Interested in Audio Training? Here’s the History of Auto-Tune

Posted on December 16th, 2016 - Written by: Trebas Toronto

Are you thinking about exploring sound and music at audio production college

Auto-tune is in almost every song. It can make slight, nearly imperceptible corrections to tiny mistakes a singer makes, or turn a normal voice into a robotic growl. Its many applications, and the ease with which it can be hidden, mean it’s less of a matter of “if” auto-tune will be used when recording songs, but “how.”

This omnipresence is relatively recent—auto-tune has only existed for about 20 years—and the technology didn’t always enjoy the level of support that it does now.

Curious about auto-tune’s journey to the present? Here’s a look at some of the milestones from its history.

Auto-Tune Technology Originated in the Oil Industry

The very beginnings of auto-tune have little to do with music. Rather, the technology owes its origin to work done by the oil industry.

Oil companies sometimes use explosions to create a sort of sonar that works through the ground. By using software to analyze the signal of the reflected sound waves caused by the detonations, it is possible to detect where oil pockets exist below the surface. Oil industry professional Andy Hildebrand took this technology and adapted it. He used a similar signal detection capability to find imperfections in musical recordings and make slight adjustments to help remove them.

Students in Music Production School Might Know Auto-Tune Was First Used on Cher in 1998

Though the original intention of auto-tune was to make voices sound perfect, it took very little time before musicians and graduates of music production school caught on to its potential for making voices sound robotic.

With her 1998 single “Believe,” Cher was simultaneously the first person to use auto-tune for a widely released recording and the first person to commercially use the distorting effect of auto-tune to alter her voice into something profoundly different. Both became extremely common afterwards.

You can experiment with audio processing techniques like auto-tune when working on the production mixing and mastering components of your audio training program. You might not achieve quite the same “wow” factor as Cher did in the 90s, but you’ll at least be able to arrive at a similar effect in the work you produce.

Today, Auto-Tuning Is Very Common Among Amateurs and Pros with Audio Training

Though professionals will still rely on genuine auto-tuning software to get quality results for their work, basic auto-tuning has become far more accessible in the last few years.

A number of mobile apps, like “Voloco,” can auto-tune voices on the fly. It’s also possible to use free programs like Garageband and Audacity to achieve a similar result to the classic auto-tune sound. This accessibility helped start a trend of online videos, and even the news, being edited and auto-tuned into silly, yet sometimes catchy, songs.

Though professional software and tools are available to you in Trebas’ recording studio, you might like to use mobile and free software in some of your work. This can add a less polished sound to your audio, which might be an interesting effect to experiment with.

Auto-tune’s introduction to the music scene has allowed musicians and audio specialists to create many interesting sounds in their work. It’s a tool you might consider trying at some point during your training, or in your career.

Are you thinking about exploring sound and music at audio production college?

Visit Trebas for more information, or to speak with an advisor.

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