Auto-Tune, Is It Really The Way Forward?


Written by Mary Woodcock

12 November 2014

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Auto-tune as defined by The Urban Dictionary:

“Pitch correction software specifically for vocals that makes up for a lack of natural singing talent. 90% or more of all “professional” recordings use this software.”

While preparing for my grade 5/6 vocal exam with The Royal College of Ontario, I begged my vocal teacher to add another song to my recital to ensure I was not completely bored out of my mind with requirements. A piece that would allow my soul to wander while preparing for this quite stressful final. The song I wanted to add to my repertoire was The Flower Duet as the role of Lakmé from the Opera Lakmé by Léo Delibes. As a First Soprano, there is obviously the requirement to be able to sing those VERY high notes above the F on the treble clef. This was the second memory that popped into my head when I started to think about my next Music Gateway assignment. 

Why bother practicing?

In secondary school, more specifically grade/year 11, my vocal jazz class was having a round table discussion about auto-tuning. We all worked so hard to ensure that our voices were consistently improving pertaining to range: of course, there was always a breaker note that would sometimes take longer than a few weeks to perfect, months even, but we kept to our path. The subject found the majority of us shaking-our-heads-in annoyance; we thought ‘what is the point in battling our way through an ocean of endless notes, why not just give up and not bother if professional singer/songwriters are hitting said notes with the aid of a machine during their studio recordings?’  The amount of time spent on scales alone is tedious but so worth it in the end to have a strong vocal structure. 

 

What is it supposed to sound like live?

There is a thread of professional singers who produce amazing studio albums who have a very difficult time singing in public. There is no way you can blame all of your sound engineers for those issues on a live stage.  Nevertheless, wait, why not auto-tune a live show?!  Then the albums would sound the same.  I find that to be incredibly deceptive; take a look at some artists who have not or currently are not using auto tune for example: Journey (with Steve Parry),  Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix,  Amy Winehouse, Christina Perri, Melissa Etheridge, Crowded House and Christina Aguilera just to name a few.

For a singer, their voice is their instrument; there is no getting out of that EVER in my opinion! The amount of time spent rehearsing, ensuring those high D# notes are hit every single time an artist goes out to perform without auto-tune is giving the audience their organic self – raw and waiting for a stadium filled with cheering fans to support their performance.  If a singer needs auto tune on stage, what is that saying about the deception from the music industry?

A pretty face does not necessarily make an exceptional singer

The technology that granted auto tune to the world in 1997 by Antares Audio Technologies I find to be a waste of time and quite deceptive to those who work so immensely hard to ensure their pitch is perfect for their time on stage.  From my research, I’ve stumbled upon a myriad of artists who vehemently oppose this type of automation.  One example was in 2009 at the 51st Grammy Awards, Death Cab for Cutie made an appearance adorning blue ribbons on their lapels in protest of auto-tune. Furthermore, in September 2014 Melissa Etheridge, wrote an article that I quite fancied about auto-tune and the reasons why one should not expose themselves to it.  

The most frustrating thing about auto tune is that in this generation anyone can become a singer even with no real talent. The proof is in the live performance, but wait a quick second; now you can have auto tune built directly into the microphone so at this point the deception is quite fierce.  I read an article that stated even Stephen Tyler was using auto tune because of his age and voice.  What people don’t comprehend is that his magnanimous voice is what makes him who he is auto tuned or not!

We are meant to live in this world as our organic selves; each of us with a purpose, taking that away from someone who is able to sing perfectly live without auto tune is quite tragic. Remember that song “Video Killed the Radio Star”?  The same can be applied here; auto tune has shattered my view of the music industry.   My friends would ask, ‘Rania do you really need to be so dramatic about this?  What is the big deal? I mean, everyone does it these days’.  Well, to be honest, no, not everyone does it; there are still artists who have integrity to perform with their own voice without an altered microphone.  Those are the artists I chose to honour for it is pointless to bring those who do practice auto-tune into the light more than they already are.  Wishing really badly right now that auto-tune would go away and people would just work harder to get their voices up to par. 

 

   

 

This article was written by Rania M M Watts. 

 

 

Autotuning is like editing someone so they seem like your soulmate. You can stay in denial about it or you can find your real musical soulmate here. It’s up to you..

 


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