Autotune Revolutionized Music Production In a Way That Was Unprecedented

Categories: MusicTechnology

Before the innovation of autotune, pitch correction was done in the studio by having the singer reiterate a phrase over and over again, then those numerous amounts of takes were mended together to make one piece of music that sounded in tune. On the contrary, autotune can conduct pitch correction almost instantaneously. The initial goal of the usage of this technology as expressed by Antares audio technologies was to correct discrepancies of pitches to render songs more effectively expressive. As sound studies scholar, Owen Marshall remarked, poor singing hindered the clear communication of feeling and emotion.

The device was designed to bring voices up to par to convey the intended feeling of the music fluently to the audience, which is what music is supposed to do. This essay dives into the history that led up to the creation of auto-tune, the immediate, and long-lasting impact that it had on the music industry.

Auto-tune’s controversy is no short of abundant, but regardless of one’s opinion on it, it is undeniable that autotune is the greatest game-changer the world of music has ever seen.

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The origin of the creation of this fascinating technology was more unique and accidental then you might think. Believe it or not, the concept behind autotune derived from using soundwaves to find oil underground. Dr. Hildebrand, the creator, used to work for an oil industry, and also studied music composition at Rice University in Houston. In 1990, he returned to his passion for music. He then used his knowledge from both of these backgrounds to develop audio processing tools.

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The most famous of which, was auto-tune. Traditionally, sound engineers, as stated above, had to do a plethora of takes with the vocalist(s) to obtain a clean track. Decent sounding vocals were dependent on endless rerecordings, which costs time and money.

There are also many other effects used on vocals such as reverb and delay, but none of them addressed pitch and tuning like auto-tune. The previously mentioned effects added effects on to an existing vocal. On the other hand, autotune alters the vocal itself. Changing pitch had actually been done by engineers long prior to the innovation of auto-tune. This was done simply by recording the vocals slowly, then speeding it up later. The problem was that this made the voice high pitched, like that of a chipmunk. Back in the day, singers had to be able to sing, period. It doesn’t matter how many retakes the vocalist needed. At the end of the day, he or she needs to hit the right note. Autotune completely negates this issue, altering pitch while simultaneously preserving the original quality of the vocal, which consists of its tone and feeling. Eventhough auton-tune has such a pervasive influence on the music industry today, it’s emergence into the spotlight wasn’t immediate.

Auto-tune, the pitch correction technology, had actually already been on the market a year before it gained its fame. However, its presence was latent. As stated above, autotune’s original purpose for its existence was to correct pitch. The big idea was it moved a note to it’s nearest true semitone, thus, tuning the vocal part. The robotic voices that the public is accustomed to hearing now, was not the way Dr. Hildebrand intended it to be used. The idea was to make the editing of the vocals discreet, and that, of course, includes keeping the human element to the voice. Auto-tune allowed singers to focus on their emotional delivery in their performance rather than worrying about pitch accuracy because it gets taken care of in the mix.

This brought a new level of efficiency and cost-effectiveness to the industry, something all music producers couldn't wait to get a hold of. Autotune was debuted in 1996, by Hildebrand’s company, Antares Audio Technologies. In 1998, Cher, an American singer released her song “Believe”, that utilized auto-tune, and also essentially revived her career. The modern-day stereotypical perception of autotune by the casual listener was a key feature in making the song so commercially successful. Despite the part human, part mechanical, synthetic texture to the vocals, what stood out was instead that transition between the notes. People were used to listening to the human voice having a short transition period that eased one note to the next.

Even auto-tune, used in its original meaning, had that human-like feature. This transition could be manipulated in the settings by controlling the retune speed. The speed parameter determined the rate at which the note moved to the correct pitch. Engineers soon figured out how to manipulate the retune speed that distorted the vocals in a way that leaped instantly through the space between each note, while sustaining pitch accuracy naturally, sounding like a robot. Through this hit song, the audible-side effects of auto-tune introduced a whole new realm of creativity for producers and singers alike.


Updated: Dec 12, 2023
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Autotune Revolutionized Music Production In a Way That Was Unprecedented. (2022, Jun 03). Retrieved from

Autotune Revolutionized Music Production In a Way That Was Unprecedented essay
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