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3 Reasons Why Auto-Tune is Not Always Your Best Friend

Robotic hand accessing on laptop the virtual world of information.

Jaime Babbitt begs singers not to suck the life out of their vocal take.

I started out as a vocalist back when dinosaurs roamed the earth so I didn’t know anything about Auto-Tune.

My first microphone was a rock. But seriously, I know a lot of old school singers and coaches who have a complicated relationship with Auto-Tune.

Sure, it’s become a staple of recorded music and that’s just the way it is. And it really can be used to save some magically emotional performances that might have a pitch issue or two. But, let’s call it what it is:

1. It can suck the emotional life out of a performance

Auto-Tune is ubiquitous. It’s on more recordings than you can imagine and I’m not sure that’s going to change any time soon.

However, if not used well and very carefully, it can flatten vocal performances down to a mere shell of the original. I know producers who tune every single syllable that comes out of their artists’ mouths and/or comp every syllable just to create the perfect vocal.

And, let’s face it: we’re used to clicked drums, instruments synched to the drums and perfectly pitched vocals so we miss it if we don’t hear them. But, what are we missing out on? Where’s the humanity?

2. It can make you less concerned about pitch accuracy

Back in my day, you were your own personal pitch correction machine; either you were on, or you sucked! And you had to keep doing takes until you got it right.

A line could take 2, 4, 10, 30 attempts! Now, producers say, “Well, that was close enough, come on in, we can tune it afterward”. Great. Thanks. No problem. I’ll just figure out what else I should do with my life.

Imagine if this “close enough” concept appeared everywhere else in life: “That’ll be $40…well, you only have $36…CLOSE ENOUGH!” “Your brakes aren’t working? Well, I can kind of fix them, at least CLOSE ENOUGH!” You get the idea.

So, singers, become the best, most accurate vocalists you can be. Study sight singing; train your ears; learn instruments – because it’s the right thing to do.

3. It can create a false self-image

I know lots of artists that don’t like to listen to their own voices. Therefore, they don’t watch their producers finish up their vocals.

The producer wants to do a great job for their client, so they pull out all the stops and Auto-Tune the crap out of the artist to make sure they sound perfect. Then, voila…the mastered final!

And WOW, do you sound GREAT! You can’t believe how great you sound; all your friends are high-fiving you every minute of every day! Great, right?

Waaaaaait a minute. Not so fast. How about you go listen to the un-tuned vocals and get back to me on that? It takes a brave recording artist to listen to him or herself being comped and tuned; it takes an even braver one to accept whatever truths they find.

Find out more about Jaime Babbitt at www.workingwithyourvoice.com for bookings, see www.greenhillsguitarstudio.com/voice-lessons You can see more of Jaime’s articles here.

  • Yavor Kresic

    Totally agree with you on this. the majority of auto tuned vocals don’t have any feel to them, they sound like cardboard. Blah. One exception is Cher [“Believe”].

  • Don C

    If you don’t sing with your own ability, you don’t deserve to be called a singer, full stop.

    Perhaps you might enjoy construction work?

  • James D. M.

    Cher has a great Voice to start with, though. She can carry the song without auto tune, (save that it is intended effect I think) and I am certain she does not rely upon it! Great point though. IMO autotune should be used sparingly, and as Don C stated, if you need a machine to sing for you, you aint singin’!