Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Auto-tune what's the fuss?

The big story for the tabloids, other than Cameron's new addition to the family, is the purported use of Auto-tune in ITV's X-Factor. Gosh they're cheating and conning the public into voting for people who can't sing. Well no not really, as soon as the winner (or loser) steps into a sound studio their voice is going to get tweaked before it hits a CD; is that cheating?

It could be called a con in that the audience believe they're hearing a live performance when they're not, but how much of that is true too? Auto-tune works by trying to match your notes to the ones expected, apart from obvious electronic jiggery it gently takes out some of the bumps as it were. Now sure if you're totally off-key it can produce something perfect, but only by hand-tweaking each note. In automatic mode the note sung has to be close to the one expected for it to work, and as these are sung 'live' selective tweaking can't be used.

What is more insidious is that it can be used the other way around and this is also an allegation being thrown at the programme. Take someone who isn't very good and whom the producers think has no chance at all in the competition and run an off-key automatic auto-tune to make them sound even worse. The cameras can watch the judges wince and the audience can laugh at how this person could ever think they stood a chance.

If true that would be nasty.