z Gear Stories episode 7

Gear Stories #7 The “fill-in-the-blank” effect, and Moog Guitar…A BRAND NEW instrument!


Here we go again, my friends, it’s that time of the month… Welcome to Gear stories!


If you don’t like it and don’t want to get it, just tell me and I’ll take you off the list… otherwise, read and enjoy!


As always, two products.. one big, one little, this time in both price and stature!


First,  Antares Auto Tune… the, “Cher, T-Payne, Akon, Amanda Perez, Kid Rock, (insert latest pop star here) effect”


I remember the first time I ever heard it… It was in the Cher Song “Believe” and then a few months later, a Kid Rock song came out with it too…  It made the voice sound robotic and mechanical… kind of warbly and strangely resonant.  …it drove me crazy!   I try very hard not to be a fuddy-duddy or a purist or a prude of any kind, but this sound made me absolutely insane!  People referred to it for a time as the Cher effect.


What it was was Antares Auto tune.  It was a miraculous development in audio technology which allowed engineers to apply an effect that would actually analyze and correct the pitch of a singer’s voice, so you could make even Madonna and Britney Spears sing in tune!  It made sessions go so much quicker, since you could take that marginally out of tune take with the great feel and just say, “hey, I’ll fix it in the mix” and actually be able to make it sound good!


But then came the Cher effect…


The thing that made me crazy about it was that it was, in my humble opinion, using the effect WRONG!


You see, if you work very carefully, and the singer wasn’t too far off, and you set the tuning time correctly, you can make it sound wonderfully natural and like the singer has wonderful pitch.. but this wasn’t painstakingly and lovingly finessed to sound natural… this was ram-rodded into instant tune mode… no gentle coaxing the vocal up to the right note… This was the brick wall of pitch correction.


If you set the correction time to somewhere like thirty five to forty five milliseconds, it sounds pretty much like natural vibrato and portamento  (Warbling and sliding from note to note… my brother hates it when I use big words!  He says I should just hold my diploma over my head and I wouldn’t have to even talk!  .. but I digress)  …but if you set the tuning time to zero milliseconds, it tunes the voice almost instantly.  I say almost, because it takes just a very short moment to analyze the pitch by the speed of the first few vibrations, and then it snaps the voice to the closest pitch.  That little hesitation makes the strange mechanical sound that has become all but ubiquitous in pop music now.  (“ubiquitous”…take THAT, bro!)


In my studio, I begun hearing young R&B singers coming in, having no idea that it was an electronic effect, trying like crazy to make their voices sound like that.  Some of them came remarkably close,.  Once I explained that it was just a computer effect, they are both relieved and a bit disgruntled.  Antares makes it all too easy!  Here is some instruction from Antares themselves on how to create that effect.




(Here comes the name dropping portion of this month’s article)


I swore that I would never make that sound myself, but then came the platinum selling R&B singer, Amanda Perez, recording her new hit single “Candy Kisses” in  my studio.  (It was actually featured on the season opener of “CSI Miami” this year!  Cool!)  I bowed to the pressure and made that sound.  It actually really worked in the context of that song.


Another trick I learned was to record a voice sweeping up and down from the highest to the lowest notes they could sing and then back again, (this sounds exactly like a classical singers vocal warm up exercise) and then run it through Antares with the tuning time set at zero, set to only allow the voice to be tuned to a few notes in the scale that make up the chord of your choosing… the result is a strangely bell like sounding arpeggio which if you throw some delay and reverb on and put it in the background of your mixes can sound anything from angelic to absolutely creepy!


Now, the younger singers that come into my studio don’t know who Cher is and don’t remember the song “Believe,” so they called in the T-payne effect most recently and I guess some are beginning to call it the Akon effect… How short the memory of pop culture is!  So the next pop star who uses “the ____ effect” blatantly in a popular song will have the effect named after them for fifteen Andy Warhol minutes!


If you wish to own the “Cher, Kid Rock, Amanda Perez, T-Payne, Akon ________ effect, (and if you do computer based recording, it’s really a MUST!) here’s where you’ll find it on our site… in various bundles and versions… the straight effect is now going for only $199.  I’ll make you deals on any version you wish to pick up.




Just think… it’s like owning your own little piece of pop culture!




Part two….


The MOOG guitar… a brand new instrument.



Whenever a brand new instrument is introduced to the world, it’s very unlikely to catch on…  I think of the Chapman Stick, played still by only so few instrumentalists in the world, yet it is such a COOL instrument!… Heck, even back in the middle ages this was a problem…  If it weren’t for the bold and brilliant marketing tactic of changing the name of the “Sackbutt” we probably wouldn’t have the Trombone. (after all, image is everything… there’s no way Glenn Miller would have become famous as the world’s premier swing Sackbutt player… just not gonna happen!)


Well, the wonderful company we know as MOOG has done it… they have introduced a NEW instrument.  History will tell whether eventually it will catch on and join the Pantheon of instruments that we see take for granted.  They do have the advantage of familiarity, however, because the Moog guitar looks like a guitar, and plays basically like a guitar in technique, and it is actually called the Moog GUITAR… but it’s really something brand new.


Don’t get me wrong… you can play guitar stuff on it, and it will actually sound like a guitar.  But then you flip that little switch and it becomes something completely different!  Brand new!


Before I get to the sound, let me tell you that first of all, it is not a synthesizer.  Moog has been known for being a synthesizer company.  In fact the MINI Moog is still one of the most popular synths in the world!  it’s new incarnation, the Voyager is still selling like hotcakes!  (Except they don’t respond well to syrup.)


No this is not a guitar synth… but it’s not entirely just an electric guitar.  You DO have to plug it into a wall socket, so wireless will be a problem… and you do need specially made strings with a different kind of metal to react to the pickups better.  The electronics inside the guitar actually have several new patents!


What the switch on the front of the guitar does is turn on infinite sustain.  This is really hard to imagine or describe…. but I’ll try.  Do you remember the E-Bow?  They were those little silver jobbies that you held in your hand and put up to one string and it would magnetically play the string like a violin bow, making it sustain until you moved slightly and broke the magnetic field… or if you were really good, sustain until your battery went dead!  they could only play one note at a time and are kind of tricky to make work… but if done right, it could make your guitar sing like a whale.  (I speak whale!)


This is something like that, but a lot clearer and on all the strings you are playing.  If you  just strum a chord and hold it, it starts out sounding like a guitar, and then it kind of cross fades into this mythic siren sustain sound…  or Bell like, if bells started softly and didn’t get quieter after you strike them.


Sometimes, if you are picking the strings like a folk singer, there is sort of a backwards sound to it… but not… almost like you put a reverse reverb on the sound.   Hmmmm…  You guys just have to hear it… really.  It’s totally new!


I was just lucky enough to get a few minutes playing one, and I was blown away as I butchered some John Denver songs I learned back in high School… (If you’re old enough to remember John Denver, don’t tell the others who he is… I don’t want EVERYBODY to know how uncool I am!)


We are going to have a steady stream of them coming through Sweetwater, but only at a slow trickle.  The first one (Honey colored) is arriving near the end of this month, and the next month, various colors are scheduled to arrive.


Here’s the link to them on our site…




Here’s the Moog site…




There are YouTube videos on it too… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3SsYQrgcyA    and  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=057v1NnXe1U


I’d say that if you want one, get your order in now and reserve the color you want, because like all collectors and first editions, these are going to go FAST and be more valuable the moment they leave our door than they were when you ordered them!


At just under six grand, the price on these is not for the faint of heart, and the high demand will prevent us from doing any special discount deals… but just think!  you could be the first on your block to have this brand new unique first edition instrument!


And for those of you lefty’s in the bunch (You know who you are… Tracy) it’s not available YET in left handed, but it will be, I’ve been told.


Thanks for reading!  I’ll catch you next month for another scintillating (big enough word for you, bro?) episode of GEAR STORIES, ories, ories, ories, ories…