Autotune was invented by Dr. Andy Hildebrand in 1997, with the voice effect hitting the spotlight for the first time in Cher’s song, “Believe”, a year later. Autotune has since been one of the most heated topics in the music industry for, at least, the past decade. Every modern song has certainly had some editing done, but indeed some artists’ voices are a lot more Autotune than their actual self. Is this right? 80% of people think it isn’t just not right, but that it is killing music.
Is It Cheating?
The main argument why people do not believe Autotune should have a place in music, is because artists are earning ridiculous sums of money from songs, that are not a true reflection of their own vocals. As any minor note that slips out of tune is quickly corrected, this allows for a much wider margin of error when recording songs, which means a much larger scope of musical hopefuls are able to sound good enough to drop a chart-topping hit.
As this technology makes it possible for amateurish singers to reap the same results as those with a true talent, that talent soon loses its value quicker than the GPD rate after Brexit. With more people being able to sound so smooth, hit the same perfect notes, it no longer becomes a rare gift, but something that can be manufactured in bulk, which makes the art a lot easier to take for granted. Recording editors have said people have come to them explicitly for AutoTune and not concerned about gaining some vocal coaching and trying to naturally improve their voice. Therefore, these fortunate people who are able to play music for a living are not actually working for it and not training hard for their career, but letting a computer do it for them. It’s like an accountant getting paid to sort out finances, even though an innovation has coded a computer to allow it to do all the sums whilst the accountant simply sits and watches it happen.
Is It Part of the Evolution of Music?
However, many artists, like T-Pain and many that feature in the Pop charts, use Autotune to produce their unique sound and are not necessarily hiding away from the fact they are using Autotune. Some musicians embrace Autotune, believing it makes them sexier and happier because of it. We are living in the technologic era, and just like any other entertainment industry (TV, Film, or News) music moves and adapts with technology. Fundamentally a whole song can be synthesized through any a computer: every instrument, beat and vocal, yet there is never controversy around ‘fake’ piano chords, but just the vocals. Essentially, all recorded music is artificial. The ability to mix, overdub and multi-tracking allow sounds to be edited and manipulated separately. This is not something that has suddenly emerged, for decades artists have been able to make their vocals sound fuller and rounder, and amplify quitter sounds. Autotune is perhaps just part of the evolution of music. And a great song is not made just by great vocals, it also needs a banging beat, a memorable chorus and genuine meaning behind it. All these elements mean that perhaps a talent for singing is not that essential, but still there is only a select number of people that can produce a great song that can get everybody on their feet.
Time-Efficient or Emotional-Deficient?
By having the security that you can sing through an entire song, to the best of your ability, but then skew just that one note throughout the full song, to simply tweak that one error saves hours of time for musicians as there is no need to continuously retake until they hit their perfect sound – which saves a significant amount of money for the recording studios. But this can have the adverse effect of taking away the emotion from a song. Music to many people is very personal and this is weakened when a song has gone through a computer. There is also the sad reality that many fans go flocking in their thousands to see their favourite singers live, to find out they have paid a lot of money to listen to a complete different singer, and a sub-par one at that.
The use of Autotune in music is certainly not going to die away anytime soon. The debate on whether or not it is right to use it boils down to a person’s moralistic compass and to the extent they use it. It’s hard to argue that those that use it just to slightly adjust a note are cheating their way into music if every other note that has not been adjusted makes the hairs on the back of the neck lift up in awe. Or even those that use Autotune explicitly as part of their ‘sound’, which many in the Pop genre do and is more of a trend to do so, in how the genre has evolved. If a person feels it is killing the genre, surely they can just find another music genre that does not have a ‘techno feel’ as Pop does. Nevertheless, for talent shows to use it on their contestants certainly crosses a line, where it defeats the principle of searching for talent but simply becoming more of a popularity vote.
James Young @
Musicians Going Pro