Melodyne: I'm not Impressed

When I first saw Melodyne, I had the same reaction that I had towards Guitar Hero: an emotional one...almost a little offended even. DDR doesn't make you a dancer, and Guitar Hero doesn't make you a rockstar (also: being a rockstar doesn't make you a musician).

If you haven't seen Melodyne, you should check it out now. Melodyne decomposes any audio file into distinct voices using Fast Fourier Transform (fft) analysis. You can then use their editor to distort these voices in any way you choose. The most popular transformation? Auto-tune.

Let me explain why I don't like Melodyne.

The Hype: people are hailing this as a new technological breakthrough that will speed us into the new age of amazingness. Let me inform you that fft has been around for decades. People are entranced that Melodyne can pick out individual instruments from the mix, but that's not very mind-blowing, considering each instrument has it's own unique timbre and wave structure. Melodyne can't distinguish between two of the same instrument, as we might expect (Sorry folks, we haven't taught the computer any counterpoint yet).

The Abuse: people are going to use Melodyne extensively and explicitly for autotune. Listen, if you can't sing on key, there are other ways to fix that... like singing lessons. FFT will produce artifacts, no matter how good the software is. Visit my tumblelog for examples of blatant autotuning.

What do I think is awesome about Melodyne? The interface gives musicians leverage. Cubase is to Audacity as Melodyne is to Spear. Spear is a dead simple fft decomposition and resynthesis software. Everything you can do in Melodyne you can already do in Spear (Spear is also free, like Audacity). It's the interface that can really make this software powerful.

What else do I like? Since I'm into the world of electronic music, I plan to exploit Melodyne in a different way... by exaggerating its artifacts or transforming audio samples into something completely unrecognizable, not by pretending that I can sing.

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