love and bandwidth

You know what really grinds my gears [Part 2]
April 4, 2009, 8:34 am
Filed under: Grinds my Gears, music, reviews, technology


You know public, what really grinds my gears, is Auto-tuning in music. Auto-tuning is effectively the live trace of the design world; an easy, automatic device or quick filter which gives the impression of talent, though to the trained eye [in this case the ear] we all know better. The function of Auto-tuning is to correct pitch in vocal performance or used as an effect to deliberately distort the human voice [according to wikipedia]. This process is nothing new in the music industry, as it has been used as a standard studio tool for some 10 years to manipulate or fine-tune music, particularly vocals,  in conjunction with standard apps like Pro Tools [which of course has its own controversies]. I can see its need, but my particular beef is really when it is used in extreme measures to mask or hideously  falsify vocals. This has become especially prevalent in U.S. hiphop in recent years. 

Now I like hiphop, but I’m pretty choosey because most of it is pretty samey and pretty uninspired. I cringe at T-Pain especially, one, because he looks like Predator, two, his lyrics are dreadful [‘apple bottom jean’, oh please!] and three, well plainly, he sounds  terrible, but I’d never really considered why.  Until I heard Kanye West’s Love Lockdown. This West song I find unbearable to listen to; the electric gerbil drone is just fool and unnatural. What happened Kanye? Why the need? Insecurity? Some time later, after hearing it for the first time, it clicked to me why it annoyed me so much… this is just like T-Pain [note here that i’m guessing the ‘T’ in T-Pain stands for ‘The’, The Pain, The Pain to my precious ears].  Then I started to hear this hyper-pitching everywhere, most recently Lil’ Wayne‘s ‘Prom Queen‘. I just can’t listen to this song; the echoey toning just irritates me in a nauseating way. I’m being relatively serious here too. The effect just doesn’t agree with me and makes me feel odd and uneasy. I get that Lil Wayne is like a ‘musical’ phenomenon of sorts at the moment [although I don’t get this after that embarrassing Kevin Rudolf pointing song and various attempts to show us he can play an electric guitar in basically every video by just slinging it around his neck] but song just seems pretty shoddy. Listen for yourself [is this just me?]. I’m horrified that the skeleton of the band Korn feature as his backing band. 

Anyway I just hope this extreme use of the effect isn’t in style for much longer and I’m saved from adding more artitsts to my musical black list [which if you are interested includes also Soulja Boy Tell em’, U2, Coldplay and Madonna… all for other reasons]. I am encouraged that people in the industry are starting to pipe up. Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard states: 

“I think over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a lot of good musicians being affected by this newfound digital manipulation of the human voice, and we feel enough is enough.” [Paste Magazine]

I agree. Keep the tricks to a minimum and no more wobbly music. It was bad enough when Cher did it some ten years ago. To follow on from this, have a read of  this article by Sasha Frere-Jones from the New Yorker entitled: The Gerbil’s Revenge


Auto-tune EVo-pitch correcting plug-in is built by Antares Audio Technologies [available for Mac and Windows]. Use with discretion. [link]


6 Comments so far
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AMEN to that sister. A small piece of me actually died when Kanye started getting all distortin’ like.
But what can we do but laugh and pray that one day the kids will realise how much it actually sounds like digital vomit (youve probably already seen this but dear lord it makes me giggle every time):

Comment by Sian

Ha classic. Both equally as creepy and as bad as each other.

Comment by themachobox

I really wanna read this but your type is so FREAKING small and the leading is soo tight its near imposs.

And your a typography lover! tut tut savage 😉 haha

Comment by Chris Sharp

* now reading in my NewsFire RSS reader 😛

Comment by Chris Sharp

As an aside, T-Pain actually has a pretty amazing voice (judging by his live performace) without the auto-tune it has a real nice Gospel sound to it.

And to my suprise he’s a actually pretty accomplished Piano player.

Comment by Chris Sharp

Using free wordpress. If I knew how to change it I would captain. I’m not very web savvy [excuse the pun]. All I know is changing stuff in side bar or the banner after that its calculus

Comment by themachobox

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