122: Pitch Is Key – Avoid The Amateur “Out-Of-Tune” Sound With These 10 Tuning & Intonation Hacks

122: Pitch Is Key – Avoid The Amateur “Out-Of-Tune” Sound With These 10 Tuning & Intonation Hacks

Out-of-tune vocals, guitars, bass or really any instrument are super common in amateur productions. It's a dead give away.


 Often it's subtle, sometimes it's so bad that it makes the song really hard to listen to. In many cases it can't be fixed by simply editing and tuning in the DAW. And even if it can be fixed, the results are going to be much better if you can get it right at the source!

That's why we decided to make this episode for and show you how to make sure your source tracks are in tune, so you won’t run into problems in the editing and mixing phase.

The reality is: 

People send us out-of-tune tracks all the time and no matter what we do in the mix, they will never sit right and sound great. Even if it’s subtle it can be a distraction, hurt the overall quality of the mix and make everything sound amateur.

We don't want your songs to have these kind of problems, so here are 10 hacks for you to avoid it all in the first place!

The guitar tuner mentioned on the Episode:

Peterson StroboStomp HD

The plugin mentioned on the episode:

Antares Autotune-Artist

Related Episodes:

86: Unlock Your Voice’s Full Potential And Record Better Vocals – With Matt Ramsey

#47: Guitar Setup And String Choice With Diego Casillas

#17: Vocal Tuning Isn’t Just For T-Pain

#22: Guitar Tuning And Intonation Deep Dive

Our Guitar-Setup Masterclass:

Guitar Setup Masterclass – With Diego Casillas

Book a free feedback call with Benedikt:

This episode was edited by Thomas Krottenthaler.

Benedikt's voice on this episode has been recorded with the Antelope Axino Synergy Core.

Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy (click for full transcript)

TSRB 122 - Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy

[00:00:00] Benedikt: if something is just slightly out of tune, and doesn't sit well in the mix. People will notice they might not be able to put their finger on it, but they're gonna notice when they listen to the song, it's gonna feel weird and it won't connect emotionally as well. And it also won't sound as great. this is really, really important. Hello, and welcome to the self recording band podcast. I am your host Benedictine, and I'm here with my friend and co-host Malcolm Owen flood. How are you? Malcolm?

[00:00:38] Malcom: How are you? 

[00:00:40] Benedikt: Doing great. Thank you. um, I actually, I don't have anything prepared for today's banter. I hope you are more prepared than I am in that regard.

[00:00:48] Malcom: Uh, 

[00:00:50] Benedikt: usually you have some surprise story, obviously, something 

[00:00:54] that you, you, that you only tell me in the second episode, or by the end of it or something that I'm like, how the hell could you [00:01:00] keep that for so long, but like, nothing like that today.

[00:01:03] Malcom: No, I, I laid pretty low last week, honestly, and I, you know, it's killing me cuz there's so much stuff I wanna talk about about the, the show I was just away traveling on, but I still am not allowed to bring it up on, on a recorded episode. So it's just gotta wait. 

[00:01:18] Benedikt: okay. Yeah. Um, fine. Uh, I can't, I can't wait for you to drop this by the way. Uh, I have so many questions and I, I wanna know all the things, but yeah. Understandably you can't 

[00:01:28] Malcom: All in good time. All in good time. 

[00:01:30] Benedikt: yeah. All right. So. But I know, and I don't know if you wanna or can or wanna share this, but you just told me something before we started this episode, which I find is pretty exciting. Uh, it's about a band that is actually listening to, uh, the show. And, uh, I really wanna share this with people. Uh, yeah. Well, I mean, why wouldn't we.

[00:01:47] Malcom: Yeah. for sure. Okay. So, uh, if you like, you know what, they they've been kind of friends of the podcast for a while now, but, uh, this band I work with quite a bit named wet future. We actually did an, I did an [00:02:00] episode on the podcast interviewing them because they're kind of like a perfect poster child of a band that is taken. What we teach through this podcast and applied it and gotten really great results. Um, they they've gotten some radio play and, and stuff in their, you know, self recording band. So that's great. And then more recently we did our mixes unpacked mix walkthrough course, um, and I chose to do one of their songs. Um, so if you got that, you're also familiar with. Wet future. And yeah, great band. I love working with them and they, they record themselves and, and listed this podcast and implemented it really, really well. And anyways, I got another song to mix. I think it's the last song for the album. Um, they're putting out and, uh, sent it to my mix assistant Stacy to, to prep it. And Stacy sent it back and said, looks great. Here's all, everything you need. And, uh, by the way, whoever engineered this did a killer. And, uh, I was like, well, that's, that's amazing because they engineered it and they do all this stuff we talk about on this podcast is [00:03:00] this kind of like a, a reassuring thing, cuz Stacy's great. He gets really high quality tracks and I send him tracks that get sent to me by, you know, bonafide, you. Big recording studios and producers and stuff like that. And the here comes the band that recorded themselves and sent me the tracks. And, and he's like, these are amazing. it's like, yes, they are better. Damn good. So wanted to, uh, you know, give wet future a shout out, congratulations on doing a killer job. And also tell everybody that's listening to this. If you actually do the things we say on this, you're gonna get some really good results. 

[00:03:29] Benedikt: Yes, this is, uh, what I wanted to share with people. And, and of course, absolutely well deserved. Shout out, uh, what future you're awesome. I really enjoyed the, the mixed walkthrough that you did with their song, but I really wanted to, to tell that to people like to share that with people, because. That maybe you, then you now believe that it's actually possible to to get better, to take these things, implement them and actually get results. And, uh, so maybe this is the story you needed to hear and I'm, I'm stoked to hear things like that. I really, I really [00:04:00] love hearing things like that. It's, it's similar to when people tell me that they. When mixers tell me that they've mastered a song themselves. And then, and they did a mastering shootout against like, you know, million dollar mastering, special like specialists, mastering studios, and they're master one against those or so these are all they did was just threw flow limit on it or something, you know? I mean, they did it properly, but these are the stories that I really like. I really like challenging the status quo or like doing something with, with doing a lot, with a little basically. So hearing. Somebody say like, who engineered this? This is killer. And coming that coming from somebody who was also hearing like really well engineered records is really cool. I I'm still, 

[00:04:43] Malcom: Totally. Yeah, it's, it's, good news all around. Right. And, and that's what this, this whole podcast is about. Being able to record yourself DIY to a professional level and, uh, you know, having examples we can point to and be like, there it is. It's on the radio that that's as much as [00:05:00] a yeah. It's just so spot on. And it's really rewarding for Benny and I to, to see it happen as. 

[00:05:05] Benedikt: Absolutely. Totally agreed. Very cool. So one way, actually, this is a, a great, great segue now, like one, but I, I really think it is actually one. For you to make that a little more likely and to supercharge your growth and, um, yeah, to, to up your skills level up your skills and get to the point where your song could be played on the radio. One way to accomplish that is to go to the center recording band.com/call. And schedule a completely free feedback and coaching call with me where I can give you feedback. I can tell you how far you might be away or how close you might be to making a really professional sounding record yourself. I can give you feedback. I can give you action steps. What that can tell you what I would do next I can, we can sort of discuss a potential roadmap for you. We can discuss where you are now, where you wanna be, whether or not I can help you get there. And. All of this is completely free. Let's talk [00:06:00] for an hour. Go to the surf recording band.com/call. And I'm excited to hear about you, your music and your goals. And I truly think this is one of the fastest ways actually to, to make sure you're moving into the right direction into supercharge your growth as a DIY artist. So go there please.

[00:06:19] Malcom: absolutely do that. Um, if there's one more thing I can. Fit into this little intro is that I, I just mentioned that what future was previously on a mix is. Um, I think probably by the time this episode is out, you'll already know about this, but just in case you haven't, um, you should go check out our new mixes, unpacked volume, two, where Benny and I are walking through, uh, two mixes we've respectively done for two new songs. Uh, like, so it's a whole new whole new bundle. So, uh, if you got the last one, you'll love this one. And if you just wanna jump in on this new one, you can just. See if these songs are the ones for you and, and get in on it. I just finished filming mine. I'm so excited with how it's turning out. It was, I forgot how much fun I had mixing this song. So [00:07:00] there'll be more on that. Uh, there might be a podcast out about, uh, me interviewing the artist I worked with and, and Benny as well, doing that. So probably by the time you're hearing this, you already know what I'm talking about, but if not make sure you check out mixes unpacked. 

[00:07:13] Benedikt: Absolutely do it. Um, this is such a cool thing, such a fun thing that we do now, because this not only. That way you not only hear us talk about how cool these bands are and, and what a professional sounding record could sound like, but you actually hear what it sounds like. You actually hear what the standard is and what we can do with the tracks that are being sent to us, uh, where the challenges are. What what's good about them? What's not so good about them, all those things. Uh, you can, and, and you, you just, you just have a reference, I think, and you see what actually happens to your tracks when they are mixed properly, which will give you, which will tell you a lot about how you need to engineer things. And of course, if you wanna mix yourself, you'll see the techniques and tools that we use too. So I think this is a really great concept. And, um, yeah, if you [00:08:00] haven't. Definitely checkout mix is unpacked. It won't be the last one. By the time this episode airs, there should be two. And, uh, we'll plan on doing more of these. Yeah, absolutely. Great. Now episode of today is about pitch tuning, intonation, all those things, making sure things are in tune. If you've listened to us for a while, you know how important this is to us. And, uh, this is something that matters with guitars, bass, vocals, any sort of melodic instrument. And, uh, we're gonna talk about this is gonna be, um, a fairly. This is gonna be to the point, a very actionable episode, because we're gonna talk about 10 hacks or ways, or I just like the word hacks, because I think actually, sorry, before I give you the title of the episode, I think our most popular episode today is the one that we called recording hacks or mixing hacks. I think we need two of them as so. And I, I totally believe that these are the most popular episodes, just because of the word hacks in the title. I 

[00:08:59] totally [00:09:00] believe that. So. 

[00:09:00] Malcom: people are a sucker for that word. 

[00:09:02] Benedikt: Yeah. So we do another one of these and it's called 10 tuning or pitch or intonation. I don't know what it's called, gonna be called actually hacks to make your tracks sit perfectly and avoid problems later in the process. So 10 

[00:09:15] hacks to make sure things are in tune.

[00:09:18] Malcom: Now I just wanna point out that you have a dad pun, uh, alternative title up there that I personally really liked and it's pitch is key. Get it music key. The key, the song pitch 

[00:09:28] Benedikt: Oh 

[00:09:29] Malcom: It, Yeah. 

[00:09:30] Benedikt: totally 

[00:09:31] Malcom: I was like, oh, it's amazing. 

[00:09:32] Benedikt: wow. Pitch is key. Yeah, absolutely. Yep. That's gotta stay in 

[00:09:37] Malcom: Maybe we can do 10 tuning, intonation hacks to make your track sit perfectly and avoid problems later in the process bracket pitches key. 

[00:09:45] Benedikt: Yeah, exactly. Maybe even longer, but like, yeah, totally. But we should keep the pitches key thing. Yes, yes, yes, totally. But so, but 10 hacks has to be in there as well. Just, just to prove my point here and see if that episode's gonna be the new, most popular one. Anyway. What [00:10:00] might prevent that from happening is the fact that people don't really like. Talking or like doing, or like, I don't know, um, working on this for whatever reason, it's not a very popular topic. So this might prevent this episode from becoming very popular. that's unfortunate because key intonation and pitch is really, really important. And there are multiple reasons for why things are still not in tune often when people send us stuff, but it happens all the time, unfortunately. So that's why I know for some reason, people that either don't hear it or they don't know what to do about it or. They don't think it's it's as that important, but it really is. So we definitely wanna, um, talk about this because people send me out of tune tracks all the time and no matter what I do in the mix tracks, like that will never sit right and sound great. Even if it's subtle. Um, Sometimes there is, there are situations where things can be a little more raw and don't need to be very perfect. That's totally true. I totally get that. But often even if it's subtle and [00:11:00] you think it´s not gonna matter, it matters because it can be a distraction and hurt the overall quality of the mix. And no matter how good of a job you do mixing, if something is just slightly out of tune and doesn't sit well in the mix, people will notice. They might not be able to put their finger on it, but they're gonna notice when they listen to the song, it's gonna feel weird and distracting and it won't connect emotionally as well. And it also won't sound as great. It's really true. So this is really, really important. And I know Malcolm that you believe that too, right?

[00:11:30] Malcom: Absolutely. Yeah. I think we're both pretty particular when it comes to pitch. It is pitch is hard and it's the hard thing that people don't wanna work on. Um, but it, it is so essential. It is, I think one of the main, like primary indicators of a professional mixed person on professional product, um, is the, how much attention was paid to pitch during the, the engineering and recording of the song. 

[00:11:54] Benedikt: Yep. Absolutely. Absolutely. So, which is also why I tell people when they sent me stuff [00:12:00] like that, if I can't fix it and I will make them rerecord, or I at least at least wanna have a conversation about it because I just can't ignore that sort of stuff. So, yep. And you 

[00:12:09] can save yourself. Yeah. Sorry. Mm-hmm

[00:12:11] Malcom: I was gonna say Case in point last week I got sent a song, a mix, and I just called up artists and said, Hey, we just gotta do a quick guitar session because this could be amazing and it's not. And, uh, we're just gonna quickly, like, just gonna show 'em. This is how I would do it. It's not gonna take long at all, but, uh, we can level this up very, very quickly. And they were like, great. Let's do it. Um, cause they wanted to be. Awesome. Right. And it just wasn't, it was just it's, you know, it's just outta tune And uh, yeah. So I'm gonna show them in that case, but in this case, we're gonna tell you, uh, on a podcast, how to, how to fix this too. Yep.

[00:12:44] Benedikt: And that will save you from running into that exact problem. And then having to redo everything after you've consolidated and sent out your files. And all you wanna do is now hear the mix. If you wanna, if you don't wanna redo things at this stage of the process, then this is for you. So 10 hacks. [00:13:00] Now you wanna start? I, I start, I don't, I don't mind come. How are we gonna do. 

[00:13:06] Malcom: I I'll go first. Uh, so up first is programming mid scratch tracks as a tuning reference. There's so many good reasons to do this. Uh, first off MIDI is pretty like quick, um, to be able to get something down, uh, And it's gonna have really good timing and it's gonna have really perfect pitch. Um, and that is gonna just make it so easy to track the rest of your song to so huge fan of that. Uh, a good example might be doing like a mid base track or something that you can have, like just living in the session as a tuning residence for the rest of your. The rest of the song, um, or, you know, some people use like a sense sound or keys. Um, there's even pretty solid mid guitars nowadays. You could do it with, but having some kind of mid scratch tracks as a starting point is going to yield really good results. 

[00:13:55] Benedikt: Yes. A hundred percent. So yeah, nothing to add there. [00:14:00] It, yeah, just replace them and, uh, you have something to, to compare against. And when, in doubt, especially after long sessions, when the ears are already tired or, uh, also with like low tuned instruments where it's just hard to hear pitch, um, mid can help a lot. Um, it's just a, a great, a great reference. All right. 

[00:14:16] Malcom: Yeah, so real quickly, it just in case there's somebody that's listening. That is what do you mean reference the mid tracks? It means that when you're like recording, say a guitar, for example, a real guitar to your scratch tracks you. If it sounds outta tune against whatever mid instruments you've laid down, you're you're not in tune. You have to, I, I just gotta say Benny, if it looks like that's a giant bottle of vodka, 

[00:14:37] Benedikt: I was about, honestly, I was about to say something about that. I was about to say, just so you know, I'm not drinking vodka because you're not the first person to tell me that Brian, Brian said that. And a lot of other people too, actually people have reached out to me asking if I drink vodka on my videos. Like it has happened. No. Ever came to mind that this could be a thing, but like in Germany we have like big bottles of water and glass bottles. They look like this, you [00:15:00] know, it's 

[00:15:00] Malcom: awesome. 

[00:15:01] Benedikt: so, and I drink about like, it's natural, non sparkling water. I drink out of these bottles all day.

[00:15:07] Malcom: You're you're incredibly articulate for somebody drinking vodka while they 

[00:15:10] podcast, but um, alright, so back to what I was saying, uh, if you are, yeah, you you're recording your, um, your actual guitar take, you just check that. it sounds in tune against whatever mini instruments you've laid down. And if it does, you know, you're in tune, if it doesn't, you need to work on the intonation of that instrument, you're. So just always treat that mid instrument as, as the 

[00:15:35] Benedikt: Hundred percent. And it doesn't really matter which type of instrument you use. I mean, you know, if you don't have like a, a good Midar plugin, I mean, there aren't really good Midar plugins, but if you, at least in my opinion, but if you, if you think you can't do that because you don't have that just program, something could be some chords on a sense, just something you can compare your recording to and see if, if they're in tune or not,

[00:15:59] Malcom: Yeah. Or [00:16:00] one, Uh, run pro tip is that some instruments can intentionally be out tune. So if it's like a piano and there's a like detune knob or something to make it sound honky, tonk, that's not a great reference. 

[00:16:10] Benedikt: No. Exactly, exactly. Absolutely. All right. Now the second one and I, I, I mean, I don't know if that's general advice that or a lot of people do, but I think it, it helps. I think if you turn down, um, your monitoring volume, I think that this helps a lot. Like for me, when I listen to music for longer periods of time at a high volume, when I had back, when I had bands in the room and I was tracking a lot. And we were cranking things just because the band wanted to feel it. And, you know, tracking sessions are usually always louder than mixing sessions. And if I do that for a while, I I'm less, I, I find myself being less sensitive to these tuning issues. And when I turn down the volume and, uh, or take a quick break and then listen to quiet volume, all of a sudden those lead. Notes or whatever, single notes on the guitar that seem perfectly fine before now are definitely [00:17:00] out of tune. And, and, you know, it's a weird, I don't know what it actually is, but at least to me, it's probably ear fatigue or it's like, it just feels better when things are loud. I don't know. But for me, whenever I turn down, uh, things, I notice things that I haven't noticed before, while I was still cranking it up. So.

[00:17:16] Malcom: Agree. You just hear better at lower volumes. It's kind of a known thing. So you have to resist urge to crank it all the time. There's So. many other benefits to doing that too. So just, just do it. 

[00:17:27] Benedikt: True.

[00:17:28] Malcom: All right up next is check things in solo or in small groups with different volume balances. So a quiet outof tune background thing might become much more obvious in the mix. Um, so. 

[00:17:40] Benedikt: True. True. Okay.

[00:17:41] Malcom: Or, you know, kind of sometimes the opposite, sometimes something seems in tune in the mix, but if you actually fix it, it's like, oh, that is so much better. You can't even, you can't even tell why it just kind of falls into place. Um, bass guitar is really a killer for this it's bass is kind of hard to tell that it's out a little bit. [00:18:00] Until you fix it and then you fix it. And you're like, oh, like the whole bottom end low end of my mix just came together. Um, I'm, it's really not uncommon for me to tune base that gets sent to me for mixing, um, you know, in a perfect world. It would already be great, but, uh, it's just kind of one of those overlooked things. So I'm, I'm kind of constantly cleaning that up. 

[00:18:18] Benedikt: Absolutely. Totally. Yeah. And. One situation that happens quite often is that people send me stuff that is, that is cool. And in tune, and then there's these little add-ons or things that are often an afterthought in the session, or little tiny ear candy things that they do in the background or double here and another harmony here or something that's supposed to be quiet in the mix. So they don't really pay attention. And overall it seems kind of fine. But then in the mix, everything gets obviously hopefully a little more defined and, and clear, and then. When it comes time to like, when it comes to mix notes, discussing the mix, and then they're like, Hey, can we turn this background harmony up a little bit? And then I'm like, yeah, I wish I could, but I can't really because it's like, not in tune, you [00:19:00] know? So I, I wanna avoid these situations because like, do, do take, take everything seriously. Like even these small add-ons you do at the end of the sessions, they might be an afterthought or a spontaneous idea, but still make sure that those are in tune and listen to those things. On on their own or in small groups of instruments, as we said here, Because in the context of the full thing, you might not notice, but once, once it's clearer and mixed, those things will come up and then, uh, you have a problem. So this is just something pretty common. I think that some of those background things that people, some reason don't think they need to be in tune or also vocal double. Sometimes they just do a sloppy, quick, double take. And, um, it's not a good idea to do that. I mean, there's, you can tune things, but still take it seriously and, and listen to things in solo. Uh, just if it's, if it's just a check pitch and I can add 

[00:19:47] Malcom: yeah. So all things in a production are compounding. Um, so, you know, we've, we've talked about how, why we added drums before we record everything else is because Those, all those little timing, discrepancies are gonna compound it. Every layer, [00:20:00] every new instrument we add is gonna make that worse and worse and worse. And all of a sudden, you know, what was just a little ahead on one instrument. Is now way ahead of the, the other instrument. That's a little late, right? So this becomes a mess and it is the same with tuning. If you have a bass and a guitar that are just a little out, it's like, okay, well that's fine. But now we add a piano. That's just somewhere else. and then a vocal that's, you know, that little bit out as well, all of a sudden you've got a problem. Um, so the more tracks you add, the more important it is that you've been diligent this whole way along. So when you are doing those little final thoughts, like a little. Guitar harmony or, uh, like you said, like a, just an add-on vocal, double or harmony, that's just meant to be in the background. It's the most imperative that they are the most accurate thing happening, really? Because at that point in the game, there's so many layers that if it's not great, it's gonna be bad sounding. 

[00:20:50] Benedikt: Yes. A hundred percent. A hundred percent. Okay. Nothing to add. The next thing is, and I had to put it in there. on this list. Welcome. The next, uh, [00:21:00] hack here is to record, but I, I put something in brackets 

[00:21:03] Malcom: I can see it. I see it. 

[00:21:04] Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So next hack here is record guitars before bass period. 

[00:21:11] so 

[00:21:12] Malcom: there's no, period on the.

[00:21:15] Benedikt: no, at least scratch tracks. So there, there you go. I believe, and I believe this is the only way, but I, I believe you have to track guitars before bass, just because of that reason. No, there's other reasons too, but no, you don't have to do that actually, but it helps. What I wanna say is Malcolm, you said it before, it's kind of hard to. To tell when bass is out of tune. Oftentimes. So what, what helps me at least often is to track guitars first and then track the bass to the guitars, because then you're gonna hear that the bass is out of tune. If you could track bass first, then it might be difficult to judge that, but a scratch track will do too. So you can have a scratch track or a mid tuning reference or scratch guitars. You know, record base to that [00:22:00] and then record the proper guitars. I still believe it's better to record guitars first, but there you go.

[00:22:06] Malcom: So it goes without saying that I'm the opposite um, but, uh, so I should clarify though, if you record base first, I do tune it before guitars go. Um, so in, in my process, the it's now my base is like a tried and true tuning reference. 

[00:22:24] Benedikt: Yeah. For sure. So yeah, no right or wrong here. Absolutely not. But 

[00:22:28] Malcom: As long 

[00:22:28] as it's in tune, there's no red or wrong. 

[00:22:30] Benedikt: Yes, exactly. Exactly. The point is just have a tuning reference. And for me, this is often just guitars. I find it easier to judge that, but scratch tracks will do. Um, it's just one hack. You could try it. Maybe it works for you too. So that's why I put it on this list. Now, do you do the next one, Malcolm? 

[00:22:47] Malcom: Uh, not usually, 

[00:22:49] no, 

[00:22:49] Benedikt: Not usually. 

[00:22:50] Okay. 

[00:22:51] Malcom: but, but, uh, I, I don't think that means it's not a good, valuable move. Like it's a tool that you can use if you need to hear something. I'm 

[00:22:58] Benedikt: Okay. So the next [00:23:00] one would be listen to your clean di I mean, I don't listen to them all the time. Obviously there are people who do, like, there are engineers who make people play and listen to their, just the D instead of an amp, which is kind of wild to me, but it, it, it, uh, it happens But I think there's value in checking the di real quick, at least one in doubt. Sometimes there are parts where I don't know what that is, but when I just hear the clean di I mean, I know what it is. If I hear the clean, the eye with all the added harmonic content from the amp, then some tuning issues become more obvious or it's easier for me to really. Spot the problem to isolate the problem. Maybe it's also that. So I it's sometimes I just love to listen to the clean, the eyes of guitars, and then it will become pretty obvious if there are tuning issues 

[00:23:46] or not. It's also good for other reasons, sometimes just the, the attacks and the timing and all of that. Sometimes it just pays off to, to really check what's going on in the di. And if they're really, really great, because an amp can, you know, make things, sound [00:24:00] prettier or like hide some of the flaws 

[00:24:03] Malcom: Yeah, can totally hide stuff. Um, this brings up a good point though. Like, like you said, you use the di to kind of hone in on what the issue is. And, I do wanna point out that. I think a lot of people think that by tuning the open strings of their guitar, they should be in tune, which we've tried to kind of dispel that that's not enough over and over again. But I wanna point out that you sometimes have to purposely be out tune. Um, so if your main rhythm guitars were, you know, a three saddle tell or something, you might have like some, some notes in accord that are a little sharp and they sound great on that guitar performance, but you have to overdub to them with a different guitar. You have to figure out what notes sharp and match it. It's, it's all about relatively being in tune with whatever is already there. So listening to the di of that guitar might be easier to figure out. Okay. I think it's like the third, that is like a little sharp. So we're gonna match that on our next guitar performance to, to kind of sync it up. Um, stuff like that. The DI's like that's getting really surgical, but that's kind of what it takes. [00:25:00] 

[00:25:00] Benedikt: yes, absolutely. A hundred percent. That's why it's there. Cool. 

[00:25:04] Malcom: All right. So then we've got Tuning individual chords and notes if necessary. This, this blows people's brains when I make 'em do it, but you might have to hold a chord and this kind of requires two people sometimes. They're holding the chord and plucking it and you're tuning every single note of that chord for them as they hold it and say, keep your hands how they are, don't hold softer or tighter. And we tune that one note and then I click record and they punch in that one chord and say, all right, grab your next chord. And we do it all over again. We tune every note, every string of that next chord, punch in just that you know. It can be a single note if it's for solos, you just can't get right. It it's, whatever it takes and it can take a lot and a long time.

[00:25:45] Benedikt: Yeah, and I there's there. Unfortunately I've made plenty of records. No, not plenty of records, but a few records in the past. Where I should have done more of that, where I just didn't know about it, or didn't take it as seriously or didn't hear it as [00:26:00] well as I do now. But there are some records that I made when I listen to them. Now it's kind of, ah, I wish we would've done that again. It's so it would be, would've been so easy to fix that, but I just didn't. So I don't want you to feel that way, uh, in a, in a few years, when you listen to your, uh, music that you've made. So just avoid that. Um, So I, I didn't do that for the longest time, but I it's so easy to do. And. Might might be, might take a while like take time, but it's not hard to do. It's just something you, you know, you just gotta, gotta get through. 

[00:26:29] Malcom: Absolutely. 

[00:26:30] Benedikt: Cool. Now the next one is I build, that's also one that's often overlooked and that is tuned. Like you play. So that means when you are, what, when you are sitting down while you record also tune sitting down, not standing up and vice versa thing is it will be, it will really be different because when you're sitting down. Gonna hold the guitar differently. There's gonna be pressure on some part of the guitar, which will bend the thing out of tune. Uh, there's gravity, even that makes a difference. Believe it or not like, you know, the, the angle that you hold, the guitar, all these things really make a [00:27:00] difference. I've tried that because guitar techs have been telling me that and I couldn't believe it, but it's true. If you hold the guitar differently, chances are it's slightly out of tune. So tune like to play. That also means if you play a very soft part. Tune while hitting the string softly. And if you play a really hard part and if you, if you pick really hard, Tune while picking hard with a perfectly set up guitar. This shouldn't be much of an issue, but it oftentimes still is. So, especially with low tunings, like when you have a low tuning and maybe the strings are not quite thick enough, or you prefer a little bit of lighter strings, I, if you hit the strings hard, they will go sharp for, uh, a short amount of time. And, uh, the attack will be a little sharp. And if you know that the part you're gonna be tracking. Is is, is you hitting hard and you are playing, I don't know, chucks or something, and you're playing, I don't know, eight notes, so there's no sustained note. And it's, it's all hard chucks then maybe tune, not maybe, but tune hitting hard and, and hitting [00:28:00] fast. And when you have quarts that ring out and you just hit the strings lightly, then tune that way because otherwise it, it will be sharp or flat. It's just a normal thing that happens all the.

[00:28:11] Malcom: Yeah. totally that maybe add a quick note here, but it's like having good posture while you play. Um, and it's, it's just what you said. Like, if you're leaning back, people do this all the time. They're just like almost reclined. Your guitar's gonna go sharp. Like you can just, uh, like experiment, grab a guitar, flip it so that it strings are seen right up and, and hit a, hit a note. And it'll be a little sharp just because of like the, the, the pole of the weight of the guitar wanting to fall. 

[00:28:35] Benedikt: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. Cool. Now do you do the next one? I know you don't but what do you use 

[00:28:42] Malcom: Oh, Nope. I do I 

[00:28:43] Benedikt: you do 

[00:28:44] Malcom: Yep. 

[00:28:44] Benedikt: really? Oh, I thought I thought haven't we talked about this and, or 

[00:28:48] Malcom: I, well, I use the Keer tuner, um, but it has a strobe mode, which I, I like to use, but I, I, I'm not super, like if, if a band can't figure it out, I, I don't worry about it too much. I [00:29:00] usually try to get them cuz you know, honestly it's really simple to figure out how to use a strobe tuner. It it's really not confusing at all, but some people really just can't get their head around it. So I'm, I'm not going. Beat 'em up about it. I just, uh, go back to the little floating bubble and we make it work, but but Yeah, strobe, tuners. They're they're great. They just work better. 

[00:29:18] Benedikt: yes. And real stroke tuners where there's the there's, um, tuners that have a stroke mode, which is not really a stroke tuner on the inside. It's not more accurate than whatever other display they have. There are plugins that simulate that, but if it's a real stroke tuner, it's more, it's also really more accurate, like the. I don't know about the, the ke one, if that, how accurate that is or if that is one or whatever, but even like the, the stroke mode helps. But like, if you have a Peterson, for example, stroke tuner, that is that like, I don't know the hundreds of a cent or whatever, a thousand, I don't know, like ridiculously small amount. Yeah. Um, it, it's almost impossible to get the thing to stand still. Like it's, it's almost impossible, but, um, So it can be annoying. I see why people [00:30:00] maybe not use them live because you will be tempted to always get it. Perfect. And you never do so it can be quite frustrating, but in the studio, they are really, really good tools. And if you know how to use them, um, it's not, it's not hard, really not. So bottom line, if you, if you can use a stroke tuner, uh, I really love, and I'm not this episode or this podcast is not sponsored by, by, by anybody, but Peterson. Stro stomp. I think it's, it's called stro stomp HD or so it's, it's a stomp strobe tune. They have a desktop one. That's not really practical for most bands when they wanna use it live, but they have a stomp version that's built like a tank has a great, huge display that you can read, even if you're standing. I don't know how far away. It's it's well lit. So it has all the features that you want from a good live tuner, but it's also super accurate because it's an actual stroke and it's not. Crazy expensive. So I have one of those in the studio and, um, I love it. So, 

[00:30:52] Malcom: That's that's a great choice. Um, yeah, that the Keer is definitely like one of my favorite tuners. I use it as a tuner, even if I'm not using it, [00:31:00] it's just, that's my tuner. Um, and then I know there's one more, uh, like a plugin that's actually quite recommended and I can't think of what it is, but I'm pretty positive that Diego in our, our episode with Diego, uh, which let's just do it, let's find out what episode that was. 

[00:31:16] Benedikt: Yep. And I know what plugin it was, and it's not something you would think of because I, I know one of his recommendations was the poly tune plugin by, I think it's TC electronics. Um, so there's the poly tune pedal, which is not really super accurate. 

[00:31:32] Malcom: Yeah. I don't like 

[00:31:33] it at all. 

[00:31:34] Benedikt: Nope, exactly. Not really accurate, but for some reason, the plugin is, so Diego was mentioning that, that he says like he would never use the, the pedal, but he definitely uses the plugin. I haven't tried it, but I trust Diego. So if you have that or wanna get that, so apparently that's a very accurate, uh, tuner. Uh, 

[00:31:51] so yeah,

[00:31:51] Malcom: Yeah, totally. so um, yeah, that just for your reference, that was episode 47 guitar set up in string choices with Diego Casillas. He is the bomb. That [00:32:00] episode is so darn good. Yeah. And, and we actually talk about a lot of the stuff, like a lot of what we're talking about is kind of explained in, in, through technique in that episode, very tactical episode. 

[00:32:10] Benedikt: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So use a good tune or a stroke. Ideally. 

[00:32:16] Malcom: yeah, and then after that 

[00:32:18] Benedikt: yeah, talk, talk, you talk about the next one. Malcolm. 

[00:32:21] Malcom: all right, for sure. Yeah. We've got optimizing the singer's headphone mix for intonation. So when you're singing, you really need to be able to hear what you need to sing too. Uh, if you've got a big drum heavy mix, it's gonna be pretty much like fishing in the dark or shooting in the dark. I don't know what that? phrase is anymore, but, uh, fishing in the dark might be hard too. I'm not sure haven't tried it. Um, but 

[00:32:42] Benedikt: You know, there's these light, these small green lights. I dunno the English word for that, but like the small that you anyway. So you can see the bait in the dark. I used to I'm vegan now, but I used to fish before I turned vegetarian vegan. So 

[00:32:55] Malcom: So you can't fish in the dark. apparently. Um, but I think, Yeah. [00:33:00] essentially it's gonna be a lot easier to sing if you have a melodic instrument to sing to. So, so building a headphones mix for the vocalist to sing to, um, you know, maybe based turning up the bass. So the, the root notes are more prominent. Um, you can program, uh, a melody. For them to sing to. That's actually like a very common technique is like does program of piano play in the melody and they just sing to that. Um, if you've done vocal lessons, you've probably done that. That's like a very common vocal lesson technique for singers to teach you how to sing, uh, is using piano, melodies. And, and so that's very effective as well. You know, removing things that aren't important, if there's like a weird kind of dissident harmony that might make it harder to sing the note they need, you can just mute that for them. And, and Yeah, you know, you might need to put in an instrument that won't even be in the final mix, whatever, really they need to get it done.

[00:33:47] Benedikt: Yeah, hear it. And I, uh, I don't know about the whole, I added this base up for root notes thing. So turn up the base or turn up any, what I mean by that is basically turn up any instrument that is, that gives [00:34:00] you this, the, the core progression in a very simple, easy to hear way could be rhythm guitar could be. The base, oftentimes, uh, just something that's not distracting that you can clearly follow along sort of, and like yeah. And adapt to. I think that sometimes really helps it doesn't help to have like complicated guitar layers, sometimes just the clear base note is really what you need or any, any sort of melodic rhythm instrument and yeah, it's individual too. I think people will. Everybody will, will, like some people will perform better when they hear a certain thing and other people will need different things. Uh, just pay attention to that and experiment because I I've really experienced it where changing the headphones mix completely changed the performance when it comes to pitch, like it was almost impossible to hit a certain note before we make the change. Now we made this change and all of a sudden it's very easy for the singer to hit that note for whatever reason. Like it makes a difference. Totally.

[00:34:49] Malcom: And now advanced mode on this, uh, this won't be for everyone, but if you can do this, you know, uh, build a mix that is tailored to your singer, but also maintain control [00:35:00] of what you're hearing for your own mix, like monitoring mix. Uh, and that might need to be totally different for me. It's like really essential that I'm hearing those vocals in, uh, like a rough mix of the song with all the elements there. I need to hear that they're in tune against all of those things. Like we've been talking about. It's like, I need to know that. It, it is gonna be in tune with those harmonies. It is gonna be in tune with all those guitar layers. They might not need that to get that done, but I need to like be double checking that it is, um, in something of a finished product. Uh, so that might be different for you, but just make sure that you're able to tell, like, cuz you're really the one giving them feedback as they're recording their vocals. Um, it like make sure that you're able to actually know for certain that what they are doing is what you need. 

[00:35:43] Benedikt: absolutely. Make, make sure that you, uh, yeah. To pay attention. Do that. And also it helps to have some, it's not on our list yet, but it helps to have some, some, if it, when it comes to vocals, you have some, at least theoretical. Vocal [00:36:00] skills or like knowledge of how to reach certain notes or maybe some techniques it helps to maybe take, maybe even take vocal lessons or just learn about that. Maybe read, I don't know, do something so that you can, when you're engineering and somebody else is singing so that you can sort of guide them a little bit. You don't have to be a perfect singer yourself, but. Uh, you, you have to have a tool there's like a bag of tools or tricks that you can use, and you have to be able to coach people. That's a, a, actually a big part of any vocal session is the, the motivational and psychological mental aspect, but then also guiding them, coaching them through the performance. And you need to have these, these tricks, you know, and, and, and, and things that you can then try and use. I think this really is kind of important. and one thing that I saw, it's another video that I saw on, on social media the other day is by Matt Ramsey, who we had on the podcast. He's, um, a vocal coach and he, uh, made this video about a technique he's called the, the plane technique. I think he was what he was calling it. That's just one example of that, where he says A lot of people are struggling to reach [00:37:00] notes that are close to their limits, like in the upper range of their voice. Like they're doing really high notes. They can sing them, but it's kind of hard to reach them. many people will. Put a lot of energy into these notes and they will still be a little flat and you can hear that it's exhausting and they can't quite reach it. You know, that phenomenon where you just think push a little harder, you know, but it's still like a little flat. And he says, instead of trying to come at those notes from below and, and really putting so much energy into trying to reach that note, try imagining. You, you are like try imagining you're a plane and you're landing on that note. So imagine you already, you know, that you can hit this note and you're coming at it from above. So you're confident you can get there. You've done it before, instead of trying to reach it, you just land on top of that note. And he demonstrated that in that video and it makes total sense. It's like just, you know, things like this, maybe that can help a singer. Maybe they can approach it differently then. And instead of. Yeah, concentrating so hard on, on getting up there. Maybe it's actually not as hard if they just think about it differently. So knowing things like that really pays off. Um, and there's a lot of tricks [00:38:00] like that.

[00:38:01] Malcom: Yeah, it's really like unlimited. Um, you'll find different and, you know, pay attention to the singers. You're recording as well. They might have their own tricks and you're like oh, I'm gonna steal that. and be able to recommend it to other people or other vocalists, or use it with, you know, maybe you're singing backups on the song. You need to grab all the help you can get. 

[00:38:17] Benedikt: Yeah, totally. Totally. All right. So the last one here on our list and why is this number 11 here by the web? Oh, you added one, you added the posture thing. So now 

[00:38:26] it's not 10 anymore. Damnit Malcolm. 

[00:38:28] Malcom: uh, 

[00:38:29] Benedikt: like, I want this to be 10 hacks. No number 10 on our list um, Saying, and, and again, I'm curious to hear your thoughts there. Uh, I, I tried this after it's been shown to me and I think it's really cool seeing into UNE live mode just for monitoring, not for the actual print. So what that, what I mean by that is there is in the UNE plugin and. Possibly other tuning plugins too. There is a live, I don't know, but with auto tune, definitely there is a live mode where you can put it on the track, you're recording and you can [00:39:00] sing through it without latency and tune in real time. And the reason for why that can be a cool trick. I don't do this every single time, but the reason why it't be cool trick is you do that and you put that tuned track on the, uh, on the, in, in the headphones of the singer. So they hear themselves tuned. What they will automatically do in most cases is they will adapt to that tuned version of themselves that they hear. So they sing it slightly out of pitch, but they hear it tuned and they will automatically try to, to match that. And it, it, they end up singing better for that reason. And you don't wanna track the tuned version because you, you know, these things make mistakes and you, you, and they also, sometimes there are artifacts and all that stuff. So you wanna track the clean version. But maybe split up the track or just put it on, uh, something that you can monitor. Uh I can't really explain how to do that because the routing is different in every do, but we've, I think we have an entire episode on how to track through plugins and the different ways to achieve that. But if you can set it up so that you can listen to the UNE plugin and [00:40:00] track the untuned version. That's a really cool trick. And I found it interesting and fascinating how that worked, but it, on the other hand it makes total sense. Like when you sing together with somebody else and the other person is in tune, you try to match that. You, you realize when you're out of tune usually, uh, and it's easier to sing along. That's if you sing along with a song on the radio, that's a lot easier to do in pitch, like in, in the correct key and, and all that versus singing to the. Instrumental version without this reference. It's a lot harder to do it on your own than just to do it with somebody. And that's the same sort of effect you hear the perfect voice and the perfect line. And you just sing along with that basically. And automatically you're gonna sing better. Yeah. 

[00:40:40] Malcom: Yeah. everybody thinks they sound better when they're singing along to the radio. Right. And it's kind of that that's, what's happening really. It's funny. Um, I, I have, I use this quite a bit actually. Um, I, I use the waves tune light or something. I think it's called or waves tune real time. Um, and it's great. Honestly, it it's awesome for doing just this. And sometimes I [00:41:00] will say there's just been a couple singers where. Just doesn't work for them. It throws 'em right off. Um, and they're like, what is happening? And just like, don't worry. We'll, we'll just take that off. And we go back to normal, but, uh, it is totally with a shot. Um, for some people it was like a total game changer. They love it. They're they're hooked. So, and yeah, pretty new school idea technique. That's kind of more recently come into light. So if you haven't tried that this is totally worth trying, you can get a free demo of one of these tuning plugins and see if it works for. 

[00:41:28] Benedikt: Absolutely. All right. So that was it for our list here. So some of the things are general, some of the things are guitar specific, some are vocal specific, and most of those things apply to multiple different things. I, I think so. 

[00:41:42] Malcom: Yeah. absolutely. There's there's more, I want to say, but I really want to keep Benny's list to 10 tuning hacks. Um, so but at, and all the other ones I've got are, uh, are, are kind of postproduction related anyways. So, um, you know what, we should do a post tuning episode though. That's a good idea.[00:42:00] 

[00:42:00] Benedikt: Yeah, totally. I mean, we have done one, but I, I need a, I need to see what we've actually talked 

[00:42:06] Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. I'll 

[00:42:06] have 

[00:42:06] Benedikt: was vocal tuning. I think it was vocal tuning. specific. It was the TPA episode 

[00:42:11] title. Yeah. But yeah, I, I agree. I agree. We should do a post tuning one so that people know what we're actually talking about when we say fix things and, and what you can and can't fix and stuff like that. cool. Now, two bonus hacks here. I just added them as bonuses because I want them to be 10. Um, 

[00:42:26] so , I think number one is, uh, do pre-production properly and clearly define and practice those penalties sounds obvious, but that's oftentimes the reason why singers have a hard time in the studio hitting those notes because they've not practiced enough or they haven't even defined the, the melodies clearly enough. Oftentimes they say something and then I'm. Can you do that again? I'm not sure I I'm getting the melody and then do it again. And it's like different. And, and then we realize the problem is that they don't actually know what they're trying to sing as we realize that sounds, but that happens. So, um, you have to sort of know what you wanna [00:43:00] do. You have to define that. And that means doing proper. Pre-pro doing, getting into the session, prepared, practicing that. Also knowing if you actually can hit those notes, sometimes people come in with something and they, the song is prepared, but they aren't. And then they figure out in the session that they can't actually reach those notes or that it sounds weird or whatever, and do proper. Pre-pro like get these things out of the way before the session, I think is part of avoiding that problem.

[00:43:25] Malcom: Absolutely. Yeah. It's kind of a bit of a disaster when you've realized during recording that you can't hit a note say, well, this all could have been saved. We just like lowered it a semitone right through pre-production we would've discovered this. So, I mean, that can save you a lot of money and time and, uh, You probably wouldn't recover from it. Like if you get that far into recording a song without realizing that you have to transpose it down, it probably will never get finished because nobody's gonna redo all that work. So it's, it's really important to catch that. Clearly defining melodies. I just wanna like kind of highlight what that means to me. That means that you could play it on another instrument. Um, [00:44:00] and so like you could recreate the vocal melody using a piano or a guitar. Uh, those are the two most common and. You know, people don't really think of those as the same. I think some people think of vocals more like a violin where it's more fluid. But really there is consonance in a vocal. So you've got, you know, solid note starts and timing and, and by breaking it down into a piano or a guitar and, and kind of being able to play it, you'll better understand what those steps are. Um, and, and Yeah. it, all of the best folks, I record usually have a little like phone keyboard that they can just whip it out and be like, what was it. Figured out 

[00:44:36] Benedikt: Yeah, for sure. A hundred percent. Yeah. That's exactly what I mean. Cool. And then we just have to say it bonus point bonus hack. Number two, here is you gotta use fresh, fresh. Sorry. I messed it up. No bonus point. Leave it in Thomas. I'm I'm gonna say it twice because people already know what I'm gonna, what I'm about to say. Bonus hack number two here, fresh, sorry. 

[00:44:59] Malcom: fresh. [00:45:00] 

[00:45:01] Benedikt: fresh strings and correct string gauges. Uh, so yeah, change your strings. Use new strings and select the proper string gauges because that will drastically change. Or that, that will be, that can be the reason for why your guitars are in tune or not.

[00:45:21] Malcom: Absolutely. Yet another reason to go listen to episode 47 guitar set up in string choices with Diego. It is, uh, yeah, that's the episode. if you need a refresher on how to make sure you're using the right strings. 

[00:45:33] Benedikt: Yes, exactly. And new. 

[00:45:35] Malcom: Yeah, definitely a new one. 

[00:45:39] Benedikt: I just had this actually, by the way, sorry, I have to just add it. I just had this where, uh, it wasn't strings, but it was drum skins, which is the same thing, news new ones, where I had like, I'm about to make a song for a band later, uh, a record for a band later this year. And they were sending me, they, they record themselves and they were sending me drum demos. Because last time we worked together, they were programming drums. This time they do real drums and they wanted my input on whether or not [00:46:00] that is actually good enough, like what they can pull off and they sent it to me and it was. Pretty well done, but I noticed that the, it sounded kind of dull and lifeless in the attack. And so my, my guess was like, this is probably done with old heads, but it was also just a demo. And so, okay. So I mentioned just in case you weren't aware, uh, you need to put on new, new drum heads when you record. And then they were like, Yeah, I don't actually think that's the problem because these aren't too old and I'm like, these aren't too old. It's definitely too old, 

[00:46:28] Malcom: Yeah, 

[00:46:29] a hundred 

[00:46:29] Benedikt: that? Yeah, exactly. So, uh, use news strings, like 

[00:46:34] Malcom: too 

[00:46:34] Benedikt: same thing here, like New or not new, so, alright. That's it for today. Hope these hacks help. And, uh, we're gonna see you next week. Thank you 

[00:46:44] Malcom: Yeah. Thank you. 

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