Live Concerts Use Auto Tune

Yeesh!!! What is this huge obsession with Autotune nowadays? Even talented singers use it and destroy their voices!!!
  1. Live Concerts Use Auto Tune Evo
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Apr 25, 2009  I would like to apologize to those posting about auto tune previously. However, you must understand that the guitar is my main instrument. I have taken up singing sort of as a fill in with my band until we find someone that can actually sing. My question is where do I get this so called auto tune for use during a live performance? Apr 20, 2018  I want to use it with moderate levels for the church band. At the end of verses and chorus sections to keep the vocals pitch improved a bit. I am thinking of routing their vocal from the mixer to Cubase and have Auto tune on an insert. I don't need to use all. Live Pitch Correction Many artists will rely on Auto-Tune and other pitch-correction tools in the studio, but the technology has advanced enough where singers can use it in concert, too.

The Top Ten Singers with Too Much Autotune

  • Antares (creator of auto-tune) creates a plug in specifically for live use, and in the past also made a hardware box to do it. In the case of the plug in, the audio is fed into a computer, processed by the program, and then output in a few milliseconds.
  • When you're running Auto-Tune Live to correct your live vocals, the results are smooth, predictable, and totally natural for both you and your audience. Total MIDI control lets you instantly redefine your tuning as you perform There are tons of great ways you can use Auto-Tune Live's advanced MIDI integration to simplify the way you perform.

Live Pitch Correction Many artists will rely on Auto-Tune and other pitch-correction tools in the studio, but the technology has advanced enough where singers can use it in concert, too. is an American singer, songwriter, rapper, and actor known for being the lead vocalist in The Black Eyed Peas. He was born in Los Angeles, California. He has released several solo albums such as 'Songs About Girls' and 'Will Power' .

Ugh, can't stand the Black Eyed Peas. He abuses te crap out of autotune and the latest music trend. - DCfnaf

How could you forget this guy? this guy uses loads of Autotune in a horrible way - christangrant

It's so noticeable! He just uses autotune too much! - TheFourthWorld

All the members of the Black Eyed Peas, actually. - Misfire

2Jacob SartoriusRolf Jacob Sartorius (known by his middle name), born October 2, 2002, is an American singer and internet personality, who rose to fame via social media from posting lip-syncing videos on and his Vines (on Vine). In 2016, he released his debut single 'Sweatshirt', which reached the Hot 100 more.

Someone please change that ugly image. Nevermind it changed back - ElSherlock

He should be in first place. Watch his music video for 'Sweatshirt' and then compare that to his real voice. The autotune is so bad that he sounds like a robot. He can't sing! - olliv

Autotune Sartorius is what he should be called. - CommunismNow

So cheesy and squeaky! Really ear-piercing.


Just listen his voice in Endgame of Tay Tay. Although I like it in the context of this song, it's pretty bad.

I'm mixed on autotune, the type of songs you have depends, trap (which is guiltily one of my favorite genres) suits autotune the most.
Fetty Wap is awesome and uses A LOT of autotune and can be really fun to listen to.
Future is from the exact same genre but he is pretty boring and lazy. So overall, it depends on the user. - AlphaQ

4Paris HiltonParis Whitney Hilton is an American businesswoman, socialite, television personality, model, actress, singer, DJ, and author.

She sounds like a whiny robot when she sings. Her singing is some of the worst I've ever heard. - DCfnaf

Duh, of course she is number one she sounds like a horny robot. - DaisyandRosalina

She's a fake Barbie doll in general, so the awful autotuned singing fits her. - Elric-san

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5Ke$haKesha Rose Sebert (formerly known as Ke$ha) was born on March 1st, 1987 in Los Angeles, United States. She is best known for her hits like Timber, Tik Tok, and We R Who We R. more.

Lol I know her older songs were at least 20% autotune, but it seemed more of like a stylistic choice rather than a 'I am talentless so I use this much auto-tune'. While I definitely don't think she is the best natural singer ever, her new album Rainbow is nothing like her old stuff and she actually shows she has real raw talent. So yeah lol, be kind to my Kesha baby! - Twixx

I notice that Ke$ha is just one of those 'talk singers' who puts no effort into their music. She basically just speaks into the microphone and then chooses to let autotune take care of the rest. This is evident when she sings live and does a poor job. - DCfnaf

If you think she can't sing, listen to 'The Harold Song.' It is pretty good. But she does use way too much autotune in her popular stuff. - 445956

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Basically she talks and autotune does the rest. - DaisyandRosalina

6Lil WayneDwayne Michael Carter, Jr. is an American rapper from New Orleans, Louisiana. He was discovered by Brian 'Baby' 'Birdman' Williams at a very young age, and was signed to Cash Money Records, where he would be one quarter of the rap group Hot Boys. In the years to follow, he would go on to find his own more.

He uses way too much autotune. He is literally abusing it. His rapping and lyrics don’t make up for that either. - Userguy44

Lil' Wayne is using autotune in his rock-oriented album..but it doesn't work. We can tell that he has no talent whatsoever. - DCfnaf

Listen to How to Love. I apologize for the pain in advance. - cjWriter1997

He sounds weird with autotune - ElSherlock

7Submarine ManWater Handblast (born Ardy Robert Andrews) better known by his name Submarine Man, is an American rapper known for his songs that heavily feature lyrics about foot fetishes as well as heavily autotuned vocals.

He is so hard to understand that some of his songs are not available on any lyric websites.

He's not even a real music artist, he's supposed to be terrible. - DaWyteNight

Imagine taking this guy seriously

This guy is a joke artist - ElSherlock

8Travis ScottJacques Webster, better known by his stage name Travis Scott, is an American hip hop recording artist, record producer and musician from Houston, Texas.

Love him or hate him, he created one of the most iconic albums of the 2010s

He sometimes uses autotune - ElSherlock

Asstroworld sounds like it was made by a robot singing into a fan

Yeeeah! It's liit! Oh my God! Straight up! - DaWyteNight

9Britney SpearsBritney Jean Spears (born December 2, 1981) is an American singer and actress who was born in McComb, Mississippi, and grew up in Kentwood, Louisiana. She performed acting roles in stage productions and television shows like 'The Mickey Mouse Club' as a child before signing with Jive Records in 1997 more.

It's honestly not Britney's fault for her using autotune. When she was young, she used to have a 'baby voice', but she has became older and her vocals are getting deeper. That's why she isn't live all the time. #FreeBritney - Bizcut4life

Some Top 40 artists have catchy, maybe even iconic, songs. I cannot think of a single Britney song I like. - RubyParagon

She wasn't bad, but she completely wasted her natural vocals with her 'particular' tone and autotune. - DaisyandRosalina

Live concerts use auto tune 8

When 'Womanizer' came on in the car, I was yelling at my mom to switch it, and for some stupid reason she told me it was good and stayed at the station. Thankfully we only listen to the claswic alternative station. - 445956

10Jason DeruloJason Joel Desrouleaux, better known by his stage name Jason Derulo (an alternate spelling of his surname), is an American singer, songwriter, and dancer. He is best known for his singles such as 'Whatcha Say', 'Ridin' Solo', 'In My Head', 'What If', 'Wiggle', 'Talk Dirty', 'Trumpets' and 'Want To Want more.

Such a talentless man, I mean, I remember listening to 'It girl' in 2011 and that sounded good, but nowadays.. Damn, it is really really bad and each time worse. All that I can ask is how somebody like this has even been called to sing live at BBC's Live Lounge for exemple.

He can actually sing without it and sounds much better so it's a shame that he uses it so much. - DaWyteNight

The Contenders

11Eric BellingerEric Bellinger, Jr., born March 26, 1986, is an American singer, songwriter, and record producer from Los Angeles, California.

All of his songs sound the same

This gon be your (least) favorite song! - DaWyteNight

12Selena GomezSelena Marie Gomez is an American actress and singer. She is best known for songs like 'Come & Get It', 'Good For You', 'Same Old Love', and 'It Ain't Me'. Selena Gomez's voice is mezzo-soprano but she usually sings in alto. She is best known for her role as Alex Russo in Wizards of Waverly Place.

She is one of the worst vocalists of our generation, she is just whispering. - DaisyandRosalina

'Without autotune, Selena Gomez sounds like she's trying to teach a goat how to talk'

She already sounds good with her real voice but for some reason she ruins it by using autotune lol

She can't sing without autotune - ElSherlock

13Lil MeerkatAmeeer Pipi, better known by his stage name Lil Meerkat is a Canadian rapper and singer-songwriter. He is known for his infamous remix of the popular Queen song 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. He released his debut studio album 'Weeaboo Paradise, Vol. 1' in November 2018.

Just listen to his Bohemian Rhapsody remix - ShrekTheGoat

Another joke artist - ElSherlock

14Miley CyrusMiley Ray Hemsworth (born Destiny Hope Cyrus), known as Miley Cyrus, is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. She was born on November 23, 1992, in Franklin, Tennessee, to Tish Cyrus and Billy Ray Cyrus. Her voice type is Mezzo-Soprano and has 4 octaves. She became a teen idol starring as the more.

Why does Miley Cyrus use such terrible autotune in her songs? She actually has a very talented voice, yet she wastes it for a fabricated media image and an uncontrollable butt and tongue as well as some alien-like autotune. - DCfnaf

She used too much autotune. Please, do not waste your talent. - MChkflaguard_Yt

She stopped using it - ElSherlock

Autotuned? Yes. But with too much autotune? No, she still can sing live. - DaisyandRosalina

She can sing, the problem is she covers her singing voice with the tech and that makes her sound like an alien. - DCfnaf

15QuavoQuavious Keyate Marshall, known professionally as Quavo, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer. He is best known as a member of the rap trio Migos.

Is Quavo even a human?

To be honest he should be #1.

He’s a robot

16Nicki MinajOnika Tanya Maraj, known professionally as Nicki Minaj (born December 8, 1982) is a Trinidadian/American rapper / pop music artist. Minaj is most known for her songs such as 'Anaconda', 'Super Bass', 'Starships' and her feature on 'Bang Bang'. more.

If her voice makes my ears bleed, then isn't that a sign that she is using autotune? During her live performances, she has very questionable control with her singing voice. - DCfnaf

She sometimes uses autotune - ElSherlock

17Flo RidaTramar Lacel Dillard, better known by his stage name Flo Rida is an American rapper and pop music artist from Carol City, Florida. He is known for songs such as 'Low', 'Right Round', 'Sugar', 'Club Can't Handel Me', 'Good Feeling', 'Whistle', 'Wild Ones', 'My House' and 'GDFR.'

He uses loads of autotune and that's one reason why pretty much all of his songs are awful his only descent song is Got Me Runnin Around but that's with Nickelback and their part in the song is the good part the Flo Rida part is awful and ruins the song - christangrant

18Chris BrownChristopher Maurice 'Chris' Brown (born May 5, 1989) is an American singer, songwriter, dancer and actor. Born in Tappahannock, Virginia, he was involved in his church choir and several local talent shows from a young age. He is most well known for his physical assault towards the singer Rihanna in more.

How is Mr. Clown so low on this list? He should definitely be in top 10! - DaWyteNight

Who wouldn't know that this guy uses autotune? - ElSherlock

Dis *cencored*drowned in autotune

19T-PainFaheem Rashad Najm, better known by his stage name T-Pain, is an American recording artist and music producer from Tallahassee, Florida.

T-Pain is the king of autotune, and uses it so much in his songs that he sounds like a robot.

Believe it or not, T-Pain sounds amazing without Auto-Tune. I can assume he wasted his talent with Auto-Tune. - Mumbizz01

He sounds better without autotune - ElSherlock

He is the king of autotune. He is so autotuned that his voice sounds unrealistic. He can actually sing without autotune, I saw a performance of him without it and he sounds better.

20Katy PerryKatheryn Elizabeth Hudson, professionally known by her stage name Katy Perry, was born on October 25, 1984 in Santa Barbara, California. She is a singer, songwriter, actress and an ambassador on one of the most popular companies of now, UNICEF. more.

She is so squeaky at live performances

Sounds horrible with and without auto-tune. - DaWyteNight

She sounds a bit good without autotune - ElSherlock

21Dahvie VanityDavid Jesus Torres, better known by his stage name Dahvie Vanity, is an American singer-songwriter and rapper born on September 5, 1984, who is best known as one half of Crunkcore duo Blood on the Dance Floor and as the face and creative mind behind Industrial project Sinners are Winners. He is also more.

How is this autotune abuser not in the top 10? Makes Kesha sounding like a natural singer. - Userguy44

He sounds terrible with autotune and he is an already awful singer - ElSherlock

Of all singers, why wouldn't I think to add Dahvie Vanity? - DCfnaf

Sound like what happened if emos used autotune. - AlphaQ

22RihannaRobyn Rihanna Fenty is a Barbadian-American pop singer. Born in Saint Michael and raised in Bridgetown, she first entered the music industry by recording demo tapes under the direction of record producer Evan Rogers in 2003. She ultimately signed a recording contract with Def Jam Recordings after auditioning more.

Rihanna's voice isn't great to begin with, but when she uses autotune it's even worse. Just listen to the chorus of Live Your Life by T.I. or Disturbia if you want to give your ears a punishment. - DaWyteNight

Listen to Disturbia - ElSherlock

She sounds horrible. the end

23Rebecca BlackRebecca Black is a YouTube personality and singer who's infamous for her single 'Friday,' which was once the most disliked video on YouTube. She has also released other songs, including 'My Moment' and 'Saturday'.

Only in Friday - ElSherlock


24Dua LipaDua Lipa (born 22 August 1995) is an English singer and songwriter. Dua Lipa was born in Westminster, London, to Albanian parents.

Have you heard her voice? In all her songs, her voice has this flat robotness to it. You can hear the autotune in her voice.

She overuses it - ElSherlock

25HalseyAshley Nicolette Frangipane, known by her stage name Halsey, is an American singer and songwriter. She was born on September 29, 1994 in New Jersey. She started her career by releasing songs on SoundCloud, and now she is a well-known pop singer with hits like Bad at Love, and Now or Never. She had originated more.

Listen to Without Me, autotune is fie but this girl is untalented. - AlphaQ

The way she sings isn't natural and too robotic.

Listen to Without Me. - Userguy44

Live Concerts Use Auto Tune Evo

Her voice sounds too robotic with autotune - ElSherlock

27Danielle Bregoli

100% Stupid Teenager which does not deserve to be famous!

Talentless singer - ElSherlock

28Lady GagaStefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, known professionally as Lady Gaga, is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. more.

Similar to Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, who has a talented singing voice, chooses to use autotune and a fabricated media image to win people over. She's still got a great voice nonetheless. - DCfnaf

Her sounds good without autotune - ElSherlock

See Miley. - DaisyandRosalina

29Kanye WestKanye Omari West is an American rapper, songwriter, and fashion designer. He was born on June 8, 1977 in Atlanta, Georgia. After West's parents divorced, him and his single mother moved to Chicago, Illinois. At the age of 10, West temporarily moved to Nanjing, China, because his mother was teaching more.

Not sure if he uses autotune - ElSherlock

30Lauren MayberryLauren Eve Mayberry (born 7 October 1987) is a Scottish singer, songwriter, and journalist. She is best known as the frontwoman and lead vocalist of the Scottish synthpop band Chvrches. In the band, Mayberry co-produces, co-writes, and sings as the lead vocalist, while also playing drums and keyboards. more.
31Kim KardashianKimberly Noel 'Kim' Kardashian West is an American reality television personality, actress, socialite, businesswoman and model.

In 'Jam' she doesn't even sing like a human. - DCfnaf

She isn't a singer - ElSherlock

She's a singer? :(

32Amy Lee

Live Concerts Use Auto Tune Basic

Amy Lynn Hartzler, known professionally as Amy Lee, is an American singer-songwriter, classically trained pianist and composer. She is also the lead singer to the Arkansas band Evanescence.

On Fallen and in some parts of the self-titled album she used Autotune, however in The Open Door the vocals were not Autotuned or pitch corrected at all, there was an interview with the producer where he confirmed that. On Synthesis some pitch correction was used but no actual Autotune was used.
The reason she sounds different live than on the albums is because she actually sings live- most singers lip sync to a backing track instead of actually singing live, but Amy's live performances are actually live hence why they sound different, and not as good as in the studio.

She used some pitches but her voice is generally natural in her songs. - AlphaQ

Auto-tune all over, plus a bunch of other electronic effects and enhancements. Her real voice is not that great.

She doesn't use autotune. - Userguy44

33The-DreamTerius Youngdell Nash, better known by his stage name The-Dream, is an American singer, songwriter and record producer.
34China Anne McClainChina Anne McClain was born on August 25, 1998 in Atlanta, Georgia . She is of African-American descent . China Anne McClain is a singer for her band, McClain, which she is in along with her sisters, Lauryn and Sierra . China Anne McClain is known for her starring roles in Disney's Ant Farm, and Tyler more.

Listen to Whats My Name, then you'll see she uses way too much auto tune.

You guys are insufferable. Autotune does not equate to having a terrible live-singing voice and sounding decent on the studio version. This is a huge misconception. Studio vocals are filtered whereas live vocals are not. So it's filtration that's the issue, not autotune. The only people on this list who identifiably use autotune are Kesha,, and T-Pain. In the case of Kesha it's often used for effect.

I have Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus on the list, they use autotune, and they can sing. - DCfnaf

35Sabrina CarpenterSabrina Ann Lynn Carpenter is an American singer, songwriter and actress. She stars as the young version of Chloe Goodwin in The Goodwin Games and as Maya Hart in the Disney Channel series Girl Meets World. She plays Jenny Parker in the Disney Channel Original Movie Adventures in Babysitting . (She) more.

She doesn't use autotune - ElSherlock

She barely uses autotune

37KimbraKimbra Lee Johnson, known mononymously as Kimbra, is a New Zealand recording artist based in Los Angeles.
39Emma WatsonEmma Charlotte Duerre Watson is a British actress, model, and activist. Born in Paris and brought up in Oxfordshire, Watson attended the Dragon School as a child and trained as an actress at the Oxford branch of Stagecoach Theatre Arts.

She doesn't look like a singer - ElSherlock

Beauty and the Beast haters?
Either way, does have autotune. - DCfnaf

Lol I'm kidding but she was pitch corrected in B&TB(2017). Good remake movie though

40Tessa Brooks

If you listen to 'Powerful Emotions' you don't need to dig ANY deeper you can already hear how much auto tune was put in.

41Lil PumpGazzy Garcia (known professionally as Lil Pump, born August 17th, 2000) is an American rapper, producer and songwriter. Gazzy began his career in 2016 with a collaboration freestyle with Smokepurpp, which was eventually posted in Soundcloud to popular success. He broke out to mainstream the following more.

'I Love It' lol more like I hate it - B1ueNew

Listen to his song 'I Love It' - ElSherlock

43Rose Mulet
44Justin BieberJustin Drew Bieber (born March 1, 1994) is a Canadian singer, songwriter, and record producer. He currently resides in Ontario, Canada and is Christian. He is the son of author Pattie Mallette. more.

I don't even like him and baby sounds cheesy

He used autotune a few years ago - ElSherlock


45Taylor SwiftTaylor Alison Swift is an American singer-songwriter. more.

Without editing of her voice she can't sing or sustain higher notes. She runs out of breath way too fast - THICCBOI

She sometimes doesn't use autotune - ElSherlock

46Ariana GrandeAriana Grande-Butera, known professionally as Ariana Grande, is an American singer and actress. She was born on June 26th 1993 in Boca Raton, Florida to Joan Grande and Edward Butera. She is best known for her role as Cat Valentine on the Nickelodeon sitcom Victorious and its spin-off show Sam & Cat. more.

She sounds so much better without autotune since her vocals sound really good - ElSherlock

There are mic feeds and there are clearly no signs of editing. If she edits her voice its not more than the standard which is as low as possible - THICCBOI

YT has videos with the autotune removed from her songs, and there is a huge difference.

In my opinion she doesn't use auto tune.

47Isabela MonerIsabela Moner is an American actress and singer. She is known for her lead role on the Nickelodeon television series 100 Things to Do Before High School and for her role as Izabella in the 2017 film Transformers: The Last Knight.
48Sophia GraceSophia Grace Brownlee and her cousin Rosie McClelland, both from Essex, England, make up the duo Sophia Grace & Rosie.

Listen to 'Girls Just Gotta Have Fun' - ElSherlock

49CherCher is an American singer and actress. Her song Believe was the first song to use autotune. Described as embodying female autonomy in a male-dominated industry, she is known for her distinctive contralto singing voice and for having worked in numerous areas of entertainment, as well as adopting a variety more.

She made autotune - ElSherlock

She invented it. - Userguy44

She was the first singer to make a massive hit song with it but she did not invent it. - Powell

In January of 2010, Kesha Sebert, known as ‘Ke$ha’ debuted at number one on Billboard with her album, Animal. Her style is electro pop-y dance music: she alternates between rapping and singing, the choruses of her songs are typically melodic party hooks that bore deep into your brain: “Your love, your love, your love, is my drug!” And at times, her voice is so heavily processed that it sounds like a cross between a girl and a synthesizer. Much of her sound is due to the pitch correction software, Auto-Tune.

Sebert, whose label did not respond to a request for an interview, has built a persona as a badass wastoid, who told Rolling Stone that all male visitors to her tour bus had to submit to being photographed with their pants down. Even the bus drivers.

Yet this past November on the Today Show, the 25-year old Sebert looked vulnerable, standing awkwardly in her skimpy purple, gold, and green unitard. She was there to promote her new album, Warrior, which was supposed to reveal the authentic her.

“Was it really important to let your voice to be heard?” asked the host, Savannah Guthrie.

“Absolutely,” Sebert said, gripping the mic nervously in her fingerless black gloves.

“People think they’ve heard the Auto-Tune, they’ve heard the dance hits, but you really have a great voice, too,” said Guthrie, helpfully.

“No, I got, like, bummed out when I heard that,” said Sebert, sadly. “Because I really can sing. It’s one of the few things I can do.”

Live concerts use auto tune 6 0 evo 32 bit

Warrior starts with a shredding electrical static noise, then comes her voice, sounding like what the Guardian called “a robo squawk devoid of all emotion.”

“That’s pitch correction software for sure,” wrote Drew Waters, Head of Studio Operations at Capitol Records, in an email. “She may be able to sing, but she or the producer chose to put her voice through Auto-Tune or a similar plug-in as an aesthetic choice.”

So much for showing the world the authentic Ke$ha.

Since rising to fame as the weird techno-warble effect in the chorus of Cher’s 1998 song, “Believe,” Auto-Tune has become bitchy shorthand for saying somebody can’t sing. But the diss isn’t fair, because everybody’s using it.

For every T-Pain — the R&B artist who uses Auto-Tune as an over-the-top aesthetic choice — there are 100 artists who are Auto-Tuned in subtler ways. Fix a little backing harmony here, bump a flat note up to diva-worthy heights there: smooth everything over so that it’s perfect. You can even use Auto-Tune live, so an artist can sing totally out of tune in concert and be corrected before their flaws ever reach the ears of an audience. (On season 7 of the UK X-Factor, it was used so excessively on contestants’ auditions that viewers got wise, and protested.)

Indeed, finding out that all the singers we listen to have been Auto-Tuned does feel like someone’s messing with us. As humans, we crave connection, not perfection. But we’re not the ones pulling the levers. What happens when an entire industry decides it’s safer to bet on the robot? Will we start to hate the sound of our own voices?

They’re all zombies!

They’re all zombies!

Auto-Tune has now become bitchy shorthand for saying somebody can’t sing

Cher’s late ‘90s comeback and makeover as a gay icon can entirely be attributed to Auto-Tune, though the song's producers claimed for years that it was a Digitech Talker vocoder pedal effect. In 1998, she released the single, “Believe,” which featured a strange, robotic vocal effect on the chorus that felt fresh. It was created with Auto-Tune.

The technology, which debuted in 1997 as a plug-in for Pro Tools (the industry standard recording software), works like this: you select the key the song is in, and then Auto-Tune analyzes the singer’s vocal line, moving “wrong” notes up or down to what it guesses is the intended pitch. You can control the time it takes for the program to move the pitch: slower is more natural, faster makes the jump sudden and inhuman sounding. Cher’s producers chose the fastest possible setting, the so-called “zero” setting, for maximum pop.

“Believe” was a huge hit, but among music nerds, it was polarizing. Indie rock producer Steve Albini, who’s recorded bands like the Pixies and Nirvana, has said he thought the song was mind-numbingly awful, and was aghast to see people he respected seduced by Auto-Tune.

“One by one, I could see that my friends had gone zombie. This horrible piece of music with this ugly soon-to-be cliché was now being discussed as something that was awesome. It made my heart fall,” he told the Onion AV Club in November of 2012.

The Auto-Tune effect spread like a slow burn through the industry, especially within the R&B and dance music communities. T-Pain began Cher-style Auto-Tuning all his vocals, and a decade later, he’s still doing it.

“It’s makin’ me money, so I ain’t about to stop!” T-Pain told DJ Skee in 2008.

“It’s makin’ me money, so I ain’t about to stop!”

Kanye West did an album with it. Lady Gaga uses it. Madonna, too. Maroon 5. Even the artistically high-minded Bon Iver has dabbled. A YouTube series where TV news clips were Auto-Tuned, “Auto-Tune the News”, went viral. The glitchy Auto-Tune mode seems destined to be remembered as the “sound” of the 2000s, the way the gated snare (that dense, big, reverb-y drum sound on, say, Phil Collinssongs) is now remembered as the sound of the ‘80s.

Auto-Tune certainly isn’t the only robot voice effect to have wormed its way into pop music. In the ‘70s and early ‘80s, voice synthesizer effects units became popular with a lot of bands. Most famous is the Vocoder, originally invented in the 1930s to send encoded Allied messages during WWII. Proto-techno groups like New Order and Kraftwerk (ie: “Computer World,”) embraced it. So did American early funk and hip hop groups like the Jonzun Crew.

‘70s rockers gravitated towards another effect, the talk box. Peter Frampton (listen for it on “Do you Feel Like We Do”) and Joe Walsh (used it on “Rocky Mountain Way”) liked its similar-to-a-vocoder sound. The talk box was easier to rig up than the Vocoder — you operate it via a rubber mouth tube when applying it to vocals. But it produces massive amounts of slobber. In Dave Tompkins’ book, How to Wreck a Nice Beach, about the history of synthesized speech machines in the music industry, he writes that Frampton’s roadies sanitized his talk box in Remy Martin Cognac between gigs.

The use of showy effects usually have a backlash. And in the case of the Auto-Tune warble, Jay-Z struck back with the 2009 single, D.O.A., or “Death of Auto-Tune.”

I know we facing a recession
But the music y'all making going make it the great depression
All y'all lack aggression
Put your skirt back down, grow a set man
Nigga this shit violent
This is death of Auto-Tune, moment of silence

That same year, the band Death Cab for Cutie showed up at the Grammys wearing blue ribbons to raise awareness, they told MTV, about “rampant Auto-Tune abuse.”

The protests came too late, though. The lid to Pandora’s box had been lifted. Music producers everywhere were installing the software.

Live Concerts Use Auto Tuner

Everybody uses it

Everybody uses it

“I’ll be in a studio and hear a singer down the hall and she’s clearly out of tune, and she’ll do one take,” says Drew Waters of Capitol Records. That’s all she needs. Because they can fix it later, in Auto-Tune.

There is much speculation online about who does — or doesn’t — use Auto-Tune. Taylor Swift is a key target, as her terribly off-key duet with Stevie Nicks at the 2010 Grammys suggests she’s tone deaf. (Label reps said at the time something was wrong with her earpiece.) But such speculation is naïve, say the producers I talked to. “Everybody uses it,” says Filip Nikolic, singer in the LA-based band, Poolside, and a freelance music producer and studio engineer. “It saves a ton of time.”

On one end of the spectrum are people who dial up Auto-Tune to the max, a la Cher / T-Pain. On the other end are people who use it occasionally and sparingly. You can use Auto-Tune not only to pitch correct vocals, but other instruments too, and light users will tweak a note here and there if a guitar is, say, rubbing up against a vocal in a weird way.

“I’ll massage a note every once in a while, and often I won’t even tell the artist,” says Eric Drew Feldman, a San Francisco-based musician and producer who’s worked with The Polyphonic Spree and Frank Black.

But between those two extremes, you have the synthetic middle, where Auto-Tune is used to correct nearly every note, as one integral brick in a thick wall of digitally processed sound. From Justin Bieber to One Direction, from The Weeknd to Chris Brown, most pop music produced today has a slick, synth-y tone that’s partly a result of pitch correction.

However, good luck getting anybody to cop to it. Big producers like Max Martin and Dr. Luke, responsible for mega hits from artists like Ke$ha, Pink, and Kelly Clarkson, either turned me down or didn’t respond to interview requests. And you can’t really blame them.

“Do you want to talk about that effect you probably use that people equate with your client being talentless?”

Um, no thanks.

In 2009, an online petition went around protesting the overuse of Auto-Tune on the show Glee. Those producers turned down an interview, too.

The artists and producers who would talk were conflicted. One indie band, The Stepkids, had long eschewed Auto-Tune and most other modern recording technologies to make what they call “experimental soul music.” But the band recently did an about face, and Auto-Tuned their vocal harmonies on their forthcoming single, “Fading Star.”

Were they using Auto-Tune ironically or seriously? Co-frontman Jeff Gitelman said,


“For a long time we fought it, and we still are to a certain degree,” said Gitelman. “But attention spans are a certain way, and that’s how it is…we just wanted it to have a clean, modern sound.”

Hanging above the toilet in San Francisco’s Different Fur recording studios — where artists like the Alabama Shakes and Bobby Brown have recorded — is a clipping from Tape Op magazine that reads: “Don’t admit to Auto-Tune use or editing of drums, unless asked directly. Then admit to half as much as you really did.”

Different Fur’s producer / engineer / owner, Patrick Brown, who hung the clipping there, has recorded acts like the Morning Benders, and says many indie rock bands “come in, and first thing they say is, ‘We don’t tune anything,’” he says.

Brown is up for ditching Auto-Tune if the client really wants to, but he says most of the time, they don’t really want to. “Let’s face it, most bands are not genius.” He’ll feel them out by saying, with a wink-wink-nod-nod: “Man, that note’s really out of tune, but that was a great take.” And a lot of times they’ll tell him, go ahead, Auto-Tune it.

Marc Griffin is in the RCA-signed band 2AM Club, which has both an emcee and a singer (Griffin’s the singer.) He first got Auto-Tuned in 2008, when he recorded a demo with producer Jerry Harrison, the former keyboardist and guitarist for the Talking Heads.

“I sang the lead, then we were in the control room with the engineer, and he put ‘tune on it. Just a little. And I had perfect pitch vocals. It sounded amazing. Then we started stacking vocals on top of it, and that sounded amazing,” says Griffin.

Now, Griffin sometimes records with Auto-Tune on in real time, rather than having it applied to his vocals in post-production, a trend producers say is not unusual. This means that the artist hears the tuned version of his or her voice coming out of the monitors while singing.

“Every time you sing a note that’s not perfect, you can hear the frequencies battle with each other,” Griffin says, which sounds kind of awful, but he insists it “helps you hear what it will really sound like.”

Singer / songwriter Neko Case kvetched about these developments in an interview with online music magazine, Pitchfork. “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.”

That was 2006. This past September, Nelly Furtado released the album, The Spirit Indestructible. Its lead single is doused in massive levels of Auto-Tune.

Dr. Evil

Dr. Evil

Somebody once wrote on an online message board that the guy who created Auto-Tune must “hate music.” That could not be further from the truth. Its creator, Dr. Andy Hildebrand, AKA Dr. Andy, is a classically trained flautist who spent most of his youth playing professionally, in orchestras. Despite the fact that the 66-year old only recently lopped off a long, gray ponytail, he’s no hippie. He never listened to rock music of his generation.

Auto Tune Live Crack

“I was too busy practicing,” he says. “It warped me.”

The only post-Debussy artist he’s ever gotten into is Patsy Cline.

Hildebrand’s company — Antares — nestled in an anonymous looking office park in the mountains between Silicon Valley and the Pacific Coast, has only ten employees. Hildebrand invents all the products (Antares recently came out with Auto-Tune for Guitar). His wife is the CFO.

Hildebrand started his career as a geophysicist, programming digital signal processing software which helped oil companies find drilling spots. After going back to school for music composition at age 40, he discovered he could use those same algorithms for the seamless looping of digital music samples, and later for pitch correction. Auto-Tune, and Antares, were born.

Watch Diamond Factory, Anthrax Investigation, Auto-Tune, Luis.. on PBS. See more from NOVA scienceNOW.

Auto-Tune isn’t the only pitch correction software, of course. Its closest competitor, Melodyne, is reputed to be more “natural” sounding. But Auto-Tune is, in the words of one producer, “the go-to if you just want to set-it-and-forget-it.”

In interviews, Hildebrand handles the question of “is Auto-Tune evil?” with characteristic dry wit. His stock answer is, “My wife wears makeup, does that make her evil?” But on the day I asked him, he answered, “I just make the car. I don’t drive it down the wrong side of the road.”

“I just make the car. I don’t drive it down the wrong side of the road.”

The T-Pains and Chers of the world are the crazy drivers, in Hildebrand’s analogy. The artists that tune with subtlety are like his wife, tasteful people looking to put their best foot forward.

Another way you could answer the question: recorded music is, by definition, artificial. The band is not singing live in your living room. Microphones project sound. Mixing, overdubbing, and multi-tracking allow instruments and voices to be recorded, edited, and manipulated separately. There are multitudes of effects, like compression, which brings down loud sounds and amplifies quiet ones, so you can hear an artist taking a breath in between words. Reverb and delay create echo effects, which can make vocals sound fuller and rounder.

When recording went from tape to digital, there were even more opportunities for effects and manipulation, and Auto-Tune is just one of many of the new tools available. Nonetheless, there are some who feel it’s a different thing. At best, unnecessary. At worst, pernicious.

“The thing is, reverb and delay always existed in the real world, by placing the artist in unique environments, so [those effects are] just mimicking reality,” says Larry Crane, the editor of music recording magazine, Tape Op, and a producer who’s recorded Elliott Smith and The Decemberists. If you sang in a cave, or some other really echo-y chamber, you’d sound like early Elvis, too. “There is nothing in the natural world that Auto-Tune is mimicking, therefore any use of it should be carefully considered.”

“I’d rather just turn the reverb up on the Fender Twin in the troubling place,” says Arizona indie rock pioneer Howe Gelb, of the band Giant Sand. He describes Auto-Tune and other correction plug-ins as “foul” in a way he can’t quite put his finger on. ”There’s something embedded in the track that tends to push my ear away.”

Lee Alexander, one time boyfriend of Norah Jones and bass player and producer for her country side project, The Little Willies, used no Auto-Tune on their two records, and says he doesn’t even own the program.

“Stuff is out of tune everywhere…that to me is the beauty of music,” he wrote in an email.

In 2000, Matt Kadane of the band The New Year, and his brother, Bubba covered Cher’s “Believe”, complete with Auto-Tune. They did it in their former Texas Slo-Core band, Bedhead. Kadane told me hated the original “Believe,” and had to be talked into covering it, but had surprisingly found that putting Auto-Tune on his vocals “added emotional weight.” He hasn’t, however, used Auto-Tune since.

“It’s one thing to make a statement with hollow, disaffected vocals, but it’s another if this is the way we’re communicating with each other,” he says.

For some people, I said, it seems that Auto-Tune is a lot like dudes and fake boobs. Some dudes see fake boobs, they know they’re fake, but they get an erection anyway. They can’t help themselves. Kadane agreed that it “can serve that function.”

“But at some point you’d say ‘that’s fucked up that I have an erection from fake boobs!’” he says. “And in the midst of experiencing that, I think ideally you have a moment that reminds you that authenticity is still possible. And thank God not everything in the world is Auto-Tuned.”

The Beatles actually suck

The Beatles actually suck

Does your brain get rewired to expect perfect pitch?

The concept of pitch needing to be “correct” is a somewhat recent construct. Cue up the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St., and listen to what Mick Jagger does on “Sweet Virginia.” There are a lot of flat and sharp notes, because, well, that’s characteristic of blues singing, which is at the roots of rock and roll.

“When a (blues) singer is ‘flat’ it’s not because he’s doing it because he doesn’t know any better. It’s for inflection!” says Victor Coelho, Professor of Music at Boston University.

Blues singers have traditionally played with pitch to express feelings like longing or yearning, to punch up a nastier lyric, or make it feel dirty, he says. “The music is not just about hitting the pitch.”

Of course that style of vocal wouldn’t fly in Auto-Tune. It would get corrected. Neil Young, Bob Dylan, many of the classic artists whose voices are less than pitch perfect – they probably would be pitch corrected if they started out today.

John Parish, the UK-based producer who’s worked with PJ Harvey and Sparklehorse, says that though he uses Auto-Tune on rare occasions, he is no fan. Many of the singers he works with, Harvey in particular, have eccentric vocal styles -- he describes them as “character singers.” Using pitch correction software on them would be like trying to get Jackson Pollock to stay inside the lines.

“I can listen to something that can be really quite out of tune, and enjoy it,” says Parish. But is he a dying breed?

“That’s the kind of music that takes five listens to get really into,” says Nikolic, of Poolside. “That’s not really an option if you want to make it in pop music today. You find a really catchy hook and a production that is in no way challenging, and you just gear it up!”

If you’re of the generation raised on technology-enabled perfect pitch, does your brain get rewired to expect it? So-called “supertasters” are people who are genetically more sensitive to bitter flavors than the rest of us, and therefore can’t appreciate delicious bitter things like IPAs and arugula. Is the Auto-Tune generation likewise more sensitive to off key-ness, and thus less able to appreciate it? Some troubling signs point to ‘yes.’

“I was listening to some young people in a studio a few years ago, and they were like, ‘I don’t think The Beatles were so good,’” says producer Eric Drew Feldman. They were discussing the song “Paperback Writer.” “They’re going, ‘They were so sloppy! The harmonies are so flat!”

Just make me sound good

Just make me sound good

John Lennon famously hated his singing voice. He thought it sounded too thin, and was constantly futzing with vocal effects, like the overdriven sound on “I Am the Walrus.” I can relate. I love to sing, and in my head, I hear a soulful, husky, alto. What comes out, however, is a cross between a child in the musical Annie, and Gretchen Wilson: nasal, reedy, about as soulful as a mosquito. I’m in a band and I write all the songs, but I’m not the singer: I wouldn’t subject people to that.

Producer and Editor Larry Crane says he thinks lots of artists are basically insecure about their voices, and use Auto-Tune as a kind of protective shield.

“I’ve had people come in and say I want Auto-Tune, and I say, ‘Let’s spend some time, let’s do five vocal takes and compile the best take. Let’s put down a piano guide track. There’s a million ways to coach a vocal. Let’s try those things first,’” he says.

Recently, I went over to a couple-friend’s house with my husband, to play with Auto-Tune. The husband of the couple, Mike, had the software on his home computer – he dabbles in music production – and the idea was that we’d record a song together, then Auto-Tune it.

We looked for something with four-part harmony, so we could all sing, and for a song where the backing instrumental was available online. We settled on Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road.” One by one we went into the bedroom to record our parts, with a mix of shame and titillation not unlike taking turns with a prostitute.

When we were finished, Mike played back the finished piece, without Auto-Tune. It was nerve wracking to listen to, I felt like my entire body was cringing. Although I hit the notes OK, there was something tentative and childlike about my delivery. Thank God these are my good friends, I thought. Of course they were probably all thinking the same thing about their performances, too, but in my mind, my voice was the most annoying of all, so wheedling and prissy sounding.

Then Mike Auto-Tuned two versions of our Boys II Men song: one with Cher / T-Pain style glitchy Auto-Tune, the other with “natural” sounding Auto-Tune. The exaggerated one was hilariously awesome – it sounded just like a generic R&B song.

But the second one shocked me. It sounded like us, for sure. But an idealized version of us. My husband’s gritty vocal attack was still there, but he was singing on key. And something about fine-tuning my vocals had made them sound more confident, like smoothing out a tremble in one’s speech.

The Auto-Tune or not Auto-Tune debate always seems to turn into a moralistic one, like somehow you have more integrity if you don’t use it, or only use it occasionally. But seeing how really innocuous-yet-lovely it could be, made me rethink. If I were a professional musician, would I reject the opportunity to sound, what I consider to be, “my best,” out of principle?

The answer to that is probably no. But then it gets you wondering. How many insecure artists with “annoying” voices will retune themselves before you ever have a chance to fall in love?

Video stills from:
TiK ToK by Ke$ha
Animal by Ke$ha
Believe by Cher
In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins
Buy U A Drink by T-Pain
Hung Up in Glee
Big Hoops by Nelly Furtado
Piano Fire by Sparklehorse and P.J. Harvey
Imagine by John Lennon

If i were a professional musician, would I reject the opportunity to sound 'my best,' out of principal?
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