Recently, Lisa reacted to Disturbed’s goosebump-inducing rendition of “The Sound of Silence.” While most people enjoyed that video, many seemed upset by a comment Lisa made:

“I do think there is some sort of tuning that’s happening behind the scenes.”

Some folks found this to be a bit of a slight against David Draiman’s singing…. DUN-DUN-DUN!

Although Lisa didn’t mean the comment to be a negative note, it got her thinking about people’s perception of Autotune. This week, we’ll talk about Autotune and what you need to know about it as a singer.

What is Autotune?

The now-famous software is an audio processing tool, released in 1997 by Dr. Andy Hildebrand. The original intention was to smooth out mistakes in a vocal performance without needing the artist to record the whole take over and over.

The “Cher Effect”

In 1998, Cher released her song “Believe,” which used the software to create this now iconic distorted sound. It sounded like a Vocoder or a Talkbox, tools used frequently by lots of artists like Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire and Bruno Mars. 

This became known as the “Cher Effect,” since then, artists like T-Pain, and Daft Punk, have used this robotic sound in their music. Even early internet comedy gems like “Double Rainbow” by the Gregory Brothers use this effect.

Falling from grace

Unfortunately, Autotune quickly turned into a musical taboo. People considered it cheating or “taking the easy way out.”

So when Lisa mentioned that she could hear “some tuning” in Disturbed’s performance, some immediately took it as an insult to Draiman’s singing. That’s how deeply engrained Autotune’s hatred – or general misunderstanding – is.

But here’s the thing: you can’t cheat at music. Music isn’t a competition. We don’t create music to be any better than anyone – we do it to express ourselves.

If subtle corrections or wacky robotics are used, they are only used as tools by artists to express themselves.

Raw vocals VS Autotune

Even though Autotune is a perfectly acceptable industry tool, we must not compare our raw vocals to someone else’s thoroughly mixed and, potentially, tuned songs.

That’s Lisa’s main frustration. Many people listen to their favorite artists and are discouraged because they don’t sound like the songs on the radio. 

And that’s not an uncommon/unreasonable thing to do! Lisa herself almost felt like quitting music forever after she heard her own raw vocals in a studio. An hour later, her producer had done all the fixin’ & mixin’ and adjusted and tuned her vocals. She settled down, but it definitely left her humbled and with a new perspective.

Comparing your vocals to engineered singing is like comparing your cycling to an e-bike or a motorcycle. It’s just simply not a fair competition. 

Engineered audio

Even if your favorite singer doesn’t use Autotune, there are still other industry standard tools that engineers can use to adjust vocals:

  • Equalization
  • Compression
  • Distortion
  • Reverb
  • Cutting and using multiple takes

If you’re curious about what these sound like, Lisa will do a little demonstration. In the video, you can hear how her raw vocals sound. Then David, our in-house audio expert, will apply some basic Autotune. Next, we’ll do Autotune and Reverb. Lastly, David will do a thoroughly mixed version of the track. He’ll use all the industry standard tools to make Lisa’s singing sound like she’s playing on the radio.

Lisa, of course, also wanted to do a full-blown version, dialing up the Autotune to 11. And so we did.

Going back to engineering… All these effects aren’t only applied to recorded music either. Even LIVE performances involve some sort of audio production. The music you hear at a concert is probably not raw audio. If it’s going through a microphone, it’s being mixed.

Make mistakes!

When we approach music from a place of judgement and criticism, we harm ourselves the most. We need to give ourselves permission to play, explore and make mistakes…. It’s part of the process!

You’re the only one in the world with your voice and your story to tell. Nowadays, we have more access than ever to tools that can help us tell our stories and express ourselves.

So if Autotune doesn’t help you tell your story, that’s ok! Keep exploring and playing around until you find a sound that does. But don’t be afraid to use these tools.

Give yourself permission and space to grow as a singer and an artist.

I hope this leaves you fully understanding Autotune and vocal effects and how they’re used. Hopefully, you’ll walk away from this knowing your voice is unique – you can spend the time working and exercising it and learn to love it. 

The next step of that artistry is using all these effects and tools to tell that story and create that sound you’re looking for. 

Take your singing to the next level

Unless they want to sound like a robot, singers still need to have accurate pitch and be able to hit the notes they are singing. 

So before you jump into using audio engineering tools, you’ll have to work on your pitch, build vocal strength, develop control and increase your range.

As a Singeo Member you have access to:

  • Step-by-step lessons and personal support from me (and a roster of coaches)
  • Daily vocal routines to help you build a better, stronger voice
  • A FULL library of beautiful songs to sing together
  • Personal feedback when you want it
  • Access to our forum where you can share and work with others on the same journey as you

Get full access for FREE by signing up for your 7-day trial today.