Know your enemy: Auto-Tune


Thus far, metal has remained largely immune to Auto-Tune, the insidious technology that does what this poster says. Auto-Tune is now standard equipment in just about every recording studio. In brief, it is used to turn an off-key note into an in-tune note. As a result, the bands and singers who use Auto-Tune on their recordings sound nothing like they do in live performances… unless they mime their singing to an Auto-Tuned track.

There have been accusations — or maybe they’re just unfounded suspicions — that a couple of metal bands have used the technology to make their albums sound better. That could be very risky since metal fans who know anything about Auto-Tune are united in their hatred of it.

For a short, clear and entertaining insight into what the technology is all about, watch this video:

Now brace yourself for something grimly horrifying. At the beginning of this year some studio guy leaked a snippet, just eight seconds long, of Britney Spears before and after the engineers dragged her into key with Auto-Tune. You don’t have to listen to a whole Britney song, the entire video runs for less than a minute. It is most illuminating.

Do any metal bands use the devilish software? There were stories that All That Remains used Auto-Tune in the chorus of “This Calling”. The counter-argument was that the band simply used overtracking to make the solo vocal sound like many voices, but the voice recording itself wasn’t tweaked. Many bands in all genres use overtracking. Those one-person projects couldn’t record without overtracking layers of instruments recorded separately, then superimposed to sound like an entire band playing at once.

Do you hear overtracking or Auto-Tune here?

A similar allegation was made about Theory of a Deadman. My ancient ears aren’t so good anymore. I’m not going to express an opinion. You decide for yourself if the vocals sound too true to be true.

Auto-Tune isn’t going to disappear any time soon. It has become pervasive in spite of the widespread distaste for it, as summed up by Neil McCormick, music critic for The Daily Telegraph. He said Auto-Tune was a “particularly sinister invention that has been putting extra shine on pop vocals since the 1990s” by taking “a poorly sung note and transposing it, placing it dead centre of where it was meant to be.”

Is there a place for Auto-Tune? I believe so, as long as it’s not used to make a bad singer sound like a good one (which itself is highly debatable). It can enhance entertainment very effectively, as it does in the Symphony of Science series of videos. No one expects quantum physics, for instance, to be entertaining, and no one expects a physicist to be a singer. With Auto-Tune, both of those things can happen. It’s fun.

But we, the dedicated fans of so many great metal bands, would cringe and shrivel into nothing if our metal heroes began stuffing around with software for the untalented.



Posted on August 26, 2014, in Ramblings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Excellent Weird Al Explanation and video. I never knew that effect was auto-tune. I always found it so annoying. Must stay away from metal!

  2. I just can not understand why someone acutally wants to achieve this effect. If you don’t need real instruments, and don’t need a real voice, why should there even be a necessity for people who “perform” these songs? Isn’t there a programm how can write the “music” on it’s own, so we finally don’t need musicians anymore…;-)

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