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The Deceptive Perfection of Auto-Tune

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the hitting-all-the-right-notes dept.

Music 437

theodp writes "For a medium in which mediocre singing has never been a bar to entry, a lot of pop vocals suddenly sound better than great — they're note- and pitch-perfect. It's all thanks to Auto-Tune, the brainchild of Andy Hildebrand, who realized that the wonders of autocorrelation — which he once used to map drilling sites for the oil industry — could also be used to bestow perfect pitch upon the Britney Spears of the world. While Auto-Tune was intended to be used unnoticed, musicians are growing fond of adjusting the program's retune speed to eliminate the natural transition between notes, which yield jumpy and automated-sounding vocals. 'I never figured anyone in their right mind would want to do that,' says Hildebrand." As these techniques improve and become more popular, it makes me wonder what music produced twenty or fifty years from now will sound like, and how much authenticity will be left.

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Authentic is the wrong word (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26763871)

People are still making the music, sure it might not be coming from the vibrations of strings and vocal chords but its still authentic music.

Re:Authentic is the wrong word (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26763961)

People are still making the music, sure it might not be coming from the vibrations of strings and vocal chords but its still authentic music.

In my opinion John Cale's 4'33" [youtube.com] is the most authentic music out there.

Re:Authentic is the wrong word (0)

Fast Thick Pants (1081517) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764051)

John Cale's 4'33"

Cage [wikipedia.org] , not Cale [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Authentic is the wrong word (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764181)

I'm sure John Cale must've done a version at some point, with him dragging his viola across the floor to get a nice screechy sound. :-p

Re:Authentic is the wrong word (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764057)

In my opinion John Cale's 4'33" is the most authentic music out there.

Ahhh yes, a piece I think many more bands should cover.

Re:Authentic is the wrong word (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26764087)

Chuck-E-Cheese's stage band is an authentic live performance by your logic.

Re:Authentic is the wrong word (1)

ConanG (699649) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764141)

Yes, that's exactly right.

Re:Authentic is the wrong word (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26764147)

Chuck-E-Cheese's stage band is an authentic live performance by your logic.

It sure is [youtube.com] .

Re:Authentic is the wrong word (4, Insightful)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764289)

Is there much of a difference between a robot pretending to sing at a live performance and a human doing it?

The Chinese Olympics comes to mind..

Re:Authentic is the wrong word (2, Funny)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764163)

Too bad Auto-tune wasn't around when Bob Dylan was made pop music.

Re:Authentic is the wrong word (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764215)

But if it was, then we wouldn't have had Dylan to compare bands like Boston to.

And... (3, Funny)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763875)

I thought they all lip-synced.

Next up: Fake Symphonies with synthesized "Real Life" performers. (with the symphony ticket cost)

Re:And... (1)

initialE (758110) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764045)

Google up vocaloid. We're halfway there.

Re:And... (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764115)

The other half is Microsoft Songsmith. What happens when you put them together in a feedback loop?

Re:And... (2, Funny)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764229)

Simple:

WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Turn down the volume, or the lameness filter thinks you're yelling. That's feedback, stupid.

Authenticity (5, Funny)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763891)

Yes, because everything that isn't done manually is inauthentic. And it's been getting worse almost every day since the end of the Bronze Age.

Re:Authenticity (5, Insightful)

clifyt (11768) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764029)

AMEN to this.

What the fuck is authentic these days? I'm sick of the notion that creative output needs to have an olympic mentality to it. It is like the guys that can play 64th note riffs on guitars and then act as if anyone that cannot approach their technical ability has no business playing.

In my case, I was a professional musician for a number of years. Toured nationally with a Grammy winning group. Had to get out of it because I developed severe arthritis that impacted my ability to play (it is an autoimmune disease as opposed to just bad technique...put me in a wheel chair for a year bad). I *STILL* compose and play somewhat, and went on to work with the same artist on the next album...some of my work ended up on it as I had left it as opposed to being replaced by other artists. Since I used a sequencer and samples, some would say this is inauthentic. So, if someone is robbed of technical ability (or never had any), their creative output means NOTHING?

Of course, quite a few musicians trade the autotune 'perfect' output as an alternative to creativity...so long as everything hits on the right notes, it will sell. I don't believe in that either. Creativity involves falling outside of the lines occasionally. And sometimes it involves being right on the line. Personally, I don't get the folks that think perfect technique has anything to do with musicality...some of my favorite works come from non-musicians with absolutely no training or technique but had something to say and used ANY possibility they could to get it up there. Far more authentic than most of the instrumental / technique bands I could ever hear...those guys are as coldly robotic as any autotune could be.

Re:Authenticity (4, Interesting)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764119)

Of course, quite a few musicians trade the autotune 'perfect' output as an alternative to creativity...so long as everything hits on the right notes, it will sell. I don't believe in that either. Creativity involves falling outside of the lines occasionally. And sometimes it involves being right on the line. Personally, I don't get the folks that think perfect technique has anything to do with musicality...some of my favorite works come from non-musicians with absolutely no training or technique but had something to say and used ANY possibility they could to get it up there. Far more authentic than most of the instrumental / technique bands I could ever hear...those guys are as coldly robotic as any autotune could be.

Ding! And that's exactly where true musicianship enters into it. Technical excellence is only one part of the equation. But having the sense and ability to hold notes for just the right amount of time, or to add that slight staccato element to a phrase is where someone with real musical ability shines. And these aren't the things that will ever be notated on a score. It's where interpretation and understanding of the piece comes into play.

Think about someone reading a paragraph from a book. Sure, all the periods and commas are there. Being able to say the words with the right pauses and stops is the technical aspect. But knowing when to put emphasis on certain words or phrases, or to add a slight pause even where there isn't a comma--that takes skill. It's why some people are better orators than others.

Re:Authenticity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26764149)

Well said. I think the problem is that a lot of people (even in the industry) think that perfection is must - and will do everything to achieve it. In my opinion, any great piece of music (vocal/instrument/anything) does not have to be note-perfect - in fact, a lot of great artists have great live acts where they have no retakes and are far from perfect compared to their studio records - but, they still sound great. In fact, in some cases, those imperfection make some of the live acts worth much more than studio recordings.

One such example is Led Zep (I think I am going to get a lot flack for this) - great band with some of the great live acts where Robert Plant vocals were way out there, but sounded just amazing.

Re:Authenticity (5, Insightful)

Fungii (153063) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764167)

I actually agree with what you're saying, but I think you're off the mark in this case - you talk about true creativity falling outside the lines occasionally, but in pop music autotuners are used to turn every vocalist into a robotic, pitch perfect singer. What T-Pain is doing is creative, he's going for an original sound but for the most part autotuners are the antithesis of creativity.

Re:Authenticity (4, Insightful)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764179)

It does seem that music and art, as with so many other things, the vision is what we're there for. Execution has to be good or we get distracted, but it's not what we turn the radio on for. Anything that conveys the full vision more completely, is a good thing.

Does anyone believe Britney has any actual talent outside of shaking her ass? Have you listened to her speak, do you think she's actually capable of stringing sentences together much less composing the lyrics to her songs? Come on. Someone writes her songs for her, composes and performs the music, modifies her voice... whatever. It doesn't change the fact that if you like her music, you actually like the team that creates it.

Re:Authenticity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26764207)

Rheumatoid arthritis sucks. Enbrel is helping me. I hope you find relief, too.

jazz bar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26764267)

What the fuck is authentic these days?

The bands that play at my local jazz bar.

Re:Authenticity (1)

sw155kn1f3 (600118) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764079)

I'll take hand-painted simple picture over complex 3d raytraced scene any day

Re:Authenticity (2, Funny)

sa1lnr (669048) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764123)

"Yes, because everything that isn't done manually is inauthentic"

How do you do non-manual singing?

Re:Authenticity (3, Funny)

jeepien (848819) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764195)

"Yes, because everything that isn't done manually is inauthentic"

How do you do non-manual singing?

Many singers find the throat to be useful in this regard.

Re:Authenticity (1)

JoeZeppy (715167) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764263)

"Yes, because everything that isn't done manually is inauthentic"

How do you do non-manual singing?

Boy, if there was ever a more blindingly obvious use for RTFA.........

Re:Authenticity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26764265)

Vocaloid

Authenticity (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26763895)

As these techniques improve and become more popular, it makes me wonder what music produced twenty or fifty years from now will sound like, and how much authenticity will be left.

What does authenticity have to do with music? If you like the sound, listen to it. It's that simple.

Re:Authenticity (5, Insightful)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763939)

It is however a downer for smaller groups or actual singers with decent voices, because they have to compete with an altered (potentially 'perfect-sounding') voice.

We'll end up with the same thing as what has happened with photoshopped magazine images - people expect unreasonable perfection, and the people without an army of machines behind them get made to look inferior. We'll end up losing touch with reality at this rate... What's a human singing voice sound like again...?

Re:Authenticity (3, Interesting)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763965)

So what? Stop competing, make music and sing because you like it, get the music for the same reason, if you can make money from it to, good for you.

If I made music I would want it to sound whatever way I liked, if that was cheating or not what others wanted I wouldn't give much care for that.

You got a point regarding looks though, I know what I expect in peoples look :D

Re:Authenticity (4, Insightful)

pressman (182919) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764157)

There will always be a Tom Waits, Neil Young, Les Claypool, etc. People with less than perfect voices, but write amazing music. Pop music is a business. Period. The suits are going to find the faces that will sell albums and worry about talent and ability to sing after the fact.

Though these technologies will primarily be used for the sake of making hacks sound passable to the mass audience, there will always be artists out there who will also put it to creative use. Bands like the Residents, Fantomas, Devo, Mr. Bungle, John Zorn, etc. will be drawn to the new toys and use them in unexpected ways.

People need to stop bitching about the quality of pop music. It's been crap since the 70's and only gets worse. There will always be great music if you bother to look for it.

Re:Authenticity (3, Insightful)

plover (150551) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764093)

It is however a downer for smaller groups or actual singers with decent voices, because they have to compete with an altered (potentially 'perfect-sounding') voice.

Nonsense. We already went through this in the 1960s and 1970s, with the introduction of synthesizers. I remember a Queen [wikipedia.org] album that featured this comment on the sleeve: NO SYNTHESIZERS. They were proud of their hard work, complex guitar work, and mixing and engineering efforts. So the next authentic singing group comes around an puts NO AUTO-TUNE on their album. Problem solved.

Authenticity becomes a selling point to those who care. Music lovers can trash-talk Britney because she uses AutoTune. Big deal -- they've been trash talking her for her entire career anyway.

AutoTune changes nothing.

Re:Authenticity (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764101)

And for every trend there is a counter-trend. For "authenticity" buffs there are the indie bands whose voices warble to detuned thrift-shop guitars recorded on audiocasette in a tool shed.

Do not worry about authenticity (1)

pirot (894930) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763899)

"As these techniques improve and become more popular, it makes me wonder what music produced twenty or fifty years from now will sound like, and how much authenticity will be left."

Well, according to TFA, T-Pain *has* been using it in a creative/authentic way, to create a different style of music. He may not be "in his right mind" according to Hildebrand, but he is using the tool in previously unexpected ways. So, here is the authenticity!

Re:Do not worry about authenticity (2, Insightful)

scotsghost (1125495) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764075)

"using the tool in previously unexpected ways" is innovation, not authenticity.

Inauthentic? (1)

Peter Cooper (660482) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763903)

As these techniques improve and become more popular, it makes me wonder what music produced twenty or fifty years from now will sound like, and how much authenticity will be left.

Are you serious? Is hip-hop and R&B the only form of music? Most modern folk, rock, and classical recordings have far more fidelity (thus more authentic to the original sound of performance) than those made twenty or fifty years ago.

Re:Inauthentic? (4, Funny)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763995)

Is hip-hop and R&B the only form of music?
Is hip-hop and R&B EVEN a form of music?
Actually, I kind of like R&B, but I refuse to recognize Hip-Hop as music. I mean sure, it's got a beat and you can kill cops to it, but it's still lacking something.

Re:Inauthentic? (4, Insightful)

tuba_dude (584287) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764065)

...but I refuse to recognize Hip-Hop as music. I mean sure, it's got a beat and you can kill cops to it, but it's still lacking something.

It's poetry with a beat behind it! And guns! They're like beatniks with automatic weapons.

Re:Inauthentic? (1)

vmartell (753021) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764173)

It's poetry with a beat behind it! And guns! They're like beatniks with automatic weapons.

I rarely comment on Slashdot this comment it's beauty - I should turn it into a sig... V

Re:Inauthentic? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26764235)

Actually, I'd rather Dr. Dre, Eminem and Jay-Z have guns than Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. I've read what they wrote and I've read what others have written about their lives, any man giving those people automatic weapons should be sent to jail for a long time.

Re:Inauthentic? (1)

plover (150551) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764105)

I refuse to recognize Hip-Hop as music. I mean sure, it's got a beat and you can kill cops to it, but it's still lacking something.

Just remember: "You can't have 'crap' without 'rap'."

The sting in the tail (5, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763907)

But whenever the artist is live, they end up falling flat on their face. I saw Lily Allen on Johnathon Ross the other night, and she sounds *terrible* live, I've heard schoolgirls singing along to their MP3 player better than that.

Re:The sting in the tail (1)

Greventls (624360) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763957)

That is because it is Lily Allen. Even without autotune, can a live performance ever sound like a recording. A studio is setup for much better sound than most concert venues. It will always sound different. You've got to deal with the sound guy trying to balance the sound. Then there is always the one guy who perpetually turns up his amp to drown everyone else out when it is a more amateur act. I imagine the singers of most bands that I listen to also aren't taking care of their voice properly. I don't blame them. I wouldn't want to have to constantly avoid different foods and drinks before a show.

Re:The sting in the tail (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26763967)

Auto-Tune does real-time processing.

Re:The sting in the tail (3, Insightful)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764021)

I ran out of mod points last night, so I'll post instead.

You're spot on. You can easily tell which artists heavily rely on post-production techniques based on their live performances. Some shine, and for those that fail miserably(Jessica Simpson, Nelly Furtado, here's looking at you) it is easy to tell why.

Real-time Auto-Tune (3, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764193)

There'll be real-time auto-tune soon enough.

Re:The sting in the tail (4, Interesting)

david.given (6740) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764239)

You're spot on. You can easily tell which artists heavily rely on post-production techniques based on their live performances. Some shine, and for those that fail miserably(Jessica Simpson, Nelly Furtado, here's looking at you) it is easy to tell why.

Absolutely right. I once saw a chat show where Sting was a guest. Half-way through he pulled out a guitar and sang something, and it was great. (I think it was Fields of Gold, which is a superb piece of music.) Despite the silly name, he's a real musician.

Interestingly, though, I once saw much the same thing happen with, of all people, the Backstreet Boys: one of the original glossy boy bands. Now, it was obviously carefully prepared, as four guys singing in close harmony doesn't happen spontaneously, so they could have sneaked in some postproduction, but the overall environment and production values makes me suspect they didn't. So it's possible that at least some of these people can actually perform.

Personally, I blame to songwriters --- a large proportion of the modern pap pop artists are just performers who sing whatever they're told to. One day I'd like to see a collection of music charts sorted by author rather than by performer and see if there are any interesting patterns...

Real Time? (1)

tchdab1 (164848) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763909)

How long before this feature is part of the amplifier, and live musicians are singing 'tweaked' vocals?
At first I thought that there will always be authentic live music, but thinking some more, maybe that is doomed too.
Of course you can always switch it off.

Re:Real Time? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26763945)

It's been used live for a while now.

Re:Real Time? (3, Informative)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764015)

I have a harmonizer that I bought back before this guy supposedly invented this process, which does pitch correction in realtime, and can definitely be used live.

Re:Real Time? (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764243)

I have a harmonizer that I bought back before this guy supposedly invented this process

Incidentally, how do harmonizers work? IIRC I've heard that they've been around since the mid-1970s [blogcritics.org] , but surely that was years before digital processing was possible- so how did they do it?

Re:Real Time? (1)

prestomation (583502) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764145)

You can use Autotune live just as easily as you can in the studio.

In the studio, you can here what it sounds like before cutting it, while live, unless you sing exactly the same every time, it's not perfectly predictable. I supposed if you adjusted the plugin to your average level of crappiness you could probably sing pretty well with it.

Re:Real Time? (1)

eggy78 (1227698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764269)

There are also hardware autotune devices with extremely low latency. I've performed live with an Antares Vocal Producer (it's getting pretty old now) and as long as you're close most of the time it will definitely get you there. You've got to be within fifty cents of where you're trying to be, but it can smooth out some minor roughness. The flip side of it is that, as parent said, if you start to drift out of the +/- 50 cent range, you get some nasty, nasty effects. You don't have to be terribly consistent, provided that you don't get outside of that range though. The new software plugins are better at pitch detection and correction than the old hardware, but my experience is that they're hard to run live due to latency incurred by going through the computer. In the end, I probably only played 3 shows with the AVP. It did its job, but it wasn't worth the trouble, and the artifacts from really sour notes were usually worse than the sour notes themselves.

Caramelldansen all over again (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763917)

Don't worry, soon actual artificial singers will have replaced artificial-sounding pop singers. Sure, the current Vocaloid offerings are still distinguishable from human singers for lead vocals, but when used professionally and as part of a backing track you'd never notice.

Re:Caramelldansen all over again (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764011)

Don't worry, soon actual artificial singers will have replaced artificial-sounding pop singers.

And I, for one, will welcome our robo-singing popular-music overlords.

Overused & Abused (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763919)

I never figured anyone in their right mind would want to do that

And who ever discovered analogue distortion by maxing the signal probably thought no one in their right mind would use that either. They were wrong. However, whoever discovered digital distortion by clipping probably thought no one in their right mind would want to use that ... and they have been for the most part correct.

I'm going to make a prediction that this is going to turn out to be a lot like synth drums in the 80s. They were invented for fast beats that no human drummer could play. Except everyone started using them. On every song--with utter disregard for whether or not a regular drummer could play that. And what we have is a lot of hot fast songs from the 80s with synth drums and a whole bunch of hilariously cheesy disgusting synthesized drum songs. Synth drums are still used today but tastefully and when needed and--most importantly--in moderation.

I predict that we will look back at this vocal manipulation and see it the same way. It will have its place in a studio's toolbox where people want to modulate their voice unnaturally fast for a single song and can experiment with it. But these albums where every song has this applied to it are probably going to look like we resurrected & worshipped Max Headroom to future generations.

One more important thing: you don't know who is doing this. Is it Britney Spears? Does she really have control over her music? Are the fans actually demanding it? If this package is only $600 then why don't we see more bands (even independent) using this stuff? That's within any studio's price range.

I'm going to guess that it's safer for the corporate guys who run Spears & Co to bet on a machine to make perfect pitch. The fans are just told what to listen to by the radio anyway. I still get a kick out of listening to people defend Britney Spears as a talented musician when I'm pretty sure she's just a world class entertainer. Someone else shows her what to sing and how to dance--she's the piece of meat that keeps sales coming. Sad really.

Kudos to Hildebrand for making such a large jump between two completely different fields for the same technology. That stuff is getting more and more rare these days. Unfortunately it's for two of my least favorite industries :)

Re:Overused & Abused (4, Interesting)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764023)

Mod parent up! The post is spot-on. In another 10-20 years, we'll be able to look back/listen to today's pop hits and say "There's that mid/late-oughts synthesized vocal sound." And yes, in the future it will be used to add a nostalgic element to music. The same as with the synth drums example in the previous post. The same as with the Phil Specter wall-of-sound reverb effect. It's a style that's part of the production toolbox. Just that at the moment it's the tool that's being overused.

And the parent is also absolutely correct re: "artistic input" of the modern-day pop idol. For a brief while I worked as a PA to a guy who wrote/produced songs for hit machines like Britney. When he and his partner would write a new song, I'd be the one sending it out to various talent managers to shop it around. Some wouldn't be interested, others would. It's not unlike actors vying for a leading role in a movie. Several audition to get the song, and one gets it. They're just the presentation face. To use the movie analogy again, do you think the actors write the lines that they say? They have a little input, but for the most part, they're just the hired help that's being told what to do.

Re:Overused & Abused (2, Interesting)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764219)

And who ever discovered analogue distortion by maxing the signal probably thought no one in their right mind would use that either. They were wrong.

First time I heard "Revolution" by The Beatles I thought there was something wrong with the recording or the amplifier- I didn't realise it was *meant* to sound like that. I remember coming across a review of the song from when it first came out which described it as a "fuzzy mess".

25 or 50 years? (1)

fredistheking (464407) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763921)

How much authenticity is left now in pop music?

There was a time when lip syncing would get your grammys taken away and have you shun by the music Industry and fans. These days it just seems commonplace.

Re:25 or 50 years? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26764127)

There was a time when lip syncing would get your grammys taken away and have you shun by the music Industry and fans.

No there wasn't. It was pretending to be the singer that did that. Lip synching to your own music has been around since Dick Clark was a teenager.

AutoTune is the cowards way to make music (3, Insightful)

mrL1nX (798019) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763925)

As a musician and a sound engineer I shun everyone who relies on Auto Tune to make themselves sing in pitch!

If you don't have the vocal ability to sing in tune then you shouldn't be singing.

I think it's disgraceful that AutoTune be used for anything other than correcting minor blemishes and should never be used live. In fact, I usually take the stance that if I can't reproduce the effect live then I won't put it into the song. The audience has paid to see a live performance. Not your studio album played through speakers.

Unfortunately this is becoming all too common nowadays, using digital tools to touch everything up because you can. I weep for music's future.

We don't have to worry too much (1)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764001)

I say we don't have to worry too much about it.

Firstly, I think this is a well researched and well written Slashdot story, kudos to the person who wrote it.

---

... it makes me wonder what music produced twenty or fifty years from now will sound like, and how much authenticity will be left.

Don't worry too much about it. As TFA (time.com) said: "the creative abuse of Auto-Tune quickly went out of fashion, although it continued to be an indispensable, if inaudible, part of the engineer's toolbox." Meaning the sound engineers quickly learnt how it should be used properly - Cher's 1998 release was a showcase on How Not To Use It.

"West's 808s & Heartbreak is the complete opposite ... ghostly and cold, and it's that alienated tone that made 808s one of the best albums of last year." Meaning they're learning to use Auto-Tune in creative ways to produce the unnatural sound intentionally, fully knowing the side-effects and consequences.

Grammy-winning recording engineer: "And every singer now presumes that you'll just run their voice through the box." Most photos used in glossy magazines are cropped, dedusted, contrast adjusted, even air brushed. As long as the engineer knows when not to over-do it, I think it's fine.

Re:AutoTune is the cowards way to make music (1)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764037)

I thought it was generally accepted that it's impossible for a human to sing in perfect pitch.

Personally I find it fairly interesting to see how people use technology to make better sounding music.

Anyhow it's probably not very important if all the sound can be replicated in full quality live since a live audience performance is all about the environment and the show and people care a lot less about how the actual music sounds.

Re:AutoTune is the cowards way to make music (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764175)

I thought it was generally accepted that it's impossible for a human to sing in perfect pitch.

Not impossible, just very, very difficult.

Personally I find it fairly interesting to see how people use technology to make better sounding music.

I can't say that I like a single vocalist that uses Autotune on a frequent basis...and it's not even necessarily because they use Autotune. It's because their music can't stand for itself.

Anyhow it's probably not very important if all the sound can be replicated in full quality live since a live audience performance is all about the environment and the show and people care a lot less about how the actual music sounds.

That really depends, again, on what type of music we're talking about here. I've been to shows where I've walked out because the sound was terrible (never for my favorite bands, but that's kind of why they're my favorites: they almost always sound good) and other shows where the bands were heckled by the crowd to the point that they cut their set short. And recently, too.

What you're describing sounds very similar to the pop scene, where loyalty to artists lasts as long as they remain the hippest kids on the block and not whether or not they produce good music.

Re:AutoTune is the cowards way to make music (2)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764077)

Provided the musican is more then just a performer but also a composer I don't have a problem with them using any tool in their art. Where I take issue with something like this is when they start using it all the time. Its one thing to do it on a few songs you want to sound a certain way for asthetic reasons because its "neat, interesting, creates a certain mood whatever", if you are doing it everywhere though then its no longer an artistic tool its just a cruch.

Take Andy Whorhol and the other pop artists, or the Marcel Duchamp and the Daddas before them. They were experimenting with adding elements for mass production to visal arts. They did this in a way that created things which were new and different. It was creatative; they were not simply doing because they were otherwise not talented painters and sculptors. If a musican can learn to walk the same line I am all for it.

To your specific point though, they probably should simply not do thoes songs live. They should be upfront about it with the audience too. Whats wrong with saying "you know what that particular work is a studio pice; I thought was fun and my audience would appreciate its not something I can do live; without kit."

I would loose no respect for them if they admitted that.

The only concerts I have been dissapointed in are the ones where what the artist advertised; was not delivered.
     

lose, loose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26764211)

lose and not loose.

Re:AutoTune is the cowards way to make music (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764283)

If you don't have the vocal ability to sing in tune then you shouldn't be singing live.

Fixed that for you. I pay for recordings of sound when I buy music. I don't pay for a piece of the musician's raw talent.

RenFaire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26763929)

Don't worry, there will always be purists in every field. Fast forward fifty years and SOME music is still going to sound the same.

Nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26763941)

For a medium in which mediocre singing has never been a bar to entry...

Balls. Showing that you know nothing about pop music right at the beginning of your article was a bad move. There have been decades of pop music where much of the instrumentation, writing and vocals were of a naturally high quality.

Scratch the surface beyond the radio-played cack doing the rounds currently.

Vocaloid will likely be good enough for me... (1)

r6144 (544027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763943)

I listen to quite a lot of MIDI/XM/MOD stuff already, and some are actually very decent.

Re:Vocaloid will likely be good enough for me... (1)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764049)

Quite agreed.

Firstly, I think this is a well researched and well written Slashdot story, kudos to the person who wrote it.

Auto-Tune [wikipedia.org]

---
"But when track after track has perfect pitch ... It also changes the way we hear unaffected voices ... People are getting used to hearing things dead on pitch, and it's changed their expectations." Now that I would worry, if I hadn't been listening to MIDI files, on sound cards ranging from Yamaha OPL3 FM modulators, to AWE64 4MB GS wavetables...

For the same reason that professional musicians either don't use MIDI, or use only the best MIDI instruments and samplers played by real musicians ...

I think real singers will either not use Auto-Tune, or use it invisibly. They may, however, definitely use it for background chorus singers and certain instruments.

I also think the typical audience (who grew up listening to lousy singers) will grow weary of lousy bands by the time they reach 30, and insist on listening to the better singers. (Them buying music from RIAA record labels is another story, though.)

So in short, we don't have to worry too much. For all the advantages that MIDI brings, the better bands still use traditional electric instruments to bring out the sound. I think the better singers will use Auto-Tune for live concert performances. But for studio recordings, they'll still rely on lots of practice and re-recordings to bring out their best voice.

Old technology (3, Insightful)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763969)

Hildebrand may have invented the particular algorithm which is used by many musicians, but the ability to electronically pitch correct has been around for quite some time. I have a harmonizer from that period of time which has a perfect pitch setting where it samples your voice and corrects it to the nearest pitch.
I was going to suggest that the vocoder was much older technology that does the same thing, however more research shows that Hilderbrands implementation actually uses a phase vocoder.
That said, the use of the autotune in the forefront I find absolutely atrocious. To me it's the musical equivalent of applying makeup in order to highlight the mole on your face.

authenticity? hahahahahahaha (1)

scotsghost (1125495) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763971)

As these techniques improve and become more popular, it makes me wonder what music produced twenty or fifty years from now will sound like, and how much authenticity will be left.

You make it sound like there's any authenticity now. Authenticity in the music business is an airbrush used to sell an artist's music. There's no reality to an "authentic" sound. You don't get a certificate with your CD or MP3 that says "this artist is an authentic descendant of Elbonian yak callers, and his music is guaranteed an authentic rendition of that ancient culture" (well, and actually means it).

Karaoke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26763979)

Now all I need are auto tune earplugs for the Karaoke bar!

AudioSlave (4, Informative)

bhsx (458600) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763991)

Chris Cornell uses this for the end of "I Am The Highway" (i think that's the name). That's what their talking about when referring to using it in unusual, unanticipated ways.

It's an instrument. (4, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763997)

The article is about people using this technology to produce effects, so the word "deliberate deception" no longer seems to apply. In this case it's an instrument, like synthesizer or even a lute.

Scene: 9,000 BC:
Hey, that guy has some gut strings on a hollow log that he makes vibrate, and they're tuned in harmony! He plucks them as he sings, so he can sing in tune all the time! That's deliberate deception!

Re:It's an instrument. (5, Funny)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764073)

Scene addendum: "It's deceptive *and* anachronistic! The eight note scale isn't supposed to be invented for thousands of years yet! Quick! Hit him with a femur!"

Re:It's an instrument. (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764247)

you'll have to find something blunt to hit him with; soft furry animals are not really useful as weapons the way you describe.

Authenticity is for the Olympics. This is Pop. (3, Insightful)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764013)

I could not care in the least whether the voice on "Circus" and "Toxic" belongs to a young blond woman named Britney Spears or an AI in a basement in Kyoto. It's pop music: flash, rhymes, synth, beat, top hat and just enough cowbell. Ever since MTV it's also been good looks and plenty of skin, and that's fine too. Lemme say it again: It's Pop Music! It's not classical, or jazz, or standards, or any of the genres which mandate legit chops. When I listen to a pop song, I am under no illusion that the person credited wrote the song, is playing the instrument, or sings like that in real life. I don't care about the artist (or his/her politics) I care about the production of the song.

Jeez... didn't The Monkees teach us anything?

Authenticity in pop culture? (1)

Quinn_Inuit (760445) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764017)

I'm guessing there'll be as much authenticity in pop music ten years from now as there is in the cover of beauty magazines (Cosmo et al.) now.

Handmade is not the same as authentic (1)

arikol (728226) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764025)

Music can have soul and character no matter what tools are used in its creation. Auto-tune is just another tool in a good musicians aresenal. Yes, it, like many other good tools, can be used to make bad singers sound better, good singers to sound awesome or weird. That has nothing to do with whether the song has artistic worth or not.

You may be shocked to find out that many of the old classics you remember (Sinatra and such) were written by people who could not sing and sung by singers which were better at marketing themselves than actually singing. They may have been great live performers, but that is not necessarily all about the singing.

Writing and performing with passion is ultimately worth more than the tools used, but the tools are often the means to get your vision out.
Recorded music was denounced as soulless and artificial when it first started. Look where we are now.

Listen harder... (1)

Jawn98685 (687784) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764031)

...using media that contains all the detail. That means no lossy compression technologies (mp3). And choose a sound system that will faithfully reproduce all that detail. No, your $20 ear buds or the Wal-Mart home theater sound system won't do. You don't have to spend tens of thousands for "boutique" audiophile gear, but you do need components that don't add to (or remove from) the program material
If you do these things, the difference between well-recorded audio and over-processed drek will be clear. I'm not saying the electronic tricks don't have their place, but they are not a substitute for genuine artistry in both the performance and engineering regimes.

Re:Listen harder... (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764107)

So... spend a lot more money on audio gear so I can hear more flaws. Gotcha! ;-)

You still have a laserdisc hooked up somewhere, don't you? :-)

Actually I think it's people getting music for free that lessens its value and hence lessens the demand for artistry.. Last week, for the first time in a while I bought some music (on iTunes store), and I've enjoyed these two albums more than any I have in a long time.

Miku Miku Ni Shite Ageru (2, Interesting)

Guppy (12314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764039)

Or perhaps for some purposes, we'll eventually dispense with real vocalists altogether -- Vocaloid [wikipedia.org] . A few quick examples of Miku Hatsune's work:

Reset: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrCxVzocnyo [youtube.com]
Uninstall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-fja9RtRBc [youtube.com]
You: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AV5JH8jUeXY [youtube.com]

BTW, if anyone has any other examples they're particularly fond of, please link below.

Weird (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764043)

I think I heard that shit on a radio ad a couple months ago. It ended with a song with a female singer. Sounded real, but there were these step transitions between the notes, and I thought it was some sort of computer generated or sampled voice.

Only the pretty people shall sing (1)

dm513 (1377097) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764061)

It makes it easy to market pretty people as singers if they can be "tuned"...We need never accept anyone less than beautiful as a singer ever again...After all music is a visual medium...Or at least that's what it seems to have become.

Anybody Remember Billy Joel at Super Bowl (0, Troll)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764089)

This is the worst live use of Autotune ever.

In 2007, Billy Joel sang the National Anthem with live autotune with all the wrong settings, and his voice got modulated like crazy. Sounds TERRIBLE!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bcT_YOszxs&feature=related [youtube.com]

The Audacity of Audacity (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26764133)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/05/AR2009020502766_pf.html [washingtonpost.com]

Amen. I'm not saying that McCain would have had much more success fixing the economy which Democrats like Barney Frank deliberately ruined so that they could pin it on Republicans and win sweeping victories in 2008, but there sure were a bunch of naive idiots who thought that they were voting for some kind of black messiah. Now look at your messiah, jackasses. Using the same fear tactics as his predecessor to ram through ruinous legislation. How does that crow taste, motherfuckers?

Don't worry (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764135)

Kanye will eventually get shot by one of his employees/managers/rivals, and auto-tune will go back into hibernation for another decade.

Eventually, "artists" will learn that electronic music tools should remain in the electronic music genre, as sonic exploration devices. Daft Punk can auto-tune whatever the hell they want, because they're not in the singing business.

In other words, if your computer does the singing for you, don't go around telling people you can sing.

Pop music is cool (1)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764153)

If it weren't for Auto-Tune I wouldn't be listening to pop music anymore.

Only Andy Samberg should be allowed to use one. (1)

Odonian (730378) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764155)

Space Olympics [hulu.com] FTW!

Authentic Drummers (0, Flamebait)

borawjm (747876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764185)

Yes, and authentic drummers used to make their sounds by banging femurs on skulls and rocks. It's a shame we don't have "authentic" drummers anymore.

Rush said it best. (3, Insightful)

koan (80826) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764189)

All this machinery
Making modern music
Can still be open-hearted
Not so coldly charted
Its really just a question
Of your honesty

American Idol (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764191)

Where can I get one of these autotuners? Oh, and where's the next American Idol session being held?

First fake visuals and now fake audio? Oh noes (1)

greggman (102198) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764233)

I don't have a problem when Mr. Incredible is not a real person, why should have a problem when his voice is synthetic as well.

Antares made another important product (1)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764245)

Antares' first big success was a sample auto-looping program called Infinity. It eliminated the pops and clicks that often resulted when repeating segments of a musical sound to allow it to play "forever." It's long forgotten now, but I used to run it on a stratospherically expensive Mac IIx system with a heap of Digidesign audio cards. It took a tedious job that I once despised and made it fun. The result was several very popular soundsets that I still hear used occasionally.

I'm glad to see this little company enjoying more mainstream success within the music industry. Yes, the effect is hopelessly overused. But that's good for the manufacturer, even though it's bad for the music.

11 years ago... (0, Troll)

Sopor42 (1134277) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764251)

How is this news? This has been going on for MANY years. The first example [youtube.com] that came to mind is 11 years old, and I'm sure this is not the oldest.

Authenticity? (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764253)

it makes me wonder what music produced twenty or fifty years from now will sound like, and how much authenticity will be left.

Ask an opera singer how much authenticity they think there was in pop singing to begin with. When you see a pop star with the mic pressed up against their mouth just so they can be heard, that already means they can't really sing. Electronic amplification has already filled the ranks with non-singers. This just adds a few more who can't carry a tune either.

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