Academic work: Bachelor Thesis – Analyzing Pitch 1 (Pt.10)

rttrrI will be posting segments of my bachelor thesis “Out of Touch – The Framework That Is Supposedly Killing Music”. The whole essay can be found at: Link to essay

The main discussion points in the thesis are authenticity, Auto-tune and the obsession with perfection in today’s music.

Analyzing pitch

As mentioned previously, the pitch correction and Auto-tune tools are much more than just manipulation tools. They provide empiric data that can be analyzed further with the help of the different perspectives mentioned throughout this essay. The programs used provide a similar user ex
perience but with a slightly varied result.

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Figure 2.2 Kanye West Love Lock Down Auto-tune curve

Auto-tune (as seen in figure 2.2), the program that started the pitch correction trend gives a solid representation of the pitch and with a curve that is easy to follow. To the left hand side is the piano roll, displaying the notes, and to the right is the graph drawn out for analysis and editing. The main problem with Auto-tune is that it is not very user friendly and the version used here is quiet limited compared to Melodyne and Waves Tune.

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Figure 2.3 Kanye West Love Lock Down Melodyne curve

Melodyne (as seen in figure 2.3) released in 2009 by Celemony is in many ways similar to Auto-tune. It uses the term “pitch correction” instead of “Auto-tune”,
which has become sort of trivialized in the music world. Therefor establishedartists outside the pop-music world are not ashamed to admit they are using the software (Celemony). Melodyne is an easier tool to learn and provides a more comfortable user experience at first glance.

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Figure 2.4 Kanye West Love Lock Down Waves Tune curve

Waves Tune (figure 2.4), is part of the legendary Waves bundle that is used by almost every studio in the world. The software is described as a correction and
manipulation tool for vocals and monophonic instruments. In that sense it is much like the other two programs. The difference with Waves is in the appearance and user experience. It is easy to learn and to edit, even for beginners. It also provides a much more user friendly interface that is easy to learn and get in to.

Love Lock down:

Specific section used in figures

 

http://www.antarestech.com/

http://www.antarestech.com/download.php?id=13&opt=product_manual

http://www.waves.com/1lib/pdf/plugins/tune.pdf

Academic work: Bachelor Thesis – Pitch correction and Auto-tune (Pt.9)

rttrrI will be posting segments of my bachelor thesis “Out of Touch – The Framework That Is Supposedly Killing Music”. The whole essay can be found at: Link to essay

The main discussion points in the thesis are authenticity, Auto-tune and the obsession with perfection in today’s music.

Pitch correction and Auto-tune

“Pitch is typically associated with our perception of the “highness” or “lowness” of a particular sound. Our perception of pitch ranges from the very general (the high pitch of hissing steam, the low pitch of the rumble of an earthquake) to the very specific (the exact pitch of a solo singer or violinist)” (Auto-tune 5 Manual, p. 13).

Auto-tune was introduced in 1997 by a company called Antares Audio Technology (Auto-tune 5 Owner’s manual 2006, p. 7). Pitch correction was possible before this, but it was a tedious process. It either required cutting of the physical media, re-recording or overdubbing the mistakes. All of this had to be done in the post process, meaning that there was little to none control over the real time process. Today it is possible to use Auto-tune in live situations instead of using playback, if the singer is having problems with a song (Marshall 2014). Auto-tune is used in almost every professional recording process and has received a lot of mixed criticism. It is frowned upon when used as a cover up for poor vocals, but accepted as an effect for people who can sing without the use of pitch correction (Marshall 2014). There are many different kinds of pitch correction software and during the analysis process I have looked at the three most prominent ones. Melodyne, Wave-Tune and the program that started it all, Auto-tune.

Ever since Antares released their groundbreaking invention Auto-tune (in the beginning of 1997) music has been moving “on a path” towards perfection. Perfection in the sense that it is almost inhumanly close to pitch perfect. When Cher released her song “Believe” in 1998 there was plenty of confusion regarding the sound of her voice. That was the first time Auto-tune was officially used in commercial music. What most people do not know is that the way Cher used Auto-tune was very unconventional, even though the software had not been out for long. The program was simply meant as a tool to manipulate frequencies, pitch and to help singers sound better on recordings. If the singer was low or too high on a certain part or section it could simply be corrected with the use of Auto-tune. The way Cher used it was to just max out the effect, and in that way achieving an almost robotic sound. This might have been what caused the outrage and confusion regarding Auto-tune, and is still what is generating lots of hate towards the software.

According to the manuals of the three software’s, their main function is to correct pitch. This is also one of the main critiques against the use of them, that they are being used as “cheats” (Silverman 2013). The programs are mainly described as being a “powerful intonation correction tool”. It is interesting that after almost 20 years after release, this is still their main description, especially since they have such a big and wide use. One of the first use of Auto-tune was with the song previously mentioned by Cher, “Believe”. Cher used Auto-tune more as an effect, much like a Wah-pedal. Vocoder or a Delay. Looking at the usage of Auto-tune, it actually took a while until it was commercially used as intended. Pitch correction was in a sense available before 1997, but not accessible to the public in the same way. The early pitch correction software were slow and almost unusable if compared to Antares Auto-tune (Anderton 2006).

Auto-tune or pitch correction is used in almost every song today. Most of the time it is not even noticeable and it is only used in certain parts where the singer struggled or did not achieve the sought after pitch. Auto-tune is actually very rarely used throughout a whole song. In the small amount of cases, or the rather large if you’re talking about pop music, it is because the singers are actually lacking the musical ability to produce tones that are on par with the pitch of the song. A sensitive subject, but still something that is being used at slander not too seldom, especially in pop-music.

Current well known artists like Ellie Goulding and Lorde are both continuously accused of using Auto-tune, but they strictly deny it. But who can really decide who can and cannot sing, especially when there is a program that will easily give you the answer to that question. That is why Auto-tune becomes interesting, because it can actually tell the user where the singer’s voice is, pitch wise. If you are too low, you simply bump the curve up and you’re in pitch, and if you are too high you lower the pitch curve. That little bump, that small little notch up to the right pitch, is that where the music stops being authentic and organic? That small little mistake, the human factor and error is that not what we want? What makes us unique and special if we can simply correct our mistakes?

In the technical section the mistakes, artifacts and curves are analyzed using the same methods they were created or removed with, by using pitch correction programs. Songs that have not been altered are looked at as comparison as a raw slate.

Sources:

AutoTune 5 manual, 2006, Antares Audio Technologies, Scotts Valley California

Anderton, Craig 2006. ”In Search of the Perfect Pitch”. Emusician, 2006.

Silverman, Rosa 2013. “Gareth Malone: pop stars who use auto-tune are cheating”. Telegraph, 2013.

Marshall, Owen 2014. ”A brief history of Auto-tune”. Sound Studies Blog, 2014.

 

Changing pickups on a Stratocaster

I decided to put my old stock pickups back on my Fender Stratocaster to get back that vintage, hummy sound. Here’s a small guide on how to change your pickups on a Stratocaster! Once you’ve figured out which pickup is which it’s very easy to do the switch.

 

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Begin by removing the strings and then unscrewing the pick-guard. Since it might take a while, I recommend sitting in a comfortable chair. That might save any frustration or wire burning.

 

2
Establish where all the connections are going, that makes it easier when you’re installing your new pickups. Remember that some diagrams may be different. You can find diagrams by Googling your guitar.

 

3
It doesn’t really matter if you unscrew the old pickups before you unsolder, but I tend to do that so they pop out easier.

 

4
Find a proper temperature, never go hotter than you need. You might end up damaging the electronics if you heat them for too long. The older the equipment, the harder it tends to be to heat up old tin.

 

5
Begin unsoldering the connections. Be careful not to touch any wires and try to do it as smoothly and clean as possible. Simply het the tin up until it becomes liquid form, then pull the wire carefully away.

 

7
Clean off any excess tin that might cause problems in the future. Tin on tin solderings tend to break easier than if you go straight for the volume pot.

 

6
The new pickups were very straight forward. From top to bottom on the switch: Neck, Mid, Bridge. White, Yellow, White. The middle pickup is marked yellow so you know which of the pickups are reversed in polarity. All three black cables go straight to the volume pot.

 

8
Test your new pickups by plugging in a cable and tapping the pickups while changing the switch position. If everything sounds right and no other connections broke during the installation, you should be all set! If you experience loud hums you might have forgotten the grounding cable that is attached to the backside of the bridge. Remember to adjust the height of the pickup by screwing the two screws on the side that are balanced by a spring on the inside of the pick-guard.

Thanks for reading!

Academic work: Bachelor Thesis – Sound, graphs and waves (Pt.8)

rttrrI will be posting segments of my bachelor thesis “Out of Touch – The Framework That Is Supposedly Killing Music”. The whole essay can be found at: Link to essay

The main discussion points in the thesis are authenticity, Auto-tune and the obsession with perfection in today’s music.

An introduction to sound, graphs and waves

What is pitch correction and why is it used in almost every song nowadays? To answer that question one must first understand what sound and pitch are and how they relate to each other. In this section Auto-tune, pitch correction and song analysis will be discussed.

At a physical level sound is simply a mechanical disturbance of the medium, which may be air, or a solid, liquid or other gas (Everest and Pohlmann, 2009, p. 1).

When working with pitch correction it is not the sound itself you’re correcting and changing, but the audio signal that is being “fed” into the software. An audio signal can be portrayed graphically using a wave form spectrogram that measures time and frequency and draws a sound wave. An audio wave is either periodic or non-periodic (like percussive instruments). In short, Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit time (Everest and Pohlmann 2009, p. 69). Pitch is closely related to frequency, but not it is not the same thing. Unless the tone played is a flat sinus note, which is the basis of a periodic pitch, a tone consists of more than one frequency. Pitch is instead a united term for the frequency, length, time and strength of a tone. For example, it is not possible to establish the pitch of a sound unless the frequency is clear and stable enough to be distinguished from noise. Instruments that do not have pitch are considered non-periodic and can still be portrayed as a soundwave (Howard and Jamie 2009, p. 63). It is easy to think that pitch is an entirely complex and strange world with sound waves and frequencies, but the fact is that when working closely with it, using modern technology, it is relatively easy to understand. Imagine playing a song on your computer, the song has drums, guitars, bass and vocals. The waveform of this would look a mess, but it would still produce a pitch that could easily be stablished.

“Pitch is typically associated with our perception of the “highness” or “lowness” of a particular sound. Our perception of pitch ranges from the very general (the high pitch of hissing steam, the low pitch of the rumble of an earthquake) to the very specific (the exact pitch of a solo singer or violinist)” (Auto-tune 5 Manual, p. 13).

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The figure above explains the difference between sound and pitch. To the left is Daft Punk’s Get Lucky and a sinus tone depicted as sound waves. To the right is the same song and tone depicted as pitch graphs.

Sources:

AutoTune 5 manual, 2006, Antares Audio Technologies, Scotts Valley California

Howard, David M. & Angus, J. A. S. (2009). Acoustics and psychoacoustics. 4th ed. Amsterdam: Focal

Everest, F. Alton & Pohlmann, Ken C. (2009). Master handbook of acoustics. 5. ed. New York: McGraw-Hill

 

Interesting gig!

Had the pleasure to perform and manage the sound at a medium sized venue, but with very limited equipment. Turns out they hadn’t really had any band IMG_20160401_144713performances there before, even though they had all the gear, or at least almost all the gear. They had no tools to plug in the main sound system, which left no other choice than to use the monitors as our main source of output sound. We brought our own mixer just in case, and if we hadn’t done that, the acoustic gig would have been a lot more acoustic.

A great learning experience and proof that everything turns out better if everybody keeps calm.
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