Who Invented Auto-Tune?

Woman in a Recording Studio

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Dr. Andy Hildebrand is the inventor of the voice pitch-correcting software called Auto-Tune. The first song published using Auto-Tune on the vocals was the 1998 song "Believe" by Cher.

Auto-Tune and the Death of Music

When he was asked why so many musicians have accused Auto-Tune of ruining music, Hildebrand replied that Auto-Tunes was designed to be used discretely and that no one needed to know that any software correction had been applied to vocal tracks. Hildebrand pointed out that there is an extreme setting available in Auto-Tune called the "zero" setting. That setting is extremely popular and noticeable. Hildebrand was all about giving Auto-Tune users choices and was surprised himself at the use of very noticeable Auto-Tune effects.

In an interview with Nova, Andy Hildebrand was asked if he thought that recording artists from the era before digital recording techniques like Auto-Tune were available were more talented because they had to know how to sing in tune. Hildebrand commented that "(So-called) cheating in the old days used endless retakes to get a final result. It's easier now with Auto-Tune. Is the actor who plays Batman "cheating" because he can't really fly?"

Harold Hildebrand

Today, Auto-Tune is a proprietary audio processor manufactured by Antares Audio Technologies. Auto-Tune uses a phase vocoder to correct pitch in vocal and instrumental performances.

From 1976 through 1989, Andy Hildebrand was a research scientist in the geophysical industry, working for Exxon Production Research and Landmark Graphics, a company he co-founded to create the world's first stand-alone seismic data interpretation workstation. Hildebrand specialized in a field called seismic data exploration, he worked in signal processing, using audio to map below the earth’s surface. In layman's terms, sound waves were used to find oil below the earth's surface.

After leaving Landmark in 1989, Hildebrand began studying music composition at the Shepard School of Music at Rice University.

As an inventor, Hildebrand set out to improve the process of digital sampling in music. He used the then cutting-edge digital signal processing (DSP) technology that he brought over from the geophysical industry and invented a new looping technique for digital samples. He formed Jupiter Systems in 1990 to market his first software product (called Infinity) for music. Jupiter Systems was later renamed Antares Audio Technologies.

Hildebrand then developed and introduced MDT (Multiband Dynamics Tool), one of the first successful Pro Tools plug-ins. This was followed by JVP (Jupiter Voice Processor), SST (Spectral Shaping Tool), and the 1997 Auto-Tune.

Antares Audio Technologies

Antares Audio Technologies incorporated in May 1998, and in January 1999 acquired Cameo International, their former distributor.

In 1997 after the success of the software version of Auto-Tune, Antares moved into the hardware DSP effects processor market with the ATR-1, a rack-mount version of Auto-Tune. In 1999, Antares invented an innovative plug-in, the Antares Microphone Modeler that allowed one microphone to imitate the sound of a wide variety of other microphones. The Modeler was awarded the TEC Award as the year's (2000) Outstanding Achievement in Signal Processing Software. A hardware version of the Modeler, the AMM-1 was released a year later.

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Bellis, Mary. "Who Invented Auto-Tune?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/who-invented-auto-tune-1991230. Bellis, Mary. (2020, August 27). Who Invented Auto-Tune? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/who-invented-auto-tune-1991230 Bellis, Mary. "Who Invented Auto-Tune?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/who-invented-auto-tune-1991230 (accessed March 30, 2023).