A Quick History of Auto-Tune

A Quick History of Auto-Tune

Chris Perez
Oct 12, 2012

You've no doubt heard Auto-Tune — it's implemented in just about every pop song to both obvious and not-so-obvious effect. You may even be familiar with the term, thanks to performers like T-Pain who've made a career and an app out of it. But did you know that Auto-Tune was created by a research scientist who worked in the oil industry? We look at a brief history and also show you where you can download Auto-tune software to use on your home computer.

Auto-Tune was invented by Dr. Andy Hildebrand, a research engineer employed in the oil industry. One of his big breakthroughs was developing auto-correlation, an algorithm that uses seismic waves to create detailed subsurface maps that oil companies use to find potential drill sites. The next, surprisingly even bigger breakthrough, came when he tweaked auto-correlation to pitch-correct music. In 1996, Antares Audio Technologies and their Auto-Tune software were born.

The first song that hit the airwaves with Auto-Tune was Cher's "Believe" single, and since then the recording industry has never been the same. Now just about any popular track you listen to at home or in the car has been auto-tuned to some effect in the studio. Sometimes it's used to fix a missed piano note, and other times to pitch correct an entire song. The most prominent user of Auto-Tune has to be T-pain, a rapper who became so synonymous with the effect he released his own iPhone app, I Am T-pain. It's amusing to say the least.

No matter your opinion on the widespread use of Auto-tune in the industry, it is significant, and it does at least provide us some great office laughs when used in videos like these.

Want to try auto-tune yourself? There are free plug-ins and trials available here on the Antares Audio Technology site. Have some fun with it.

Further Reading: Auto-Tune: Why Pop Music Sounds Perfect from Time Magazine

(Top image: Shutterstock)

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