Auto-Tune Abuse in Pop Music - 10 Examples
Pitch correction software has applications from restoration and mix-rescue to outright distortion of a voice or instrument. most vocals we hear recorded these days, particulary in the charts have some, to lots of vocal correction prcessing.
I’ll discuss some of the more tasteful uses of these auto-tune tools below. But first I thought I’d highlight their misuse to illustrate the effects we usually try to avoid.
So, listen here to 10 of pop music’s most blatant auto-tune abuses:
If you’re unfamiliar with Auto-tune, and especially if you listen to much pop and rock, you might not hear it initially. When overdone, the effect yields an unnatural yodel or warble in a singer’s voice. But the sound is so commonplace in modern mainstream music that your ears may have tuned out the auto-tune!
The songs in this clip, in order, and the phrases most affected by auto-tuning to help you spot them:
Dixie Chicks - The Long Way Around - Noticeable on “parents” and “but I.”
T-Pain - I’m Sprung - Especially obvious on “homies” and “lady.”
Avril Lavigne - Complicated - Listen to “way,” “when,” “driving,” “you’re.”
Uncle Kracker - Follow Me
The whole vocal sounds strained, but especially the word “goodbye.”
Maroon 5 - She Will Be Loved - Listen for “rain” and “smile.”
Natasha Bedingfield - Love Like This - “Apart” and “life.”
Sean Kingston - Beautiful girls - “OoooOver” doesn’t sound human.
JoJo - Too Little Too Late - Appropriately, “problem” stands out.
Rascal Flatts - Life is a Highway
Every vocal, foreground and background, is treated, but “drive” in particular.
New Found Glory - Hit or Miss - “Thriller”, and every time Jordan sings “I.”
The Cher Effect
When used noticeably, an auto-tuner produces what most call “The Cher Effect“, named for her trademark sound in the song Believe*. (In essence, we named the effect like scientists naming a new disease after its first victim.) Treated this heavily, a vocal track sounds synthetic, and obviously processed.
But not all auto-tuning is so blatant. In the sample above, it’s harder to hear the pitch correction on Uncle Kracker and Avril than on T-Pain and Bedingfield.
As with any tool, a little care can yield great results. Some simple things to keep in mind about pitch correction tools:
- Performance: Most importantly, an auto-tuner isn’t a shortcut to a perfect performance. If you can’t sing the song properly, no amount of post-processing will make it sound like you did. So when your pitch matters, and you don’t want to correct it with an effect, you’ll need to work on your performance until it’s right.
- Less is more: The fewer notes you correct, the less obvious your use of an auto tuner will be. Consider automating the plugin so it acts only when most needed.
- Graphical mode: If your pitch correction software offers a graphical mode (like Antares Auto-Tune and Melodyne,) learn how to work with it. The default “auto” modes are OK for basic corrections, but often produce noticeable yodeling.
- Backing vocals: In general, you can get away with more pitch correction on backing vocals than lead vocals.
- Outdated: Obvious vocoder-style autotuning is dated, and borders on kitschy. The synthetic warbling vocal sound marks songs as having come from a specific era, the same way gated-reverb on drums instantly places a song in the 1980′s. Remember: If you make the auto tuner obvious, people will say your song uses “the Cher effect.” Let this be a guideline.
Let us not forget that very soon we will have Melodyne DNA which can analyse CHORDS and seperate the note individually, allowing complete control of volumes dynamics and pitch. This will surly lead to to some nasty uses hopefully alongside some inovative ones.
I can not wait!