So I’m doing a lot more music recording these days. And one of my favorite tools is a wonderful little program called Auto-Tune, which, if used correctly, does exactly what its name implies: automatically pull a note that is out-of-tune back to perfect pitch. Let’s say there’s one note out of a whole phrase that’s a bit off-pitch: why re-record the whole verse for that one note? I just punch-in the plug for that one note, and we’re back in business. [TIME did an article on Auto-Tune, and the company has its own podcast mp3 so you can hear how the program works.]
I do the same thing with Photoshop a lot right now because I am now selling stock on iStockphoto. They need every photo submitted to be as close to perfect as possible, so I go in and “airbrush” all the little imperfections out, creating (hopefully) a more marketable/usable photo.
But I’m also conflicted. Overuse of Auto-Tune turns out lifeless vocals. And I love to “grunge” up my graphic design work, when the project calls for it. Imperfections are what make things human, and removing all of the human element isn’t always a good thing.
That said, I will never throw the tool out [like these people want to, or here’s Neko Case complaining about Auto-Tune towards the end of the interview, or these studio engineers who are as conflicted about using it as I am). If I can use it when needed but make it practically invisible, and then not use it when we have the time to get it right, then I think everything will be okay.
But taking the time to get things right is another concept that is dying right now — budgets are way too tight to actually try to do something right. So I work overtime even when the client isn’t paying for it, just so that I can be happy with the final result. Unfortunately, that cuts into the time that I’m supposed to be recording…