Auto-Tune Up

by Abby @ Quaver on March 5, 2013

in Around the Web

autotuneWhat do you know about Auto-Tune?

There’s a lot of talk these days about enhancing a singer’s performance through Auto-Tuning just as athletes have used steroids to unfair advantage. But what just what is Auto-Tune?

It’s, well, it’s . . . quick! To the recording studio!

Our brilliant audio engineers, Justin and Bert, have lots of thoughts about Auto-Tune to share! For starters. Auto-Tune is a trademarked product produced by Antares—just as the brand Kleenex is often used for all tissues; the generic term for Auto-Tune is electronic pitch correction.

“Ever since the 1950s and ‘60s, engineers have been employing these kinds of tricks. This technology is just another tool in the bag,” Bert asserts. Adds Justin, “In years gone by, engineers would slow a track to half speed just to get a new vocal on a single word.” It was then inserted in a performance that was otherwise acceptable.

Interestingly, this new technology was originally developed for the oil business.

Drill teams would drill a hole and send a pitch down the shaft. Dry spots returned a different pitch than oily areas—and the difference was presented in the form of a graph.

Applying the technology to music production, the software identifies a missed note and alters it so it is exactly on pitch.

“At first, we could only manipulate monophonic material—a single note from a single source. Now you can tune multiple pitches and timbre at the same time,” says Bert. “You can even tune one string of a guitar chord,” adds Justin.

Its first notable use in popular music was a 1998 album by Cher called “Believe.” This then-novel trick was showcased as an effect, rather than hidden to discretely correct vocal performance imperfections. Justin and Bert say that the technology is used on almost all pop music today.

How can you tell when Auto-Tune is being used?

“It kills vibrato,” says Justin. However, the software is getting more sophisticated but you may be able to detect when a singer slides between notes.

Just how far can an engineer go with electronic pitch correction?

Listen to Quaver’s lovely one-note performance of The Farmer in the Dell here:

Now listen to the melodic manipulation of this very same track using a program called Melodyne.

Justin used Melodyne to tune the original track to the familiar tune of The Farmer in the Dell we all know and love. He also created an upper and lower harmony to round out the track!

How cool is that?

Now that you know what pitch correction can do, what ideas do you have for using this technology in your classroom? Want to give yourself or your students a shot at pitch-perfect performance? There are lots of affordable apps for smartphones you may want to try!

You’ll definitely want to continue your pitch play with these free games at

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