Auto-Tune running on GarageBand
Developer(s) Antares Audio Technologies
Initial release 1997 [1]
Stable release 8
Operating system Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
Type Pitch correction
License Proprietary
Antares Vocal Processor AVP-1 (mid)

Auto-Tune is a proprietary[2] audio processor created by Antares Audio Technologies. Auto-Tune uses a phase vocoder to correct pitch in vocal and instrumental performances. It is used to disguise off-key inaccuracies and mistakes, and has allowed singers to perform apparently perfectly tuned vocal tracks without needing to sing in tune. While its main purpose is to slightly blend sung pitches to the nearest true semitone (to the exact pitch of the nearest tone in traditional equal temperament), Auto-Tune can be used as an effect to distort the human voice when pitch is raised or lowered significantly.[3] The overall effect to the discerning ear can be described as hearing, for example, the voice leap from note to note stepwise, like a synthesizer.

Auto-Tune is available as a plug-in for professional audio multi-tracking suites used in a studio setting, and as a stand-alone, rack-mounted unit for live performance processing.[4] Auto-Tune has become standard equipment in professional recording studios.[5]

Auto-Tune was initially created by Andy Hildebrand, an engineer working for Exxon. Hildebrand developed methods for interpreting seismic data, and subsequently realized that the technology could be used to detect, analyze, and modify pitch.[3]


In popular music

Auto-Tune was used to produce the prominent altered vocal effect on Cher's "Believe", recorded in 1998, the first major hit song to employ the software for this purpose. When first interviewed about this, the producers claimed that they had used a Digitech Talker FX pedal, in what Sound on Sound perceived as an attempt to preserve a trade secret.[6] After the massive success of "Believe", many artists imitated the technique, which became known as the "Cher Effect". It was evident in songs of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Some notable examples are Gigi D'Agostino's "La Passion" and Janet Jackson's US #1 hit "All For You", among many others. After years of relative dormancy, the effect was revived in the late-2000s by R&B singer T-Pain, who elaborated on the effect in contemporary popular music by making active use of Auto-Tune in his songs.[7] This technique has since gone on to be very widely imitated by numerous other modern R&B and pop artists. T-Pain has become so well associated with Auto-Tune that he has an iPhone App named after him that simulates the effect called "I Am T-Pain"[8], developed by Smule.[9] T-Pain's use of Auto-Tune has been cited as an influence on other urban artists' works, including Snoop Dogg's single "Sexual Eruption", Lil Wayne's single "Lollipop", and Kanye West's album 808s & Heartbreak.

According to the Boston Herald, country stars Faith Hill, Shania Twain, and Tim McGraw have all confessed to using Auto-Tune in performance, claiming it is a safety net that guarantees a good performance.[10] However, other country music singers, such as Loretta Lynn, Allison Moorer, Dolly Parton, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, Garth Brooks, Martina McBride, and Reba McEntire, have refused to use Auto-Tune.[11]

Auto-Tune the news

In 2009, the use of Auto-Tune to create melodies from the audio in video newscasts was popularized by Brooklyn musician Michael Gregory and later the band The Gregory Brothers. The Gregory Brothers digitally manipulated recorded voices of politicians, news anchors and political pundits to conform to a melody, making the figures appear to sing.[12][13] The group achieved mainstream success with their Bed Intruder Song video which became the most-watched YouTube video of 2010.[14]


As early as 2002, the CD Miss Fortune by singer-songwriter Allison Moorer was released with a sticker stating that "Absolutely no vocal tuning or pitch correction was used in the making of this record".[15] At the 51st Grammy Awards in early 2009, the band Death Cab for Cutie made an appearance wearing blue ribbons to protest the use of Auto-Tune in the music industry.[16] Later that spring, Jay-Z titled the lead single of his album The Blueprint 3 as "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)". Jay-Z elaborated that he wrote the song under the personal belief that far too many people had jumped on the Auto-Tune bandwagon and that the trend had become a gimmick.[17][18] Christina Aguilera appeared in public in Los Angeles on August 10, 2009 wearing a T-shirt that read "Auto Tune is for Pussies". When later interviewed by Sirius/XM, however, she said that Auto-Tune wasn't bad if used "in a creative way" and noted her song "Elastic Love" from Bionic uses it.[19]

Opponents of the plug-in argue Auto-Tune has a pervasive negative effect on society's perception and consumption of music. A Chicago Tribune report from 2003 states that "many successful mainstream artists in most genres of music—perhaps a majority of artists—are using pitch correction".[15]

In 2004, UK's The Daily Telegraph music critic Neil McCormick called Auto-Tune a "particularly sinister invention that has been putting extra shine on pop vocals since the 1990s" by taking "a poorly sung note and transpos[ing] it, placing it dead centre of where it was meant to be".[20]

In 2009, Time magazine quoted an unnamed Grammy-winning recording engineer as saying, "Let's just say I've had Auto-Tune save vocals on everything from Britney Spears to Bollywood cast albums. And every singer now presumes that you'll just run their voice through the box." The same article expressed "hope that pop's fetish for uniform perfect pitch will fade", speculating that pop-music songs have become harder to differentiate from one another, as "track after track has perfect pitch."[21][22] Timothy Powell, a producer/engineer stated in 2003 that he is "even starting to see vocal tuning devices show up in concert settings"; he states that "That's more of an ethical dilemma—people pay a premium dollar to see artists and artists want people to see them at their best."[15]

The American television series Glee has become noted for regular use of the system in its songs. E! Online's Joal Ryan criticized the show for its "overproduced soundtrack", in particular, complaining that many songs rely too heavily on the software.[23]

In 2010, some people accused the British television reality TV show The X Factor of using Auto-Tune to improve the voices of contestants.[24][25] Simon Cowell, one of the show's judges, ordered a ban on Auto-Tune for future episodes.[26] Also in 2010, Time magazine included Auto-Tune in their list of "The 50 Worst Inventions."[27]

See also


  1. ^ Antares history page
  2. ^ US patent 5973252, Harold A. Hildebrand, "Pitch detection and intonation correction apparatus and method", published 1999-10-26, issued 1999-10-26, assigned to Auburn Audio Technologies, Inc. 
  3. ^ a b Frere Jones, Sasha. "The Gerbil's Revenge", The New Yorker, June 9, 2008
  4. ^ Antares product page
  5. ^ Everett-Green, Robert. "Ruled by Frankenmusic," The Globe and Mail, October 14, 2006, p. R1.
  6. ^ "Recording Cher's 'Believe'"
  7. ^ Singers do better with T-Pain relief
  8. ^ I Am T-Pain at
  9. ^ Auto-Tune iPhone app 'I Am T-Pain' on sale
  10. ^ Treacy, Christopher John. "Pitch-adjusting software brings studio tricks," The Boston Herald, February 19, 2007, Monday, "The Edge" p. 32.
  11. ^ McCall, Michael. Pro Tools: A number of leading country artists sing off key. But a magical piece of software-Pro Tools-makes them sound as good as gold."
  12. ^ "Band's Parody Helps Keep Auto-Tune Alive", John D. Sutter, Time Magazine, Sep 2009
  13. ^ "Auto-Tune the News", Claire Suddath, Time Magazine, Apr 2009
  14. ^ "Double rainbows, annoying oranges, and bed intruders: the year on YouTube" YouTube Blog, Dec 2010
  15. ^ a b c Ryan, Maureen (27 April 2003). "What, no pitch correction?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  16. ^ "Death Cab for Cutie protests Auto-Tune". 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  17. ^ Reid, Shaheem (2009-06-06). "Jay-Z Premiers New Song, 'D.O.A.': 'Death Of Auto-Tune'". MTV. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  18. ^ Reid, Shaheem (2009-06-10). "Jay-Z Blames Wendy's Commercial—Partially—For His 'Death Of Auto-Tune'". MTV. MTV Networks. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  19. ^ "Christina Aguilera Talks About New Love For Auto-Tune". 2010-06-18. Retrieved 2011-05-9. 
  20. ^ McCormick, Neil (2004-10-13). "The truth about lip-synching". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  21. ^ Tyrangiel, Josh, "Singer's Little Helper," Time, February 5, 2009
  22. ^ Note that the phrase perfect pitch is used here in an erroneous manner, as it refers to a very rare ability, not the mere ability to sing in tune; in general a skilled singer can be expected not to sound off-key.
  23. ^ Ryan, Joal (October 23, 2009). "Glee's Great, but the Music Ain't". E! Online. Retrieved 2009-11-19. 
  24. ^ X Factor admits tweaking vocals
  25. ^ "X Factor 2010: Outraged viewers take to Twitter to complain 'auto-tune' technology was used on first episode". Daily Mail (London). 2010-08-22. 
  26. ^ Sam-Daliri, Nadia (2010-08-26). "Angry Simon Cowell bans Auto-tuning". The Sun (London). 
  27. ^ Auto-Tune: The 50 Worst Inventions

External links

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