In Defense of Auto-Tune/HardTune


Wow, did we really just write that? Did we just volunteer as appointed attorneys to the most badmouthed vocal effect of them all? Seems like we did. In the following, highly esteemed jury, we’ll prove that Auto-Tune/HardTune isn’t a music killer. Let the courtroom drama begin.

The Daily Telegraph once referred to Auto-Tune as a "particularly sinister invention”and Time magazine included the effect in their list of "The 50 Worst Inventions". Further down the list you’d find Asbestos.Asbestos?! That should give you an idea how some people feel about this, the most defamed of vocal effects.

[Oh, by the way, your honor: We wish to put on record that HardTune does not kill 12.000+ people in the US each year, as does Asbestos.]

Now, we would like to ask the esteemed jury to take a closer look at the charges that our client is facing. The DA has stated that:

  1. If you use our client, it’s because you can’t sing
  2. Our client makes you sound like a robot
  3. Our client makes everyone sound the same

These are all commonly held beliefs. Still they are downright absurd. Allow us to elaborate:

  1. Think of an artist that assuredly CAN sing. If he/she occasionally uses HardTune as an effect, does that in any way degrade his/her natural voice? Of course not! As an example: Kimbra uses the HardTune effect for a specific section in “Settle Down”, and yet not a single person on the planet would question her ability to sing.
  2. There are many degrees of pitch-correction. The most subtle setting is almost undetectable and will only make you sound like a robot, if you are in fact a robot.
  3. While the pattern of subtle pitch changes in a singer’s voice is unique, it’s far from the only thing that makes that voice recognizable. Think about this: Both Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift use Auto-Tune, and yet their voices are not indistinguishable. If you can tell Cyrus from Swift, the third charge must be dropped.

Closing Argument

Any effect used poorly, and in the wrong context, has the ability to kill a song. Can Auto-Tune/HardTune kill a song? Indeed. But so can reverb if you max it out on every parameter all the time.

The members of the jury strike us as intelligent and law-abiding citizens. Surely you can tell that our client is actually a victim. A victim of rough generalization and prejudgment.  We rest our case.

Courtroom After party

As a final twist to this courtroom drama, we call to the stand… TC-Helicon user A.V. We recently stumbled upon a video made by this up-and-coming Swedish artist. We liked the soothing character of her alto voice and her laid-back flow. And to be honest, one of the things we really liked was her occasional use of the HardTune effect.

In our view HardTune can be used in a brilliant ways and in bad ways. But where does the line go? You be the judge.