Auto-Tune is an audio processor created by Antares Audio Technologies
which uses a proprietary device to measure and alter pitch in vocal
and instrumental music recording and performances. It was
originally intended to disguise or correct off-key inaccuracies,
allowing vocal tracks to be perfectly tuned despite originally being
The processor slightly shifts pitches to the nearest true, correct
semitone (to the exact pitch of the nearest tone in traditional equal
Auto-Tune can also be used as an effect to distort the
human voice when pitch is raised or lowered significantly, such
that the voice is heard to leap from note to note stepwise, like a
Auto-Tune is available as a plug-in for digital audio workstations
used in a studio setting and as a stand-alone, rack-mounted unit for
live performance processing.
Auto-Tune has become standard
equipment in professional recording studios. Instruments like the
Peavey AT-200 guitar are seamlessly using the Auto Tune technology for
real time pitch correction.
Auto-Tune was initially created by Andy Hildebrand, an electrical
engineer. Hildebrand developed methods for interpreting seismic data
and subsequently realized that the technology could be used to detect,
analyze, and modify the pitch in audio files.
Auto-Tune has become embedded in popular culture as a common
description, or generic term, to describe audible pitch correction in
music, whether the music was made using the original Antares Auto-Tune
program or software from one of their competitors.
1 In popular music
4 See also
6 External links
In popular music
The earliest commercial use of
Auto-Tune as a vocal effect in a
popular song was Roy Vedas' Fragments Of Life in August 17, 1998 and
later in Cher's "Believe" and Eiffel 65's "Blue (Da Ba Dee)".[citation
needed] The effect is not to be confused with a vocoder or the talk
box, devices referenced by producers of these songs when they were
new to hide their use of
Auto-Tune from music audiences. For example,
in an early interview, the producers of "Believe" claimed they had
DigiTech Talker FX pedal, in what Sound on Sound’s editors
felt was an attempt to preserve a trade secret. After the success
of "Believe" the technique became known as the "
Auto-Tune was designed to discreetly correct imprecise
intonations, but Cher's producers used it to "exaggerate the
artificiality of abrupt pitch correction." This technique soon became
a widespread technique used in live performances and in pop recordings
throughout the first ten years of the 21st century. Modern day
examples of artists known for using
Auto-Tune are T-Pain, Lil Wayne,
Future, Migos, Travis Scott, and Lil Uzi Vert.
While working with
Cher on the song "Believe" in 1998, producers Mark
Taylor and Brian Rawling discovered that if they set
Auto-Tune on its
most aggressive setting, so that it corrected the pitch at the exact
moment it received the signal, the result was an unsettlingly robotic
— Greg Milner (2009)
According to Chris Lee of the Los Angeles Times, "Believe" is "widely
credited with injecting Auto-Tune's mechanical modulations into pop
consciousness." In the year 2000, the single "Naive Song"
performed by Mirwais Ahmadzai from his album Production (Mirwais LP)
is the first ever track using
Auto-Tune on the complete
vocals. The use of
Auto-Tune as a vocal effect was bolstered
in the late 2000s by hip hop/R&B recording artist
elaborated on the effect and made active use of
Auto-Tune in his
songs. He cites new jack swing producer Teddy Riley and funk
artist Roger Troutman's use of the
Talk Box as inspirations for his
own use of Auto-Tune.
T-Pain became so associated with Auto-Tune
that he had an iPhone App named after him that simulated the effect,
called "I Am T-Pain".
Auto-Tune has since been used in other hip
hop/R&B artists' works, including Snoop Dogg's single "Sexual
Eruption", Lil Wayne's "Lollipop", and Kanye West's album 808s
The effect has also become popular in raï music and other genres from
Northern Africa. According to the Boston Herald, country stars
Faith Hill, Shania Twain, and
Tim McGraw all use
performance, calling it a safety net that guarantees a good
performance. However, other country music singers, such as Allison
Moorer, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill,
Garth Brooks and Martina McBride,
have refused to use Auto-Tune.
"Believe", by Cher, was one of the first mainstream songs to employ
Auto-Tune software to jump directly from one pitch to another one,
without using a more natural curve for the transition, producing a
"robot-like voice". Even today, the vocal effect is called the "Cher
"We R Who We R" (2010)
"We R Who We R" is an electropop song by
Kesha that employs heavily
pitch-corrected vocals. Into the 2010s, popular music used
Auto-Tune more dramatically and pervasively.
Problems playing these files? See media help.
51st Grammy Awards
51st Grammy Awards in early 2009, the band Death Cab for Cutie
made an appearance wearing blue ribbons to protest the use of
Auto-Tune in the music industry. Later that spring,
the lead single of his album
The Blueprint 3
The Blueprint 3 as "D.O.A. (Death of
Jay-Z elaborated that he wrote the song under the
personal belief that far too many people had jumped on the Auto-Tune
bandwagon, and that the trend had become a gimmick. Christina
Aguilera appeared in public in Los Angeles on August 10, 2009, wearing
a T-shirt that read "Auto Tune is for Pussies". When later interviewed
by Sirius/XM, however, she said that
Auto-Tune wasn't bad if used "in
a creative way" and noted her song "Elastic Love" from Bionic uses
Opponents of the plug-in have argued that
Auto-Tune has a negative
effect on society's perception and consumption of music. In 2004, UK's
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph music critic Neil McCormick called
"particularly sinister invention that has been putting extra shine on
pop vocals since the 1990s" by taking "a poorly sung note and
transpos[ing] it, placing it dead centre of where it was meant to
In 2009, Time magazine quoted an unnamed Grammy-winning recording
engineer as saying, "Let's just say I've had
Auto-Tune save vocals on
Britney Spears to
Bollywood cast albums. And every
singer now presumes that you'll just run their voice through the box."
The same article expressed "hope that pop's fetish for uniform perfect
pitch will fade", speculating that pop-music songs have become harder
to differentiate from one another, as "track after track has perfect
pitch." According to
Tom Lord-Alge the device is used on nearly
every record these days.
In 2010, the
British television reality TV show The X Factor admitted
Auto-Tune to improve the voices of contestants. Simon
Cowell, one of the show's bosses, ordered a ban on
future episodes. Also in 2010, Time magazine included
their list of "The 50 Worst Inventions".
Neko Case in a 2006 interview with
Pitchfork Media gave an example of
how prevalent pitch correction is in the industry:
I'm not a perfect note hitter either but I'm not going to cover it up
with Auto-Tune. Everybody uses it, too. I once asked a studio guy in
Toronto, 'How many people don't use Auto-Tune?' and he said, 'You and
Nelly Furtado are the only two people who've never used it in here.'
Even though I'm not into Nelly Furtado, it kind of made me respect
her. It's cool that she has some integrity.
Used by stars from
Snoop Dogg and
Lil Wayne to
Britney Spears and
Rihanna, the use of
Auto-Tune has been widely criticized as indicative
of an inability to sing on key.
Trey Parker used
Auto-Tune on the
South Park song "Gay Fish", and found that he had to
sing off-key in order to sound distorted; he claimed, "You had to be a
bad singer in order for that thing to actually sound the way it does.
If you use it and you sing into it correctly, it doesn't do anything
to your voice."
Electropop recording artist
Ke$ha has been widely
recognized as using excessive
Auto-Tune in her songs, putting her
vocal talent under scrutiny. Music producer
Rick Rubin wrote that "Right now, if you listen to pop, everything is
in perfect pitch, perfect time and perfect tune. That's how ubiquitous
Auto-Tune is." Time journalist Josh Tyrangiel called Auto-Tune
Photoshop for the human voice."
Big band singer
Michael Bublé criticized
Auto-Tune as making everyone
sound the same – "like robots" – but admits he uses it when he
records pop-oriented music.
Ellie Goulding and
Ed Sheeran have called for honesty in live shows by
joining the "Live Means Live" campaign. "Live Means Live" was launched
by songwriter/composer David Mindel. When a band displays the "Live
Means Live" logo, the audience knows, "there's no Auto-Tune, nothing
that isn't 100 per cent live" in the show, and there are no backing
Despite its negative reputation, some critics have argued that
Auto-Tune opens up new possibilities in pop music, especially in
hip-hop and R&B. Instead of using it as a crutch for poor
vocals—its originally designed purpose—some musicians
intentionally use the technology to mediate and augment their artistic
French house duo
Daft Punk was questioned about their
use of auto-tune in their single "One More Time", Thomas Bangalter
replied by saying, "A lot of people complain about musicians using
Auto-Tune. It reminds me of the late '70s when musicians in France
tried to ban the synthesizer... What they didn't see was that you
could use those tools in a new way instead of just for replacing the
instruments that came before."
Auto-Tune is used by a variety of artists, Regina Bradley
states it can be particularly useful for black artists to have more
control of their voice's sound and change it to fit the mood of the
song. This is seen in two notable examples, in the works of Kanye West
T-Pain, the R&B singer and rapper who reintroduced the use of
Auto-Tune as a vocal effect in pop music with his album Rappa Ternt
Sanga in 2005, says "My dad always told me that anyone's voice is just
another instrument added to the music. There was a time when people
had seven-minute songs and five minutes of them were just straight
instrumental. ... I got a lot of influence from [the '60s era] and I
thought I might as well just turn my voice into a saxophone."
Following in T-Pain's footsteps,
Lil Wayne experimented with Auto-Tune
between his albums
Tha Carter II
Tha Carter II and Tha Carter III. At the time, he
was heavily addicted to promethazine codeine, and some critics see
Auto-Tune as a musical expression of Wayne's loneliness and
Mark Anthony Neal writes that Lil Wayne’s vocal
uniqueness, his "slurs, blurs, bleeps and blushes of his vocals, index
some variety of trauma." And Kevin Driscoll asks, "Is Auto-Tune
not the wah pedal of today's black pop? Before he transformed himself
into T-Wayne on "Lollipop", Wayne's pop presence was limited to guest
verses and unauthorized freestyles. In the same way that Miles
equipped Hendrix to stay pop-relevant, Wayne's flirtation with the VST
plugin du jour brought him updial from JAMN 94.5 to KISS 108."
Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak was generally well received by
critics, and it similarly used
Auto-Tune to represent a fragmented
soul, following his mother's death. The album marks a departure
from his previous album Graduation. Describing the album as a breakup
Rolling Stone music critic Jody Rosen writes, "Kanye can't
really sing in the classic sense, but he's not trying to. T-Pain
taught the world that
Auto-Tune doesn't just sharpen flat notes: It's
a painterly device for enhancing vocal expressiveness, and upping the
pathos... Kanye's digitized vocals are the sound of a man so stupefied
by grief, he's become less than human."
MTV’s Unplugged series was launched, "a showcase for artists wanting
to prove they were more than just studio creations". As the show used
live performances with singers and acoustic instruments, it required
performers to "...display their unembellished voices and ability to
perform live." On MTV unplugged, artists could not use lip-syncing,
backup tracks, synthesizers, and racks of vocal effects. With
Unplugged, authenticity in live performances again became an important
value in popular music.
The US TV comedy series
Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live parodied
the fictional white rapper Blizzard Man, who sang in a sketch: "Robot
voice, robot voice! All the kids love the robot voice!"
"Weird Al" Yankovic
"Weird Al" Yankovic poked fun at the over-use of Auto-Tune,
while commenting that it seemed here to stay, in a
commented on by various publications such as Wired.
Starting in 2009, the use of
Auto-Tune to create melodies from the
audio in video newscasts was popularized by Brooklyn musician Michael
Gregory, and later by the band
The Gregory Brothers
The Gregory Brothers in their series
Songify the News.
The Gregory Brothers
The Gregory Brothers digitally manipulated recorded
voices of politicians, news anchors, and political pundits to conform
to a melody, making the figures appear to sing. The group
achieved mainstream success with their "Bed Intruder Song" video,
which became the most-watched
YouTube video of 2010.
Audio time-scale/pitch modification
Melodyne, a similar product
Robotic voice effects
^ Crockett, Zachary The Inventor of
Auto-Tune Pricenomics. December
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Auto-Tune 8 – product home page
Neko Case Interview – artistic integrity and Auto-Tune
CBC Radio One
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Andy Hildebrand Interview - NAMM Oral History Library (2012)
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