Ben that was a very well thought explanation.
----- Original Message -----
From: Ben McDaniel
Sent: Thursday, December 02, 2010 11:24 AM
Subject: [bbshop] Re: Use of Autotune
Auto-Tune can give a really neat effect to the voice when used as an
effect. I don't like it when it is used to fix tuning, though, because
it sounds weird (hence its value as an effect). One problem is that
the voice doesn't sound right when it is completely pitch-steady, and
the other problem is that it screws up consonants. And when it fixes
pitch, it changes the timbre, which affects the vowels and the tone
color and individuality of the voice.
As an effect, it's just like any other cool solo vocal effect, whether
it's narrow bandpass (like the Beastie Boys), talk box (like Peter
Frampton), speeding up or slowing down the vocals (like Strawberry
Fields Forever), backmasking (like "!aaaH-aH ,yawA eM ekaT oT gnimoC
er'yehT"), intentionally analog-overdriven vocals, or any kind of
phaser or delay. Most of those would might not work do much for
ensemble singing, but they can sound really cool with solo vocals.
Auto-Tune is only one of the problems with modern vocal recordings.
Another is extreme compression and clipping. The audio is compressed
(I'm not talking about data compression, but rather the audio effect)
until everything is the same volume, and then it is turned up so high
that all the waveforms are clipped and everything sounds loud. The
overcompression results in obvious changes in tone (if you make a
single note louder, it sounds more bassy; if you make it softer, it
sounds more trebley -- overcompression results in the volume and tone
changing constantly). The clipping results in lots of non-harmonic
distortion (harmonic distortion is like a blues guitar; non-harmonic
distortion is like a blown speaker).
And, of course, data compression screws up audio as well. A high
bit-rate mp3 doesn't sound bad, but audio data compression with a low
bit rate or one that's been compressed multiple times gets a jangly
sound that's just horrible. It's on television all the time now that
the audio is digital and the data is compressed (it's most noticeable
when an audience is applauding -- listen for that jangly sound during
applause sometime), and it's really terrible on internet videos. It's
even a problem in movies, where rather than using no data compression
with standard 16-bit 44.1 or 48 kHz sampling per channel, which is all
the human ear can hear, they use a higher bit rate and sampling and
compress the audio data. So they're adding compression that make the
sound worse -- you can actually hear it -- so that they can have
dynamic precision that you can't hear and high frequencies that you
can't hear. (Actually, now that I think about it, for movies 16-bit
might not be enough precision -- it's so loud that you could hear when
a sound dropped from one bit to zero bits, unless they added some
one-bit noise, which might be audible on a big theatre sound system.
But there's absolutely no reason to make the sampling rate higher than
Anyway, I'm not sure why I felt the need to say all of that, but
Auto-Tune, audio compression, clipping, and audio data compression
really bother me. Give me a recording of a quartet (or any music) with
a stereo pair any day (the audible difference between individual mics
and a stereo pair is a rant for another day).
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