Sasha Frere-Jones on Auto-Tune, the studio gizmo responsible for the cool/cheesy voice effects in Cher’s Believe and, more recently, most of T-Pain’s work.
T-Pain, who is currently working on his third album, “Thr33 Ringz,” spoke to me on the phone from his studio in Miami. He first heard the Auto-Tune effect on a song by Jennifer Lopez — he doesn’t remember which one — and borrowed it for a mixtape appearance in 2003. He says it’s no trade secret that he uses Auto-Tune with the retune speed set to zero, and likes to recall a time he spent selling fish out of a truck with his father in Tallahassee: “My dad said, ‘They can know what you’re using, but they’ll never know how to use it. They can see that we’re using salt and pepper.’”
Frere-Jones demonstrates how Auto-Tune works in a short audio segment. Anil Dash wrote about Auto-Tune in the context of Snoop Dogg’s recent Sensual Seduction video. A free Auto-Tune clone called GSnap is available for free.
I uploaded a few of Auto-Tune’s greatest hits to my Muxtape: have a listen.