Oct 312015

People started to sing like auto-tune. It is a fad of about the last 10 or 15 years. Have you noticed this? It usually involves young, female performers. It’s also bad enough to send any member of the somewhat older, musically inclined (male) population into utter annoyance and irritation. Still, it’s a rather interesting phenomenon. Something that demonstrates the human brain and its typical behavior patterns perfectly.

Imitating pitch correction

imitating auto-tune singing in the showerThey just don’t know any better. That’s gonna be the answer if you ask any of these little girls why they sing that way. The key to it is influence and imitation. What the average teenager listens to is exactly that tuned crap. So it’s only natural that this is the kind of material that’s gonna end up being imitated. Even without paying much attention to the stylistic features, like phrasing. Or whether that phrasing was achieved with using effects or real human vocal technique. So all those little hiccups and moany little weird fluctuations of pitch correction get integrated into the singing. Not unlike the vocal fry into speaking voice. Which is also a girl-dominated territory.

Singing comes easy

Yes, in fact, singing in particular works the best for this whole influence game. It’s because it comes naturally to most of us human beings. It means that the majority of the conscious, “left brain” efforts can stay out of the process. Things like learning how to pick or fret a string, how to bow or use a mallet, or how to employ a certain kind of embouchure all require a good amount of thinking. That kind of thinking slows you down or stops you right away, and makes you analyze what you’re doing; quite a bit. Singing, on the other hand, is much more like walking, especially when a kid is allowed to play around with her/his voice freely. That’s when imitation comes into play, and if anything, girls really own that topic, man. So trust me, the auto-tuned phrasing comes off of them fukken records like a charm, in no time. Especially if the neighbor kid is into it, too. That introduces influence and to an extent, competition as well.

Only the style, not the pitch

Yeah, the less fortunate side of this coin is, while people enthusiastically get the auto-tune style riffing down, they miss out on the pitch correcting part. Of course they do. Have you paid attention to what auto-tune does to the voice? If you have, you have probably noticed how straight and uninteresting the note decays are. This part of the tuned voice gets imitated as well, but since the human voice is nothing like the machine, these decaying phrase-ends will come out off-pitch most of the time. That makes spotting an over-vocalized, auto-tune sounding person especially easy. Vibrato is a fairly natural way to cover up pitch imperfections. On the other hand, the fake vibrato that most of today’s pitch correction software use comes nowhere near close to anything natural and human. Especially if this feature wasn’t even used on the recorded voice of the original artist. Young people, beware what you learn.

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