Weblog #10 – Tone Deaf

Does anyone remember that scene from Ouran Host Club where Haruhi has to sing? It doesn’t go well…

I feel like this is an endless debate in our community: to tune or not to tune?  There are reasons to go either way…

Proponents of tuning say that it sounds better when singers are on key. This is almost always true – if you ever listen to someone singing off key, it just sounds bad. However, having some imperfections in singing can actually add a lot of character to a performance.

Opponents of tuning say that a natural sound is better. Usually true – many people find a natural voice to be more pleasing, but there can be a time and a place for an “artificial” voice.

I also feel like this is a very touchy debate… and as the issue of tuning basically talks to how “good” we are as singers, I can see why. This turns into a question of whether I “need” tuning or not and people get offended when they are told that they need to be tuned. Ouch!

I actually have a very strong opinion about this subject. There really is no nice way to put it. If your goal is to put out quality covers, then tuning should be used because most of us aren’t that good at singing. We are amateurs, after all. Unless you’re a pro, in which case stop reading and go sing a song or something.

Even though I am not the most talented or skilled person in this community, I take a huge amount of pride in the work I put into each of my videos. Sometimes, I put weeks into writing lyrics to my covers. I spend hours practicing a song before even hitting the record button. I plan out each line in terms of what tone and inflection to use. And when I finally get to recording, I do at least five or six takes before being satisfied.

So, after all of that, if my final take has good timing, good tone and emotion but there is a word that is out of tune, I’m not ignoring it. I’m tuning the shit out of that note.

There’s one other point that opponents of tuning make: you should just sing on key. Did it occur to you that some of us do not yet have the skill to hit every word on key in a five minute song? It’s harder than it sounds.

It’s true that you can’t polish a turd. Garbage in = garbage out. But if a vocalist has put their all into singing the best lines they could, then I feel that as a mixer, I owe them to tune their vocals the best as possible. And if you are a vocalist who was told that they need to be tuned, don’t get defensive about it. Suck up your pride and consider the possibility that you actually do need it.

Sings on Key Sings off Key
Accepts Tuning  Kudos to you. Go sing.  Improve your singing
Refuses Tuning  Do you actually sing on key?  Don’t be this person
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