Know your meme: Autotune

~Also of interest:~

Hat Tip: Andrea Semlar


  1. #1 NewEnglandBob
    November 11, 2009

    The autotune sound sucks, big time.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    November 11, 2009

    Yes, but now you know it is a meme.

  3. #3 H.H.
    November 12, 2009

    The “Psshaw. It’s obviously been photoshopped” of the audio world. lol Funny and insightful social commentary right there. They even had the Carl Sagan one PZ posted earlier. The history of the internet is moving so fast, I’m glad people like this show are documenting trends. In a 100 years from now people will want to look up this stuff, the first days of the internet, the history of early memes. Pop culture is still culture.

  4. #4 386sx
    November 12, 2009

    Nowadays it even makes the backup vocals and harmonies automatically. Just plug it in and you can be the freakin Mormon Tabernacle Choir if you want!

  5. #6 jake
    November 12, 2009

    Would you go so far as to say that autotune is on… very thin ice?

  6. #7 Kapitano
    November 12, 2009

    Autotune can be used well or badly, like any other tool. You can make it obvious, or subtle. No one criticised Oasis for using it, because it was carefully callibrated to the individual performance, and no one criticises opera singers for using it – because they assume it isn’t used for non-pop music.

    Autotune may be a verb, but there’s other programs out there that can do it – notably Melodyne, which I guarantee you’ve heard on a radio this week, without thinking “eew, autotuned!”

    And finally, what exactly is wrong with taking one voice and multiplying it into a mormon tabernacle choir of backing singer? Apart from the mormon part, obviously.

  7. #8 Glen
    November 12, 2009

    Might I ask why Daft Punk was in the list of artists who uses that style? They used the Voice Box long before 2005 when T-Pain made it big….

  8. #9 john
    November 13, 2009

    talk boxes, vocoders and autotune are all different things that function entirely differently from one another, despite the fact they can all create a robotic sounding voice.

    a talk box sends actual audio out through a tube into the ‘vocalist’s’ mouth, where they physically shape it as if singing, then as the shaped sound emanated from their mouth its consequently picked up by a microphone (think peter frampton). this can be done with guitars, synths, or any other audio source.

    a vocoder combines a carrier signal (for instance, a synth note) and a modulating signal (the vocalists voice). vocoders have numerous filter bands, and once the singers voice is analyzed the frequency content across these bands is applied to the carrier signal. long story short you’re basically applying the formant characteristics of human speech/singing to some other audio, whether a synth, live performance, recording or what have you.

    auto tune strictly deals with pitch, and its robotic sound stems from the unnatural way in which the pitches change from one to another. these all are definitely not the same thing! and honestly i never understood the confusion for the most part since they all tend to sound drastically different (although can all loosely be characterized as ‘robotic’).

    also kapitano, what are some examples of opera singers using auto tune? i’d like to hear it in action in that sort of musical environment.

  9. #10 Tom
    November 13, 2009

    Yeah, autotune is a meme. Mozart would have loved autotune I think but it may have driven him crazy sooner. Ludwig Von Beethoven would have really loved autotune, but he most likely would have plugged it into a pedal board and mic’d a piano synth with it or wrote a piece specifically for electric guitar thus giving a “voice” to specfic chord changes at specific intervals: maybe using a mixture of reverb and equalizer programmed to trigger and sustain whenever the musician wanted.

    Maybe Bartok or Debussy or maybe Satie would have thought of something similar.

    I wonder what kind of range auto tune would give to a harmonica?

    flights of fancy from

  10. #11 Geoff
    November 14, 2009

    i find all of this really insightful, both the video itself and the arguements. but i’d like to say, i really don’t think the Carl Sagan remix was as much a parody as way of showing his ideas in a more artistic setting. they simply used the newest style to do so.

  11. #12 Enoch
    November 14, 2009

    I completely agree about the sagan remix.