Can we discuss Autotune… or rather, pitch manipulation? I saw the new live-action Beauty and the Beast, and I cherished it absolutely. Alan Menken is one of my top 5 favorite composers, which particular story has captivated me. I believe that Disney did a great job bringing this cartoon and story alive on all fronts. Flashback to 2004 when I finally was able to purchase Pro-Tools (version 5!). I used to be so excited to finally have the ability to do multitrack recording/mixing! At last, I had been on my way to learning to be a platinum record producer. My singing would be heard on top 40 radio for many years to come.
The cover tune I chose to record (Prosthetic Head by Greenday) would be just as great, if not better, than the initial. That is, until I heard my clear and distinguished tone of voice, unadulterated by other muddying monitors; incontrovertible proof that I was a terrible singer. Clenched, compelled, throat-y, with doubtful pronunciation, and everything topped off by the WORST pitch I needed ever heard. I was crushed. Those particular dreams passed away that day, but I finished the cover song anyhow because I wasn’t abandoning my pursuits in sound for being a bad singer.
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13 years of practice later, and I’m not the worst singer any longer. By 2007, I was an impressively bad singer still. My dad bought me an Mbox 2 Mini audio interface for Christmas, which came with Pro Tools 7 and a restricted license to Melodyne – in my own view, the absolute best pitch manipulation software. It had been tried by me on a couple of phrases of my singing, and WOW, it sounded like… is that actually my voice?
Yeah, that’s totally me, and I actually appear… dare I say it… good! How come pitch-correction make someone’s tone of voice sound like they can sing? I spent weeks theorizing onto it and made a decision that the smoothed-out intonation and exact center pitches were so compelling in a “performance”, that the mind allows it to overshadow the bad singing technique; a cognitive order worth focusing on perhaps. Back again to my one reservation about Beauty and the Beast: I think they butchered Emma Watson’s voice with a dull cleaver.
I can listen to the music supervisor yelling, “Keep smashing her tone of voice until it’s sufficient for a McDonald’s hamburger!” It must be the most un-artful representation of the individual voice to emerge in the annals of Walt Disney Studios. Was that dramatic enough? I won’t bother trying to describe what I hear because I understand you’ll easily listen to it too.
Her tone of voice stood out among the solid as the most processed and least natural. There is no consistency in processing style. I’d have expected a universal approach. Sure, as long as it’s everyone on a single algorithm. No control in any way? Cool, but cast singers of complimentary skill. Belle’s tone of voice is a flat-line, while Plumette has a lovely operatic voice with a lot of expressiveness and vibrato.