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blemonge's avatar

Is autotune use in songs a negative influence?

Asked by blemonge (99points) June 16th, 2010

When Cher came out with Believe in the late 90s/early00s, it heralded a new age in vocal instrumentation. Today, with the prevalence of autotune in many popular artists songs and it becoming a dominant force in chart music, do we think that autotune enhances the vocal experience or detracts from it?
Does the use of digital technology take away some of the emotional authenticity of vocal music? I think its a worthy debate considering the trends in modern popular music, and the changes in the music industry that have taken place since the dawn of the internet.

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13 Answers

Trillian's avatar

I hate that song for several reasons. Whatever is going on with her voice is a complete annoyance to me and I can not stand to listen to it. What did you call it? Auto tune? One word or two? Not that I care that much. It sounds completely stupid. I hate it.

envidula61's avatar

Here’s some information about autotune. It can be used both subtly and obviously, depending on the effect you want. It seems like contemporary artists are using it for it’s vaguely robotic sound. Other artists used it as a “safety net” for when their voices were off (or maybe they’d taken too many drugs).

I think that if you’re a purist, you get rid of all electronics in music. But once you open the door to electronically enhanced music, anything is game. I fail to see the moral difference between reverb and autotune.

My personal preference is for unassisted music. I like acoustic stuff. However, I also enjoy listening to electronic music and pop music. I really don’t care how they produce the sound. If I like it, I like it and if not, not. It’s still music to me, and it still has the same creative value (depending on taste).

Trillian's avatar

@envidula61 Good phrase; vaguely robotic. I saw that used to good effect in Sgt Peppers many years ago but the singers were robots so that was ok.

the100thmonkey's avatar


Why would it? If someone requires autotune to be in tune, then they had better be writing some pretty damned good songs – particularly now that live performance is becoming necessary to make an artist “successful”.

Authenticity is the preserve of the audience – an experience is authentic if the listener’s reaction to it is authentic, nothing more.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I’m used to people being able to sing on key without help. But it’s pop music. If the work resonates emotionally with someone out there, then it’s not my place to put down their experience.

Although I can’t stand that Ke$ha woman. Not so much for the auto tune, but for the hiccup-y way in which she “sings”.

tranquilsea's avatar

I hate auto-tune and actively try to find music without it.

DominicX's avatar

Autotune can be cool sometimes. Do I want it in every song nowadays? No, of course not. Enough is enough. I like some variation in the sound. But I still find the autotune sound to be cool under certain circumstances. There are other times when it really doesn’t seem to belong in the song.

The only time I really dislike autotune is when it’s being used as an actual “pitch correction”—when it’s being used to fix bad singing. Autotune should not be an alternative to talent, but unfortunately, that’s how it’s often used…

jazmina88's avatar

some of these yahoos need something to sing in pitch

blemonge's avatar

thanks guys, this is exactly what I wanted from the question! I think music has lost something if the artist needs autotuning, and I think its a shame that modern music is becoming more reliant on poster boys and girls and gimmicks rather than real soul and talent (I found out that Gaga uses it alot, maybe I didn’t listen properly but I thought she sung her own stuff, and since finding out she uses it in live performances I just feel abit disappointed, and its obviously a personal opinion but I’m also thinking Justin Bieber type artists – where the emphasis seems to be selling an image or an aspiration to a key market of teenage girls rather than having an artist that draws people to them because of their natural talent (again personal opinion on the Bieber guy, I really dont know much about him but he seems to personify a trend in the music industry these days))
...but as for its use as an effect in songs, I think it can be pretty cool an will be regarded in the same way as 80s synths is now in the future – kitsch but of the moment.
Anyway great to hear everyones thoughts!

envidula61's avatar

@blemonge Has music lost something if it needs electronic effects of any kind? What about amplification? What about anything that happens in post-production? How can you distinguish autotune effects from any other, morally speaking? How is it any more of a gimmick than any other?

Lady Gaga still sings the songs and puts meaning into the words and performs. If a machine gives her some pitch changes, that’s part of the music as much as any other digitally or analogally driven electronic change to the sound.

I think there is an underlying issue of class here. Traditionally, musicians were up on the stage and they had practiced for years and they could control their instruments better than anyone else. As such, they were different from ordinary people who supposedly had no musical talent.

But the autotune makes it seem like anyone can sing if they just have autotune to correct their pitch. It makes singing seem like less of a challenge.

I assure you that autotune does nothing of the sort. You still need to have years of practice to do this. You can’t just hop up on the stage and turn on the autotune and the karaoke machine and become an instant star.

You don’t even need to have a voice that stays perfectly on pitch. It’s just a style. Plenty of musicians have become stars with voices that wobble all over the place. Or other instruments that wobble.

I have no problem with you suggesting these musicians have no soul and talent, but it isn’t autotune that is causing that. You have a legitimate complaint about stars pandering to a market you don’t respect. Music has always been about image as well as musical talent. It has always included dance as a way of selling the music. The only time music is purely music is in a recording. And recordings aren’t very faithful to the real thing, no matter how good the technology is, are they?

blemonge's avatar

@envidula I completely agree with you, its very difficult to say things about music and the music industry without looking down ones nose at what someone will find emotionally fulfilling and which will speak deeply to someone, thus looking down ones nose at them.

And it is a personal annoyance about a piece of technology that could be applied to any of the advances in music technology from the last, well maybe even thousand years (isnt it annoying how no one is banging on rocks anymore!) but yes it is only technology after all, and not the instigator in itself of new trends or (what i perceive to be cynical) pandering to the markets.

I think one of the roots of the matter is, as you say, class, and musical snobbery, whatever values are put into the music that is sold these days they will be matched by the criticisms and values put onto them and created about them by nostalgia filled fuddy duddys (like me in this debate!) who want to hark back to a simpler rose tinted age and cite “authenticity” as their weapon.

envidula61's avatar

@blemonge I’m an acoustical musician myself. I play with a group that includes a synthesizer and an electric bass. It is the latter that really chews my ass. He can turn up the volume just like that, and force the music in one and only one direction (this is improvisation). People are used to just going and going and going instead of letting there be silence, so something new can develop.

My kids love the new music, and so I hear it sometimes in the car. It’s pleasant enough. Rap has merged back together with melodic music to form something closer to what I knew as a child, when one of the top hits one summer was “Young Girl,” or the song where she is “dressed in colors all the time.” This summer’s music at the summer camps will probably not be so different as it might have been a few years ago. And, of course, there are all the camp songs that haven’t changed since Abe Lincoln couldn’t grow a beard.

I am not fond of musical snobbery. I almost wish it were illegal for tv and radio to carry music. I would like to go back to a time where, if you wanted to hear music, you had to make it yourself. Access to all kinds of music via so many different media channels has, I believe, the effect of making far too many people believe they aren’t good enough to learn music. As a result of this discrimination against themselves, they miss out on a lot of good fun. And neighbors no longer get together on someone’s porch in summer to make music together.

Anyway, that’s where I’m coming from. I don’t know if that is consistent with my other posts, but I hope so.

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