For better or for worse, autotune has become a popular effect, especially in pop music.
Cher’s 1998 hit “Believe” is said to have kickstarted this trend, which has persisted for over 20 years.
Sometimes autotune is used as an effect, to create a more robotic sounding voice.
At other times it’s used to optimize out of tune vocals to help them sound on pitch and in key.
In this guide, we’ll look at the best free autotune VST plugins for perfect vocals.
MeldaProduction – MAutoPitch
MeldaProduction is dedicated to creating audio plugins ranging from effects to virtual instruments. And they’ve got a wide range of tools to offer, including dynamics, equalizer, filter, limiter, pitch, reverb, stereo, time, and more. They even offer effects bundles.
MAutoPitch is their free pitch correction plugin for vocals (can be used for monophonic instruments as well). The plugin is used to make tracks sound more in tune, though it also comes with formant shift and stereo-expansion functionality.
MAutoPitch is compatible with Windows and Mac computers.
The Graphical User Interface (GUI) is decent. It’s somewhere between full-on professional and DIY, so it’s not the best looking in the world. That said, everything is clear, including the controls, which helps with usability big time.
It’s basically split into two sides. On the left side, you’ll find your controls for automatic tuning, including depth, speed, detune, and base. On the right side, you have your controls for effects – dry/wet, width, keep formants, and formant shift.
The detector resides at the bottom, where you can see where specific notes in your audio sit relative to the notes in a scale of your choosing.
In terms of operation, it’s relatively simple. Depth controls the depth or pervasiveness of the effect. Detune allows you to fine tune the pitch of the track. Speed controls how fast the plugin responds to out of tune notes. Slower is better for a smoother, natural sound, while faster can help you reach T-Pain levels, if you so desire.
On the effects side, the most interesting feature is formants. With this control, you can make your voice sound more feminine or more masculine. This isn’t something you’d want to mess with if you aren’t using autotune as an effect, but pitch shifting can be commonly heard in pop and EDM, be it Marianas Trench or Miley Cyrus.
I mentioned that MedlaProductions makes bundles earlier. Well, it just so happens that MAudioPitch comes with a free effects bundle (MFreeFXBundle), which is generous to say the least.
Although MXFreeFXBundle is free to download, if you want to access full functionality, you’ll want to upgrade for $39.
The free bundle comes with various analysis, saturation & distortion, dynamic, equalizer, filter, mastering, mixing, pitch, reverb, and stereo plugins.
Of course, the most important aspect of any plugin is how it sounds. MAutoPitch works quite well, especially within the context of a fuller mix. A heavily effected voice doesn’t sound great without other instruments, at least not in my opinion.
But whether you’re looking to tune up your vocals or add a bit of an effect to them, you’ll enjoy MAutoPitch.
Auburn Sounds – Graillon, A Free Autotune Plugin
As you can imagine, the Renegate is a gate effect. Panagement is a spatialization laboratory with binaural distance panner, reverb, LFO, and more. Couture is a dynamics plugin.
And, of course, Graillon is a vocal live changer. It includes pitch-tracking modulation, pitch shifter, pitch correction, and bitcrusher.
With the free edition, you get access to pitch shifting and pitch correction only. You’ll want to upgrade to the full edition at $29 for access to all the features.
Graillon is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux as a VST, AAX, AU, and LV2 plugins.
The user interface for Graillon is quite stunning, and certainly seems to evoke a sense of professionalism.
Controls are split into a few sections. Here’s an overview:
- Detect. With L and R controls
- Bitcrusher. Quantize and Reduce dials.
- Pitch-Shift. Dial between -12 and +12 as well as a Preserve Formants dial.
- Pitch-Tracking Mod. Ring or Freq Shift. Four Voice controls (Oct, Fifth, Oct, Fifth). Octave. Lead Voice. Low Cut.
- Output. Dry Mix, Gain, and Amount controls.
- Correction. Enable, Smooth, Snap Range, Reference, and Inertia controls.
Although the full spectrum of controls might seem a little intimidating at first, the plugin is relatively easy to use. Trial and error will take you far.
For autotune functionality, you’ll primarily be concerned with the Correction section.
All in all, this is a versatile plugin. If you want to achieve a naturally tuned sound, it does that quite well. But if you’d like to create interesting effects with voices, you won’t feel stifled for options either.
If you don’t need all the additional functionality, then Graillon might not be your speed. But if you’d like to be able to tune your vocals and add some interesting effects to it, then you should give this one a try. It is free, after all!
g200kg – KeroVee
KeroVee was created by g200kg, a Japanese music and software company. In addition to KeroVee, they’ve also created the likes of RoVee voice changer, Kamiooka synth, MyKazoo (virtual kazoo), and more. It’s fair to say they’re engaged in a variety of interesting tech projects.
KeroVee is a pitch correction plugin VST effect. With the latest version, g200kg put more effort into creating a natural sounding effect. With KeroVee, you can even apply a natural chorus style effect, and it’s got formant functionality as well.
KeroVee is a VST plugin and should work with any DAW that accommodates VSTs but don’t take my word for it.
Its interface is basic. It’s got a bit of flare to it, but overall, it looks industrial and a little old school.
The main controls are at the top – TuneSpeed, Nuance, Amount, Calib and MasterVol.
KeroVee gives you the option of tuning your voice to a Scale, MIDI, or MIDI Chord, which can prove useful if you’re planning to use different methods.
There are also controls for Bypass, Formant, Tuning, and Output. All the controls are marked, so you should be able to find your way around without too much trouble.
In terms of sound quality, it’s going to depend a lot on how you use the plugin. It seems to be favored by electronic music producers, and to that extent, you can do some cool things with the formant function.
A realistic sound could be achieved by tweaking your settings, though you might need to play with them for desired results.
But for a free plugin, it does quite a bit, so KeroVee is worth a look.
x42 Auto Tune
x42 develops audio, MIDI, and utility plugins for a variety of purposes. Their audio plugins include Meter Collection, Equalizer, Whirl Speaker, Digital Peak Limiter, Auto Tune, Convo.lv2, and Compressor. The Digital Peak Limiter, Auto Tune, Convo.lv2, and Compressor are all free to use.
The x42 Auto Tune was based on Fons Adriaensen’s zit-at1. It’s been designed for slight pitch corrections, and it works by resampling and looping the audio signal. Although it works best for minor vocal adjustments, it could work with some instruments too.
X42 Auto Tune is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux.
The GUI is quite old school and flat in our estimation. It works, but it isn’t much to look at. Plus, it’s quite crowded with controls.
The main dials are – Tuning, Bias, Filter, Corr., and Offset.
If you’d like to be able to achieve robotic sounding vocal effects, then this probably isn’t the plugin you’re looking for. It does not have any formant correction functionality built in. Then again, I can only imagine you would use it in electronic music. Maybe on the rare occasion, you would use it for effect in other styles, but only for effect, and for shorter durations.
So, x42 Auto Tune isn’t the most versatile plugin available. But what it does, it does well. And if you’re wanting to make slight pitch corrections to your vocals, you’ll find it performs admirably.
There are some unique functions onboard, mind you. With the Bias knob, you can have a vocal part stay on a specific note for longer, and with the Offset knob you can set how far out of tune the vocalist can go outside of the notes you’ve selected.
Basically, if you’d like to keep a more natural sounding vocal (with some mistakes), you can allow that to a greater or lesser degree by tweaking these parameters.
Overall, the x42 Auto Tune is a solid plugin, and worth giving a try.
Tom Baran – Autotalent
Dr. Tom Baran is a rather interesting character. He’s the co-founder and CEO of Lumii and is well-versed in the world of audio. He’s also responsible for designing the rather comedic sounding Autotalent, whose tagline is “Pop music in a can!”
Autotalent is a real-time pitch correction plugin where you can specify the notes you want the singer to hit (to the exclusion of notes they aren’t allowed to hit). Dr. Baran says that a Cher or T-Pain style effect is possible with Autotalenent. You can even make your voice sound like a chiptune, add artificial vibrato, or mess with formants.
Additionally, you can use Autotalent as a harmonizer, and even change the scale of a melody to major, minor, or a mode.
Dr. Baran says Autotalent should work with any monophonic source, meaning it will work with voice or instrument, assuming only one note at a time is being sung or played.
Autotalent is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux.
The interface isn’t much to look at, which seems kind of a shame, but it doesn’t speak to the plugin’s usefulness or effectiveness, which is significant.
You can use the controls to specify which notes the vocalist can hit, the depth of the effect (correction strength and smoothness), pitch shift, LFO depth, rate, shape, symmetry, formant, mix, and so on.
The LFO effect, by the way, is quite unique to Autotalent, which might be another reason to check it out.
Despite the simplicity of the interface, it feels less cluttered than some, which allows operation to happen smoothly.
Now, of course, we had to get a sense of how the thing sounded. And overall, we found it works quite well, whether you’re going for a more natural vocal sound, or an effected sound. Plus, it’s hard to argue with free.
GVST – GSnap
GVST’s GSnap is probably what immediately comes to mind for a lot of people when they’re thinking “free autotune plugins.” I have a bit of experience with it myself.
GVST designs free VST effects and instruments for Windows. They strive to develop simple and lightweight plugins.
GSnap, of course, is a free pitch-correction VST plugin that allows you to apply subtle correction to off-key vocals. But if you’re looking to go full-on Cher or T-Pain, you’ll be glad to know it is also possible with GSnap.
The plugin is available for Windows, Mac, and interestingly, Linux too.
Its user interface may be stuck in yesteryear, but overall, it looks good, feels good, and is still professional in appearance.
The controls are organized as follows:
- Detection. With Min Freq, Max Freq, Gate, Speed.
- Correction. Snap to selected notes or MIDI input. With Threshold, Amount, Attack, and Release knobs.
- MIDI. With Pitch Bend, Vibrato, VIb Speed, and Calibrate controls.
The coolest part of GSnap is probably that you can play notes on a piano, feed the MIDI notes to the plugin, and have those notes guide pitch correction efforts.
The left-hand side of the interface features a visualizer you can use to see how GSnap is correcting notes in real-time.
Vibrato is somewhat unique to GSnap as well, allowing you to add some natural “wobble” to a voice to help it sound more authentic.
GSnap is used by a variety of sound engineers and music producers. And whether you’re just tuning up the vocals or adding a noticeable effect to them, you will probably enjoy GSnap.
What Should I Look For In An Autotune Plugin?
The main thing to think about here is that it depends on how natural you need the tuned vocals to sound.
Truth be known, autotune is used in all genres. In some genres, like rock, jazz, or folk, artists and producers alike are generally going for a more natural sound. So, the effect shouldn’t be overly noticeable in the mix (it might be more noticeable on soloed tracks, and that’s hard to avoid).
Meanwhile, when autotune is used in genres like pop, EDM, and hip-hop, producers often use autotune in more noticeable, more extreme ways. This isn’t to suggest it is always used to extreme in these genres, but we do have precedents like Cher and T-Pain.
Additional features or effects, like vibrato, LFO, formants, and so on might come in handy depending on what you’re trying to achieve. Then again, in most DAWs, you aren’t limited to one effect per track, and you can easily find other free VST effects to round out your toolset. So, a simple autotune plugin that works well can often be more than enough.
Beyond features, I would mostly base your decision on two things:
- What works for you. If the plugin doesn’t cramp your workflow, it’s a good sign. If it allows you to work efficiently and quickly, even better. I get that some engineers or producers would disagree. But for me, speed is of the essence. I like to get my ideas down before they’re gone, and I’ve found in most cases that my instincts serve me well. If the plugin complements your workflow, you’re off to a great start.
- What sounds good to you. This goes hand in hand with what I said earlier about what genres and musical styles you’re catering to, how you intend to use the plugin, and to what depth or intensity. But if a plugin sounds good to you, chance are you’ll be able to tweak it to perfection, regardless of the mix or type of music you’re producing.
If you can find the perfect balance of the above, then you have probably found your ideal autotune plugin.
But don’t forget – all plugins mentioned here are free. You’re welcome to try them all and see what you like best!
Should I Even Use Autotune?
Autotune is a bit of a blessing and a curse.
It’s a blessing to the extent that even less-than perfect vocalists can sound quite good with the help of autotune. And even experienced vocalists can sometimes struggle to get great takes in the studio, so a little bit of help on those vocals is always appreciated.
That said, in those instances, a more organic sound is generally favored. Not a full-on robotic sound.
It can also be a blessing in the sense that it can help you work faster in the studio. This isn’t always the preferred method or even necessary, but depending on what you’re making music for, and the expected turnaround, you might be looking to get a good take, tune it up, and move on as opposed to sweating over 20 takes to glue together the best parts of the performance.
The reason many people say autotune is a curse is because… it’s just way overdone. Frankly, we don’t need more Cher or T-Pain in this world. Everyone and their dog have done it, and it’s not funny, it’s not interesting, and it’s not skillful anymore. It’s not even musical in some instances.
Another reason it’s a curse is because it can become a production crutch. Looking back on the golden age of music, between the 60s and 80s, and to some extent the 90s, autotune either did not exist or wasn’t used heavily. Imperfections in performances and recordings was the norm.
Today, for some reason, because “perfection” is attainable, many strive for it. But that can sometimes take away the soul or spirit of the performance, and at core, music is all about the emotion and the feeling. People will listen to music because of how it makes them feel, and then justify the lyrical content and instrumentation later.
I’m not completely for or against autotune. Ironically, I did not use autotune at all in my early recordings and used it sparingly in more recent recordings. With my recordings, there’s quite a gap in terms of time, personal development, and production value, so that plays a bit of a part.
So, there isn’t necessarily an easy answer to this question. But I would suggest approaching each production as fresh as possible and use your best judgment in where to use autotune. Otherwise, your productions will tend to sound alike, regardless of artist or musical style, and that’s a bad look on a professional engineer (it’s okay for an amateur!).
Is It Better To Use A Free Autotune Plugin Or To Buy One?
You came looking for free autotune plugins, and now you’ve seen what’s available. But now you might be saying to yourself, “hmm… I wonder if there are better paid options?”
And the answer is that in music, generally, you get what you pay for. Premium autotune plugins can range from about $40 to $270, sometimes more, sometimes less. And there is a considerable difference in quality and tone.
The thing is, the free plugins are quite good, and even some pros use them. Basically, if you know what you’re doing, you can go far, even with seemingly inferior kit. So, it could be said that the operation of your software is a key factor, over and above the quality of the plugin itself. Just a thought.
That said, there’s always a time to upgrade, too. If the plugins you’re using are broken, don’t work right, don’t sound authentic to you, or just don’t satisfy your needs, it may be time to consider purchasing a premium plugin.
Instruments tend to be the same way. For example, an electric guitar and amp. At first, you won’t be able to tell the difference between beginner kit and professional kit. They will both seem a lot alike.
But as you play and learn and listen more, eventually you discover that your beginner gear has limitations. And it doesn’t sound anything like what you hear on most recordings.
As your ear becomes tuned to your gear and you begin listening for tone, you’ll find yourself wanting to experiment and try other gear, in search of a specific tone, or just a tone you can call your own.
Plugins are kind of the same way.
So, is it better to shell out some cash for an autotune plugin? Not necessarily. It just depends on what you need right now, and what works for you. Spend plenty of time practicing, and if it gets to the point where it just doesn’t work for you anymore, consider an upgrade.
Best Free Autotune VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
Autotune is a powerful effect. But in the wrong hands, it can easily be misused or overused.
As you download a free plugin to take it for a whirl, we suggest spending plenty of time experimenting and messing around with it. That’s how you learn.
No matter what types of productions you’re working on, autotune can come in handy, so be sure to have a plugin on hand for all those times your projects and clients require it.
Have fun and enjoy!