Weighing in on the popularity of auto-tuned music

Rebecca Farr

Equinox Staff


The ever-famous T-Pain, with songs like “All the Above” and “5 O’Clock,” sure knows how to get by with his robotic voice and catchy tunes.

However, what is it that makes his voice so mechanical? The magical Auto-Tune.

Auto-Tune is the electronic alteration of your voice and/or pitch to create a more melodic sound, according to Jeff Slark, a senior at Keene State College and a local disc jockey. Slark said, “It [Auto-Tune] has come a long way,” to the point where, “the audience can’t even tell.”

A fellow KSC student and Slark’s DJ partner on Thursday nights at McCue’s, Dan Stratton, certainly had a lot to say about the change technology has had and continues to have on music.

Jessica Collin / Equinox Staff

Jessica Collin / Equinox Staff

“A lot of people think of auto-tuning as T-Pain, but what they don’t recognize is that he’s just using a less sophisticated version of Auto-Tune,” he said, “But now people have seemed to stop talking about it because no one can hear the auto-tuning since technology has come so far.” Stratton also mentioned that Auto-Tune is so sophisticated that it enables the user to chose how much they want to “humanize” their pitch or tone corrections, while still making it sound like a real vocalist, rather than T-Pain’s computerized voice.

Associate Music Professor at KSC Dr. James Chesebrough also pointed out that obtaining an Auto-Tune program on one’s computer is just as easy as purchasing and downloading any computer program like Microsoft Office.

It seems that anyone can make music these days. With high technology at our disposal, what determines who makes it and who doesn’t?

Both Slark and Stratton say uniqueness is what takes a musician to the next level. However, is the term musician being thrown around too loosely?

“This is something I don’t like to say,” Stratton said, “but it is definitely a well-kept secret that most people who are DJs nowadays are more programmers than they are musicians.”

Stratton said that the more of a musician a programmer can be, “the more unique they will be, the more diversity they will show and therefore the more potential they had to succeed.”

“I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to do it,” Stratton said.

Stratton started out as a musician and has noticed he is becoming more of a programmer, but he also stated that the correlation between technology and music is ever growing.

“If you’re going to deny the progression of technology through music you’re denying the evolution of society,” Stratton commented.

With this in mind, it is important to remember how to work through and past the rising music industry.  “Uniqueness will take you to the big leagues,” he said, “so you don’t want to compromise that if you aren’t even there yet.” Slark agreed.

“The things that anybody can do, is exactly what everybody will do, and they won’t get discovered.”

A May 2010 article from Mother Jones references society’s incessant tendency to overprocess everything. “From veggie burgers to sewage to the ever-evolving exterior of Heidi Montag [ … ] it’s not surprising that we process the hell out of our music as well,” the article led off with.  The story continues to reference to a YouTube video called “Kittens in Autotune.”

The cute and cuddly kitties have a song of their own, meowing and purring to a captivating beat, if I do say so myself.

Chesebrough pointed out an entertaining but also interesting YouTube video as well, “The Bed Intruder Song.” You know, the “hide ya kids, hide ya wife,” quote from a newscast that accidentally soared to the top of publicity.

Although a different type of auto-tuning, it is still very well the same program. “I think multimedia is using it [Auto-Tune] in a pretty creative way,” Chesebrough said.

Chesebrough made the connection that if he were to record an album with Auto-Tune he would consider that as lying because he said he does not sing well enough without the technology to be a star.

However, he said if someone were to create an auto-tuned song of, for example, one of his lectures, “I think that would be awesome, it would be hilarious,” he said. “It’s not lying, it’s a different kind of art.”

According to the Boston Herald, country singers like Faith Hill, Shania Twain and Tim McGraw all use Auto-Tune in performance, as “a safety net that guarantees a good performance.”

While their fellow country stars like Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks and Martina McBride refuse to use Auto-Tune, as Stratton and Slark stated, the audience cannot tell.

After all, what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you, right?

While some artists choose to use it, others like Jay-Z even wrote a song against it, D.O.A—Death of Auto tune. But in fact, opinions on auto-tuning are just that—opinions.

The connection between technology and music is inevitable and perhaps only time can tell whether or not organic music and instruments will come back to life.

In the meantime, DJs like Slark and Stratton know their stuff and matchless beats is what will get them to the top.

With or without Auto-Tune, in this day and age, the sky is truly the limit.


Rebecca Farr can be contacted at


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