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“Auto-Tuned music is like fake boobs: once you realize they are fake, it kind of diminishes the joy of seeing them.”

—Randall Roberts, music editor at LA Weekly

There is a singing aid that has been in use for some time call the vocal harmonizer.  the first time I heard someone use it I though there was a a duo on stage but it was just one guy. The way it works is that he has another vocal signal running parallel to the main one. This second signal is then set for thirds or whatever interval that the harmony would sound good. With a foot switch the harmonies can just come in on the chorus.

It the music studios these are used for lazy singers.In years gone by we would do a vocal track over and over again until we thought that parts of it weren’t sharp or flat. Another way would be to do it line-by-line (awfully tedious!), punching in and out.

“You hear this device all the time on the radio.  Whenever you hear ultra tight vocal harmonies that sound ‘too perfect’ you are listening to a harmonizer at work.

Rather than spend a half a day getting a vocal track right a vocal harmonizer can pull a voice right on the note. This way valuable recording time is not spent on redos. Or is it?

“We’ve gotten to the point where the producer is the artist, and the performer is just a tool in the broader spectrum of the record.”

- Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot

In the late 1970’s studio time in Vancouver was around $150 an hour. My first record took me a year to pay off and I spent about $450 (3 hours) just getting one vocal track right. Why? Because my voice is still a work in progress as I  never learned how to sing properly. Would a harmonizer have helped? Yes. Would I have used something like that at the time. Probably.

However, I can listen back to a few tracks that I still think were great. And this is because it took a lot of work and creativity. With a harmonizer the machine would have me sound good and that would be like getting someone to sing the track for me.

However, harmonizers are here to stay. But it’s the producer who decides who needs it or will lavish it on vocals as a fail-safe mechanism.


By Kim Kinrade


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