I know many are already thinking: “The proper use of Auto-Tune is none.” While I agree in theory, it is naive to think that there is no place for pitch correction in today’s recording world. It would be like saying the same of digital recording. As the recording world has embraced the DAW and computer recording, so too must we come to terms with the fact that pitch correction is not going away.
That being said, I believe heavy use of Auto-Tune is a passing fad. Some will argue that it’s for effect – what the kids want to hear. But when everyone wakes up from this temporary lapse of reason, they will want to hear actual singing. Digital recording exposes imperfections in pitch and tone more easily than analog. Digital is not as forgiving, and today’s records often lack the warmth of classic records. Tools like Auto-Tune can help compensate for the exposure of these shortcomings in a vocal performance. There are a few things to keep in mind: all those classic recordings were about capturing the performance, not technical “perfection.” What would Neil Young records sound like if he had been forced to sing flawlessly? Secondly, those bands were often very well rehearsed, which unfortunately isn’t commonplace today.
So, what can be done? The best approach is to have a well-rehearsed artist or group record vocals after honing their skills and realizing their strengths and weaknesses. Some may say, “I really enjoy the sound of machine-like, pitch-corrected vocals.” While that may be the case today, I wouldn’t get too used to people admiring singers that can’t actually sing. Rock stars are meant to inspire, so when pitch correction is all that sets a lead singer apart from a fan, that magic is lost.
I think pitch correction should only be used as a last resort to correct minor problems, not to mask a weak vocal performance. So remember, young producers, mixers, and artists, there is nothing wrong with hard work and practice to create a sound that is inspired, imaginative, and perhaps more importantly, unique.