Volume 47, Number 14 - March 15, 2010

About the Reporter

Ernesto Ferris
Ernesto Ferris

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Opinion Opinion

Picture of elvis presley
Elvis "The King" Presley did not use voice modifiers to help him get the " perfect pitch."

The lost art of talent

By Ernesto Ferris

Picture of kanye west
Kanye West, in the other hand, uses auto-tune for almost every song.

If you're a young adult in this new millennium, chances are that you've heard people in your family berate the music that our generation claims to be delightful sound.

They complain about its decline in quality and the musical incompetence of those behind the mic-- and with good reason.

Our elders had Buddy Holly and Elvis, The Ramones and The Beatles, even Boy George and Madonna. But those singers didn’t have auto-tune, which can help give you that “perfect pitch”, and unfortunately helps to give a lot of people unearned fame.

In an age where technology is a necessity, the music industry is using that little double-edged sword to balance out some artists’ abilities (think of Kanye’s singing).

In a way, our elders were right.

The singers of their day had to work hard and were not just a collection of pretty faces with catchy tunes and money to throw around.

Even if the ones using voice modifiers are a minority, that minority is influencing mainstream music faster and faster.

The whole process is fairly simple. An artist records his or her song and right after pops it into the studio to work on it. A specialist loads the song onto a program such as vocoder, evo-pitch, or any other software tools that enables voice modification.

Singers can select a special effect (e.g the deepening of the voice) or can modify the parts that don’t sound well by adjusting them to sound clearer and perfect. The enhancements are then ready to leak onto the radio, online and on records.

Pop music’s (and to some extent rock music’s) uniform pitch has humble beginnings; artists such as Cher used it for a unique effect, but for the most part, singers used their own natural talent and hard work. Where would rock music be if Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan used auto-tune?
We don’t see it that way because those two, and many other individuals, brought something new and natural to the table. 

These days, it’s mostly used as a ‘safety net’ of sorts, and used in various pop, R & B, rock, and even rap songs.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of artists have tremendous quality, and many of them are against voice modifiers, Jay-Z for example. But that doesn’t mean talent should be attained so easily, like so many new one hit wonders and instant artists seem to be doing.

It’s like a professional athlete using steroids; people frown upon athletes using steroids, so why don’t people frown upon artists using voice modifiers?
It’s a bit like the old story of the Turtle and the Hare, except this time the hare actually wins due to his crafty shortcut.
The road music is headed is an unfortunate one in which music will become standardized. The voice modifier feature has become such an everyday thing that we will soon lose the ability to tell the difference between true quality and synthetic recreation.

Anyone with the right software and look will become the next pop star. One can only recreate excellence so much before it loses its meaning.
Do we really need singers who modify their voices and create an environment of perfection to a generation already jaded by loss of creativity? I think not.

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