Melodyne editor 2.0: Grammy-Winning Shine for Any Recording


When people complain about modern music, they often cite obnoxious, unnatural pitch correction as one of the main culprits for their dislike. Whether you agree with this assertion or not, it's important to understand that some of the tools that are used for pitch correction can also sound as natural and emotive as a stark and unprocessed Joni Mitchell recording from 1971. No software tool illustrates this better than Celemony's Melodyne editor 2.0.

Melodyne is a powerful tool that can do many remarkable things, and version 2.0 adds a bunch of elegant timing, scale and tuning features (more on this later). To get a basic idea of what Melodyne does, picture a basic audio waveform (audio waveforms are graphical representations of sound). Glancing at one of these waveforms doesn't tell you a whole lot about what it sounds like. It's possible that the waveform of a dynamic singer and the waveform of a monotonous speaking voice could look strikingly similar. This is not so in Melodyne.

One of the most essential functions of the software is to take a waveform and split it up vertically and horizontally, based on the specified musical key of the material, so that the individual elements of the waveform are spread out like notes on a musical staff. The result is that you can immediately see the melodic and rhythmic information in the waveform, and just as easily as you can see it, you can touch the notes and move them around, manipulating them to your liking. The level to which you can alter sound runs deep in Melodyne editor 2.

People typically think of Melodyne primarily as a tool for adjusting and polishing recordings of singers, but once you start exploring the possibilities and exercising its tool set, you quickly discover that it can be used to great effect on recordings of guitars and basses, strings, brass, pianos, etc. You can use Melodyne to adjust the master pitch of an entire track, or you can go the other direction and fine-tune single notes. You can even change individual notes within a chord.

First announced in 2008, and likely the most powerful and unique feature in Melodyne, Direct Note Access (DNA) enables you to access and alter specific notes in a polyphonic recording. For example, if you have a monophonic recording of someone strumming a G chord on an acoustic guitar, DNA can split apart the tones of the individual strings and allow the user to easily rearrange them into a different chord. This all happens visually in the graphic user interface, making this landmark feature intuitive and easy to use.

The importance of the DNA capability cannot be understated. It literally makes possible what was once impossible. It’s like a filter that can remove the egg from a cake after it’s been baked. It has its limitations. DNA is much better at splitting up the notes of an isolated recording of an instrument than it is with a mix of instruments on a track, but that doesn’t mean that the user can’t try it. This feature opens up new avenues of possibility for musicians, engineers and producers. It simply extends the boundaries of composition.

One obvious adjustment that can easily be executed with Melodyne is to make natural-sounding changes in pitch. If a singer hits a flat note in a recording, you can go in with Melodyne after the fact and correct it. However, this is only scratching the surface. It’s also easy to shorten or make a note longer, without it sounding altered. You can easily adjust how loud or soft a note is as well. Remove notes completely, move them around or copy and paste notes at will. You have complete control over timing as well.

New in Version 2.0

A handsome set of timing tools, as well as flexible and intelligent scale and tuning features have been added to Melodyne editor 2.0. You can insert “handles” (similar to nodes in automation) into the waveform of a note, and when you drag the handle to the left or right, the audio in the waveform will either speed up or slow down. This happens within the note, and doesn’t alter any others around it. A new “Attack Speed Tool” lets you go in and change the attack of a note, without changing the timing of the note. Both of these new features have practical and experimental uses that open up new options for working with percussive and melodic sounds, like subtly altering the expressiveness and timing of a vocal, or exploring new sonic territory with synth and drum sounds.

The background pattern in Melodyne (the area behind the waveforms) can be set to display the black and white stripes of piano keys. This way you can see if a waveform is in tune (by how it relates to the piano keys). However, not all music conforms to the notes on a piano. There is plenty of music that is filled with notes that land in-between. Version 2.0 has added new True Scale and Tuning features that improve the workflow when using various scales. An automated “Scale Detective” can analyze your audio and set the appropriate parameters to match the scale of the source. This can also be done manually, with a large library of scales available. The background pattern can be changed so the screen isn’t visually cluttered, and the audio can instantly snap to the grid of various scales and tunings with ease.

A number of other little improvements have been added as well. When the play head lands on a waveform (or “blob” as they’re referred to in Melodyne-speak), the waveform is momentarily highlighted when it sounds. It’s just another useful way to visually determine what is playing in the software. More key commands have been added for copy, paste, undo, redo, etc. These are nice little additions which many users will use constantly. 

Melodyne editor 2.0 is an application that can run stand-alone, or as a plug-in within host software (VST, AU or RTAS). It enables you to alter and edit a single track at a time. You can also upgrade Melodyne editor 2.0 to a multi-track version called Melodyne Studio, which gives you this powerful tool set and the ability to handle multiple tracks. Melodyne Studio also gives you advanced MIDI functions and reference track quantization.

If you like what you hear, but you would prefer to dip a toe (rather than take a full plunge) into Melodyne functionality, you can get Melodyne essential, which is a slimmed-down version of Melodyne editor. It’s missing many of the features of editor (such as DNA, advanced pitch tools, the formant tool, timing tool, etc), but it’s still a handy little workhorse. If you want a little more flavor without getting the whole enchilada, you can get Melodyne assistant. This version still lacks the DNA abilites, but it gives you many more of the core tools found in the full version, without your having to pay full price. Every version of Melodyne is fully compatible with Mac and Windows computers.

No matter which version you choose, you’ll be getting a tool that has changed the lives and workflows of many in the creative industries of music and sound design. In recognition of this, the Celemony team received a Technical Grammy for “contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field,” at the 2012 Grammy Awards. The best way to discover what all of this adoration is all about is to introduce Melodyne into your studio.

Number of Tracks Single
Suitable Material Monophonic, polyphonic, rhythmic and complex audio
Direct Note Access (DNA) Yes
MIDI MIDI file export
Compatible DAWs Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Cubase, Nuendo, Ableton Live, Sonar, Studio One, Digital Performer and more
Rewire Compatible Yes
Operation Stand-alone or as a VST, AU or RTAS plug-in, with 32 and 64 bit modes
System Requirements Mac: Intel Dual Core Processor, OS X 10.5.8 or later, 4GB RAM - PC: Intel or AMD Dual Core Processor, Windows XP (SP2 or SP3), Vista or Windows 7, 4GB RAM, ASIO compatible audio hardware

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