As is often the case, some of the most interesting and valuable feedback I received to the article was posted in LinkedIn groups, not readily accessible or directly attributable to the article. As an addition to my original post, following are some of the comments received on other sites - hope you take interest as much as I did, and thanks to all contributors.
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I had a phone call from the late Terry Howard just after he sent me a copy of Genius Loves Company. I was blown away by the Gladys Knight Vocals !!!
I also felt on THAT Particular Track that Ray's Vocal sounded anemic and distant. Turns out they were the same Exact Mic (Name withheld to prevent spam issues).
What's going on? I asked. They'd Pitch Corrected Ray's Vocal!!
My takeaway - if the TUNE is Perfect and the TONE Sucks, what use is it? (So people can vote for the best dancer on American Idol without distraction?)
I'm for Tools if Properly Used. If the end result is sonically better, great. If the end result has more artifacts and sonic-density issues, not so great...
- Lawrence Villella
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Yes, but try turning an untuned vocal to the Disney Channel for one of their pop songs and see how far you get. As much as it hurts to say it, it's part of the style. Also, there could be other factors at play. Maybe Ray just wasn't in good voice that day. Tuning him wouldn't be my first choice, but sometimes there isn't another. Wasn't that record released after his passing?
- Steve Shepherd
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In the old daze they just substituted a session singer for the Disney "star." It was and still is all about extra income for TV stars. This shouldn't be confused with actual musical artists.
Way too many musician-producers get carried away with tuning and completely screw up the timing and believability of vocals. The test is to sing along with the vocal and feel what it does to your breath.
As an Ex-Motown engineer, I can't believe how many songs today choke you up instead of liberating your soul while you sing along with them. This is simple physiology and not fashion. It's just another reason people aren't interested in buying records. The idea of a record is to play it over and over singing and moving to it. Why would you buy a recording you only wanted to listen to passively a few times or use as a "hip" background ambiance?
- Bob Olhsson
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I agree that Auto-Tune and Melodyne suck the life out of a performance most of the time it is used. However, there are engineers that understand how music "breathes" and don't put Auto-Tune on the whole track - they only correct individual words or syllables that can't be replaced by editing from another take. Used this way, Auto-Tune is no worse or lifeless than EQ or compression, and you may only end up using it for two or three words per song.
I agree that a "professional" singer should be able to sing every single lyric to a song correctly, but sometimes time runs out in a session, and you can't do those last punch-ins you need. Isn't it more pleasant to just fix the few offensive words?
If used very sparingly, Auto-Tune style plug-ins can be an irreplaceable tool that can improve a comped vocal take's listenability without compromising a natural tone. I know there other engineers using it in this minimalistic way, but I admit they are probably a small minority.
Now could someone explain to me the correlation between Auto-Tune and seismic data analysis software? It is fascinating that Auto-Tune was born from something so different.
- Tony Porter
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You are 100% correct in your assessment. However, until the majority of engineer/producers realize that, they are just going to insert the plugin and continue on their merry way. The other problem is the one Steve Shepherd mentioned; try submitting a pop song that hasn't been autotuned to Disney or any label for that matter and see how far that gets you. Unfortunately these "musical geniuses" expect to hear that effect in todays music.
- Philip Chiore