A pitch shifter is a versatile tool for both fine pitch correction as well as heavy-handed effects. Auto-Tune is one of the most well known pitch shifters in history; it’s also a perfect example of how correction can be subtle or extreme. Let’s explore some of the best pitch shifter VSTs, both free and paid, so you can add to your production toolkit.
What Is a Pitch Shifter?
A pitch shifter is any plugin that can change the pitch of a signal up or down. It won’t just raise or lower the tone of the instrument, but also change the timbre of the signal because of how it manipulates the waveform.
These types of plugins are a staple of modern production in genres like pop, hip hop, EDM, and more. They’re used on vocals, instruments, and anything else you could think of that would make something sound cool or exciting.
How Does a Pitch Shifter VST Work?
What it essentially does behind the scenes is chop up the recorded waveform into dozens and dozens of small parts. When you pitch down, it extends the waveform. When you pitch up, it shortens the waveform. All of this happens instantly with realtime pitch shifters, and with no change in the duration of the recorded signal.
That’s what really sets these plugins apart from manual pitch shifting. You can alter the pitch of any signal by time stretching or consolidating a clip, but that also changes the length of the audio.
Most pitch shifter VSTs will have some sort of control for changing semitones, cents, and formant. Semitones are also called half-steps in music theory and let you raise or lower the signal’s pitch by a chosen interval. Pitch shifters usually run from -12 to +12 semitones, with 12 designating a full octave down or up. Cents are the tiny frequencies in between semitones and will help you set the appropriate pitch to stay in key with the music. Finally, formant emulates the human vocal tract.
Best Pitch Shifter VSTs [PAID]
The moment we’ve all been waiting for…let’s take a look at some popular pitch shifting (and correcting!) plugins.
Auto-Tune Pro is the gold standard. It’s best known for its realtime pitch correction, which allows a vocalist to stay in key by tracking errant pitches and pulling them up or down to the correct note. This can be done subtly with slower Retune Speed times, or it can be its own effect with faster Retune Speed times (0 = T-Pain, Cher, Travis Scott, etc.).
Auto-Tune is also a pitch shifter, however. The Transpose parameter gives you a full octave up or down, and enabling formant allows you to change the overall timbre. You can also use Graph Mode for fine tuning vocals, or dragging pitches all over the place for some serious shifting.
Melodyne is professional vocal editing software. It’s the most powerful editing tool for creating those pitch-perfect pop style vocals, but it does so as transparently as possible. That said, Melodyne is probably overkill solely for creative pitch shifting effects.
However, if you do find yourself needing to precisely edit vocal or instrument performances, as well as do some fun shifting, Melodyne will cover all the bases.
Little AlterBoy is the perfect example of a dramatic creative effect. The simple interface has Pitch and Formant parameters, and even includes a Drive circuit based on the popular Decapitator saturation. This pitch shifter is perfect for someone who wants fast, easy effects.
SoundShifter is an affordable and advanced pitch shifter. You can change pitch, key, tempo, duration, and more. Anything from a quick fix to more unique effects can be done with SoundShifter. The interface is a bit clunky looking at first, but once you get comfortable it gets more intuitive.
Best Pitch Shifter VSTs [FREE]
Nothing beats free, right? Let’s have a look.
This is widely considered the best alternative to Auto-Tune if you’re on a budget. It definitely has a character all its own, though. The free version provides access to both Pitch Shifting and realtime Pitch Correction.
GSnap is more of a realtime correction effect than anything else. Used creatively, you can run it at extreme ‘auto tune’ settings to create the effect we’re all familiar with.
Pitchproof is a unique emulation of a guitar harmonizer pedal. Blend lets you set the desired amount of dry signal versus harmonized/shifted signal, so you can use it to thicken a sound up or just use it as a straight creative effect.
Conclusion: Best Pitch Shifter VSTs
Pitch shifters can be a lot of fun, especially when they’re used creatively and on instruments other than vocals. This list provides a well-rounded selection of professional editing software and less ‘serious’ stuff for adding some spice into your productions.
- SEE ALSO: Melodyne, Waves Tune, or Auto-Tune?