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By Arnaud Wyart (translation : Sam Shore)

Auto-Tune, The Story of an Artifical Quarrel



Summary/Commentary:

Arnaud Wyart takes us through a technological journey with auto tune. Love it or hate it, the music technology has left a lasting impression on our musical consciousness.

This article originally appeared on Trax Mag

Every month, Trax and Star Music will introduce you to a machine that has revolutionized electronic music production. In this edition, Teki Latex has chosen Auto-Tune, a plugin as magical as it is controversial, and extremely popular in the hip-hop and pop music industry.

Auto-Tune saw its beginning in the mid 90’s, far from the traditional music studio. Andy Hildebrand, an engineer at Exxon, the giant American petroleum company, was asked to develop a technology capable of analyzing seismic wave data in order to facilitate the search for oil at the ocean bottom.

Rising to the challenge, he created a successful tool. But when Hildebrand retired, he decided to adapt his invention in order to correct false notes and frequencies in audio recordings. As he explained in a CNN interview, his invention had tremendous implications for the music world: “Before Auto-Tune, the music studios corrected bad pitch by asking the singer to repeat the part over and over again. They ended up with hundreds of tracks that needed to be mixed together in order to obtain a song with no false notes…”

Auto-Tune saw its beginning in the mid 90’s, far from the traditional music studio. Andy Hildebrand, an engineer at Exxon, the giant American petroleum company, was asked to develop a technology capable of analyzing seismic wave data in order to facilitate the search for oil at the ocean bottom. Rising to the challenge, he created a successful tool. But when Hildebrand retired, he decided to adapt his invention in order to correct false notes and frequencies in audio recordings. As he explained in a CNN interview, his invention had tremendous implications for the music world: “Before Auto-Tune, the music studios corrected bad pitch by asking the singer to repeat the part over and over again. They ended up with hundreds of tracks that needed to be mixed together in order to obtain a song with no false notes…”

Envisioning this as a perfect tool for computer assisted music, Antares Audio Technologies spotted the opportunity and took the newborn baby to the next step. In 1997, Auto-Tune was officially introduced as the audio plug-in we know today. It’s function is quite simple : it analyzes the frequencies of a voice and automatically modifies it to match a predefined scale. But even though its main purpose is to allow producers or singers to use voices that were poorly recorded to begin with, it also hides another one. By pushing the settings, it becomes possible to actually transform the voice into another one. That’s precisely what Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling did when they produced Believe, the song composed by Cher that made Auto-Tune popular in 1998. The two Englishmen over-pushed the correction settings to the point of obtaining a robotic sound each time the plug in processed a signal. The effect is mind-blowing, the song not so much…

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Read the full story at Trax Mag





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