With all due respect Ikarus, I'd like to offer a contrary point of view.
As the article points out, the autotuner is not going to make a lousy band sound great. It will just make them sound in tune. I view it as a tool to help clean up the odd mistake. Much like a spell checker. Or calculator. Or equalizer. I'm in favor of anything that adds to the beauty of the performance.
Not saying that you didn't have a point. Just that there are 2 sides to this equation.
Since this is an audio sight, I will repeat something I said a while back. Are we really looking for accurate sound or sound that sounds good? So many people listen to proven inaccurate speakers and enjoy it. All the equipment on the market that sounds so different from piece to piece---but where does accuracy fit in. Guess it has hit the recording industry big time.
I believe in preservation of the sound wave phase relationships which means I use time aligned and phase correct speakers. However, it is very disconcerting that most Redbook cd's phase relationships are so bad that it makes speakers like Vandersteen, Theil, etc. a moot point. SACD solves some of the problems but not all concerning phase. I have wondered if sometimes we purchase certain equipment to compensate for such bad sources.
Autotune devices have been around for a few years and like any piece of
hardware it can be used wisely or misused. As such it's a completely
neutral device. On recordings it's used extensively in country, urban
R&B and pop music areas. Interestingly enough, although it's use is
supposed to be non-detectable, producers have resorted to using
autotune as an effect unto itself (Cher's "Do You Believe").
Non-professional singers who learn to sing by copying current
commercial releases have actually started to incorporate the pitch jump
at the start of an "autotuned" note into their natural singing
I think we see proof that the recording industry is all about money and not quality. 95% of the mass market music sounds so over processed and electronic that I can not listen to it anyway. The small lables with "real" musicians are about high quality music and high quality reproduction. That's the stuff I enjoy anyway, so no big deal. If todays "artists" want to enhance themselves both physically and electronicly so be it. Their fans are using Mp3 and walkmans to listen through so no harm done.
Not trying to start anything as I have no idea of what as close to the original means in home systems or amplified music of any type. I can only assume that your tastes in music are of limited scope (In which case I guess I would have to agree pretty much)...or that you don't have much knowledge of the behind the scene action that takes place in recordings and even live events. I think that if you strip away the enhancements layer by layer and go acappella so to speak, we would find that a good many of the popular artist would not be so popular. I do get your point and understand were your at on this as I have wrestled with this in my mind many times. As of late I have be trying to come to some consensus in my mind on how multichannel music should sound...at home in my room. Should it sound like it does when I go out and listen to it up on the stage? OR, should it sound like I have them live in my room which puts me more in the middle of things type of perspective. There are recordings that give both views of the picture, I find that I like both somewhat, which is more "Original" would depend on my imaginary needs for that time and place in my mind I guess? Which brings me to my point
Something similar to this has been used since the mid 1980's (it went by another name then "syn-something").
A guy I know (one of the first few operators of the unit) worked with Frank Zappa and Michael Jackson, to name a few. It was used both live and in studio.
I got to play around with it once and somehow it could alter pitch while maintaining the original time signature/tempo of the music.
I just finished a couple of books on Zappa. The device is called a synclavier. He loved it, he said, because he could type notes in and push a button to immediately play it back.
Part of the love, I take it from the books, is that he had a terrible time getting orchestras (I'm not talking about his bands here; they were another story) to rehearse sufficiently and then do a good job playing his pieces. He noted the primary limitations of the synclavier as being that it cannot improvise (of course) and cannot reproduce emotion absent a level of complexity of the data inputted that was debilitatingly time-consuming--I'm sure folks could argue about the latter forever. I'm no expert; this is just what I've read in the last two days.
I acknowledge your points. But for me, what we are doing is both a "hobby" and a "passion". This two gives me hope to strive for the better. Provides me a means of outlet during rough days. Provides me joy and pride for my accomplishments and the accumulation of knowledge learned from others.
...those things are good enough for me.....I for one cannot forsee when I will stop striving for the better....it is not in my blood.....
...thanks for the reminders though....
This comes as no surprise, unfortunately. I do take exception to the statement made:
"The driving force behind this trend has been the fans themselves, who now have a more educated ear and can tell if something is off-key, industry experts said."
This is laughable.
Thanx for the link - I have to admit that my preferred state of ignorance concerning the current 'music scene' had included the existence of these specific devices, though I always knew there was a lot of electronic manipulation going on, 'cause you can hear it. As for the 'live' performances of someone like a Britney (who can't sing to save her life), I just assumed they were getting a lot of help from taped 'backing' tracks, in addition to digital 'enhancements' like harmonizers and harmonic overtone generators.
As to the appropriateness of their usage, when music is mostly synthetic and/or sampled anyway, and songwriting means so little compared to video-worthiness, media hype, and concerts that take Vegas as their model, well, why not?
BTW, I got a kick out of the article quoting Brendan McGuire and crediting him as producing several LP's by the Canadian pop-rock band Sloan (he said he disfavors the use of autotuners). Sloan are one of the most talented bands around, with all four members contributing both lead and backing vocals, songwriting, and they even swap instruments around in concert. But despite their welcome penchant for harmonized backing vocals shared by few bands of their generation, none of them actually has what you'd describe as a great lead singing voice, and listening to any of their records, which can be fairly polished yet engagingly off-the-cuff at the same time, it's easy to believe McGuire's claim - ragged, but usually right.
Interesting info on Zappa and the original "Syn".
It was the most interesting musical toy that I have experienced (the operator needed to be an artist/musician to pull it off).
Well, I wasn't aware that these devices even existed. I see it as cheating - in the rank of 'performance enhancers - doping' in sports.
I'm not sure what my musical tastes have to do with it, but, here it is : heavily classical and jazz, some ethnic - no, no rap and very little pop.
What will we have next; a six year old playing a harmonica that is electrically altered to sound like a symphony?
I have seen Santana, Clapton and Stevie Ray hit bad notes and it was just as beautiful to hear them recover from them and make something out of nothing. Granted, these artist are the best in the world and they can turn a blemish into a masterful stroke. Not everyone can. This makes me wonder what is real and what is Memorex.
By the way, do people actually go and see Britney Spears to hear her sing?
Ikarus, by musical tastes I ment that you may play the types of music that does not often use all these types of tricks as pop, rock, new age, electronica types of music do and would maybe be less aware. You seemed to be surprised by all this doping and performance enhancer stuff. I don't always seem to transfer my thoughts to words very well.
I wonder what effect this thing would have on BB King when he bends his guitar string? One of things a blues player will do is to actually hit certain notes thate are MEANT to be out of tune (e.g., "blue" thirds and sevenths). I would like to think that a great blues player would confuse the device so much that it would just blow up a la The Simpsons. BUT . . .
This phenomenon is probably a reflection of what most Americans want: to be fooled, duped, hoodwinked, politely lied to, etc.--and have the honor of paying even more money for it! The truth hurts too much; let's just clean it up and not worry about reality. And hey, did you SEE what Britney Spears was (not) wearing?! Music? Whu?
As far as studio recordings go the use of autotone type devices is NOT cheating. Musicians, producers and engineers are at liberty to use whatever technology at their disposal to further their shared musical vision. Technology (synthesizers, sequencers and MIDI programming) have made it possible to separate the ability to actual play an instrument to make music versus being able to program a computer to make music. Each requires an active musical imagination and each is a perfectly valid method of producing music.
In pop/rock recordings it is typical for a vocal or instrumental solo on the record to have never actually existed as a real performance in the first place. The vocalist might record six different lead vocal tracks. The producer and engineer will then "cut and paste" the best snippets of the six recordings into one composite vocal track. The final "comp" track is a performance that never really took place. If done correctly, the comp track is far superior to any of the individual tracks used to create it. Comping can be done in either the digital or analog domain. Is it cheating? The alternative is to have a performer who can perfectly perform their material. While that sounds attractive, in practice it usually doesn't result in great performances. Knowing that things can be fix later "in the mix" frequently gives musicians the cushion they need to just relax and let the music flow. The stretch out and try a few thinks that they might not if they didn't have their saftey net of studio tricks.
Onhwy61, while I don't disagree with you in theory at all, there is one other alternatinve you don't mention: Drop the 'requirement' for 'perfect' performances altogether. Put the human element back in record-making, and the accidental element too. To me, the best rock/pop was made in the days before the use of such digital 'correctives', or even the click track for that matter. I generally find only negative correlation between the artistic quality of work and the 'correctness' of its execution and recording. A lot of the interest and distinctiveness is in the 'flaws' - imagine how reduced the impact of anything from "Rock Around The Clock" to "I Want To Hold Your Hand" to "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" to "Whole Lotta Love" to "Anarchy In The UK" would be if were laid down in the anal, boring, souless manner of today's corporate product.
Zaikesman: Thank you! Music is performance, not product (in the commercial sense). Seriously, do you ever thing James Brown would "fly in" correctives or effects for his performances? I didn't think so either.
Zaikesman, it's interesting that 4 of 5 musical examples you picked are
multitrack studio creations. Do you really think the band members
stood in the same room and played the songs in real time? Don't be
The technology is completely nuetral and is simply a tool for getting the
musical vision in its final form. I think some of you are objecting to the
lack of a compelling musical vision/imagination and not the technology
employed. Musical taste may vary, but the following is a list of groups
that IMO have acheived musically satisfying results while making
extensive use of studio technology (EQ, compression, MIDI, synths,
sequencing, multitrack, overdubbing, comp tracks, samples, reverb,
etc.): Beatles, Paul Simon, Micheal Jackson/Quincy Jones, Blues Nile,
Steely Dan, Lauryn Hill, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Annie Lennox, Daniel
Lanois, Bjork, Bryan Ferry, Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, Miles Davis, Dwight
Yoakam, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Rolling Stones, Seal and Frank
BTW, James Brown would fine his band members for every mistake they
made. There's a great concert video where the band is laying down a
groove and JB is doing his thing when suddenly James turns towards the
drummer and says "I caught ya'."
Did I claim they played the tracks live in the studio? (Actually, they did, at least much more so than is common practice these days, but I digress.)
Onhwy61, I think you miss my point - my first sentence above was supposed to be a disclaimer regarding my opinion of the exploitation of available technology in the making of pop records: I'm all for it, inasmuch as it can be deployed in an artistically productive way. I'm not arguing against the use of the autotuner, and didn't in my first post. And even if I were, I see no real analogy between the use of an autotuner, and the use of mutlitrack capability, or being fanatical about rehearsing one's band.
What I am arguing against is the present-day requirement of the marketplace that pop music be created in such a way as to be totally devoid of all human variation and spontaneity. Modern pop recordings do not have the individualistic 'flavor' of those by the artists I mentioned, or many of the other ones you did.
The Beatles are a great example, because their productions pushed the boundaries of their times so far, yet I am dead certain that if the most important rock band ever were to come out today, their records wouldn't be allowed on radio, simply because they're too human. Which is f***ed up, because I subscribe to the theory that the one of the reasons why people still like to hear 'flawed' old performances that radio will play (due to the songs' entrenched position in our culture), is to receive some of that very feeling they can't get from today's 'perfect', but ultimately unsatisfying, recordings.