ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Pitch-Perfect Standards Enhance Musical Performances

New York, Jun 10, 2008

Keeping a tune has never been easier for the pop stars on the radio today. Thanks to advanced auto-tune technology, many singers enhance their performances with programs that perfect their pitch. Auto-tune describes any audio processing used to correct pitch in vocal and instrumental performances.

In auto-tune programs, notes are altered to match the nearest exact pitch. If a singer hits a note that’s just a little flat, or a little sharp, auto-tune will pull that note into the accurate pitch with the touch of a button. Generally, auto-tune is used in a way that is imperceptible to the listener, simply perfecting and polishing a performance.

Hearing is Believing

Want to hear an auto-tune program in action? Click here to hear the New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones use Auto-Tune, a pitch-correction product from Antares.

However, some progressive artists have been known to use auto-tune to a greater effect, altering pitches more dramatically to produce a new, nearly robotic sound. This is known as the “Cher effect,” named after pop star Cher’s 1998 song “Believe” – the first big hit to use this technique.

The technology that makes auto-tune programs possible has had the help of a variety of standards. Covering the complexities of recorded and digital music, these standards have paved the way for today’s latest hits.

Music producers rely upon many different acoustical representations, including structural, score, MIDI, and digital sound. A standard currently under development by IEEE, a member and accredited standards developer of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), will help to integrate these varied representations. When complete, BSR/IEEE 1599-200x, Definition of a Commonly Acceptable Musical Application Using the XML Language, will offer an XML application that defines a standard language for symbolic music representation in a multi-layered environment like that created by auto-tune.

An international standard from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), specifies methods of measurement for sensitivity, dynamic range and external influences of sound system microphones like those used by recording artists. IEC 60268-4, Sound system equipment - Part 4: Microphones, was developed by Technical Committee (TC) 100, Audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment. The chairman of TC 100 is Mark Hyman of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer. The Consumer Electronics Association, also an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, serves as the U.S. National Committee-approved U.S. Technical Advisory Group Administrator to TC 100, carrying U.S. positions forward to the Committee.

An American National Standard from the Acoustical Society of America makes sure that the programmers who develop auto-tune software and the producers who use it in the studio are speaking the same language. ANSI S1.1-1994 (R2004), Acoustical Technology, provides definitions for a wide variety of terms, abbreviations, and letter symbols used in acoustics and electroacoustics.

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