Audio, Reviews

Melodyne 4 manipulates notes, overtones and tracks to sculpt sound

melodyne 4 studio

Celemony has recently released Melodyne 4, a significant upgrade of its audio software. It’s the most extensive update to the entire product family so far and the emphasis lies on the most feature-complete version, Melodyne 4 studio. New features include the Sound Editor, which has totally new sound design capabilities, DNA (Direct Note Access) on an unlimited number of tracks, and extremely accurate tempo detection. Melodyne 4 studio is a 64-bit app, running as a stand-lone application or a plug-in within your DAW. I tested Melodyne 4 studio with Logic Pro X and on its own.

melodyne 4 studio

With Melodyne 4 studio you can edit sound in a large number of ways. In fact, Melodyne 4 allows you to create entirely new sounds and audio from existing recordings. The application has always been known for manipulating notes but now it has a Sound Editor. The Sound Editor has an equaliser and a synthesiser, and allows you to either enhance or do weird things with envelopes and timbres as well as overtones. While conventional equalisers only act upon fixed frequencies, Melodyne adapts to the audio material itself. With the Sound Editor you are shaping the sound per individual track. You can control the level of individual overtones or transform the spectrum systematically with macros. A high-resolution, 1/12-octave equaliser lets you literally shape sound.

I spent a good deal of reviewing time in here, because it quickly becomes addictive to sculpt sound on a fine level by adjusting individual notes and overtones within each track. You’re really shaping the sound of each instrument or relating the timbre or envelope of each note to its pitch. I successfully changed synthesiser sounds to something completely different — the Sound Editor turns Melodyne 4 studio into a sound design system that has no equal.

melodyne 4 studio equalizer for harmonics

While Melodyne may traditionally appeal to composers and sound engineers in the first place, sound design is also of great importance when creating moods and atmospheres for a movie or video. The Sound Editor is unparalleled in this respect, but the Sound Editor works on tracks, not individual notes. The ability to work with individual notes and harmonies turns Melodyne 4 studio into a sound designer’s wet dream.

Melodyne 4 studio recognises notes and overtones perfectly

This version of Melodyne recognises notes and their overtones even better than its predecessor due to more accurate and better algorithms. There are now two algorithms optimised for polyphonic recordings. Depending upon the audio material, Melodyne uses either the Polyphonic Sustain (strings, organs, etc) or Polyphonic Decay (pianos, guitars, etc) Algorithm. The version I previously reviewed — Melodyne 2 — only had one polyphonic algorithm.

In Melodyne 4 studio, you can adjust the level of individual overtones on each track. It doesn’t matter whether you’re editing recorded sounds or those created by software instruments. By duplicating tones and overtones — or converting overtones into tones — and manipulating them, you can create new and unique sounds.

With Melodyne 4 studio, you can work on an unlimited number of tracks – even with DNA Direct Note Access for polyphonic material. Multitrack editing has the advantage that you can follow and edit notes of multiple tracks simultaneously. Multitrack viewing and editing is quite powerful in Melodyne 4. In stand-alone mode and by default you’ll see the selected track as the active one and the other(s) as reference tracks (but you don’t have to view the other tracks if you don’t want to). However, if you want to edit all tracks at once, that’s possible too. It only requires a few clicks on the orange notes icon of each track while holding down the shift or command key.

melodyne 4 studio note editing

Working with multiple tracks at once — either using others as reference or actually editing all of them together — enables you to view and edit harmonies, melodies and rhythms in context. This works not only in stand-alone mode but also when using Melodyne 4 as a plug-in. I used Logic Pro X as my DAW and at first thought the user guide was wrong and the plug-in would let me work only with one track at a time. That’s because when you launch Melodyne as a plug-in and not as a ReWire app, you link the plug-in with the track you’re working on. However, I quickly found out that with every track I plugged Melodyne into, the previous tracks also appeared in the Melodyne interface.

Melodyne 4 macros

Melodyne 4 studio macros are not confined to a single track either. By activating several tracks at once, you can select notes from them and adjust their intonation or timing in one go. Synchronising tracks is equally simple. You just have to define one track as the quantisation master and sync all other tracks to it.

Celemony says Melodyne 4’s new tempo algorithms detect tempos, time signatures and changes in tempo more accurately than before. I can only vouch for the app tracking the tempo of a live recording precisely, even when tempo isn’t strictly adhered to. With Melodyne 4 you can correct for excessive tempo fluctuations without beating the life out of the recording. You can also synchronise recordings with quite different tempos or variations in tempo.

melodyne 4 studio equalizer for harmonics

The Universal Algorithm, which is new, is ideally suited to the time-stretching and pitch-shifting of entire mixes. This algorithm also delivers outstanding results with polyphonic material, provided no access to individual notes is required.

Another new feature is Melodyne 4 studio’s Apply Dynamic Just Intonation command. The just intonation feature adds transparency and penetration to sound, regardless of whether you’re working on an orchestral, choral or synthesiser recording. I loaded “Solomon, Act I: May No Rash Intruder”, a chorus and orchestra piece by Haendel and recorded by Archiv to see if I could make it sound better. Well, better is perhaps not the best word to describe what I did to it, but it definitely sounded more powerful.

Attempting to create sound of value with Melodyne 4 studio

I’m not a sound engineer myself, so I will probably only be scratching the surface of what Melodyne 4 studio is capable of. I imitated most of the video tutorials with my review copy and ended up creating a work piece — I refuse to call it a song — that was made up of two recorded “aah” tones, manipulated, duplicated and endlessly experimented with.

melodyne 4 studio overtones shown

Based on my experiences of going through most of the new features and working with those two “aah’s”, I am pretty certain that a talented musician or sound engineer will be able to improve existing music with Melodyne 4 studio. But even without much musical talent you’ll be able to create entirely new sounds from very little source material.

Melodyne 4 studio costs €699. An upgrade costs between €149 and €299, depending on the version you’re coming from.

To hear one of my experiments, download (control- or left-click and select Download from the context menu) or open the following files:

  1. The original 10 second sound file of a didgeridoo (courtesy Sony Creative Software): Didgeridoo-chase
  2. The manipulated file in Melodyne 4 studio — not beautiful, but gives an idea of the possible changes: Didgeridoo-chase.aif.