duplicates still selected, use the Edit menu to add random deviations to the pitch and timing. You can use the Inspector or the Amplitude tool to lower the level. Experiment by adding multiple random deviations (see Web Clip 1).

But these techniques pale in comparison with the creative capabilities of modern pitch-correction software. Here I''ll look at several ways to use Celemony Melodyne Editor plug-in and Melodyne Studio for conventional doubling and thickening techniques, as well as cover some unconventional ways to create and combine completely independent parts.

This basic method is simple, elegant, and efficient, but it doesn''t let you pan or process the doubled part. And once you close the plug-in window, it is virtually impossible to reselect the doubled blobs because of their close proximity to the originals. For greater flexibility, copy your original to one or more new tracks and insert an instance of the Melodyne Editor plug-in on each.

Better still, route some sends from your main track to one or more buses holding instances of Melodyne Editor. Then enable the Transfer button in each instance, and transfer the audio to all instances in one real-time pass. Once you''ve made the transfer, mute or bypass the sends from the original track. Melodyne Editor will play back the audio stored within the plug-in on each of the bus tracks.

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FIG. 3: A polyphonic guitar part is double-tracked on a bus with pitch and time deviation applied to create a chorus effect. Double-clicking with the Amplitude tool mutes individual notes.

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FIG. 2: This kick drum part has been duplicated, shifted by an eighth note, and lowered in pitch. The formants are edited using the Select Same Beats In Other Bars command to generate consistent variations.

To save CPU resources, process your main track with plug-ins that you want applied to all of the duplicates. Those could include basic EQ and compression, as well as an instance of Melodyne Editor for basic pitch correction.

Using multiple buses makes it easy to triple or quadruple your original track while adding random or deliberate variations to each instance. You''ll also be able to mix and process the bus tracks individually. Furthermore, having separate instances of Melodyne Editor on each bus lets you add formant, pitc-, or time-shifting to any note of any duplicate—no more dealing with multiple tracks in your arrangement (see Fig. 1 and Web Clip 2).

Because each instance of Melodyne contains its own version of the transferred audio, it is easy to edit the blobs to create harmony parts. To do that, enable Scale-Snap and drag the blobs up or down to scale tones that fit the underlying harmony. The timing and phrasing remains in sync with the original, and the duplicates become harmony parts (see Web Clip 3).

Double-tracking isn''t just for vocals—try it with a kick drum part, for example. Copy and paste the blobs to create duplicates, and drag the duplicates up or down to change their pitch and, therefore, the character of the sound. Leave the duplicates at their original time positions; small timing deviations don''t work well in this context—they just sound like bad phasing.

On the other hand, rhythmically timed offsets can yield interesting results. Try offsetting the entire duplicate part by a musical subdivision that complements the song''s rhythm. You can edit the formants and amplitude of the offset part to generate interesting granular-like artifacts, as well as accents and dynamics. For repetitive parts, choose Melodyne''s Select Same Beats In Other Bars from the Edit menu to apply the variations consistently and repetitively. Because the notes are all at the same pitch, you can reselect the duplicates simply by clicking in the pitch scale on the left (see Fig. 2 and Web Clip 4).

You can apply Melodyne''s Direct Note Access and pitch- and time-deviation algorithms to polyphonic material (think rhythm guitar or choral parts) to create a chorus effect with control over individual notes. Use the technique previously described to transfer some processed guitar on a send bus hosting Melodyne. Remember to mute the original because the bus track will play back the transferred processed audio.

Melodyne does a pretty good job of analyzing polyphonic parts, but you may need to use the Note Assignment tool and Monitoring Synthesizer to tweak the note detection, particularly the note separations. Once done, use the Edit menu''s random-deviation commands for pitch and time to create a chorus effect. You can double-click individual blobs with the Amplitude tool to mute selected notes and exclude them from being chorused (see Fig. 3 and Web Clip 5).

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FIG. 4: Blobs are duplicated by Alt-Shift-dragging in the Arrangement window. With the grid enabled, use the Move Notes tool in the Editor window to establish the timing offsets. Alter length, amplitude, and formants to taste.

Melodyne Editor is handy and efficient, but Melodyne Studio provides a full-fledged multitrack environment where you can see, edit, and mix multiple Melodyne tracks simultaneously. Melodyne Studio can open audio files directly, but transferring them from your DAW, although a bit more work, places the transferred audio correctly on Melodyne''s time line. And you can transfer multiple tracks with different start positions simultaneously.

To do that, instantiate Melodyne Bridge in the first DAW insert-effects slot of each of the tracks to be transferred. If Melodyne Studio is not already launched, it will do so automatically. Make sure to save a newly created empty arrangement in Melodyne Studio before you begin the transfer and verify that it is the document selected in each of the Melodyne Bridge plug-in windows. Set them all to Transfer mode and point each to one of Melodyne Studio''s eight active tracks. Now playing your DAW will transfer all the assigned tracks at once. Melodyne Studio will then follow your DAW''s transport.

After transferring the audio using Melodyne Bridge, you''ll get better two-way communication by using Melodyne Studio as a ReWire client. To do that, quit Melodyne Studio and delete the Melodyne Bridge plug-ins in your DAW. Launch Melodyne Studio again and, when prompted, choose ReWire as the method to connect to your DAW. Playback from either application will now control the other''s transport. Assign the track outputs in Melodyne''s Mixer window to the ReWire channels set up in your DAW. Because the ReWire tracks will be playing back through your DAW, don''t forget to mute the original DAW tracks to avoid unwanted phasing.

Double-tracking in Melodyne Studio really shines when its tracks are used for multiple variations of a single part. The visual overview in the Arrangement window is great for setting up harmonies, delays, and echoes because you can easily see the relationship between each of the parts.

In Melodyne Studio''s Arrangement window, click a track''s Control panel to select its contents and then use the Paste Special>Copy And Paste Selection To Parallel Track command (Command-Shift C) to instantly double the part to a new track. Use Edit>Edit Pitch>Add Random Offset To Pitch Center and Edit>Edit Notes Time>Add Random Offset To Time Course Edit menu commands to introduce subtle intonation and timing variations. That produces a more natural-sounding doubling effect. You can create a harmonized part quickly by Alt-Shift-dragging (Option-Shift-dragging on the Mac) some or all of a track''s blobs in the Edit window. The newly copied part will be put on a new Arrangement window track, and random pitch and time deviations will be added automatically.

Where there is some empty space in the arrangement, Alt-Shift-drag some sustained blobs down to a new track in the Arrangement window to create multitrack echoes. Double-click to open the blobs in the Editor. With the grid enabled, use the Move Notes tool to offset the duplicated blobs by musical subdivisions. Alter the note length, amplitude, or formants for some colorful echo variations. Finally, add some panning in Melodyne''s mixer. You can route the whole thing to a single pair of ReWire tracks in your host, or you can change the outputs in the Mixer window to bring them back in on multiple tracks. That allows further processing in your DAW (see Fig. 4 and Web Clip 6).

For some creative arranging, try copying some short melodic phrases to the clipboard, select the sustained echoes, and then use the Replace Keeping Target Pitches command from the Paste Special menu. The notes will be pasted in at the same pitch as the original sustained note and stretched as needed to fill the same length of time. You might combine this with some of the original sustained-note delays for a nice interplay of melody and rhythm (see Web Clip 7).

Melodyne Studio will help you extract a MIDI part from recorded audio, which gives you options beyond simple doubling. For example, you can use a virtual instrument (sampled or synthesized) to double the part.

You''ll find several ways to tweak its audio-to-MIDI detection parameters. The three default algorithms work fairly well, but you can customize them on the Detection page of Preferences if need be. Choose Add from the dropdown Options menu, and a new window will open with a variety of detection parameters. Limiting the pitch range and sensitivity settings helps guard against misinterpreted harmonics. The Separation buttons determine how notes with portamento or slide are divided. If necessary, you can force re-analysis of a file using a different algorithm from the Definition menu.

For detailed manual tweaking of individual notes, use Correct Detection mode on the Definition menu. In this mode, you use the context-sensitive Pointer tool and the available detection parameters to search for alternative pitch or note-separation choices. The changes are stored in the accompanying .mdd file so that they are available the next time you open the file. Tweak heads can open the MDD Editor itself (on the Definition menu) for complete control.

Enable Show Audio-To-MIDI Parameters on the View menu for real-time audio-to-MIDI triggering. Here you can shape the velocity curve, establish pitch-bend parameters, and adjust the attack envelope. Most importantly, this is where you select a physical MIDI port and channel or a virtual-instrument plug-in hosted by Melodyne Studio.

To double-track with MIDI within your DAW, use the File menu''s Save Audio-to-MIDI function to export a MIDI file. Choose As Specified in Tracks from the dropdown format menu to continue working with the file in your DAW. Next set the range and choose the tracks to export. Hit the Save As button and set the name and location for the exported MIDI file. Finally, bring the newly created MIDI file into your DAW. Depending on how you set the range when you exported, you may need to line the MIDI clip up manually. Now play it back with one or more virtual instruments (see Web Clip 8).

This is not your grandfather''s 4-track tape-based double-tracking. Whether using Melodyne as a plug-in inside your favorite DAW or Melodyne Studio connected by ReWire, you''re limited only by your imagination. The possibilities will carry the creative and adventurous into the next century.

Check out Eli Krantzberg''s Melodyne Explained video series. Special thanks to Nancy Lane and John Acer for the vocal and guitar parts.