because you're a little too old for school clothes...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

T-Pain does NOT equal Roger Troutman... [Know Your History, Part 1]

*ahem* Allow me to flash my Passive Editorialist card for a sec...

Behold, Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter/rapper/producer T-Pain. Entering the mainstream back in '05, Teddy Penderazz[down] has made quite a name for himself, both with his own hit singles and by penning/producing joints for Lil Mama, Chris Brown, Britney Spears, and others. His almost religious use of the Auto-Tune, once hated on by critics aplenty, is now being heavily bitten by rappers and singers alike [e.g. Kanyeezy and Kells, respectively], and contunues to be hated on by critics aplenty. In many [not quite most] circles, he's compared to the late great Roger Troutman.

I'd beg to differ, albeit only from a technological standpoint. While the sounds are indeed similar, and were indeed used ritualistically to make hits, the devices are not the same at all. T-Pain uses Auto-Tune, which is a computer application included with certain music production software. Roger Troutman used a talk box, which is a physical [as in tangible; touch it, feel it, grab it, rabbit] effects device supplemented by an other instrument, e.g. organ or guitar. A talk box is similar to a vocoder, but...not quite.

This would be the part where you'd ask "Well gee, Murph, how am I supposed to know the difference between a talk box and Auto-Tune?" Don't fret, housepets, as I'm here to learn you something good. I will now bring to thee examples of both devices, explaining the differences thereafter. In fact, if you're a true audiophile, you might notice the difference yourself.

OK, so here's an obvious example of Auto-Tune:

The aforementioned T-Pain - "I'm Sprung" [Listen for about a minute.]

OK, now an example of a talk box:

Zapp & Roger - "I Wanna Be Your Man"

Hear the difference? No? Let's try again:

Daft Punk - "One More Time" [Auto-Tune]

Daft Punk - "Harder Better Faster Stronger"
[Talk box; skip to the exact middle of the video]

Still not hearing it? OK, one more chance:

Cher - "Believe"
[First commericial song to use Auto-Tune; and no, I am NOT a fan]

Stevie Wonder - "Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear" [Talk box]

OK, so what's the difference? Well, for starters, with Auto-Tune, you can still actually hear the singer's voice, whereas the talk box effect is thicker, sounding completely digitalized. Also, the talk box has a smoother transition between notes, while Auto-Tuned vocals have very audible "clicks" as the singer alters pitch.

As always, I've prepared Beloved Bone-us Items for all. The first is Snoop's video for "Sensual Seduction" [or "Sexual Eruption" depending on where you hear it]. Take note that Snoop is holding a keytar with attached talk box tube, but his voice is actually under the Auto-Tune effect. Miseducation, FTL.

The next Bone-us is T-Pain's "Studio Luv", feat. Lil Wayne. This one is interesting because he actually uses Auto-Tune AND the talk box [heard at the beginning]:

[damned YouTube slideshows...]

And the last, a pretty cool Geico commercial you may have seen, with guitarist Peter Frampton:

*whew* That was a long one. But I suppose all editorials are. Hope you enjoyed.

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