Sing it ain't so! 

Where the hell did Auto-Tune come from?

It shouldn't be a surprise that Auto-Tune was conceived by an oil industry engineer, not a musician. That's right, the same seismic wave technology that helps oil companies locate drill sites is used to evaluate and manipulate pitch by moving a singer's note to the nearest in-key semitone.

Developed by Andy Hildebrand as something of a lark, the downloadable software plug-in was launched in 1996. Its creator intended people to use his software to correct pitch, but he explained in a 2009 Time magazine article he never thought they'd want to sound like singing robots (which is done by messing with the speed at which notes are retuned).

Many bemoan the overkill of this gimmicky use of Auto-Tune on the airwaves (the kind heard at ATK), but its intended purpose is generally accepted, and even applauded by some in the recording industry. Who wants to hear what Lady Gaga really sounds like without processing, live and on stage?

For some perspective, we asked Jim Diamond, head of Detroit's famous Ghetto Recorders, a beacon of analog glory in a black hole of digital everything, who called Auto-Tune a "Pandora's box."

"Once you open that, you can't go back," he says. "Like the loudness wars in mastering, you have to compete with the next guy so you want your record in tune and you want it loud."

And he thinks all that pitch "correction" comes with a price. "The trouble with Auto-Tune is that this is how people think singers are supposed to sound these days," he says. "I doubt kids know the difference."

Diamond cites a band he recorded a few years ago: "The singer was good, but something kept bugging me ... He was singing like he was being Auto-Tuned! It was crazy."

It'll shock many to learn Diamond actually owns Auto-Tune, which he uses sparingly to "fix a few notes." He picked it up for a job in 1999. "This band wanted to sound like the Beach Boys. Unfortunately, they couldn't sing."

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 12, 2022

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2022 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation