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Bibliographical addition: the Phil Oakey quote is from the (great) book, Totally Wired, by Simon Reynolds. http://totallywiredbysimonreynolds.blogspot.com


For a song writer you could either pay musicians to play the music and record it or record the music and pay musicians to play it, I'm cool with either


the claims of auto-tune hiding bad vocals holds less weight when it becomes an audio trend, which it has. granted, there are definitely some bad singers getting by on auto-tune, but there are also good singers using it on their recordings simply because it's currently hip.


Autotune is like crack to some producers...they just don't know when to stop. And they can't. A lot of artists use it in their live shows as well. What it does is spoil kids' ears into thinking that if it isn't "autotune perfect", it's bad.


Completely agree I. Jackson.... far too much music uses auto tune these days especiallyin the top charts. long live independent music that doesn't!


Just a note of correction - Rocket 88 was initially released on 10" format not 7".

Yannick, the GeneralEclectic

The autotune artifacts gimmick which has been THE thing for a few years now is kind of annoying whenever it is not used in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. Songs using it are rather likely to sound very much "of the era" in a decade or so when it is an outdated effect. Remember those expensive digital synthesizers from the mid-80s which every pop star used because they were so darn expensive and new and which were hip because every big pop star used them? To most people today, the once hip keyboard sounds programmed into them mostly sound like the cheap keyboards which were sold at general stores at reduced prices not soon after, beginning in the early 90s, and which were mostly used by kids learning how to play the keyboard and are now tied together in collective memory with the sound of amateurish playing.

An over-reliance on DIY can kill a song, too, especially when it comes to synthesized instruments and the skill of positioning of microphones and/or good mixing / mastering.

Patrick Galactic

Aaron, I agree with your premise. I use a lot of studio tools and feel they are no less musical than any other instrument.
My beef is the homogenization of of mainstream music. I get your point about it but it's gone TOO far. It's like there are three styles of production, depending on if you are R&B, Rap, or Rock. Whichever one you are, for instance rock, you get the "2012 ROCK PRODUCTION" treatment that everyone else gets. There is not an absence of musicality, there is an absence of spirit and soul.


Absolutely. And as I always say, and as unrewarding it can be, it is up to artists to stand firm when it comes to resisting laziness like that. We may never be mainstream at the moment that the trend is happening but change will happen because of it.


Fantastic (and important) detail - thank you!


Salient points, Yannick. This could easily be a paragraph in my article. While it can be inspiring to experiment with new technology, knee-jerk embracing is counter-productive in the long run.


Right on, Patrick. The natural progression of things when there's money to be made is the top is going to get more bloated and less creative. That's just how it goes. Mostly because it will be driven by its need to make more money than is practical and to sustain a temporary dominance. In a place like that, and where mainstream music is now (read: desperate), you will be hard pressed to find any soul.

I hope it comes across that your argument and mine are the same. I equate agency with soul, because it's not about using rules, it's about following instinct and in order to succeed at that you need passion, which in turn requires soul.

Richard MacLemale

Nice article. Good points. But it's a tease - I'd like to read a whole BOOK on what got us from the pre-recording live performance only era to the point we are at now, where artists can get away with prerecorded backing tracks and autotune in live shows and no one cares, as long as the dance moves are in sync.

My last CD has Melodyne all over the vocals. I couldn't help myself. Like being able to quantize to a percentage a keyboard part, being able to click a button and get a "perfect" track is beyond tempting - it's part of my process now.

(Side note - I had one track where there was a particularly noticeable Melodyne tuning glitch on a vocal. It was really obvious. Then I discovered that I hadn't processed that part of the vocal track yet - it was just that I'd sung it weird.)

But point the finger at autotune and maybe we have to get rid of all samples and synths, because they conceptually do the same thing - instead of hiring a real string quartet, I just press these keys. One could argue that sampling is far more of a "cheat" than autotune in that sense.

That's what interests me. I'm part of the slippery slope and just trying to make sense of it.

You should write a book on it. I don't think anyone else has. You seem to have a good grasp. Might as well be you.

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