A Seal of Approval for Good A Cappella Tuning?

May 24, 2011

We received an interesting invitation (a sales pitch, really) the other day from an organization called www.realsing.org.  Their stated mission is to certify recordings (with gold stickers!) that have been vetted as having had "No Artificial Tuning" on the main vocals.  The RealSing Collective asserts as follows:  "Real singers, those who don't rely on vocal pitch correction and Auto-tune technology deserve advocates and a means to be identified, elevated and separated from the rest of the imposters. RealSing Collective informs the listening public about the creative and authentic counterpoint to vocal pitch correction, a misleading and now common practice. This should be music to everyone's ears."

My question to you is this:  in the classical-music world, would such a certification make any sense?  While on the face of it, RealSing has limited relevance to the way Chicago a cappella sings, we thought you might have something to say on the topic.  What are your feelings about the advantages and disadvantages auto-tuned vocals, or otherwise "artificially" processed singing on recordings? Let us know what you think, and we'll moderate your replies here. Let us hear from you!

Tunefully yours,

Jonathan Miller


On May 26, 2011,
Alice Osberg said:

Those organizations that give live performances better not need this kind of certification.  It’s hard to garner the support of an audience while playing or singing off-key.  It’s irrelevant for Chicago A’Cappella.  It feels like a guise for someone to put money in their pockets.  Your music can speak for itself.

On May 26, 2011,
Douglas Kelner said:

In my opinion, electronic enhancement (and I put amplification and all other “enhancements” in the same category) has allowed mediocre singers to thrive. 
This topic is one of my “soapbox” issues. 

1)  How many of us have gone to a “Broadway” show that is over-amplified? I grew up in the New York area and remember going to shows with no amplification.  Certainly, the stage singers of years ago didn’t need it.  Today, you can’t go to the theater without it.
2)  I remember singing with the CSO chorus when a CD was going to be created from the concert recordings.  During the performances, one of the soloists was excruciatingly flat; and when the records were broadcast on WFMT, it was painful to hear.  But, amazingly, in the CD that was released all that was fixed.  While I recognize that there was a significant economic investment that had to be protected, and the enhancement was necessary in this case.  But I would argue that this cheapens the final product.  The CD that was released was not a live performance, but might as well been made on an electronic synthesizer.

So I am completely against any of these electronic enhancements.  And I agree that while this topic has (hopefully) no relevance to Chicago a cappella – I am saddened that the music world has come to the point where we have to “certify” that what we are listening to is natural.

But come to think of it, this is the way the food industry has gone.  But that’s another rant.

On May 31, 2011,
Suzyn C. Mills said:

I, too, am concerned that it is another ploy to put money in someone’s pocket, and who is policing this certification process. I believe that people who sing flat shouldn’t be performing, but none of us has seen all the performers in the world live.

I agree that mediocre singers are flourishing these days and not having to work very hard for the money their recordings bring in since the technician in the control room has so much power to “fix” their voices. I really wish they would learn proper phrasing, too. I am sick to death of hearing “singers” take a breath in the middle of a word!

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