NOVA | scienceNOW | Auto-Tune | PBS

Can't carry a tune? Andy Hildebrand's pitch-correction software can help you sing like a star.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For the process of correcting pitch, see Pitch correction.

Auto-Tune 5 ||
Antares Audio Technologies
Initial release
1997 [1]
Stable release
Operating system
Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
Pitch correction
Auto-Tune is a proprietary audio processor created by Antares Audio Technologies. Auto-Tune uses a phase vocoder to correct pitch in vocal and instrumental performances. It is used to disguise off-key inaccuracies and mistakes, and has allowed many major label pop singers to record perfectly tuned vocal tracks without the need of singing in tune.
In addition to being used to subtly change pitch, with some settings it can be used as an effect to distort the human voice.[2]
Auto-Tune is available as a plug-in for professional audio multi-tracking suites used in a studio setting, and as a stand-alone, rack-mounted unit for live performance processing.[3] Auto-Tune has become standard equipment in professional recording studios.[4]
Auto-Tune was initially created by Andy Hildebrand, an engineer working for Exxon. Hildebrand developed methods for interpreting seismic data, and subsequently realized that the technology could be used to detect, analyze, and modify pitch.[2]
* 1 Auto-Tune in popular music

[edit]Auto-Tune in popular music

According to the Boston Herald, "Country stars Reba McEntire, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw have all confessed to using Auto-Tune in performance, claiming it is a safety net that guarantees a good performance.[5] Sara Evans, John Michael Montgomery and Gary LeVox of the group Rascal Flatts also rely on Auto-Tune to compensate for pitch problems. However, other country music singers, such as Loretta Lynn, Allison Moorer, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, Garth Brooks, Martina McBride, and Patty Loveless, have refused to use Auto-Tune.[6]
Auto-Tune was also used to produce the prominent altered vocal effect on Cher's "Believe," recorded in 1998. When first interviewed about this, the sound engineers claimed that they had used a vocoder, in what Sound on Sound perceives as an attempt to preserve a trade secret.[7] After the massive success of "Believe," many artists imitated the technique of Auto-tune. Its effect was very apparent in songs of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Some notable examples are Gigi D'Agostino's "La Passion" and Janet Jackson's US #1 hit "All For You," among many others. After years of relative dormancy, the effect was revived in the mid-2000s by R&B singerT-Pain, who elaborated on the effect in contemporary popular music by making active use of it in his songs, a style that has since gone on to be imitated by numerous other R&B and pop artists.[8]

Auto-Tune Abuse in Pop Music – 10 Examples

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008 in Tips, Tools by des
Pitch correction software has applications from restoration and mix-rescue to outright distortion of a voice or instrument. I’ll discuss some of the more tasteful uses of these auto-tune tools (whether the original from Antares, or a variant like the free GSnap) 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:

[download MP3]
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.”


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.


Two songs have auto tuners on my mind today: Snoop’s Sensual Seduction(because of Anil Dash’s ruminations on the death of the analog vocoder,) and Natasha Bedingfield’s Love Like This, which I heard on the radio. In the former, the auto tuner is clearly a gimmick. But every time I hear Bedingfield’s song, I’m struck by the same question: Why do that to her voice?
She’s a fantastic singer, and once you’ve heard the song without the cheesy auto tuner effect, it’s hard to take the radio single seriously.
And there’s a lesson in that for home recordists, (even those of us who don’t write pop music,) which echoes the rule of mixing: If an effect significantly changes the sound of a track, especially one so important as the lead vocal, be sure that change improves the song before committing it to the mix.,9171,1877372,00.html

Auto-Tune: Why Pop Music Sounds Perfect

By JOSH TYRANGIEL Thursday, Feb. 05, 2009 external image a_aautotunes_0216.jpg
If you haven't been listening to pop radio in the past few months, you've missed the rise of two seemingly opposing trends. In a medium in which mediocre singing has never been a bar to entry, a lot of pop vocals suddenly sound great. Better than great: note- and pitch-perfect, as if there's been an unspoken tightening of standards at record labels or an evolutionary leap in the development of vocal cords. At the other extreme are a few hip-hop singers who also hit their notes but with a precision so exaggerated that on first listen, their songs sound comically artificial, like a chorus of '50s robots singing Motown.
The force behind both trends is an ingenious plug-in called Auto-Tune, a downloadable studio trick that can take a vocal and instantly nudge it onto the proper note or move it to the correct pitch. It's like Photoshop for the human voice. Auto-Tune doesn't make it possible for just anyone to sing like a pro, but used as its creator intended, it can transform a wavering performance into something technically flawless. "Right now, if you listen to pop, everything is in perfect pitch, perfect time and perfect tune," says producer Rick Rubin. "That's how ubiquitous Auto-Tune is." (Download TIME's Auto-Tune Podcast from iTunes)
Auto-Tune's inventor is a man named Andy Hildebrand, who worked for years interpreting seismic data for the oil industry. Using a mathematical formula called autocorrelation, Hildebrand would send sound waves into the ground and record their reflections, providing an accurate map of potential drill sites. It's a technique that saves oil companies lots of money and allowed Hildebrand to retire at 40. He was debating the next chapter of his life at a dinner party when a guest challenged him to invent a box that would allow her to sing in tune. After he tinkered with autocorrelation for a few months, Auto-Tune was born in late 1996.
Almost immediately, studio engineers adopted it as a trade secret to fix flubbed notes, saving them the expense and hassle of having to redo sessions. The first time common ears heard Auto-Tune was on the immensely irritating 1998 Cher hit "Believe." In the first verse, when Cher sings "I can't break through" as though she's standing behind an electric fan, that's Auto-Tune--but it's not the way Hildebrand meant it to be used. The program's retune speed, which adjusts the singer's voice, can be set from zero to 400. "If you set it to 10, that means that the output pitch will get halfway to the target pitch in 10 milliseconds," says Hildebrand. "But if you let that parameter go to zero, it finds the nearest note and changes the output pitch instantaneously"--eliminating the natural transition between notes and making the singer sound jumpy and automated. "I never figured anyone in their right mind would want to do that," he says.
Like other trends spawned by Cher, 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. But in 2003, T-Pain (Faheem Najm), a little-known rapper and singer, accidentally stumbled onto the Cher effect while Auto-Tuning some of his vocals. "It just worked for my voice," says T-Pain in his natural Tallahassee drawl. "And there wasn't anyone else doing it."

Read more:,9171,1877372,00.html#ixzz0j5qH9FxT