Authentic vs Auto-tune

Regardless of your interest level in music, you have likely heard the word “auto-tune.” This is a computer program that can fix pitch variations in the human voice to make a vocal performance “perfect.” Today, the vast majority of recording artists use this “tool” in recording. Some, who are regularly pitch-challenged have to take it on the road to use in live performances because fans are going to expect a recreation of the record, which now cannot possibly be performed. So, for some, its auto-tune in the studio and auto-tune in the live show.

Back in the day, as they say, when I was on the road and my band was making records, no such “tool” existed. We had to work really hard to nail a solid vocal performance. As a result, there were times when we had to say, “That’s the best we can do. Let’s go with it and move on.” One of the factors that helped this decision was no one in the record buying world at that time was expecting perfection; they were simply wanting to experience an artist’s new performance.

By the time my own recording days ended and I started producing other artists, the computer was being introduced into the studio and some programs were popping up to “fix” notes, but it was a tedious process and engineers wanted the vocal take to be as close as possible, so they would have to correct as little as possible. After I left the music world completely is when all the new technology exploded and changed the game.

But I can remember sitting in the engineer booth, listening to a very talented singer who I was helping make the best record possible for the money. The lights in the vocal room were down low, he or she was completely in the zone, feeling every note and every moment of their song, while their heart and soul would flow out of their mouth, through the mic, and be captured in the recording. When the take was over, they would say what every good singer says, “Let me try it one more time. I can do better.” To which the engineer and I would say, “No! That was absolute magic. There is no way we are replacing that. That performance was special, anointed, beautiful.” Was it perfect? No. Was it dead-on on every note? No. But did it create that emotion in us that makes us feel like we just heard something amazing from an artist who has something special to say? Yes. Absolutely. The whole reason music exists in the first place. Because we weren’t after auto-anything, but authentic. Not a grand perfection, but a performance from the heart.

The lost and hurting world around us doesn’t need to see our social media-ized, utopian, perfected auto-tuned lives, but authentic and real expressions of what a flawed and blemished human being looks like in the hands of a Perfect God.

Thank you for responding to me; you’ve truly become my salvation! The stone the masons discarded as flawed is now the capstone! This is God’s work. We rub our eyes—we can hardly believe it! This is the very day God acted—let’s celebrate and be festive! Salvation now, God. Salvation now! Oh yes, God—a free and full life! —Psalm 118:21-25 MSG

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