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What Is Auto-Tune?

By Matthew Vultaggio

September 22, 2022

Auto Tune as we know it was created in 1997 by a man named Dr Andy Hildebrand.

Andy was a PHD researcher who was exploring digital signal processing whilst also studying electrical engineering.

After development and testing of the auto tune he would go on to showcase it at the NAMM show.

This demonstration would cause waves and ultimately change the music industry forever. 

The term auto tune is actually just the product name, the product is owned and trademarked by Andy’s company Antares Audio Technologies.

What Is Auto-Tune?

But what actually is auto tune?

It is used to smooth out any flat or sharp notes made by someone whilst singing to ensure that the singer’s voice remains in the correct pitch. 

Once you have selected the pitch that the vocalist is meant to be singing in, the software is used to scan the vocals.

It will then pick out any notes that do not fit the scale and realigns them with the correct pitch.

Simply auto tune just makes the transition between multiple vocal takes smoother. 

Where Is Auto-Tune Used

Auto tune was incorporated quickly into Pro Tools as a plugin.

The software is recognized as the industry standard digital audio workstation more commonly known as DAW, you can also find auto tune within, studio equipment and as a piece of standalone rock mounted gear. 

As we have already stated, technological innovation has forever changed the way that the music industry operates, that is in the way that producers and studios craft a vocal track and how a professional recording is engineered, especially within the pop industry.

When looking at the charts all of the top songs will unitilize auto tune in some way. 

It can be used in a subtle way such as audio correction or the entire song can be auto tuned, this style of music was first popularized by Kanye West with his groundbreaking album 808s and Heartbreaks but has since been taken and perfected by Travis Scott who records almost exclusively with auto tune. 

The first recorded use of auto tune was in the Cher song titled ‘Believe’ in 1998. The song heavily used the effect and the auto tune dial was definitely turned up to 11.

This created a strong robotic, otherworldly chorus that at the time was brand new to audiences.

It would go on to become Chers best selling song of all time and is one of the best selling singles of all time selling over 11 million copies.

This now iconic song would open the floodgates and solidify auto tunes’ place within pop music’s production arsenal.

Within pop music acts like Daft Punk having mastered the art of auto tune to create some of the most iconic songs of all time.

By the end of the 2000s auto tune had been picked up by the hip-hop scene and the 2010s were dominated by heavily autotuned trap music. 

The Critical Reception

Auto tune was a pehnomian but it was not one that was well received by everyone.

People claimed that it would ruin the music industry, others said that it was cheating and was helping disguise the fact that they could not actually sing.

A man named Steve Albini who had famously recorded with bands such as Nirvana was an early detractor of auto tune saying that it was ‘mind numbing’. 

He claimed that it would become tiresome and a cliche in no time at all.

Jay-Z would go on to share a similar sentiment, claiming that it had become a gimmick and too many artists were jumping on the bandwagon. 

It was not just the artists who were not fans of the new technology, other professionals and publications were just as scathing on auto tune.

A recording engineer who remained anonymous stated that every track would now have perfect pitch and that songs themselves were becoming harder to differentiate and that everyone now sounds the same. 

Time Magazine included auto tune in their 2010 article ‘The 50 Worst Inventions’. It has also been described as photoshop for the human voice.

However, there is a practical argument in favor of auto tune especially if you are not a professional sound engineer or artist.

For example if in your song you may have a couple of notes that you may want to change, without auto tune you would have to record the whole song again.

This is where auto tune comes in as it saves you not only time but also money as you will not need to record take after take.

How Is Auto-Tune Used

The first thing when using auto tune is that it should only be used on the sections of your song that require it.

Especially if you are just starting out do not excessively use it over the entirety of your vocal take.

This is due to autotune being used on an entire track can be detrimental to the sound quality of your recording.

The two main schools of thought when it comes to auto tune are using it as an outright effect to place over the vocals.

The second is the more subtle effect which is using it in a more transparent way to fix any pitches in the vocals, this should keep the vocals sounding a lot more natural if used correctly.

There are three settings used to change the amount of auto tune being used:

  • Input Type – this is how you are applying the auto tune. Selecting the correct input type will make the input type sound more natural as well as being more precise.
  • Musical Key – This is the key you are working in. You are required to match the key of the song you are making to the auto tune.
  • Retune Speed – This parameter decides how quickly your auto tune captures any missed notes and then tunes it. The higher the retune speed the more transparent the effect will be, the lower the retune speed the more robotic the effect becomes.

Some of my favorite music marketing tools

Thank you for reading this article, my friend, and I hope you found it helpful as you build your own successful career in music. 🙂

Here is a list of my favorite and most recommended tools and resources that I’ve personally used to get my music streamed over 4,000,000 times on Spotify as an artist.

Any of the paid services or tools listed here are most likely affiliate links, so if you do decide to use any of them, I’ll earn a small commission.

But in all honesty, these are the exact tools that I personally use, love, and recommend to anyone – including my own friends and family.

Music Distribution

To get your music on Spotify on all the other streaming services, I use DistroKid because you get unlimited song uploads for a low annual price.

If you want to learn more about DistroKid and music distribution, check out the in-depth DistroKid review that I’ve put together.

Or, if you want to get started with DistroKid right now, you can save on your first year with the DistroKid discount.

Facebook Ads For Spotify Success

Although Facebook Ads can be a real pain to get working properly, there is no denying that they are incredible for growing Spotify streams and getting your music in front of real fans.

This is why I’ve put together a completely free course that you can check out called Facebook Ads For Musicians’ Spotify Streams. 🙂

Music Publishing Royalties Collection

For collecting all of the publishing, mechanical, and live performance royalties owed to me whenever my music gets streamed or played, my go-to is Songtrust.

Songtrust is a publishing administration company which means that in addition to collecting all of those royalties for me, they do it on a global level.

To learn if Songtrust is right for you, I’d recommend checking out this article on Songtrust vs BMI.

And if you want to get started with Songtrust right now, I’d recommend learning about the Songtrust discount code so that you can get the best price. 🙂

Website & Smart Links

I’m personally not a big fan of the link-in-bio and smart links for music pages like ToneDen and Hyppeddit.

Instead, I prefer having a full-blown WordPress website that allows me to have a full website in addition to unlimited music links.

For getting started with this, I really like Bluehost because it is the cheapest and a theme called Thrive Themes because it is the most flexible and easiest to use.

I’ve actually created a free Smart Links Course that you can take to learn how to get set up and start getting more streams with custom smart links (I’ve even included the templates I am using!).

Want more tools and resources for your music career?

If you’d like to see even more of my favorite marketing tools and resources for musicians and music artists, I’ve created an even larger list on this page: Best Marketing Tools & Resources For Musicians (& Music Artists).

P.S. There are even some free tools and resources included on that page as well! 🙂

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