Melodyne DNA - great piece of kit but what is it for?

Jul 19 13:39 2010 Dave Garnish Print This Article

This is an article on Melodyne DNA. As impressive as selecting and manipulating individual notes within a polyphonic audio file is, I can't think of a single use for it. Acapellas are unusable; I don't want or need to 'lift' other people musical elements; I will always know how the chords are going to go very early on and certainly before I hire any session musicians.

10 years ago the standard way to correct pitch in vocals was Autotune. To correct bits manually,Guest Posting you’d have to use graphical mode. It was very fiddly, you’d have to load in a few seconds of vocal and then nip in to an inch square box and move the audio up or down to correct the pitch then bounce down. It didn’t sound great either. Then came Celemony’s Melodyne; the quality of its central pitch/time manipulation engine generated a real sense of excitement amongst Producers and Engineers on account of the new possibilities and user friendliness. It was not only easy to use but sounded pretty good too.

Then in 2009 came Melodyne DNA (Direct Note Access). It promised what some called impossible: to select and manipulate individual notes within a polyphonic audio file. I was certainly skeptical, but seeing a few videos on youtube last year blew me away so I couldn’t wait to crack it open myself.

When I did, I loaded in a stereo mix of All Saints’ ‘Never Ever’. The reason I chose this record is because I knew the arrangement inside out and wanted to compare the intro with just the vocal and piano, and the middle of the song when all the ‘bells and whistles’ are in. Although the mix feels full throughout, there’re not too many musical elements going on at any one time.

I found it easy to nip in and change the individual notes in the piano chords throughout the song. Impressively, change the pitch of all the instruments without effecting anything else playing at the same point. Even instruments which were relatively close to each other in pitch. Unfortunately, I struggled to ‘lift’ the lead vocal in any part of the song. Even the intro where it’s only the LV (lead vocal) and piano in the mix. The method here would obviously be deleting everything you see which isn’t the LV part. It just didn’t sound good enough. Not even with a bit of ‘splosh’ (reverb and delay)

Q: What use is this groundbreaking software to me? A: Unfortunately, I can’t think of any.

  • The old Melodyne is fine for me to tune monophonic vocal tracks. (To be honest, I don’t know if DNA sounds any better using it monophonically)
  • Acapella’s ‘lifted’ off of mixes are unusable.
  • I don’t need to nick other people’s musical elements or chords in the form of MIDI *
  • I will never spend money on session musicians or orchestras before knowing 100% how the chords and melody are going to go.

So, it is undoubtedly the most incredible software i’ve every come across and great fun to play with. But, I can’t for the life of me think where it would be useful to me!

I did this with my Songwriting students: if you like a chord progression and would like to know what the chords are, you figure out the root note for each chord and write it down. You can easily do with my ear but it may take some longer than others to do. In a nutshell, the note that sounds most like the chord should be the root note. Now figure out if it’s major or minor by listening to it and experimenting; now (specially if it’s jazzy or bluesy) roughly figure out any extensions. Write all this down and play through again and again tweaking until it sounds good. I think you’ll find that (particularly if you’re playing a guitar and recorded instrument is keyboard based) you are already playing different inversions before you tweak some more to make those chords ‘your own’. For more Tips and Tricks and details on SSR London, visit

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Dave Garnish
Dave Garnish

I have been around for years now and have been lucky enough to be trained in the most prestigious recording studios in the world, working without the very highest profile artists, producers and writers. Check the links for more info:


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