Do "all professional singers nowadays" use a pitch control device?

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by kydave, Mar 8, 2012.

  • AT5047

    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

  1. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2006
    Location:
    Blacksburg, VA
    It's interesting how in classical music there seems to be acceptance of editing, but a taboo against pitch correction. Some of this may have to do with the fact that pitch correction is not effective (yet) on large ensembles. But it sure would be nice if...how to put this delicately...all of those other instruments could be made to conform to the true, precise pitch achieved by horn players.
     
  2. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2008
    Location:
    currently Billings
    ROFL!

    Part of it is most string players get to hide in the herd while all the winds are one to a part. Part of it is most horn players can't successfully negotiate a professional level job if their ear isn't any good (in terms of note accuracy). For instance, I never practice the music on a given concert. I've already performed everything they could set in front of me many many times. I practice "calisthenic" type stuff and spend time every day matching intervals to drone tones. Of course that is "just" intonation and would be corrected by a machine to "equal" temperament. It is also the difference between a dilletant and a pro or aspiring pro. My high school students need all kinds of pitch correction. Heck they'd over heat the circuits on the box. It's just they get hammered every lesson on listening and matching. Maybe it's equivalent to an old school band playing 10 shows a week in dive clubs to learn ensemble and timing for years before they get to the "big time."

    And actually, I hate edits too. I find that more vainglorious and pseudo-Cervantes than pitch correction. I defy anyone to find a note perfect performance from any performer more than one or two times in their career. I tell the folks around here that if they can't lay it down 95% within five takes then they should go home and practice some more rather than get mad and frustrated on their dime and my time.

    However, I'm not in the big town anymore and can live in an ivory though non academic tower waiting for the zombies to rise from the mp3 graveyards.
     
  3. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2008
    Location:
    currently Billings
    Oh, and I think pitch correction is definitely used by opera singers on their solo recordings, some by solo instrumentalists but not nearly a majority by any means. Remember that the average "classical" musician is mentally stuck somewhere prior to 1890 except for Dudamel who just doesn't really give a damn about pitch or proper style or anything else but the showmanship. But I digress.....
     
  4. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2007
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Great thread! I think a lot of the reason that pitch correction is necessary is because of the resolution of audio today.

    Have you ever tried jamming with some old songs? You can tell they weren't using a tuner - they were tuned to each other. You try playing with your tuner tuned guitar, but then find out the band is 30 cents off of your perfect tuning. Combine that with the equipment of yesteryear and you have a more textured and gritty recording that is not perfectly in tune, but doesn't need to be. I think that combination of non-exact tunings, non-perfect pitch vocals, and low resolution recording equipment is what made those old recordings sound so real compared to nowadays.

    But as things keep getting 'improved', we become more demanding. Like a car engine - higher performance = higher tolerances = less room for error. Like video games - better graphics = need for more realistic animation = stuff that looks out of place when not done perfectly.

    Look at modern pop music. Electronic synths. Electronic drums. Electronic bass. The voice HAS to be autotuned, so that it sounds electronic as well. It's not necessarily that the artist has a bad take, but it NEEDS to be autotuned or it will not fit. IMO this is why the pop artists sound so god awful when you hear them recorded live (well that and the fact that most of them really aren't that good). The backing track is perfect, they are not. I added electric guitars to Tik Tok once, and it was DIFFICULT. I was playing super simple power chords, and I have pretty good timing. But with that 4/4 kick drum there was absolutely no room for error or it would sound off.

    Anyways, the more detail and clarity we can hear, the more nuances we will hear in the voice - the most difficult instrument of all.

    In some of my recordings I've noticed that even just the pitch correction (was using autotune I think) on very low settings helped blend the vocal and seat it in the mix. There will always be nuances in the voice IMO, no matter how good of a singer you are. But now that everything else in the recordings are perfect, the vocals have to be too.
     
  5. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2008
    Location:
    currently Billings
    Interesting take. Other than I disagree with the term "need" in a very big way.

    Pitch thirty or forty years ago was often closer to just intonation-when singing or certainly for nearly all instrumental music- than equal temperament for the reason that it sounds better. Listening to recordings is also not very valid for determining what the pitch actually was. Labels and engineers purposely altered speeds in order to fit the media destination. I can show you many versions of Beethoven Symphonies that are more than a half step off for the sole purpose of fitting a given number of sides in an album set. And that can even include not all sections of a movement being the same speed/pitch as they cross sides of the record.

    And that's just the classical end of things. Start digging into the rock/blues/whatever side and you will find the same. Therefore I don't think that is a valid comparison.

    What you could say is that forty years ago you tended to have ensembles and today you have a gaggle of individuals on a recording trying to pass as an ensemble. That explains why a tool like autotune is "needed" to bind it all together. No one listens to the rest of their band mates.
     
  6. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2007
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Ah, I see, that is interesting about the pitch altering! Gotta say that the rest of it kind of went over my head haha... I don't know much about classical. I should start getting into it though, I love the sound of strings, but all I have are the OSTs for a couple movies.

    I apologize also, I have a habit to kind of relate everything I talk about to pop music for some reason. I also didn't even realize that this was in the 'live sound' section, in which case my whole previous post is meaningless. I know very little about live audio, other than when I can blatantly hear the live auto-tune versions of artists on the Superbowl or something. My argument was solely regarding the clean pop recording aspect of it all...
     
  7. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2001
    Location:
    Pacific NW
    It was not uncommon for producers to pitch the playback of their recorders in order to bring out a particular vibe from a track. I did it all the time back in the day. Its amazing how much change can be derived from a few cents off the original pitch and speed of a composition.

    Also. Multiple speed recorders made it possible to play unbelieveable parts. The Beatles did this a lot more than you might realize.
     
  8. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2008
    Location:
    currently Billings
    Don't apologize. I'm not necessarily in the majority opinion of the value of autotune even on this forum. I think it is a tool every engineer of your generation has to know and will likely use. The question then begins to be when is enough enough. I know how to use it. I just refuse. I'm an anachronism in many ways so not always a good example to up and comers.
     
  9. kydave

    kydave Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2012
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    Well guys, I appreciate the input. I'm getting some input from some guys on the other side of the mic, too. Looks like, at least in Country & Bluegrass, singers like to trust their own voices live and in recordings than gadgets. This input from one Grammy winner and one former President of the Nashville Songwriter's Association, who have a bit of knowledge whereof they speak.... Keep the comments coming, please.
     
  10. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2010
    Location:
    Standing right behind you!
    I don't know, man. Country music is autotuned up the wazoo.
     
  11. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2001
    Location:
    Pacific NW
    Thats what I'm hearing also.
     
  12. kydave

    kydave Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2012
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    You gents are possibly right, but there's country & there's country.

    There are some of the new pretty face/body de jure who aren't much more than pop performers in a cowboy hat & boots. Then there are some folks with real talent in songwriting/singing/pickin' both young and less young - pretty and less pretty. I suspect the latter is less inclined to use pitch correction.

    My friend, ex-President Nashville Songwriters, is still around the business and I suspect he has a decent handle on that sort of thing. Also John Jorgenson, while more into the Django style music these days, is still around the country music scene via his demand as an instrumentalist/singer. When people like these tell me it isn't as prevalent as the guy who got me to writing this thread in the first place seemed to think, I have to give them a lot of credence.

    Any Nashville based sound engineers on this forum?

    Thanks again, Gentlemen!

    Dave
     
  13. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2008
    Location:
    currently Billings
    Heres the thing. If the talent isn't also the post production engineer (almost never) then when used properly, the talent will never know autotune was used.

    Sent from my DROIDX using Tapatalk
     
  14. Spase

    Spase Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2006
    Location:
    Minneapolis
    As a live sound veteran of over 20 years - mixing music from celtic to country and russian folk to rock - I have never used pitch correction. I have mixed coffee houses to small arenas. Mostly local cover rock/pop/country, but some national acts as well as those descending from their prime. I can't say how much who is using in the studio (aside from the obvious), but it is not used a lot live in my experience.
     
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2000
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Home Page:
    I listened to Kelly Clarkson on Q a few weeks ago and she said when she sing live, its all her. But her past productions have used it, and it wasn't her decision.

    Pro Tools
     
  16. steve Hogan

    steve Hogan Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2016
    Location:
    S.W. Florida
    Like the original poster. It makes me sad too. That's about all I can say really. I 've had a lifetime of enjoying the sound and excellent control of great singers. Being able to recognize artists almost from a single note and certainly a measure. Such a shame that money is causing the loss of true talent. Thing is, we won't even know if it's lost. Could be that there will be millions of examples where pitch control is only needed for the accountants and not the listeners. Very sad.
     
  17. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2000
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Home Page:
    I listened to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young performing together at Woodstock. Just guitars and them. Its was the real deal. I could care less if they were not perfectly in pitch. Awesome performance. They said it was their second time performing together, to an audience. They sounded so polished.

    There are thousands of great bands, singer around that don't use or need autotune. I'm still alive lol. I've never used it for myself. And most of the people I've worked with don't either. Those days and talents aren't gone. What goes around, comes around.

     
  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2012
    Location:
    Akron/Cleveland, OH
    Home Page:
    I guess you could consider me to be a "professional" singer... in that my voice has made me a lot of money over the last 35 years or so...

    I have never used any pitch correction of any kind. That's not to say I haven't hit my own fair share of clam notes, every singer will at some point, regardless of how good they are; we are humans and not perfect.
    But when that occurs, I will sing the part again, or as many times as it takes, to get it right. Perhaps that's "old school" thinking now... I come from a generation of musicians where talent and skill mattered, and the thought of having an artificial pitch correction device was not only unheard of, but would have also been dismissed as "lazy" performing. I think we have too many singers these days who rely too heavily on it, and the result is that pretty much "anybody" can be a "star" now... the business is more image driven than it is talent oriented. There are, of course, exceptions.

    The other facet is that often, these retakes are when "magic moments" will happen... you will hit a certain note by accident, or sing with a certain inflection that maybe wasn't originally intended, but that just works.

    There's been lots of vocal magic over the years that happened because we aren't "perfect".

    I've used this example before, but I'll use it again because it's a great example of what I'm talking about...
    Listen to The Stones' Gimme Shelter. At the end, Merry Clayton is singing "rape, murder, it's just a shot away..." and on the third time she sings it, her voice breaks on "murder" - but in a painfully exquisite and beautiful way, that still gives me goosebumps when I hear it ( and I've heard the song more times than I could count)...

    Here...listen at 3:01... I'm soooo glad that no one ever thought about "fixing" this... it's an imperfection that is so spontaneous, so gorgeous... and if you listen closely, in the background, you can hear Mick Jagger shout " Woo!" just after she hits that note , in response to how great it was.

     
  19. Brother Junk

    Brother Junk Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2016
    Location:
    Lowell Massachusetts
    First of all, I love the Stones. I'm only 38, but for myself, they are top tier. I do a lot of hip hop tracks because that's what people around here want. But Led Z, The Stones, Pink Floyd, Rush, Journey, music I don't want to live without.....I started listening to Muddy Waters, who was WAY before my time, bc of The Stones said he was a big influence on them.

    So I have heard that song probably 100 times (not in a studio) and never noticed her voice break there. I think you are right on all counts though, it was just a magic moment that sounds great.

    It's kind of like that PF song The Great Gig in the sky, I've never looked at it pitch wise on a screen, but Clare Torry (I think?) goes a little sharp a couple times, but who cares, it just sounds so damn good.

    Could you imagine if Janis Joplin was pitch corrected? That's part of what made her so electric.

    But I think what's happening these days is you have a lot of smaller studios, and a lot of people who like to dabble with singing. They don't sing well, but they enjoy it. And they will pay to have their voice sound better. I've made a fair amount of money just doing that. I would much rather be working with a "Clare Torry" but, those people aren't calling me.

    So I think there is that...a lot of "hobbyists" who, frankly, just need it. But they aren't "Pro" singers...

    But then there are people like Britney Spears, who was chosen bc she was pretty, she can dance, she had a vibe going, she was already famous, groomed for the spotlight. It's more like music labels are choosing people based mostly on marketability, not talent. People like her rely on pitch correction....but I wouldn't really consider her a pro singer either.

    The musicians I listen to and respect, I kind of appreciate that they are not using it. I don't mind that they aren't perfect, I feel like that's what gives it character. Regina Spektor leaves her little foibles in the track but she just sounds so good.

    I find that there are singers I always have to use it with, and I find there are singers that I never use it with. So, I dunno, I would find it surprising that a legit pro singer is relying on it, when I personally know home grown singers who don't.
     
  20. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2014
    Location:
    Vancouver
    Home Page:
    There's a great scene in the extended making of video for the sessions for the Canadian "Tears are not Enough" famine relief song. David Foster is the producer - and he's working with all these big egos and stars and trying to get all the takes he needs. At one point he's working with Neil Young - and he keeps getting Neil to re-track his part, losing the momentum of the sessions and going down the rabbit hole... at some point he tells a frustrated Neil Young that he's singing a bit flat and wants another take. Neil looks at him and says something like: "That's my sound man". You can see the gears in Foster's head pause while he processes this and then he laughs -- he gets it - rabbit hole denied. Neil is done and the sessions continue and Foster learns a valuable lesson.
     
  • AT5047

    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice