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It's 2019. Autotune is the modern sound, people.
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Gear Head
 

It's 2019. Autotune is the modern sound, people.

Saw some back-and-forth in a recent thread about autotune bugs, and it seems like a lot of older guys in audio don't seem to get the fact that Cher's "Life After Love" is older than a lot of pop stars, in current year.

The sound of autotuned vocals is no longer necessarily the sound of badly-applied pitch correction (that can be done completely transparently, with the right application of skill and time). Autotune in pop, hip-hop, and R&B vocals is a "sound", just like modulated Lexicon reverbs are part of the sound of 80s synth soundtracks, or tape-delay is part of the sound of 50's rockabilly or whatever.

I am old enough to have been making records when Autotune first came out, and when it was the source of much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth about whether it would ruin music. I am not sure whether it did or didn't, but it seems to me that most good singers are still good with or without it, and most bad singers are still bad with or without it.

What did change, was the sound of pop vocals. Just like hyper-compression, double-tracking, comping 100 takes into one... hard-formant pitch correction became part of the sound of modern pop.

Kids can hear it, and the under-20 crowd has not had heir musical ears ruined by autotune, anymore than 80s kids were ruined by digital reverb and synthesizers. It's a sound.

The teenage/20-something artists I work with in current year are hyper-aware of autotune as a thing, and they all have a pretty sharp ear for it, and a pretty definite stance on whether they want it or not, and if so, how much that want. And it almost never has anything to do with their singing ability, it has to do with the sound.

Young rappers who aren't even singing notes will request auto-tune because they want that slick, modern, artificial sound. Other guys who *do* sing, will deliberately want you to leave the pitchy doubled vocals untouched, to get that old-school, "hard" or retro sound.

Soul/R&B singers especially tend to regard autotune as an aesthetic choice. Some singers with A+ pitch will complain that "I can't hear the auto-tune, can you make it harder?" They are not trying to correct faulty pitch, they just want to hear that modern, synthesized-vocal sound on their voice. Others will flat-out refuse any pitch-correction, even if it's just tweaking a single off note. They want to sound "old school" or "authentic".

I feel like it's mostly rock guys, and frankly kind of dated ones, who get mired down in sort of moral debates over the ethics of autotune. I am sure that similar debates were had when fretted instruments were first introduced. Fortunately the existence of Fender basses has not ended the existence of string bass and cellos.

The era for protesting digital pitch-correction on artistic grounds came and went 20 years ago. It's just part of the toolkit now, and for a lot of talented young artists, it's part of the sound. It's not that they can't sing, it's that they want to sound the way that radio music sounds, in their experience.

Other young kids in 2019 are in love with the older sounds and don't want any of that, they want to record to tape with a real hammond organ through a real spinning leslie and all that. Honestly, this generation is way more informed and more aware of stuff like that than any before in history.

It's time to get over the notion of autotune as some kind of "crutch". It's an effect, and an old one, a mainstream one, and probably an overused one. But if you can hear the autotune, that's usually because the singer or producer wanted you to hear it, not because they were incapable of producing a natural-sounding vocal in-pitch.
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Lives for gear
 

I want to record to tape autotuned vocals through a real spinning Leslie and all that.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Gear Addict
 

The music is still absolute drivel, no amount of autotune because it’s the “sound” is going to change their ability to produce utter musical garbage.
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by acidlab View Post
The music is still absolute drivel, no amount of autotune because it’s the “sound” is going to change their ability to produce utter musical garbage.
I have no idea what particular album from what particular year meets your definition of "not drivel", but in general, the guys who think the only good records were made in 1978 or whatever are marking themselves as incapable of doing anything but aping one particular sound.

The audio world is full of guys who can make a record sound like Pink Floyd or the Beatles, if they were given the same mics in the same rooms with same budgets and same musicians, because there is a whole library of books that tell you how to do it. Which are incredibly valuable, but also, anybody can do it now, because it's already been done, and documented to death.

But go to those same guys, who read all the right books and own all the right mics to make a Beatles record, and tell them you want to make a Lady Gaga record or a Lorde or Cardi B or Ariana Grande record, and it's like they are basically too good for anything that has actually been on the radio for the past 40 years, unless it's some retro-vibe thing like Bruno Mars or Janelle Monae, then they might deign to touch it.

But those old-school purists are not the people making hits, anymore than the classical purists were making hits back in the big-band era, or the big-band purists were making hits in the rhythm-n-blues era, or the R&B purists were making hits in the arena-rock era, or the synth-pop era, or whenever people have been too cool for the new instruments and tools that weren't around when they were younguns....

Meanwhile, all the greats have always used all the technology available to them, from Bach to Beethoven to Hendrix to Van Halen to Wu Tang and so on. And their art does not become obsolete. And the technology used does not determine what is trash or good, the art does.

The guys who try to gatekeep what technology is acceptable in the creation of art are usually the ones to be wary of, not the ones who are using the new technology. The guys who want you to judge what they do based not on its merits, but based on some formula of supposed rules for good art, they are the ones who will hold you back and who will hold back the success of people more talented than they are.

Learn the old arts and the new ones, and use the ones that work for your music.
Old 1 week ago
  #5
Lives for gear
 

Singing in tune is retro lol. It got in place so the industry could sign and exploit those with less talent. This effect as you call it has more to do with monitizing than artistic expression. It allowed creation of a cheaper interchangeable product.
Old 1 week ago
  #6
Lives for gear
 

The boring thing about it all to me is the dichotomy that's always struck. The classicist purists versus the pop hitmakers. There are things I can like about both groups, but my biggest critique of both is that neither are fully taking advantage of all of the toys at their disposal. Neither are having enough fun experimenting with everything. Mix them all up, worry less about purism or hitmaking and more on sonic exploration with the goal of communicating a feeling. Like I said before, take that super autotuned vocal and throw it through a Leslie like the Beatles and countless other folks did. Mix it up. The purists should explore some new technology. The hitmakers should read that big sprawling Beatles recording book. A hybrid approach where anything goes is much more interesting than just choosing one side or the other.
Old 1 week ago
  #7
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by yep View Post
The guys who want you to judge what they do based not on its merits, but based on some formula of supposed rules for good art, they are the ones who will hold you back and who will hold back the success of people more talented than they are.
Seems to me that those kind of guys don't want you to judge what they do. Which is easy to comply with, because they don't actually do anything. Or at least around here, there's no evidence of it.
Old 1 week ago
  #8
Gear Addict
 

Not a fan of Auto Tune, but I absolutely love Steinberg's VariAudio and use it daily.
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