There are two types of musicians. Some get offended and dismiss any claims that their vocal performances are being altered by pitch correction software, and then there are those that embrace the creative use of the technology, making it part of their identity as a vocalist. It’s not, after all, always used as a subtle, almost undetectable tool. But what exactly is autotune and what does it do?
First, What Is Auto-Tune?
Auto-tune, since its creation in the mid-90s, has been used to correct the pitch of both vocalists and instrumentalists. Music producers use the tool in many different ways with the intention of making small changes to notes that a performer might not be hitting perfectly to bring them back on key. With some enhancements, it can also be used as part of a vocal harmonizer plugin, altering the pitch of a single or multiple recordings slightly to make harmonies in recordings shine.
The effect can be subtle, or it can be overdone to produce a slightly robotic vocal effect, which is when it goes from a helpful tool to a creative one. Here are some artists that use it more creatively.
If the creative use of auto-tune in mainstream popular music could have a father, it would be T-Pain. This singer-songwriter is adept at all parts of the music creation process and has been known to produce his tracks too. For an excellent example of where auto-tune is used in his music to great effect, give a listen to the track “I’m Sprung” from his album Rappa Ternt Sang.
Kanye is no stranger to being a ground-breaking musician, blazing a trail that others can only follow in. He might not have the cleanest of reputations, but his talent as a musician is undeniable. His music is incredibly diverse, and he has a catalog any musician would be proud of, but if you’re looking for some auto-tune goodness, look no further than “Love Lockdown”.
Lil Wayne has been making music for most of his life, first featuring on the album Guerilla Warfare by Hot Boys, which hit number 1 on the Billboard Top R&B and Hip Hop Albums chart. It was in 1999 when his first solo effort, The Block Is Hot, was released. Naturally, it was through a collaboration with T-Pain that we find this artist’s auto-tune creativity. Take a listen to “Can’t Believe It” to hear both this auto-tune masterpiece, but also a rare moment of singing from the artist.
Kesha found mainstream success early on in her life when she was just 18. Undoubtedly, however, it was 2005’s “Tik Tok” that shot the singer to international stardom, with a little help from our old friend auto-tune. The song uses the tool to great effect, and it only serves to enhance Kesha’s musical performance without trying to hide its use.
Auto-tune is part of the music industry and is used to great effect, both for the cleanup of slightly off-key vocals, but also as a creative tool in its own right.