Pitch, Pitch, Pitch

Shortcuts and Cheating.  Noted in Nashville.Pitch, Pitch, Pitch

We all cheat a little.  At the very least we all take shortcuts.  But I don’t blame you; I blame the bad influence you hang out with.  That cool (known today as amazeballs?) kid that eases you slowly into making choices because, “everybody’s doing it . . . literally everyone” and tells that voice in your head to “chill.”  What’s his name?  Ted . . . Todd . . . Tek . . . Technology!  Smart guy, that Technology.  Sexy.  Fun.  Convincing.  Such a sharer too – conveniently leaving his paper uncovered and his shoulder so easily peered over.  He wants to help us cheat.  So, why not just . . . peek.

Okay, I’ll start the confession process:

Many of the photos I’ve featured on this blog have been cropped, filtered, backlit, set at full bloom, with saturation curved.  I’m sure this neither surprises nor offends most of you.  It makes my photos look better, and it’s a perfectly legitimate way of getting the most out of my 9 year-old digital camera which I cannot afford to replace.  Hey, I am not a photographer.  I enjoy taking photographs and I like representing my blog with original ones.  Sometimes I even think I get it right.  But I am not pursuing a career as a photographer.  There are real photographers out there who understand exposure, aperture, and depth of field.  They’ve studied the history of accessory shoes and the impact of the works of Dorothea Lange.  They know a real photographer when they see one’s work.  And they know a poser.  (Pardon the pun.)

Shortcuts and cheating.  Noted in Nashville.

The real picture, sans enhancements.

Shortcuts and Cheating.  Noted in Nashville.

What a difference a day with photo editing makes!

Technology allows posers into every field of study, every artistic and academic discipline.  Does anyone remember how English teachers felt when spell check became available at the fingertips of every student?  Horrified, right?  It’s the same way my dad reacted when he learned that his granddaughter not only couldn’t read a map, but wouldn’t learn to.  Why bother?

Before I go any further, I should clarify that I love Technology.  (Hello!?!  Blogger!)  I think he’s really cool, um amazeballs too.  But I’m not much of a joiner.  I usually reject his attempts to get me to try something new, like a digital camera, for a long time.  But he pursues me, gets friends to pressure me, and eventually I cave.  I don’t relent to “getting it” for a long time after that.  But I do “get it.”  I get how amazing it is to have a year’s worth of memories on a little bitty thumb drive or disk.  I get how great it is to see a picture taken 1,000 miles away of my friend’s little girl eating her first ice cream cone – while the chocolate still drips from her chin.  Okay, okay, I get it!

Wikipedia defines photography as an art, a science, and a practice.  What I wonder is how real photographers feel when they see a “lucky shot” get featured, extolled, or the biggest slap in the face of all – earn money.  How do they feel when they know the photo has been so edited and distorted that it doesn’t even resemble the original composition?  Now, how do they feel if that photo wins in a competition against their photo?  How do they feel if an entire career is built on that “lucky shot?”  Probably the same way teachers feel about the commonality of spell check, the same way cartographers feel about the dependence on GPS, the same way I felt when I learned about pitch corrector.

It was 2003.  I was in the middle of my first major recording project for my CD of original songs.  The audio engineer was at the mixing board, setting levels for my vocals when he said, “Your pitch is really accurate.”

I wasn’t sure what to say.  Confused, I answered, “Well, I guess it should be, shouldn’t it?”

He chuckled back, “Oh, you’d be surprised.”  It was then that he revealed a secret so dark, so sinister; I couldn’t hide the look of horror on my face.  I felt sick as he told me about a technology that corrects a singer who is off pitch – pulling their pitch up if they are under pitch, pulling it down if they are over pitch.

“But that’s cheating!” I said.  “And what are they going to do when they’re not in the studio, and they have to sing it live?”

“Oh, it works for live performances too,” he answered.

I was offended.  Maybe that was an overreaction; but I was.  I had spent my whole life learning to sing; learning about tone and diaphragmatic support and vocal placement and, and, and . . . pitch accuracy!  What is singing if not that?!?

Big D (guitarist) and his buddy Garry (professional bass player) like to tell this joke about a singer who arrives at the recording studio to lay down vocals.  As soon as the singer stands in front of the mic, the sound engineer says, “Give me five vowel sounds and a hard consonant; and then I’ll see you on Monday.”

Shortcuts and Cheating.  Noted in Nashville.

Pitch please!
Me having fun pretending to use a pitch corrector.

I can laugh about it now – especially since guitar and bass tracks can be recorded one note at a time, then spliced together like the song was played in real time.  No instrument is sacred anymore, and there comes a time when you just have to let it go and laugh.

Because here’s the good news.  A wise man once told me, “Good ones know the good ones.”  If you are a good nurse, you know good nursing.  If you are a good writer, you know good writing (and you’ll forgive the bad, right?).  If you are a good photographer, you know good photography (and you too will forgive the bad, right?).  If you are a good person, you’ll recognize good people.  And they are everywhere – perfecting the art, the science, and the practice of their craft.  I believe the universe supports and honors the work of these good people.  We should support and honor their work.

I don’t think it’s the occasional use of or even need for spell check that offends our teachers.  And although I have never used pitch corrector, many singers I admire have.  We all make mistakes from time to time.  Technology is not such a bad guy.  But when we rely on him instead of . . . you know, learning, and adopt a “why bother” mentality, we lose respect for the efforts of those who did bother.  We lose respect for skill.  We lose respect for ourselves.

Besides, even spell check doesn’t recognize the word “amazeballs.”

– Anita, Noted in Nashville

Photography:  Wikipedia.  Definition retrieved March 1, 2013 from:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photography

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9 thoughts on “Pitch, Pitch, Pitch

  1. I imagine many celebrity singers out there use pitch correctors. That’s why it’s such a treat to hear the Adeles and the Celines and the Josh Grobans sing live. You really get to enjoy those pipes in their natural and well-trained glory.

    I wish I knew how to digitally alter my photos. I’m sure I could figure it out, but I’m too lazy to do so…

    Great post!

    • A lot of singers I respect use it on occasion, but not as a substitute for polishing their skills. “Well-trained glory” is the perfect term for the three singers you mentioned.

      I also love the singer/songwriters that have vocal quirks. Randy Newman is one of my favorites . . . and Bob Dylan . . . and Van Morrison. They sing with integrity and honesty. I much prefer that to fake vocal perfection.

      Thanks for stopping by Carrie!

  2. Great article, Anita. I remember the first time I heard auto tune… It was a Cher song, and I thought, “Wow, that’s gimmicky and ugly… that won’t last.” But ugh… It has, and it’s to the point that I’m hearing it on songs with people who sing just fine without it… But now, they sound unnaturally perfect. I hate that. I liked these artists and their little quirks and imperfections. To me, those are the things that distinguish one person from another—or from a machine, I guess. You are blessed to have such a wonderfully pure voice, but as a former (bad) singer, I know that it’s something you still have to work on, even if you were born with perfect pitch. But you’re right—good singers know. Even decent singers know. 😉

    • Wow, Lori! You’ve said it perfectly. You should look into writing or something. 🙂

      Thank you for such a lovely compliment. It’s always nice for someone to recognize the amount of work that goes into vocal training. My college voice teacher used to say, “Never let them see your technique. Never let them see how hard you’re working.” I think that’s why so many wake up one day and decide to be a singer. It looks effortless. It’s supposed to. And when there are so many shortcuts available, they don’t bother to learn the nuances of their “instrument.”

      I’m willing to bet you were never a bad singer! You’re so intuitive.

  3. That’s the way it is. Talent got nothing to do with success and as far as technology goes, it’s another tool like marketing or tweaking an image as you pointed out rightly. “Showcasing a product” Question to ask is, where’s the disconnect or what makes them click?

    • Good question, “Where’s the disconnect?” I think it’s in wanting to be a “Rockstar”, rather than a singer . . . a photographer . . . a writer . . . or anything that requires effort, training, and patience. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I’ve recently switched my food blog over to be self-hosted which I hope will make it more user-friendly in the future. As a result, if you were following Can’t Stay Out of the Kitchen via email, WordPress, or using RSS feeds through Google Reader or some other way, you are no longer subscribed. If you wish to continue receiving future posts from my blog you will need to re-subscribe. Sorry for the inconvenience, Teresa.

  5. Pingback: Dial In | noted in nashville

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