To Tune Or Not To Tune?

You’re so used to hearing vocals that have been over-tuned by a computer that when you hear a natural vocal you may think it sounds bad. Such was the case when one radio programmer heard my second album Twilight. He told the label it sounded like a demo.

Most vocals I hear on the radio these days are over tuned – for my taste. They sound digitized. And here’s why.

What happens is the vocal is fed through a program and displayed on the producer’s screen as a wave. You can literally see the peaks and troughs, the changes in pitch. And the thing is, no human voice is without these peaks and troughs. They make a human voice sound human.

So, when a producer wants to “fix” the pitch he can do this in a number of ways. He can take away those peaks and troughs so that the vocal is more of a straight line on his screen – which makes it sound digitized to my ears. Or he can keep the peaks and troughs intact and move them all up or down slightly toward the right note.

Using the first method kills expression and dynamics and allows any beautiful half-naked girl to sell records.

I prefer the second method.

Well, I prefer singing in tune. But if I miss and we absolutely must use that miss because it’s the most expressive take we’ve got, then let’s use the second tuning method. It keeps the expression and dynamics intact.

But here’s the thing. Much of the time people aren’t tuning vocals because they’re pitchy after numerous takes. They’re tuning them because they like that digitized sound. What used to be utilitarian has become an effect – like reverb or delay. Over-tuned vocals are now what radio stations and consumers think sounds “good.”

So many parallels to the rest of life here: Experience something often enough and it becomes the new normal, the new “good.”

So what if you don’t need to be tuned? What if you don’t like what the majority likes? The majority buys music you know? And my job is kinda to sell music. Hmmm.

I’ll take my chances for now.

Maybe I’ll go half-naked and over-tuned for the next record.

We’re in the studio today adding timpani and other ear candy to the record. Waiting on string parts to arrive later this afternoon I hope. Then I think we’re done and the whole thing gets passed on to Shane Wilson for mixing. We’re almost done! Thank you for praying and encouraging us through this process. (Sneak peeks coming soon to all backers.)