Like a spellchecker or photo editing software can save us from our mistakes, the audio program Auto-Tune can correct a singer’s wrong notes and wavering pitch.
Friday, November 19th
Although the program is best known for the robotic vocal style that has dominated pop radio in recent years, Auto-Tune is widely used in the studio and at concerts to make artists’ sound pitch-perfect.
But, the beauty of this software is that artists don’t have to sing, take after take, struggling to get through a song flawlessly. Auto-Tune can clean up minor mistakes.
But, how does it work? Simple! Auto-Tune users set a reference point – a scale or specific notes, for example – and a rate at which derivations from this point will be digitally corrected.
This rate can be carefully calibrated, so a voice sounds “natural” by tacking the voice smoothly back to the reference pitch.
The first song known for introducing Auto-Tune to the masses was Cher’s 1998 hit “Believe.”
Although a success with audio engineers, Auto-Tune remained mainly out of sight until 2003, when rhythm and blues crooner T-Pain discovered its voice-altering effects.
Debates have broken out over whether Auto-Tune has cheapened or at least homogenized pop radio and whether it has made audiences expect singers to torch through songs without vocal errors or, as some have alleged, personality.
Regardless of its artistic merits, the occasional unsubtle use of Auto-Tune has made its mark on pop culture.
This article is a re-post, with minor modifications, of “What’s Auto-Tune and How Does it Work?” an article published on livescience.com