Tag Archives: autotune

Why AutoTune Annoys Me

AutoTune, the darling of the modern music industry–the software that can make even a honking duck sound like an opera soprano (supposedly). It’s supposed to make singers sound better and more on-key, and it does.

Well, it makes them sound more on-key, as well as fake.

Time.com and HowStuffWorks have explained AutoTune, its history, and its use within the vocal music industry to subtly enhance singers’ vocal performances, fixing the pitch where it went a little flat or a little sharp, making a rough voice sound just a little smoother, etc. This is generally accepted use to ease and shorten the recording process, which is understandable.

But, starting with Cher’s “Believe” in 1998, a lot of recording studios have not only used it to gloss over singers’ natural flaws, but also to “overproduce” the voice, making it sound robotic, unnatural. And sadly, this is the use of AutoTune that prevails today; rather than subtle editing of the voice, there are painfully obvious pitch changes that result in odd voice tambres, like nothing that ever came out of a real human’s throat.

I have perfect/absolute pitch, and one would think I’d enjoy the perfection of precisely-struck notes no matter what they sound like, but instead, it annoys me, and bothers me. I like human voices to sound, well, like human voices, and yet these days, it’s as if the humanity has been scripted out of the recorded voice, leaving something that is technically perfect but without the necessary miniature vibrations (also called “vibrato”) to give it that human touch. Though the pitch-perfect sound makes my ear happy, it sounds soulless; it has no emotion, because all the tiny variations of pitch that GIVE a sung sound emotion are gone.

Perhaps this is my years of choral singing and private voice lessons talking; perhaps I’ve simply grown used to the sound of an unedited voice or group of voices, and it’s only a preference issue. But I worry about where we’re headed as a musical society, if we keep editing out all the imperfect/human bits of music. Pretty soon, if we’re not careful, there won’t be any real humanity in music left.