Autotune kills the radio star

Salience of frequency micro-modulations in popular music

In this work we investigated which characteristics lead to the vocal being more prominent in pop music mixes than other instruments. We investigated whether these characteristics can be removed from vocals or transferred to other instruments. In particular, the influence of frequency micro-modulations was investigated by reducing or eliminating them through pitch correction. Furthermore, the role of the main melody was investigated and whether the saliency of the lead vocal is preserved when it is replaced by instruments.

In two experiments, listeners had to detect a single target instrument in short excerpts of popular music extracted from the MedleyDB database. Half the time the target was present in the mixture. The target instrument cues were presented either before or after the mix. The lead vocals were either left unchanged (examples "Vocals"), pitch corrected (examples "Autotune"), or replaced by other instruments playing the same melody (examples "Guitar as lead"). In the first experiment, the manipulation of the lead vocal consisted of pitch correction and elimination of frequency micro-modulations; in the second experiment, the original micro-modulations were added to the pitch-corrected vocal and instrument signals (examples "+ micro-modulations").

 

Mixture followed by Target

Vocals (present in the mixture) Vocals (absent from the mixture) Autotune (present in the mixture) Autotune (absent from the mixture) Autotune + micro-modulations (present in the mixture) Autotune + micro-modulations (absent from the mixture)
Guitar in accompaniment (present in the mixture) Guitar in accompaniment (absent from the mixture) Guitar as lead (present in the mixture) Guitar as lead (absent in the mixture) Guitar as lead + micro-modulations (present in the mixture) Guitar as lead + micro-modulations (absent in the mixture)


Target followed by Mixture

Vocals (present in the mixture) Vocals (absent from the mixture) Autotune (present in the mixture) Autotune (absent from the mixture) Autotune + micro-modulations (present in the mixture) Autotune + micro-modulations (absent from the mixture)
Guitar in accompaniment (present in the mixture) Guitar in accompaniment (absent from the mixture) Guitar as lead (present in the mixture) Guitar as lead (absent in the mixture) Guitar as lead + micro-modulations (present in the mixture) Guitar as lead + micro-modulations (absent in the mixture)

 

(Stand: 27.05.2022)