CULT SOUNDS                                                                                   

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One of the most popular vocal effects is the so-called "Auto Tune" Effect, named after the Antares pitch correction software.

The extreme use of the effect leads to artificial, robot-like vocal lines. Cher's Song "Believe" is considered as the starting point of the popularity of this effect. An interesting  story behind the recording secrets of the song can be found through this link.  After the release and the big success of "Believe", the effect was also called the "Cher Effect".

After a short period of popularity in the early 2000s, Auto- Tune became one of the most 'overused' vocal effects from 2008 until now. The Auto-Tune effect is similar to two effects, typically for popular music:

The Vocoder sound and the Talk Box Sound


The following sound examples will introduce Auto-Tune:



Auto-Tune

Cher's Song  "Believe" from 1998 with Auto Tune Effect

R6B artist T-Pain uses Auto-Tune in almost every production of his own.

Hip Hop Artist B.o.B. reacted 2009 with a cynical song on the overuse of Auto-Tune.

The Vocoder modulates a carrier sound with the help of the human voice or a similar signal. The player has to sing and play at the same time in order to combine the two signal sources. There is no need to sing in tune, because the vocoder only recognizes the change of the formants of the voice, not the pitch.

"The Raven", a song by Alan Parsons from 1976, "Die Roboter", a Kraftwerk song from 1978 and "O Superman" by Laurie Anderson 1981 are some famous examples of vocoders being used in popular music. The Vocoder has been used by such artists as Stevie Wonder ("A Seed's A Star") or Herbie Hancock ("I Thought It Was You") or Earth, Wind & Fire ("Lets Groove").

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The following five examples show the difference between the unmodulated sound of a voice, a vocoded voice, an auto-tuned voice and a voice both vocoded and auto-tuned. We used the Apple Logic Pro X vocoder and the Apple Logic pitch correction with a logic vocal sample.

1. Pure voice:

2. Vocoder Voice & Pure Voice mix:

3. Vocoder Voice

4. Voice with pitch correction:

5. Voice with vocoder & pitch correction:

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The Talk Box modulates or modifies a signal coming from a guitar or a synthesizer by the formants or the shape of the human voice. The signal comes from a compression driver in a airtight box and goes through a plastic tube to the performer's mouth and back to a microphone.

The Effect was popularized by Peter Frampton ("Do You Feel Like We Do"), Rufus ("Tell Me Something Good"), Bon Jovi ("It's My Life") and extensively by Roger Troutman and Zapp ("Computer Love"). Troutman used a Yamaha DX 100 synth brass sound as basic signal for his trademark sound.

The Talk Box

The Vocoder

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Peter Frampton " Do You Feel Like We Do"

Roger Troutman "Computer Love"

These are three examples of Auto-Tune being used in North Mali and Egypt:

Sadat & Fifty Cent "Five Pounds Credit" 2013

Auto-Tune in today's multi-local contexts

Mdou Moctar "Anar" 2013

The Sonovox, one of the earliest vocoders

The Voder, one of the earliest speech synthesizers

Listen to more Auto-Tune examples: click here

Maurice 'Pirahnahead' Herd about Roger Troutman and the Talk Box