Outlook's Third Annual Spring Cleaning List

Let's get rid of Auto-Tune

After Cher's "Believe" topped the Billboard charts in 1999, Auto-Tune — a digital program for changing pitch developed by Antares Audio Technologies — became kudzu in the garden of pop music. Daft Punk uses it. T-Pain, Lil Wayne and Rihanna use it. Faith Hill and Shania Twain use it. Kanye West's entire record "808s and Heartbreak" was built around the effect. Even after Jay-Z recorded "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)" in 2009, this evil plug-in's 14-year reign of terror has continued.

As a record producer and recording engineer, I want artists to deliver the best performance they can. I want them to mean it every time they step to the mike. How can I help a singer deliver an excellent, energetic, spontaneous take when they know that I can fix their pitch? And why should we alter the human voice in a misguided attempt at perfection while disguising the flaws that give it character?

Robert Johnson and Ian Curtis didn't always sing in tune. Neither do Bob Dylan, Neil Young, John Lydon or Patti Smith. If future generations don't look back and laugh at the pitch-corrected, robotic quality of today's best-known voices, they should. After all, we're not cyborgs. At least not yet.


Larry Crane is the founder and editor of the recording magazine Tape Op and has worked with Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney and Jenny Lewis.

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