People have used the term Auto-Tune as a common description or a generic notion that describes audible pitch correction in music. This effect uses a patented device to measure and modify pitch in both vocal and instrumental music recording, as well as in live performances.

Auto-Tune: Its Purpose 

The Auto-Tune corrects off-key inaccuracies. It perfects the tunes of vocal tracks even if they are slightly off-pitch. Andy Hildebrand created this effect. He, too, developed a variety of techniques for interpreting seismic data. Hildebrand realized that this technology could also detect, analyze, and alter the pitch in audio files. Nowadays, producers often use the Auto-Tune effect to distort the human voice.

Sometimes singers use Auto-Tune since the pitch of their vocal slightly misses the exact note they are trying to hit. As you might suspect, when a singer is out of tune, this effect can rescue the vocal track. The pitch of the note depends on the frequency of the sound wave, so the manipulation of the frequency can either produce different notes or hit an exact note from a noise that is slightly off-key.

All About the Musical Scales

Musical scales are divided into twelve pitches each separated by a semitone. Pitch correction aims to retune a slightly higher or lower note to the nearest semitone. MIDI instruments usually use a technique in which they assign a number to the pitch. Using a computer to correct the frequency back down or up would ensure that the recording sounds are in tune.

However, sound engineers can’t simply change the frequency itself. The reason is that the duration of the sound would also change. Curious fact: sped-up tapes sound like chipmunks because the frequency of the wave is related to its speed via its wavelength. Advancements in technology have led to digital changes. Hence, producers can now alter the frequency of the wave without changing the speed. 

Audio-Tune: the Origins

Auto-Tune became public as a vocal effect in 1998 with “Fragments Of Life,” a popular song by Roy Vedas. Cher later used this effect in her song “Believe.” Later, Eiffel 65 employed it as well as in “Blue (Da Ba Dee).” The Auto-Tune effect differs from a vocoder or talk box. The producers of “Believe” claimed they had used a DigiTech Talker FX pedal, but Sound on Sound editors felt this was an attempt to preserve a trade secret following the success of the song. Hence, the technique became known as the Cher Effect. 

Auto-Tune was originally designed to discreetly correct inexact intonations, but Cher’s producers used it to exaggerate the artificiality of abrupt pitch correction. This technique became widely used in live performances, as well as in many pop recordings. Today, many artistic musicians, such as Lil Wayne, T-Pain, Migos, Future, Lil Uzi Vert, and Travis Scott use Auto-Tune effects.