Autotune: Spawn of Satan or Delicate Tool?
I’ve used autotune many a time for album backing vocals and even to patch up a spot on the lead here or there. I don’t think I’ve ever tried to keep that a secret, either. What about live shows though? I have always been dead-set against using auto-tune for any reason during live shows (well, other than that Cher effect), but recently I stumbled upon a use that doesn’t seem like cheating but makes the show sound a whole lot better: Autotune the doubled vocals.
Warning: Technical Content. When I (and many artists) record a song, you’ll often hear them double (or triple, or…) the lead vocal during the chorus. When performing live, though, you can’t just use a pre-recorded backing vocal unless you sing with the same inflections and timing every single time. To achieve the same effect, some people use a short delay (like a sixteenth note or less) or some kind of ADT plugin that detunes, delays, and varies the live vocal so it sounds slightly off. The effect works a little bit, but I’ve found that it mostly just sounds like phase issues.
While putting together the vocal setup for “The Good Life” and “She Will Set You Free“, I experimented with something I’d never thought of before: Why not auto-tune the artificially doubled vocal track? Given that my voice naturally drifts from the exact pitch, auto-tuning the quieter double made it sound a LOT more like a naturally-recorded double track. And it’s not like the audience doesn’t already know it’s an artificial voice anyway; I haven’t been able to clone backup singers yet. The lead vocal is still a natural, un-retouched sound, it’s just being reinforced by a pitch-perfect robot.
What do you think? Legitimate use, or terrible crutch? I’ve got a rehearsal recording (in m4a, not mp3) that’ll demonstrate… I kick in the auto-tuned double- not a pre-recorded double -during the chorus.