Are musicians who use auto-tune cheating?

From artists like T-Pain, Drake, and Lil Wayne, the public has come to know of an automatic vocal correction device termed “auto-tune.” Since its debut in 1998 by Cher on her track “Believe,” it has come under heavy debate: is pitch correction really considered cheating?

For one, the prevalence of new technology has made us lazy. A few notes off key can be fixed through music softwares such as Pro Tools and Logic Pro, taking away from experiencing music’s true art form of “practice makes perfect.” It lets those who are less talented share the same light or shine even brighter than those who are inherently gifted in the art, making music suffer as this process continues.

However, technology innovations have caused an evolution in many areas of entertainment. Movies are filmed with exceptional quality as new cameras, CGI, and editing softwares are constantly being created. Photoshop has greatly impacted our view of ourselves through aesthetic deception by editing out our extrinsic “flaws.” Microsoft Office points out errors in our documents so we dont have to spend hours proofreading.

If these innovations have resulted in cleaner and more efficient means of production, why can’t they do the same for music? We might as well go back to shooting movies on 35mm celluloid film stocks, capturing images only through paint and board, and creating documents on typewriter if we don’t allow music to be given the same access to technology.

quoteWe must remind ourselves that we are not perfect human beings; we all need a little help sometimes. That being said, in my opinion, pitch correction should only be used under two circumstances: to fix subtle pitch error or as an effect.

Every piece of contemporary music is edited, whether you realize it or not. A song is processed by an engineer, mixed, mastered, then sent for publishing. There is a process to recording, the same way businesses go through processing different goods and services. Even before auto-tune came into play, music was still being edited in some way or form. Pitch correction merely assists in fixing tiny errors that would save hours, or in some cases, days to perfect.

The Grammys and the VMAs are examples of networks that broadcast live musical performances at an exceptional quality. Imagine watching these shows and being distracted from the actual performance by the cheers of the loud audience, or get thrown off by the loudness of some of the instruments. Editing allows you to extract background noises and either heighten or reduce the sounds of the musicians on stage so that the performance sounds consistent and the way the musicians intended it to be.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that auto-tune is only used to help those who can’t sing, or that anyone who utilizes it is not considered a true singer, because in some cases, auto-tune is used as an effect more than as a vocal correction tool.

Singer-songwriter, rapper, and producer T-Pain is notorious for his excessive use of the device, but the dude can really sing!

Don’t spend your valuable time debating whether or not you should use auto-tune or hate auto-tune. It is entirely subjective to the individual and, when used correctly, can add great value to the artist and for those who listen. Rather than seeing it as a battle between good or bad, consider what’s more appropriate for the music. You wouldn’t want to hear Queen come out with an auto-tuned version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” now would you?

Author: Howard Chan

Howard Chan is a Senior and the Entertainment Editor for The Eye. This is his second year as a journalist and eighth year at SAS. In his spare time, Howard enjoys singing, making videos, and going to the gym. chan34365@sas.edu.sg

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