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The Auto-Tune Era

Musician is a term very few are titled in this era, however, with today’s album charts, being a successful musician might be about as difficult as turning on a computer.

Music, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity.

However, over time, through the creations of thousands of instruments as well as generations of talent, it has transformed into something far more complex than anyone would have ever thought possible.

Typically, “good music” is something that requires talent and a capability through practice that few possess. Whether it is Bob Dylan singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” often out of key and off tempo or a world class vocalist singing a solo piece, if someone takes their own skill with completely natural resources and creates something beautiful, then that person is making music. It’s upsetting, however, to see celebrities making millions of dollars off of sounds created by a computer. This drops the words “talent” and “musician” to an extremely low level.

Ever wondered why “Pop” music today is virtually pitch-perfect, even with its time and tune? The answer to today’s virtually flawless sound is the software known as “Auto-Tune.”

Created by Andy Hildebrand, a retired seismic data interpreter in the oil industry, the software will literally take one’s voice/sound and fix any flaw of key to the singer/producer’s computer-perfect desired pitch. This requires no retakes in a vocal booth or practice to hit the desired key, just merely singing into the machine so that it can transform one’s voice into a pitch-perfect song. It requires no talent at all!

Time magazine’s Feb. 5 Auto-Tune article explains that the software has spread into about every major label and nearly every genre of music.

“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,” Rick Rubin, Grammy Award-Winning recording engineer said in the Time interview. “It usually ends up just like plastic surgery. You haul out Auto-Tune to make one thing better, but then it’s very hard to resist the temptation to spruce up the whole vocal, give everything a little nip-tuck.”

R&B artist T-Pain uses the software almost as a trademark, setting the retune speed at “0” for an almost humorous robot voice effect, giving it the “T-Pain Effect” as many refer to it. Some suggest it’s somewhat better when a musician is out in the open with it rather than hiding it, but that same artist’s last “Thr33 Rings” (Auto-Tune packed) album hit #1 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart. Good songwriting, maybe, but good music?

The majority of artists want to keep their use of auto-tune a secret, and virtually leave no proof by denying it. That suggests this 21st century generation has adapted some vocal chords from out of this world.

What happened to the 2Pac rapping in a studio with maybe a few beats from a computer, or even Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan staring each other face-to-face in a recording booth, both singing and playing guitar simultaneously. It’s too easy now.

Good luck all the up-and-coming, naturally talented singer/songwriters out there. Right now, according to charts, the majority of listeners are going with the “perfect” pop sound.

Even live performances run Auto Tune now. So not only can “musicians” get away with it in their cave they call a “studio,” they can pull it off live and in front of everyone. This is literally lying to the audience that they can hit those notes.

Now take this approach. In both film and print, users are required to inform viewers if anything is altered whatsoever. For example, in a magazine, if there is any type of alteration of a photo then you will see a statement similar to: “This photo has been altered from its original image.” The same goes for film. At the beginning of movies viewers will see a statement telling the audience that the video has been altered. Whether it’s to fit a TV screen at home or edited for profanity.

So why aren’t musicians required to place a statement informing the audience that their voices have been altered?

As sang by Bob Dylan, “The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.”

It would make it much easier to pick the real, talented musicians/artists from the fake ones. Maybe then, real musicians would get some deserved credit over the fake ones, and another farm boy with a guitar and harmonica might have a shot at fame when he walks into a studio.

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