I really do loathe autotune. For any readers who don’t know, autotune is a technology that can alter the pitch of individual notes in an audio recording. It’s typically used to “fix” vocalists’ tracks, when they’re not spot-on the notes. When turned up high it can create the metallic robot voice you hear on a lot of music nowadays (you whippersnappers, varmints, just wait’ll I…), but at lower levels it’s … well I think it sounds annoying and intrusive, and I also very much dislike the whole concept – I liken it to photoshopping (as you can see in the big discussion in the comments to the post linked above.
I had a notion a while ago of recording myself singing something, and applying autotune to it, so as to compare with and without. I finally got around to doing that on the weekend, using the wonderful Deep Purple (Coverdale era) song, Soldier of Fortune. In the embedded YouTube clip below you’ll hear first me singing as is, then the same clip with varying levels of autotune:
First (despite receiving a compliment this morning about my singing): I apologise for the dodgy vocals. Once was a time when I thought my singing was ok. Time was when I could sing Victim of Changes and Dreamer Deceiver by Judas Priest, and have Wasted Time by Skid Row for dessert. Now after a few good notes I start to sound like Axl Rose. So, I’m sorry – but at least this is low enough that I don’t turn into Axl.
Second, my conclusion:
“I’d like to think I can tell the difference between this [the version with autotune at 50%] and the non-autotuned version. However, to be perfectly honest, I’m not 100% sure I can.
Point is then: if when autotune makes a difference it’s bad, and when it’s not bad it doesn’t make a difference …
Why use it?”
The 75% version did correct a few dodgy notes, but to my ears it doesn’t sound natural. I fancy I can hear a bit less of the same thing with the 50% version, but I know that I might be hearing what I believe. – But, if that’s the case, then it makes no difference, and there’s no point to using it. And since when it does make a difference it sounds unnatural and lacking a bit of life (ok, to my ears it sounds like that), what’s the point using it?
The robot voice thing with the autotune wound all the way up … personally I hate it, but at that level it’s an annoying effect, rather than the audio equivalent of using photoshop to polish up a photo of a supermodel.