Knowledge Bombs

Auto-tune Basics

The 101

What it is

Auto-tune is an audio processor plug-in used during and after recording. Most artists also use Auto-tune during live concerts. It’s a tool that distorts vocals. Originally, it was used to correct pitch or disguise inaccuracies. Nowadays it is mostly used to give texture and effects to the voice. When boosted, it can sound like a synthesizer for the voice. Both singers and rappers can use auto-tune, but it is usually preferred by singers.

Contrary to other softwares, autotunes is not something you can manually adjust other than the note it is set in. The artist has to know how to work it which comes with experience.


Invented in 1997 by a research engineer employed in the oil industry Dr. Andy Hildebrand. He built his project through his mathematical autocorrelation which is an algorithm that sends sound waves creating seismic waves to map earth’s surface. The results would be used to find potential drill sites for oil companies. He later realized that this technology could be used to correct and tweak pitch and notes of human voice.

The first ever song that made waves with noticeable auto-tune effects was ”Believe” by Cher in 1997. The technique became known at that moment as the ‘’Cher effect’’.


Auto-tune first started in pop music then slowly made its way in hip-hop. At first there was a lot of gate keeping surrounding this new technology… As there usually is in the industry. The producers and engineers were reluctant to share their secret sauce. Eventually it got out and took over the industry world wide. Some will even go as far as to speculate that 98% of what comes out in the music industry has gone through auto-tune.

The mindboggling thing about auto-tune is that since it first hit the market it has been in a constant ascension, and nothing has come close to surpassing it.


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