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Saturday, 2 July 2016

Auto-Tune and Reverb, What’s the Difference?

Hi everyone! I am so sorry for not posting up as much as I promised; I need to remember that I have a blog now!

I’ve had a number of you message me on my Social Media asking me to write reviews on certain equipment, albums, tours etc. So, I have now got back to writing for you all! I will try and post at least once a week if not more.

Today I want to focus on something that has really jarred me for a while now, and a lot of you have messaged me to ask about it because you either don’t understand the difference or because you just assume it’s one and not the other.

Auto-Tune and Reverb, What’s the Difference?

I am a frequent YouTube viewer, it’s my go to for a quick listen to music, the same as many of us. I am also someone who views the comments underneath, much to my hatred of arguing with people who have no clue what they are talking about, I still can’t help getting into arguments with people when it comes to their lack of knowledge about auto tune and reverb.

Auto-Tune uses a phase vocoder to correct pitch in vocal and instrumental performances. It is used to disguise off-key inaccuracies and mistakes. In other words it allows vocalists to perform perfectly by tuning vocal tracks without the vocalist actually singing in tune. This is not the only case though; some bands/artists will purposely use auto-tune to create an effect musically for a different sound to the overall track.

Reverb is completely different. Reverb simulates the component of sound that results on reflections from surrounding walls and or objects. Perfect example of reverb; have you all had a little singsong while in the shower and you sound like the best vocalist in the world? That is the effect of reverb; your voice is a reverberation of the space that you are in. There are a lot of room acoustics involved in the creation of reverb, lots of science and math to work out to be effective with room calibrations for the right reverb outcome, but to make it plain and simple, the size of the room and the materials in the room are the main components of what delay you have on the sound you hear back when being vocal. Auto-tune does NOT do that.

I’ll go into a little bit more depth and comparison for you all.

Example One;
Lil Wayne - Lollipop 

I adore Lil Wayne despite the hate I get for it, but you like what you like and that’s the end of the story. Wayne and his producers know how to hit a spot in the studio with such diamond cut quality, you can hear everything in the structure of each track, the production quality to every album is outstanding. Lollipop is one of my favorites and the reason why is because of the use of auto-tune and production layers.

In Lollipop you can hear Wayne vocals change in pitch throughout. The track has a BPM of 148, Wayne is a rapper, not a singer so using auto-tune on this track was for creation purposes only; there is no need to make any other comment on that. He is not singing a ballad or performing for the Royal Albert Hall, it’s a rap song. This is simply for the use of effect with this processing.

Example Two;
Daft Punk – One More Time

I have heard so many asshats talk about how their favorite artists would never ever dare use auto-tune in a track. I hate to break it to you all, but nearly everyone has experimented with it. They may not have released it on a finished mix or master but they have experimented it.

I have seen so many people talk about Daft Punk and how they “have never used auto-tune on any of their songs” and I have had to laugh because if you are a fan of Daft Punk and know their music well, you would know that One More Time was plagued with auto-tune. I do not even need to talk about this song in detail, because the song is so self-explanatory with what effects are used. What I will say is, this was for a creation purpose. If this song didn’t have any auto-tune it would not sound at all like the version we know.

So yes kids, Daft Punk do in fact love a little auto-tune.

Example Three;
T-Pain – Backseat Action

Our boy T-Pain loves to dabble in auto-tune. T-Pain has had so much hate from uneducated kids about his use of auto-tune on his albums, but lets face it, we all sing along to him and we all love the chart bangers his production team have released.

Backseat Action was around when I was getting into working with music, it was a pioneer track that I jammed to all the time. The production on this is amazing and T-Pain made it his own with filtering his vocals around sound you hear. I have used this song in particular to explain to people that T-Pain is an incredible vocalist with and without auto-tune. This guy does not need auto-tune to keep his voice in check with pitch; he uses it to give an overall tone to the track. His voice matches every layer of the song, not just in this song but other tracks he has produced. The whole Epiphany and Pree Ringz albums are laced with auto-tune, and in each of those tracks there is no way you can say T-Pain used auto-tune to make himself sound better.

If you still have no believe in my words, please listen and watch this to educate yourselves a little bit more;

I really hope you have all listened to the songs above and understood the uses and effects of auto-tune because I can not stress enough the importance of knowing the difference between that and reverb, especially if you are starting out study in the music industry.

I’ll now move onto reverb and give you three clear examples of it.

Example One;
Daughter – Shallows

Daughter are one of the best bands to ever exist. I can honestly say without this band I would be in a deadly place, putting that aside, this band and song really know how to work with reverb to make magic.

Daughter’s album If You Leave is the perfect album to listen and hear reverb, not just on the vocal elements of a track but also instruments. Reverb can be put on anything to create a lovely sustain on a sound and that is what Igor has done on his guitar leads. The soft drum kicks also have been damped so you can hear the way the song develops. There are clear elements of difference with reverb and auto-tune and this song is a proven example.

I was once having a conversation about Bjork with an old lecture of mine. He was talking in terms of how Bjork’s albums made him feel, he said that her album just felt warm, it made him feel enclosed and safe even though it was so upsetting to listen to, it felt that he was enclosed in a womb and taken care of. That is exactly how Daughter’s albums can be described. Musically and lyrically they are incredible and the amount of passion, creativity and production gone into everything they have made is outstanding. 

Example Two;
Bon Iver – Re:Stacks

If you have never heard of Bon Iver you have not lived for music. Bon knows how to make pain sound beautiful.

Many songs of Bon’s are double tracked; this does not mean that reverb is not used. When you program your ears to listen to reverb you can then start to hear the slightest bit of it on any vocal or instrument part. When I was studying the effects of reverb at University, I was amazed by how much I knew about reverb, I could tear a song apart to listen to only one area of the song and hear not just what reverb was but where it was. Maybe I have a level up because I was taught by some of the world’s greatest people, or maybe I have an overall understanding of music production, but I cannot understand how there are still arguments over auto-tune and reverb and how they are classed as the same thing or mixed up. There is a clear difference between the two.

Just like Daughter, you can hear Bon’s use of reverb without hunting for it. If reverb were visible light, it would shine the fuck out of these songs.

Example Three;
Architects – The Distant Blue

I’m switching up with the genre here so I can show that any genre, band/artist can touch on reverb.

If you have heard of Architects you will know how incredible they are, but you would have also heard their album Lost Forever // Lost Together. This album really has a lot of reverb, not as much as the likes of Daughter or Bon, but enough to be heard.

Sam Carter has a unique voice and his voice needs no improvement, the only thing I would say is we need more of him but that’s because I adore him and the rest of the Architects lads. Sam’s vocal lead on this song is amazing, we really hear him at his best. The effect on this track is haunting and chilling, this is not just due to the written instrumentation but also because of the vocal use with reverb. It is distant, there is a width in vocal, it’s spacious and that is because of the reverb. I explained earlier that reverb simulates the component of sound, it results on reflections from surrounding walls and or objects. This album was not recorded in a concert hall or a church; it was in a tiny vocal booth. Due to the effects processing in the studio the reverb used on the track sounds like it was recorded in a huge open space. Remember singing in the shower and your beautiful vocals? It’s all about the surface and the time relayed back. That is all reverb and the magic of it.

The whole of Lost Forever // Lost Together is laced with reverb not just on the vocals but on the guitars too. The guitar pedals used have created a beautiful harmony and Architects are a perfect band to use as an example of it.

There are many songs, artists and albums I could have used to explain the effects of auto-tune and reverb but the ones I have chosen are some of my favorites and I wanted to share my own input on the songs chosen. That may not have been much, but talking about the differences with both of these effects is not easy, it is best to listen to the differences and understand what your own ears are hearing.
If there were small differences between a track with reverb and auto-tune I could understand people not realizing the difference, but when the two effects sound completely different and are used for two different purposes, I feel the need to add correction. I really hope you have a little more of an insight to effects processing and can understand the differences when listening to your music.


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