Throughout the years, musicians and artists have used many different techniques in order to make themselves sound different and to sell records. Quite recently, many musicians and artists have been using a pitch correcting program called Autotune. One rapper/hip-hop artist, T-Pain, is mainly responsible for transforming the use of Autotune. Autotune was first invented in 1997 by Dr. Harold “Andy” Hildebrand. Dr.
Hildebrand founded Antares Audio Technologies in 1990 after working as a research scientist for Exxon from 1976 until 1989, when he realized that the same technology he used to detect oil reserves in the sea floor could also be used to correct a singer’s unruly notes. After leaving Exxon, Hildebrand created a program called Infinity, which allowed musicians and producers to created endless loops of multiple instruments in samples. Due to the success Infinity had attained, the Dr. had decided to move on to his next task at hand. In 1997, Auto-Tune was released.
Auto-Tune was a program designed to fix and correct pitch problems in not only singers, but other musicians who played instruments as well. The release of the program gained instant notoriety, as Auto-Tune became an instant phenomenon and grew to become the largest-selling plug-in of all time (www. antarestech. com). Auto-Tune is based on “phase vocoding technology”, which is an analysis-synthesis algorithm. The software detects the pitch of the voice of the singer or the instrument of the artist, analyzes the pitch along with the overtones and content, and then autocorrects the notes to the desired/correct pitch (www. ow-to-guide. net). In the years following the development and release of Auto-Tune, there wasn’t much commercial use of the product. The first big hit to feature the use of Auto-Tune was Cher’s “Believe” in 1998 (Blame Cher). Since then, many prominent artists have featured the use of Auto-Tune, such as Kanye West, Lady GaGa, Ke$ha, and of course, T-Pain. About ten years before the release of Auto-Tune, a young boy by the name of Faheem Rasheed Najm was born in Tallahassee, Florida. This young boy would later grow up to become better known as his stage name, T-Pain.
In the winter of 2005, T-Pain released his debut album “Rappa Ternt Sanga” and it debuted at #40 on the Billboard 200, dropping some, and then eventually climbing up to #33 over the next few weeks. Since then, T-Pain has released a total of 3 full length albums and has produced many hits for himself, as well as producing many hits for other rappers and artists. He has been nominated for many awards, and has won 13 (www. t-pain. net). In September of 2009, Smule introduced and released the “I am T-Pain” application in the app store for download on all iPhones.
The application allows its user to simply talk into the microphone and record messages, notes, or even record songs over pre-recorded beats and then Auto-Tune your voice and send your messages to friends (www. iamtpain. smule. com). After Cher’s “Believe” in 1998, Auto-Tune went out of fashion and no artists were using it. In 2003, back when T-Pain was a little-known artist, he was recording a song in the studio when he put Auto-Tune on his voice. In an article from Time. com, T-Pain said that “It just worked for my voice… And there wasn’t anyone else doing it. Years have passed since T-Pain’s first experiments with Auto-Tune, and much has changed since then. Since T-Pain’s “Rappa Ternt Sanga” debuted in 2005, he has had 12 singles in the top 10, dozens on award nominations, and serves as the inspiration behind much of the music of many artists we listen to and love today. While Kanye West was recording his hit album ‘808s and Heartbreak’ Kanye flew T-Pain to Hawaii to find out ways that Auto-Tune could be tweaked and manipulated to find new ways of singing. P Diddy offered T-Pain a percentage of the profits off of his next album if T-Pain would give him lessons on how to use Auto-Tune.
T-Pain also says of Auto-Tune that “…You can use it to change the mood of a record”. This is most prominent in Kanye West’s “808s and Heartbreak”, in which he uses the same Auto-Tune effect that T-Pain uses on his hit single “Chopped N Skrewed” to produce a ghost-like and cold aura that branded the album as one of the year’s best (www. time. com). Although T-Pain started Auto-Tuning his voice because nobody else was doing it and he wanted to sound different, nowadays it seems that just about everybody sounds the same. “It used to make me sound different… Now I sound like everybody else again” said T-Pain (The New Tune).
In response to the sudden explosion of artists that are using Auto-Tune, T-Pain said that people need to start paying him respect – and paying him literally – for their use of Auto-Tune. T-Pain said that other artists are ruining the use of Auto-Tune and that it’s basically over for them unless they start to pay up (www. mtv. com). While many people may criticize and ridicule the use of Auto-Tune and talk about how it is “ruining” the music industry by leading people to believe that recording artists are pitch-perfect, there is one thing that nobody can deny; it sells records.
And there is nothing that musicians and artists want to do more than sell records. Auto-Tune was originally intended to help oil companies find out where oil reserves are save companies lots of money by not having to dig up the group looking for oil when they could find out just where the oil was. Over the course of time, that program evolved into one of the most prominent and recurring effects in the music industry. Although Auto-Tune has its benefits in the music industry, it also has its drawbacks as well.
The British television show The X factor had a very controversial week in August when the producers of the show decided to Auto-Tune the voice of one of their contestants. Many people found this outrageous due to the fact that it was a singing competition and the voices of the people they would be paying to vote for were being altered (Blame Cher). This example directly relates to T-Pain because without T-Pain’s use of Auto-Tune, the effect would never have been so popular and would never have been featured on a hit television show. The use of Auto-Tune represents many phonographic effects.
The development of Auto-Tune is a direct result of recordability. Without the ability to record music, Auto-Tune would have never been developed and music today would not be what it is. Also, Auto-Tune is a clearly a result of the phonographic effect of manipulability due to its ability to obviously manipulate the way that music sounds T-Pain drastically changed the use of Auto-Tune in pop-culture by paving the way for other artists and taking a pitch-correcting program and turning it into a trademark for himself to be remember by for years to come.
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