Reason: Pitch and Formant Manipulation with Neptune
The Neptune device lets you adjust the pitch and formants of audio, either
recorded or live. This is similar to the infamous
Neptune can apply subtle pitch correction, or it can create the robot vocal
effect made famous in tunes by
Cher and T-Pain, among others.
Here’s how to get started.
- Select an audio track with a lengthy clip of someone singing or
- Create a Neptune device (Create > Studio FX > Neptune Pitch
Adjuster). This sets up Neptune as an insert effect for your audio
- Turn on formant correction in Neptune by clicking the button circled
(For more about formants, see below.)
- Choose a scale from the SCALE popup menu (currently set to
“Chromatic”), and set a tonic note with the ROOT field to the
left of the menu, for example...
When you play the track, Neptune conforms the pitches to the ones in the
- To get the T-Pain robot effect, turn up the CORRECTION SPEED dial to
3 o’clock or above. This reduces the portmento time between
corrected pitches to a minimum.
Customizing the Correction Pitch Grid
You’re not limited to the few scales in that popup menu.
- Click the buttons at the bottom of the previous picture (forming one
octave of a stylized keyboard). This sets different target pitches. These
do not have to form a common scale.
- If your custom scale contains only a few pitches, with large intervals
in between them, adjust the CATCH ZONE SIZE slider to increase the range
of pitches controlled by a single target pitch.
- For the ultimate in control (and fun), use MIDI to specify the target
- Be sure that MIDI is set to control the Pitch Adjust section of
Neptune by choosing the TO PITCH ADJUST checkbox.
- Create a sequencer track for Neptune by selecting the Neptune
device and choosing the Edit > Create Track for Neptune 1
- With this new track selected, play the sequence and play notes on
a MIDI keyboard. When you play a note, that will override the scale
pitches set in the Pitch Adjust section. You can record these notes,
just as you would on any Instrument track.
Harmonizing a Vocal Track
Neptune’s Voice Synth can harmonize a monophonic vocal track.
- Set the MIDI destination, as seen in the previous picture, to TO
- Turn down the PITCHED SIGNAL slider at the right of Neptune, leaving
only the VOICE SYNTH slider turned up. After you understand what the
Voice Synth does, you can combine the two signals.
- Create a sequencer track for Neptune, if you don’t already have
one, by selecting the Neptune device and choosing the Edit > Create
Track for Neptune 1 menu command.
- With this new track selected, play the sequence and play chords on
a MIDI keyboard. When you play a chord, the voice in your track will
sing using the pitches you hold down. You will hear sound only
while you hold notes down. You can record these chords, just as you would
on any Instrument track.
Note that the Pitch Adjust, Transpose, and Formant controls do not affect
the Voice Synth.
A formant is a resonant frequency present in many acoustic sound sources,
such as stringed instruments and voices. Formants are often fixed in frequency,
with the frequency determined by the physical characteristics of a resonating
body. For example, an acoustic guitar has some resonant frequencies that are due
to the size and shape of the guitar box, and these frequencies are emphasized
regardless of the pitches that you play on the instrument. Formant frequencies
are partly responsible for the characteristic sound of an instrument.
are similar, with the additional complication that the resonating cavity
— the mouth and throat — changes shape constantly to produce
different vowel sounds. Each vowel you sing has a characteristic set of
formant frequencies, regardless of the pitch you sing.
When you transpose the sound of a voice or an acoustic instrument, you shift
these formant frequencies by the same interval that you shift the fundamental
and its overtones. This can make a voice sound unnatural: like chipmunks when
you transpose higher, like a monster when you transpose lower. Essentially,
this is like decreasing or increasing the size of the vocal cavity.
Neptune is capable of analyzing the formant frequencies of incoming audio and
preserving these formants while the audio undergoes transposition. All you have
to do to make this happen is turn the FORMANT switch on (as shown in the first
picture on this page).
You can also achieve creative effects, such as gender changing, by using the
SHIFT knob, which shifts formant frequencies higher or lower than they were in
the original sound. This happens independently of other transposition that
Additional Neptune Tips
- Use the pitch bend wheel, fed from the Neptune sequencer track, to
create or enhance inflections in spoken word tracks. Adjust the bend range
with the number that is above the bend wheel.
- Use the mod. wheel, fed from the Neptune sequencer track, to add
artificial vibrato, with an adjustable rate.
- Use the Transpose feature to shift the pitch of the entire input stream
by a number of semitones and/or cents.
- If you move audio from one place to another in the sequence, and you
are processing that audio using Neptune, and you are controlling Neptune
from notes in a track, then you also must move the clip containing those
notes so as to align with the new location of the audio.