A Quick Guide To Real Vs. Artificial Vocal Harmonies

Software lets us use advanced tools to create any vocal harmony we like out of a single vocal part. But is it better to record everything live? Josh Carney has the answer.  

Vocal harmonies are used more commonly than you might realise in all kinds of musical genres. Often their job is not to be overly prominent, but to enrich and fortify the lead vocal, providing a bed of sound to fill out the track. Ideally you will record them live but sometimes this isn't possible and at that point you can turn to software to help you. In this video from the course Vocal Tuning 101: The Art Of Vocal Tuning, Josh Carney compares and contrasts two approaches to creating vocal harmonies.

Vocal Tuning 101: The Art Of Vocal Tuning

The first thing to consider is what type of music you are making. For acoustic or folk music, artificial harmonies might sound strange if not done correctly whereas in EDM they could be much more acceptable. Josh uses practical examples to show how auto-tuning lead and backing vocals or alternatively leaving them in their natural state can have very different effects. You'll hear how Melodyne - or a similar tool - can be used to create artificial harmonies from a single vocal part and then tweaked to make it sound more natural by automating volume over time. To learn much more about vocal tuning be sure to check out the full course using the links below.

Watch the course Vocal Tuning 101: The Art Of Vocal Tuning in the Ask.Audio Academy | macProVideo | Ask.Video

Hollin Jones was classically trained as a piano player but found the lure of blues and jazz too much to resist. Graduating from bands to composition then production, he relishes the chance to play anything with keys. A sometime lecturer in videographics, music production and photography post production, Hollin has been a freelance w... Read More


Watched the intro and the fourth section, on harmonization. Enjoyed it. To me, it’s the appropriate “information density” for this type of thing. For people who have yet to learn about things like diatonic harmony, my guess is that it’s easy enough to understand. Funnily enough, the part about using busses was probably harder to understand.
It’s really useful when a tutorial isn’t too focused on a single DAW or plugin, which can feel more like a demo than a way to understand how things work. Having said this, there are some cool tuts on using Melodyne to create back vocals which don’t sound like demos.
So, what makes this course different, in a way, is the balance between plugin features (with a bit of comparison) and the “art of tweaking the results”.

What this course helped me understand is the benefit of a subtle approach to harmonization.

I’ve mostly been experimenting with ways to rich and complex polyphony, say with voice leading or rotating chords. My dream would be to have an easy way to produce diverse types of harmonies from a capella groups to big bands. The best approach probably isn’t from plugins but from practice. On a podcast, someone made a comment about learning Bach chorales on a piano to really get four-part harmony. As a very inexperienced keyboard player, I find this quite challenging and not that immediately rewarding. There’s a Jordan Rudess course in the Ask Audio Academy which helped me a bit more. Wish there were one with Rudess (or somebody else) doing in with, say, GeoShred. My impression is that it’d be much easier to climb the learning curve quickly than having to use a keyboard.

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