Sunday, March 11, 2012

Autotune Accidentally Invented By Oil Scientist

Auto-Tune is the process we love to hate. To most older (or shall we say "classic") engineers and producers, it's avoided like the plague, preferring to work the singer until he gets it right. Of course, no one complains when it's used on that one note that just can't be comped. Then there's T-Pain, who took Auto-Tune to a new level, using it as a integral piece of his act by using it on literally every song. It was bad enough when Cher did it way back in 1998 on her hit "Believe," when we thought the fad was over. Not so, apparently.

But perhaps the real story is that Auto-Tune was that it was accidentally invented by an Exxon scientist while interpreting seismic data using sound waves. The researcher was Andy Hildebrand, who was using audio to map elements deep below the earth's surface, which means basically looking for oil.

To his credit, Hildebrand, who loves music, determined that his method could be used to help singers everywhere, and so he founded Antares Audio Technologies in 1990. The rest is history.

Great singers still don't need or want it, but mediocre singers, engineers and producers everywhere live by it. In fact, many big touring acts actually use it live on stage. If that's not cheating, I don't know what is. Perhaps Auto-Tune is another reason to hate the oil industry?

Here's an interesting and amusing video on the history of Auto-Tune.



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10 comments:

VIOZ said...

NAMES!!! (Seriously.)

Bobby Owsinski said...

Not to dump on someone who just passed, but one of the names that I always heard using Auto-Tune live was Whitney Houston and her background singers. Britney as well, although that's no surprise.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the reasons why pop music sucks so bad! There is no one singing today that has the talent of a Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra. They didn't need gimmicks to record. They had pure talent. Today the ability to sing is simply an after thought to the way someone looks and whether or not they can sell a product. It's disgusting and I'm ashamed to admit that this is my generation.

VIOZ said...

MORE!!! (On recordings too.) SHOCK ME!!!

VIOZ said...

Is there a 100% accurate way to spot Auto-Tune? Because I mistrust everybody this days.

VIOZ with a moustache said...

I'm sorry to intrude, but I humbly think you should respond to this kind man's inquiry.

Bobby Owsinski said...

No, there's no way to tell whether auto tune is being used other than the artifacts that it creates to the vocal.

Ms. Clark said...

Wow, I find it hard to believe one of the greatest vocalists of our time used autotune in her live performances. Not trying to be the odd woman out here, but can you point out a video clip of a live show in which Whitney Houston used autotune? And what made you think that?

Bobby Owsinski said...

Antares used to use a Whitney performance, complete with background vocals, as their demo at trade shows.

Bobby Owsinski said...

Sorry for being more than a year late on the reply, Vioz. This got by me somehow.

The only way to identify it for sure is to have experience with the way it sounds by using it.

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