So, you’re looking to thicken up some sounds in your mix.
There are many ways of accomplishing this. You could use some chorus. You could try a stereo widening VST. Maybe a bit of overdrive would work if you don’t mind the signal breaking up.
Another worthwhile option is harmonizer plugins. Not only do they instantly beef up sounds – they also provide harmony (as the name would suggest).
In this guide, we’re going to be looking at the best harmonizer VST plugins to help you create amazing mixes.
Pitchproof By Aegean Music
Pitchproof is like a hybrid pitch shifter-harmonizer, and in that sense it’s unique, and might have more utility than your average free harmonizer plugin (of which there aren’t many).
This VST shifts the pitch of the input. It’s been designed to combine older styles of pitch shifting along with modern techniques. If you’ve ever used a pitch shifting guitar pedal before, you probably have some idea of how this works, as that’s what it’s emulating.
Pitchproof maintains the integrity of your signal while offering a guitar harmonizer pedal style effect.
You can probably tell from the interface that this is a simply designed VST. It has two knobs (blend and detune), along with the ability to change pitch and key signature.
As you might expect, the blend dial lets you play with the balance between the dry and wet (harmonized) signals. The pitch menu allows you to select pitches in degrees (+7, -7, etc.). You can select the key of the harmony as well, which is both essential and handy.
The available harmonies include second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh. If you haven’t done your music theory yet, then what you need to know is that some of these harmonies are dissonant or unique, while others are consonant or pleasant sounding.
Pitchproof also has a detune setting, which is perfect for a natural sounding effect, and generally you don’t need to set it to extreme settings to get a pleasant result (but you can go extreme if that’s what you’re going for).
Additionally, Pitchproof has mono/stereo options, transient fix, and it can even stand in as a guitar tuner.
This VST works best with monophonic signals, which means it can work well for vocals, guitar solos, and single-note synth lines.
In total, we do find that the VST tracks quite well, and it sounds good. It might be a little limited in the results it can produce, but that said, what it does, it does well.
PItchproof is available as a 32- and 64-bit VST, Mac VST and AU, and as an AAX.
Download: Aegean Music
Duet By Martin Eastwood Audio
Martin Eastwood Audio’s Duet is another popular option when it comes to free harmonizer plugins.
This is a double tracking/harmonizer effect that’s been developed specifically to enhance, thicken, and add sheen to the sound of vocals and instruments.
Duet independently pitch-shifts the left and right inputs to manipulate the pitch in real time while keeping the time duration.
But delaying re-pitched audio and changing its pan position helps you create the illusion of multiple voices.
A versatile VST, you can even use Duet as a chorus style effect by using the pitch-shift amount as modulation. This can sound great on synths.
Its interface is industrial, but nicely designed. It’s mostly comprised of various knobs that control voice one and two, as well as the input.
There are pitch, pan, delay, feedback, rate, depth, and gain controls for each voice, and there are also input, sync, grain size, and master controls for the input section.
Duet is available as a Windows VST.
Download: KVR Audio Software
Graillon 2 By Auburn Sounds
Now for something a little different. Which isn’t to say, “low quality.” Graillon 2 is an amazing “freemium” pitch shifting and pitch correction plugin (you’ll need to buy the full edition for $29 to unlock all the features).
This plugin allows for pitch correction/autotune as well as pitch shifting/harmony, which is what makes it so powerful, versatile, and unique.
Its interface is basically divided into the pitch tracking and pitch shifting sections, in addition to the bitcrusher and output sections.
The sounds you can get with this plugin are quite astounding. But you wouldn’t expect anything less with a VST so impeccably designed, right?
If you need autotune, this is a solid option. If you need pitch shifting/harmony, this is a solid option. And this VST offers both and allows you to combine the two.
All this comes packaged in a smooth, professionally designed interface that we find hard to resist.
The plugin is available as a VST, AAX, AU, LV2, and is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Download: Auburn Sounds
PitchedDelay By lkjb
PitchedDelay is a lot like it sounds, so it isn’t a standard “harmonizer” plugin by any means. That said, you can easily create some harmonies with it, along with, of course, some funky delay harmonies.
Its main function, naturally, is to pitch the delay signal (within or outside the feedback loop). You can control individual delay taps (up to five) to further customize your sounds.
PitchedDelay includes mono and stereo mode as well as ping-pong mode, which allows for even more possibilities.
Its interface is basic and can hardly be considered a “graphical” interface. It’s more like what you would expect from a simple, built-in plugin inside your DAW.
That said, you should have a listen to the demo, just to get a sense of what you can do with PitchedDelay. I’m not saying you would use all the presets (you probably wouldn’t), but there are some highly usable ones (like Stereo Doubler) that you would likely find some utility in, especially if a harmonizer is what you’re after.
PitchedDelay is compatible with Windows and Mac, and functions as a VST, AU, and VST 3.
MAutoPitch By MeldaProduction
MAutoPitch comes with MedlaProduction’s MFreeFXBundle, which includes 37 effects in various categories. It’s free to download for Windows and Mac, but if you want to extend the feature set, you’ll want to upgrade at $58.
Now, MAutoPitch is first and foremost an autotune plugin – something it does quite well. If you’re looking to get quality autotune for free, MAutoPitch or Graillon 2 are your best bets.
That said, you can get a nice doubling effect using the dry/wet knob under the effects section. It’s not exactly a harmonizer plugin, but when you blend the dry and wet signals together, you start to get a subtle chorus style effect that would be akin to harmony.
MAutoPitch has a professional looking interface. You can control the automatic tuning using depth, detune, speed, and base. Under the effects section, you have dials for dry/wet, keep formants, width, and formant shift dials.
Below that is a scale selector as well as an output display.
With MAutoPitch being free, you’d be crazy not to download it straight away. It sounds great, and it has some features you wouldn’t even find in a premium autotune plugin.
That said, it is a little limited in the “harmonizer” department. You can get some nice doubling effects, but beyond that, you’ll want to rely on other options.
Is That All There Is In Terms Of Free Harmonizer VST Options?
In terms of free options, for better or for worse, yes.
There are more premium options if you don’t mind paying a little money for your harmonizer.
But this category of plugins isn’t like EQ, reverb, or compression where you have a dozen or more options to choose from. There are relatively few harmonizers by comparison, especially when it comes to free harmonizers.
We still think you’ll have a lot of fun with the above, and in many cases, they should prove more than enough. But if you need more, it can’t hurt to consider paid VSTs. After all, pedals and rackmount units are a step up, and they can run you several hundred to even several thousand dollars.
Also remember – not all harmonies need to be done with effects. You can also record your own harmonies, even if it does require some extra work on your part.
What Are Harmonizer VSTs Good For?
Generally, they are perfect for monophonic parts – guitar or synth riffs/solos, vocals, and maybe horns or strings.
Monophonic basically means one note at a time. So, most harmonizers don’t track well with double stops, triads, chords, and things like that.
But if you’re playing double stops and chords, you’re basically creating harmony already. So, there wouldn’t be much need for a harmonizer.
There are several reasons you might use a harmonizer:
- To thicken up a track. It can be nice to thicken up certain tracks, be it guitar solos or vocal parts. Sometimes, they won’t cut through the mix all on their own and can benefit from a little push from something like a harmonizer.
- To add color or texture to a track. Mixing is a bit of an artform. And an “empty” sounding mix can benefit a lot from subtle additions (taking just the reverb-effected part of a guitar track and mixing it into the background, for example). Harmonizers can certainly be used for a little color or texture, to spice up your mix, or to give it a little something extra.
- To harmonize. The most obvious reason to use a harmonizer is to harmonize your existing track. Usually, the best method is still to track separate harmony parts. But sometimes you can’t If your vocal range is limited. Singing lower and higher harmonies can be a chore. If your guitar solo is especially complex, trying to harmonize the whole thing (and play it tight) can be quite the chore too. Harmonizers “fake” harmonies. That said, they have been used in a variety of music in a variety of ways to achieve a variety of results. So, they can be useful at an experimental level as well.
What Other Effects Could I Use In Place Of Harmonizers?
As I alluded to in the intro, you have several options, including:
- Reverb. Surprising. But plain old reverb, depending on the settings, can achieve a slight delay or doubling effect that emphasizes the tone of the vocal or instrument. And it works fine with polyphony (double stops, chords, etc.).
- Chorus. Chorus is an old standby. Because, just as the name would suggest, it turns a single voice into a choir. And, unlike harmonizers, it tends to work fine with polyphony. Applying a chorus effect is not the same as harmony, but you can certainly achieve some interesting results with chorus, from robotic and wobbly to beefy and warm.
- Stereo widening or vocal doubling. These types of plugins will not add any harmony to your sounds, but they will certainly make your tracks sound fuller. I’m a little addicted to these plugins to be honest. If there’s any track I want to emphasize or bring to the front of the mix, I will usually experiment with something like the Voxengo Stereo Touch.
Best Free VST Harmonizer Plugins, Final Thoughts
So, your free harmonizer options might seem a little limited. That said, there are plenty of other VSTs worth experimenting with to achieve similar results.
There’s nothing stopping you from tracking your own harmonies either. It might be more work, but you can achieve more authentic sounding results.
If all else fails, your best bet is to turn to paid VSTs. They will cost you something, but they will be cheaper than pedals or rackmount units.
So, lay down those harmonies and level up your mixes!