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Like the rest of the Christians in America I was watching Disney's 2014 Night of Joy concert. It was even trending on twitter. I was pretty sure the artists were using autotune during parts of their concerts because well it was just too good compared with the beginning. I thought I could hear some echo ghosting or something. I don't know if I caught it on the two recordings I made.

Hillsong Youtube.com audio recording

second recording

I'm not throwing stones but I'd rather hear them as they sound with a few bad notes and stuff.

How can I tell from a specific recording if the artist(s) have used autotune or not?

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It will depend on both the singer and the setting of the auto tuning. A well implemented auto tune will be very hard to notice even for the most trained ears, and the better the singer the smaller the corrections and the harder it'll be to notice it.

There are two common artifacts that make pitch correction noticeable:

  1. Pitch correction becomes most noticeable when the correction speed is too fast, so the jump between pitches becomes instant, "robotic" (sometimes used as an effect, the "Cher effect").

  2. Another giveaway is when the pitch dynamics become too static, when the pitch correction reduces the natural vibrato too much. In sustained parts the voice can resemble something like an initialized synth.

As pitch correction software becomes better, its influence becomes less noticeable, to the point where I believe it's impossible to notice it. The famous auto tune, for example, has a "humanize" control that adds variance to the correction. It also has controls for things like how much you want to affect the natural vibrato, or to induce more tremolo and/or vibrato.

  • +1 for Cher. I often wondered how that effect came about, but did she have to sing out of tune to make it happen ? – Tim Sep 6 '14 at 17:32
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    @Tim That artifact is present even when singing in tune. The glissandos and vibratos are turned into a kind of square wave pitch modulation when the amount of correction is too much, and the correction speed is too fast. The transition between pitches becomes instant. – Lyd Sep 6 '14 at 17:50
  • @Tim the Wikipedia page about this has some interesting (and pretty well referenced!) info about this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auto-Tune#In_popular_music – Bob Broadley Sep 10 '14 at 7:54

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