There is definitely a talent to working with Pro Tools and the
myriad related products. Like graphics programs such as Adobe
Photoshop, it takes real skill to coax the potential from these applications. The biggest qualm I have, along with many musical “
traditionalists”, lies with a new generation of musicians – and certainly
not all of them – who are using technology to compensate for
a lack of talent and originality. Tuning programs like Antares Auto
Tune and Melodyne can create a vocal performance that would
never have been possible from the singer’s own voice (more
about these later).
sounds good. No matter how much of a traditionalist you might
be, no one wants to hear someone singing out of tune.
As the technology has become more widespread, especially in
the past few years, our ears have become accustomed to the
sound of “pitch correction.” The downside of this is that when
you hear an artist singing live, who was “pitched” severely on their
record, you will hear a significant difference. Lead and background
vocals are almost always pitched, creating a homogenized syrupy
sound. In addition, pitching a great singer can take away a lot of
the character of the performance.
There are also several programs The slightly flat notes, awkward
designed to place music in the exact From a rhythmic perspective, if you were to vibrato and odd phrasing are some of
right time by using a grid. Quantizing the things we love most about our
programs like Beat Detective allow the “grid” a classic Rolling Stones song in Pro Tools favorite pre-Pro Tools records.
musician (or non-musician) to play “out of time” and magically have it sound or Logic, you would discover the time is shift- If Led Zeppelin were set to record a
in time. Eric Robinson, a producer, ing all over the place. The click track might go new album in 2007, it would most
engineer and artist in Los Angeles likely sound nothing like the original
summed it up, saying, “Technology out the window, but the song would still groove. recordings that we love so much.
enables processing that used to be The undeniable vibe of the four
impossible or incredibly time-consum- guys playing together would likely
ing to be done at light speed and easily repeated. This is where be tainted with the modern attitude of fixing everything and
many people lose sight of what they are working on and rely on making it “perfect.” From a rhythmic perspective, if you were
technology to fix what they either can’t do or don’t want to spend to “grid” (put the song on a quantized grid that places the audio
the time to make right.” into blocks, so you can determine whether something is in time
or not) a classic Rolling Stones song in Pro Tools or Logic, you
would discover the time is shifting all over the place. The click
track might go out the window, but the song would still groove.
The mojo is still there. Mick Jagger’s voice is raw and untainted.
Correcting the Pitch
Over the last ten years, audio engineers have been perfecting a
technique called “pitch correction or tuning,” in which they take
someone’s recorded lead vocal and “put it in tune” with the use of
various computer programs that allow the note to be altered into
perfect tune. As with anything else, there are good and bad sides
to this. The obvious upside is that if the singer sings flat or sharp,
it can be fixed after the fact. It is a relatively quick procedure and
can save valuable studio time if a singer has difficulty hitting the
right notes – an engineer can do this in a home studio at little or
no cost if they have the right programs. And let’s face it; it also
100 PREMIERGUITAR NOVEMBER 2007
Recording to tape preserved the artists’ original take for perpetuity.
Of course, they would do multiple takes and plucky engineers had
some editing tricks (splicing, doubling, etc.), but there were no digital enhancements that helped Mick Jagger sing in key, even if he
couldn’t. Back then, you had to perform to make the big money.
Real performers like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett grabbed the
mic (sometimes doing it without one) and just sang. They were