Autotune is an audio processor that Antares Audio Technologies introduced in 1997. The same company also owns the trademark for the device. It is meant to measure and alter pitch in both vocal and instrumental recordings. But did you know who was the first artist to use autotune?
Cher is credited as the first artist to use autotune. Her hit single in 1998, “Believe,” was the first song published with autotune on vocals. Cher’s producers used the device to exaggerate the pitch contrary to its original purpose.
What is Autotune?
Autotune is a plug-in device for audio workstations that can be used in live performance processing and in-studio settings. Its purpose is to correct or shift pitches to the nearest true semitone. It can also be used to create a distorted effect in the pitch by raising or lowering it, making it work similar to a synthesizer.
The autotune was created by Andy Hildebrand and was officially launched in September 1997. Hildebrand was a research engineer specializing in stochastic estimation theory and digital signal processing. He created an algorithm on a custom Macintosh computer and presented the results of his work at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Show in 1996. It was an instant hit.
The process of detecting the pitch involved utilizing autocorrelation. This proved to be significantly superior to other attempts that were based on feature extraction. Hildebrand’s method was considered impractical by other engineers in the industry. They thought that the process would take a lot of effort and math. But he found a way to simplify the process and was able to cut a million multiply-adds into just four with a simple mathematical trick. (Source: Priceonomics)
Why Did Cher Use Autotune?
Cher’s producers used autotune in her song Believe, not to correct her voice but to exaggerate the artificiality of abrupt pitch correction. Which was the opposite of what the tool was created for.
While working with Cher on the song “Believe” in 1998, producers Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling discovered that if they set Auto-Tune on its most aggressive setting, so that it corrected the pitch at the exact moment it received the signal, the result was an unsettlingly robotic tone.Greg Milner
The producers also claimed that they had used a DigiTech Talker FX pedal. After the song hit the top of the charts, the technique was called the Cher effect. (Source: Up Venue)
Why Do People Hate Autotune?
People who are firmly against autotune, believe they are taking a stand for real music. While most of them think that autotune is some sort of voice enhancer for people who do not know how to sing, it is quite the contrary. Autotune is an add-on that would help transition pitches to correct imperfections in a song. There should be no issue when used the way it is supposed to.
By using the logic that autotune changes organic sound into something unreal since it is computer-generated, this means anything created before the dawn of computers is what they would define as real music. Anything after isn’t. (Source: Vice)