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Tue 4 Mar 2014 11:30 BBC Radio 4

28 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 20 May 2013

Audiences need never suffer out-of-tune singing again, thanks to the development of pitch-correction software. But as well as correcting the inadequate, it has become a tool for new and creative ways of performing and recording.

Presenter Catherine Bott is a Classical singer, broadcaster and experienced session musician. She visits a recording studio to see how the software works, and bravely submits her own voice for analysis by deliberately singing out of tune.

Surprisingly, one of the best-known examples of pitch correction software - Auto-Tune - was developed by a former oil industry engineer working on the development of acoustic tests for interpreting seismic data. Dr Andy Hildebrand realised that the same technology could be used to analyse and modify pitch in audio files without affecting vocal quality. Catherine talks to Andy about how he came to develop the software.

Catherine also looks at the creative use of pitch correction software - starting with the iconic use of the effect in Cher's 1998 single Believe, where extreme use of the effect creates a robotic vocal style used later by Kanye West and Channy Leaneagh singer with from the band Poliça. She visits composer and producer Steve Pycroft in his studio to see how the effect can be used on her vocals on a specially-arranged piece of Baroque music.

And the negative side of pitch correction is also explored - is it encouraging singers to be lazy, knowing that any tuning errors can always be 'fixed in the mix'?

With contributions from studio engineers Tom Bailey and Olga Fitzroy, music critics Tom Ewing and Neil McKenzie, and Channy Leaneagh of Poliça.


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