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Everything You Were Scared to Ask About Autotune

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Autotune is everywhere. It is found on countless albums, and with the help of iPhone apps, the rest of the world are getting in on the act as well. What is Autotune, and why is it so popular?

Autotune is huge on Audiotuts+. This may surprise you, but our most popular tutorial ever is How to Autotune Your Vocals Like T-Pain, Cher or Daft Punk by Nic Bertino, which was published way back in July 2008. Even today it brings in three times as much traffic than any other tutorial. Also popular is Ryan Leach's tutorial How to Use Pitch Correction for Vocal Effects which explains how he created one of the tracks for the soon-to-be-released short film I.D.

But Autotune is also a controversial subject, as you'll discover by reading the comments to those tutorials. Many despise it as much as others love it. Some see it as cheating, feeling that if a person can't sing in tune, they shouldn't be making albums.

In this article we'll have a look at what Autotune is, whether it is only used by pitchy or untalented singers, and how it is being used by the average Youtube poster. And I'd love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments.


What is Autotune?

While I'm sure you understand basically what Autotune is, and what it sounds like, we'll start with a video that demonstrates just how widely it is being used.

If you'd like to get a bettle handle on exactly what Autotune is, no one explains it as creatively as "Weird Al" and the Know Your Meme team.

So, how do you create a track with Autotune? Herbert Midgley explains how to use it with software just about anyone can get their hands on - GarageBand.

And finally, if you were to ask T-Pain himself about Autotune, whether he thought it would become successful, about those who despise it, and why it has become popular, what would he say? Here's what he said when DJ Skee asked.


Is It Only Used By the Untalented?

As I said, people despise Autotune. They feel that if you can't sing in tune you shouldn't be making albums. No one said it clearer than Alex in a comment to our first Autotune tut:

The person who invented auto tune must hate music. I am a blues rock and jazz musician and i love the classics. I have respect for the very few bands left that play there own instruments and sing and can write a song. If you can’t sing you shouldn’t try there many people out there that are born with a talent to sing, and auto tune is like saying that talent is useless.

So, is it true? Let's have a look at four examples of Autotune users:

1. Eduard Khil, Mr. Trololo

While I wouldn't call Mr. Trololo "The Russian T-Pain", he did find new fame last year by the release of the following heavily autotuned track which went viral on Youtube.

Another version of the track was let loose on Youtube, but this time without Autotune. See if you can listen to it right through without flinching.

That's terrible. Really terrible. But my grandmother told me not to believe everything I see on Youtube. Khil had a successful singing career for most of his life. Maybe he was having an off day, or clowning around, or perhaps the video is a fake. What are your thoughts?

2. The Autotune King 77

So if Mr. Trololo leaves us in some doubt that Autotune is used to mask a singer's lack of talent, The Autotune King 77 puts us out of our misery. He freely confesses:

Alright, I can't sing for my life, which is why I use Autotune, and this video completly shows how badly I sing without it. But hello Autotune, help me!

I'll let him explain and demonstrate himself.

3. Miley Cyrus

In the album version of Miley's song Party in the USA you can clearly hear the Autotune at work. Someone thought it would be fun to find out what she sounds like without Autotune, and posted this live version of the song on Youtube.

As hilarious as that is, it is clearly an overdubbed fake. Miley, like any singer worth their salt, has genuine talent. (Whether she got it from her dad is another issue.) She is sometimes known to give impromtu concerts at restaurants and other public places, and some of these have been captured on mobile phones and posted to Youtube. Here's Miley totally unplugged:

Well, that sounds nothing like the fake video earlier. If you enjoyed it, here's another one.

4. T-Pain

So that begs the question of whether T-Pain started using Autotune because he can't sing. This video clears that question up once and for all.

So, is Autotune used to make untalented people famous? I doubt it. The only clearly untalented singer in the list is someone you've never heard of.

Should Autotune be used to fix the odd bum note? Absolutely. Should it be used as an effect to make a song sound more modern? Well, I'll leave that to you to answer.


Everyone's Using It - The Autotune Parody

With iPhone apps and software plugins, Autotune is no longer restricted to professional musicians. Everyone's getting in on the act. Autotune has become a Youtube phenonemon. It is so widely used it has become a parody of itself.

The iPhone app "I Am T-Pain" put the effect in the hands of millions. Here is T-Pain playing with the app with his famous mates.

One of the most fun applications of Autotune on Youtube is to set politicians to music. I've always thought of politics as an opera! The best in the business are "Auto-Tune the News", and here is an example of their best work.

But if you're totally sick of Autotune (and if you've made it this far through the article, I'm sure you are), this one's for you.

Finally, we have to finish this article with Ellen, who will try anything once. Or twice. Including Autotune.

Well, that brings us to the end of our article. What do you think about Autotune? Love it or hate it? Let us know in the comments. And keep your eyes open for more Autotune tutorials in the coming months.

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