So, you want your vocals to sound pitch perfect.
You can either spend a near eternity recording dozens of takes, editing, and gluing together the best takes, or…
You can make corrections using autotune.
Naturally, autotune is the more efficient, preferred way, especially in pop music, where some producers and artists even use it as an effect (Cher and T-Pain, for instance).
But can you get autotune for free? What is the quality of a free autotune VST plugins like?
Here you will find the best free autotune VSTs to improve the pitch of your vocals.
Graillon 2 By Auburn Sounds
Auburn Sounds’ Graillon 2 is what they call a certain “live voice changer,” and it’s among one of the best free plugins available in this category.
A little more than just an autotune, Graillon 2 handles pitch in a variety of capacities – pitch-tracking modulation, pitch shifting, and pitch correction. It even has a Bitcrusher, which you can apply to your vocals and other instruments for effect.
Pitch-tracking modulation is unique to Graillon 2. It allows you to change the type of speakers, generate throat sounds, create choruses, make octaver effects, and enrich a voice (makes it sound more masculine, etc.).
The pitch shifter is there to help you transpose a voice up and down, and the pitch correction module is for creating your favorite robotic style effect.
Whoever designed Graillon doesn’t just have an eye for design. They clearly know how to make their vision a reality. And in this case, we’re not just talking about how realistic the graphical user interface looks, but also how organized it is.
Pitch-tracking mod, pitch-shift, and correction are all segmented, which helps the user navigate the controls better. There are also sections for output as well as the Bitcrusher.
Pitch shifting allows for outright hilarious results. Of course, it’s quite popular in cheesy, terrible pop music these days (one man’s opinion).
The pitch correction functionality can help you achieve everything from natural sounding autotune to more robotic sounds if that’s what you’re after.
Note that the free edition of Graillon only comes with pitch shifting and pitch correction, while the full version, at $29, gets you everything. That said, the free version can still help you achieve much of what you’re looking to achieve autotune wise.
You can get Graillon as a VST, AAX, AU, and LV2 plugin for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Featured in our best free VSTs list and for good reason.
Download: Auburn Sounds
MAutoPitch By MeldaProduction
MeldaProduction is a great place to look if you’re interested in building out your plugin library (especially as applied to mixing), because their MFreeFXBundle includes 37 plugins in the categories of analysis, saturation & distortion, dynamics, equalizer, filter, mastering, mixing, pitch, reverb, and stereo.
Included in that collection is the plugin we’re highlighting here – MAutoPitch.
This is a simple pitch correction plugin that can work on vocals as well as other monophonic (one note at a time) instruments.
It includes other creative features like the formant shift and stereo-expansion that allow you to do more from one convenient plugin (in that sense, it’s a little like Graillon 2).
MAutoPitch’s graphical user interface may be simple, but we quite like it. It’s nicely and minimally designed, and well organized. It includes five main sections – automatic tuning (with depth, detune, speed, and base knobs), effects (with dry/wet, keep formants, width, and formant shift knobs), as well as detector, scale, and utilities (which are self-explanatory).
If you want to achieve a bit of “robotic wobble,” then turn the speed dial up. Of course, if you want a more natural sound, tweak until you’re satisfied with the result.
The width knob naturally adds stereo width to the vocals without the need for an additional plugin (like a vocal doubler or stereo imaging VST – quite handy).
The formant shift can be great for backup vocals, as it can create a variation on the lead vocal part.
Of course, you’re going to start to figure a lot of this out by watching the video and by experimenting on your own.
As noted, the MFreeFXBundle is free, though you will need to upgrade for $72 for access to all the features. The bundle is compatible with Windows and Mac.
GSnap By GVST
GVST’s GSnap has been a bit of a go-to of mine in recent years. I never use it for extreme effects, but for subtle correction. That said, it can take your vocals to T-Pain level if that’s what you want.
GSnap has a simple but decent-looking interface, with controls in three sections – detection (min freq, max freq, gate, and speed), correction (threshold, amount, attack, and release), and MIDI (pitch bend, vibrato, vib speed, and calibrate).
GSnap works well with a monophonic signal, and preferably one that’s clean and noise free (preferably reverb free as well). You can still use reverb and other effects; you just need to make sure to place them after GSnap in the effects chain.
First, GSnap detects the pitch of the signal. By adjusting the Min Freq and Max Freq parameters, you can help the pitch detector understand the range of frequencies it should correct. The Gate can help the pitch detector ignore background noise, especially during silent passages.
With the Speed knob, you can adjust how fast the pitch detection occurs. Generally, you can keep it to the default setting, because while lower values allow for faster pitch detection, it can also increase the chances of false readings.
Pitch correction can be set to fixed scale or MIDI, where fixed scale correction has snap-notes, while the MIDI correction is controlled by MIDI data (you can even fit a recording to a new melody).
Given that GSnap is free, what it can do for your vocals is quite on point. It may not be the best autotune plugin, or even the most unique or versatile plugin, but what it does, it does well. Given its age, too, it’s well above average.
Check out the video to see how it works.
KeroVee By g200kg Music & Software
g200kg Music & Software is a Japanese software and VST developer, and it seems they even make hardware Eurorack modules and synthesizers.
Some of their VSTs include RoVee voice changer, MyKazoo sim, VeeMax maximizer, SpectroBits synthesizer, Vocovee vocoder, Vocov vocoder, SmallQoo compact synth, NoteGraphica synth, ProtoPSG synth, Freqatic drum machine, and the comically named KusoSynth (comical because “kuso” means “crap”), among others.
Their KeroVee VST is another go-to free pitch correction/autotune VST. It includes formant shifting capabilities too, which allow you to turn a female voice into a male voice and vice versa.
Its graphical user interface isn’t anything special, but it also isn’t terrible. It’s somewhat reminiscent of GSnap.
It’s possible to use KeroVee for a variety of effects, and it’s even possible to create a bit of harmony with it. If you’re looking for a flexible autotune and voice changing effect plugin, you’ll enjoy this one.
Download: g200kg Music & Software
x42 Auto Tune By x42-plugins
The x42 Auto Tune was based on Fons Adriansen’s zita-at1, which was designed to correct the pitch of out of tune vocals. It works by resampling and looping the signal and does not include formant correction.
To that extent, this is an excellent plugin for small corrections, but not a great choice for transposing vocals. The pitch correction could work on monophonic instruments or sections as well.
It works a lot like GSnap in that you can control the notes you want to hear with a fixed set of notes (scale), or with MIDI.
x42 Auto Tune features a relatively simple user interface with controls for mode, MIDI channel, tuning, bias, filter, correction, and offset.
While basic, we do find x42 does the trick for minor corrections. Check out the video to see it in action.
Voloco is a simple, elegant plugin that gives you access to six presets with the ability to adjust key, scale, and pitch correction strength.
This plugin makes it easy for you to achieve T-Pain style effects, which makes it attractive to producers and beatmakers alike. In fact, it seems to be quite popular with that community.
For free, it’s hard to go wrong here.
Voloco is available for Windows and Mac.
Are There Other Free Autotune VSTs Out There?
We’ll be the first to acknowledge that it’s “slim pickings” when it comes to free autotune VSTs right now. At any moment, though, that could change, because there are plenty of developers out there, legacy plugins grow older with each passing year, and the bar keeps getting raised on free product.
So, it’s worth Googling for additional free autotunes occasionally.
We don’t think, however, that you’ll be disappointed with the above. Graillon 2 and MAutoPitch will do most of the heavy lifting, and the others can help you make small correction and achieve other interesting effects. As well, Voloco is quite popular among hip-hop producers and beatmakers. So, even with the six VSTs featured here, you’ve almost got all your bases covered.
Not to mention, a plugin like Graillon 2 is kind of everything you could hope for and more, with all that you can do with it.
That said, I’m not saying you can’t find other free autotune VSTs out there. It’s just that most if not all of those are no longer supported, don’t come with a graphical user interface, are only available through a “ghetto” legacy VST site, and so on. This doesn’t seem like the right space for those.
You’re always welcome to go out on the hunt and find additional options if you so desire. But you’ve been warned.
If you’re looking for budget-friendly options, I hear good things about Antares’ Auto-Tune Access and iZotope Nectar 3.
Anything Else I Should Know About Autotune?
If you’re producing pop, EDM, trap, or hip-hop (these genres tend to go together these days), you’re probably using lots of virtual instruments, and maybe even samples and loops. So, “inorganic” sounds are kind of par for the course.
That being the case, autotunes that work somewhat “destructively” aren’t a problem. What I mean by that is that you don’t mind if the vocals sound like they’ve been effected. Sometimes, that’s the point.
Meanwhile, there’s plenty of music that’s a little more organic. Songs that include real drums, bass, guitars, pianos, strings, and so on.
In such an instance, it probably wouldn’t make much sense to use an autotune that colors your vocals so heavily that they sound out of place. A more subtle approach works better. So, small corrections are fine, but major corrections could negatively affect the performance.
One other thing to keep in mind is additional controls like formant and MIDI controls. You might need these, you might not, but having a bit of extra flexibility is rarely a bad thing.
Are There Other Plugins That Can Help Me Enhance The Sound Of Vocals?
As a matter of fact, there are many.
Here are some of the most common effects applied to vocals to enhance their sound:
- EQ: EQ or equalization is typically applied to vocals to help them stand out in a mix, adding a bit of sparkle on the high end, and even removing unused, unwanted frequencies which are being occupied by other instruments in the mix. The result is a clearer, crisper vocal that doesn’t step on the toes of other pieces in the mix.
- Compression: If you’re going for a raw, organic sound, you might not apply compression to vocal tracks. But It’s fair to say most vocal tracks have some compression on them – whether it’s pop, EDM, hip-hop, rock, metal, or otherwise. Compression can boost the quieter parts and level out the louder parts so that the vocals can be heard more evenly in the mix.
- Reverb: Reverb is often applied to vocals, regardless of genre. In home studios, vocals are often recorded in padded, insulated, or muffled environments to reduce background noise. Adding some reverb can smooth out the vocals and give them a pleasant echo. If you’re recording in a bathroom or in a professional studio with rooms that have reverb, you might not add additional reverb.
- Delay: Delay is another echo style effect like reverb. It might not be used on every vocal take, or even over the course of an entire song, but for parts that require dramatic echo, it comes in handy.
- Stereo Imaging/Widening: Stereo widening effects like vocal doublers can make the vocals stand out in a mix. This is my go-to when the vocals sound like they are buried by the instruments. Sometimes, just adding a vocal doubler can make everything sound perfect.
- Chorus: Chorus can be used in a lot of ways, to multiply the voice, to widen, and even as a funky modulation effect. Vocals just sound so much better when they are layered, producing a choir style effect that takes the edge off little imperfections. Chorus could potentially be used in place of a vocal doubler.
- Gate: Gate effects remove unwanted background noises below a certain gain threshold. They can be a little tricky to tweak, but when you get the settings exact, it gives you a way of removing artifacts and sounds you didn’t want creeping into the track. A good thing to have for anyone planning to, or is already recording in, noisier environments.
Should I Use Autotune?
As with analog vs. digital, this is one of those debates with no clear answer. The main thing to consider is that it depends a lot on what you’re trying to achieve.
Let’s begin by acknowledging that the tech we have available right at our fingertips wasn’t even available going back two or three decades. Not to mention, sound recording wasn’t even invented until 1877.
This is not a history lesson, but imagine a world without multitrack recording, which didn’t even exist before Les Paul.
The Beatles used to stand around one mic and record, and anyone who was too loud was moved further away from the mic.
And then it would still be many decades until “in the box” software-based recording would be possible, as it is today.
The point is that autotune hasn’t always been with us. And some of the most incredible, soulful, emotionally compelling vocal performances were the furthest thing from perfect. Even in the 90s, recordings weren’t as polished as they are today.
So, that’s my first point. Whether to use autotune is going to depend on the type of recording you’re looking to create. If it’s a polished, live off the floor, “take it or leave it” type performance, to add autotune would be an insult to the band. That is, of course, unless the singer is just terrible.
Which brings us to my second point. Some people aren’t great singers. And they know it. You might end up working with collaborators or clients who do their best, but just can’t pull off a quality performance.
If you know going in that you’re going to be using autotune, you can somewhat prepare for that, and even accommodate it. If everyone knows what to expect going in, the vocalist won’t be caught off guard, and will be onboard.
Thirdly, we’ve all heard pristine, crystal clear masters with perfect performances from head to toe. This usually isn’t the result of working on one’s parts until they are perfect, but rather the result of many hours of editing, applying effects, controlling all the variables you have control over…
Marianas Trench is a talented band. They are one of my favorites in their category (punk rock, pop, etc.).
That said, their recordings are exactly as described. They use autotune liberally. Non-organic instruments (like synths and probably sometimes drums) are drawn in and are “perfect” in nature. The organic instruments layered are probably edited to the nth degree too. Vocal takes are certainly comps of the best takes, and still utilize autotune.
The point is that when it comes to modern pop music, the bar is quite high. Which isn’t to say you can’t go in the opposite direction and create something that’s rawer. But if you’re working with clients who want that type of production, you’ve got to be able to deliver.
Finally, we have people using autotune as effects, which is still quite common in hip-hop, EDM, pop, and so on.
I’ll start out by pointing out that this has been done. It’s cliché. It’s not innovative or unique. It’s even kind of tired.
Even then, I know there are going to be certain producers that go ahead and crank up the autotune to Cher and T-Pain levels and I’m okay with that. I’m just letting you know what’s up.
Your productions are your productions, and you don’t need to take any of my advice. You can use autotune to achieve your favorite “robotic wobble” effect, and if that’s what you’re looking for, so be it.
Autotune is good to have in your plugin library no matter what. The key is to avoid laziness. Get good performances when you can. Add subtle correction to vocalists that need help. Add more correction to vocalists that need a lot of help. And if you want to use it as an effect, go right ahead.
Top Free Autotune VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
Now that you’ve got the tools, it’s all about what you do with them.
Oftentimes, the producer that makes the best tracks is the one that knows their gear inside and out, not the one who has a bigger toolkit. That’s important to remember, because I kid you not – some of the world’s best producers are still using old CRT monitors and recording software because they know how to get things to sound the way they want with the gear they’ve got, old or not.
Spend time getting to know the VST plugins you download. Then you will better understand their strengths and weaknesses, capabilities, and limitations, as well as the unique and creative ways they can be used in your mixes. Above all, enjoy yourself and have fun.