Do you know the name Andy Hildebrand? If you’ve listened to popular music over the past decade or so, then chances are you’ve heard the results of his work, even though you might not realize it. That’s right; Mr. Hildebrand was the inventor of Auto-Tune, a tool that has inarguably changed the landscape of music. In fact, he invented it while he was working for Exxon Production Research.
The Auto-Tune that’s such a big part of music today started out as a tool for the oil industry. Of course, no one was singing to the ground though in an attempt to charm the oil to the surface! Hildebrand created software for processing data from reflection seismology. This innovation allowed the software to make estimates of the properties of the earth below it using reflected seismic waves. This proved to be very helpful when it came to finding oil. This invention was enough to make him quite a bit of money.
However, he’d always loved music. In the early 90s, he started a company called Antares Audio Technologies. In the latter part of the 90s, the wife of one of his distributors said that she wished there was something that could always keep her singing in tune. Hildebrand suddenly realized that he had something that could do that – the same device he’d invented to help the oil industry. He found that there were some similarities to the seismic data processing and changing pitch in music.
There were other methods at the time of changing pitch, but is difficult. The development of Auto-Tune changed things completely. It not only allowed for an easy way to correct pitch, it also opened up a world of possibilities when it came to different types of effects. Best of all, there were minimal artifacts, so careful usage of the tool could help to create perfect recordings. There are even options for live recording and tweaking on the spot today, to make live singers sound better.
Of course, there has been a bit of a backlash at the use of Auto-Tune, with some people saying they don’t like the sound, or that they think it is ruining musical and artistic integrity. No matter where you might fall in this argument, it is undeniable that the tool has made music a very different place today. Most people never even realize that it first got its start in the oil industry.
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