Does Bon Iver Use Autotune?


Bon Iver use autotune lg

Bon Iver has been one of the most prominent indie-folk singers since he debuted in 2006. Singer Justin Vernon has always had a distinct sound, but many people wonder if part of that comes from studio trickery. Does Bon Iver use autotune?

Here’s what I hear listening to them:

Bon Iver does use an effect similar to autotune called the Prismizer Effect. But he does not overuse it in the way some newer artists do. Bon Iver uses it as a way to add to the music. And that sound has become something that fans expect from their music. 

Many of his fans don’t necessarily know he uses a lot of vocal effects, but they recognize how it affects his sound.

Bon Iver, of course, is the band/project of mastermind Justin Vernon. And while these days, Bon Iver is a full-fledged band, initially, Bon Iver was just him.

Autotune does not make him any less of an artist. It simply means he uses modern technology to make music. Bon Iver is a great artist on his own, but the vocal effects are one of the things that provide his artistic identity.

Many people want to fully understand Bon Iver’s use of autotune.

Is there a certain program he uses to get that effect? Why does he use it? I’ll discuss these things and more as we dive into more about the artistry of Bon Iver.

What vocal effect does Bon Iver use?

Bon Iver uses the Prismizer Effect on his vocals. This is done with the Harmony Engine software from Antares, which creates harmony vocals controlled via a keyboard midi controller.

There are many vocal effect programs on the market for artists and sound engineers to choose from. Bon Iver happens to use the one known as Prismizer Effect. This has been popular since the late 2010s.

Bon Iver helped popularize the Prismizer Vocal Effect. 

Various forms of autotune have grown in popularity because of certain artists using them.

The Prismizer Effect became widely used because of Bon Iver and people such as Frank Ocean. This is what tends to happen with the music industry, one or two people set a trend, and everyone else joins in.

Bon Iver even uses the effect live.

So, what is the Prismizer Effect? The quick answer is that it is an effect that is made up of the Antares Harmony Engine. It provides a much more artistic sound than the usual autotune.

Bon Iver first used it on 22, A Million.

When he first used the effect, no one knew how he did it. They knew the sound was different, but it didn’t resemble the same effects used in pop and rap songs.

The effect got its name from a prism’s impact on light sources.

How many octaves can Justin Vernon sing?

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver can sing just over 3 octaves. His vocal range goes from E2- G5. The average singer has a 2-octave range while a select few such as Brendon Urie have 4 (or more).

Justin’s voice is considered to be top-notch.

While he is known for using his falsetto a great deal, his voice is vast and he can sing really low too. His vocal range is E2 to G5.

Just listen to his duet Exile with Taylor Swift to get a good idea of his range.

It says a great deal about him that he has a wide vocal range but still uses a form of autotune. But he’s not using it to cover up for poor pitch control.

This means that he wants to make his music stand out. His stellar vocals with the effect put him in a different league.

Justin is also great as a singer because despite being a baritone, he can hit some pretty high notes. Baritones are known for their lower registers, so it’s unique that they can go higher.

This makes his approach to music much more flexible.

Did Justin Vernon use autotune with Taylor Swift?

The Taylor Swift song exile featuring Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon does not have any noticeable autotune or The Prismizer Effect, other than possibly on Vernon’s “Ooh, ooh, ooh” parts. However, their song evermore does feature the Prismizer Effect on Justin’s vocals.

Just like Bon Iver, Taylor Swift is no stranger to autotune.

I actually talked about it in a recent article. Justin Vernon collaborated with her on the song exile from folklore and then again on her next album evermore.

The song evermore from that 2nd album is a very emotional ballad that features a lot of vocal effects on Justin’s vocals.

It’s possible that exile has some of his Prismizer Effect on his “ooh, ooh” parts. But it could also just be he recorded a 2nd harmony vocal track.

But for sure, his vocals on evermore sound like his Prismizer Effect is on there the whole time. Again, though, that’s not autotune in the traditional sense and closer to a vocoder effect. But they do offer similar functions.

People often think autotune sounds robotic. 

The thing about evermore and much of Bon Iver’s music is that it sounds pure.

Fans notice a difference, but it does not sound robotic. Instead, the autotune used is not abrasive, nor does it call into question Justin’s talents. 

Speaking of folklore, I actually compared it to evermore in a recent article.

The collaboration with Bon Iver is great, but what about the rest of the music? The article goes deep into what inspired the music and why she released them so close together.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

But Bon Iver isn’t the only group Taylor Swift worked with for her latest two albums. 

In another recent article, I discussed her work with The National. I explained their connection as well as their role for folklore and evermore.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Does Bon Iver always sing falsetto?

Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon doesn’t always sing in falsetto, as evidenced on his duet exile with Taylor Swift. However, he does use falsetto often.

In fact, the man is known for his falsetto, despite having a 3+ octave vocal range.

A strong falsetto is a great talent to have, but this does not mean this is the only way he sings. Most true artists have their “thing”.

This is something they are known for that has become a signature. However, that does not mean they can’t approach their art differently.

This is the situation with Bon Iver.

Because he uses this part of his voice so often, people think that’s all he does. This is not a bad thing as long as fans can accept when Justin does not use his falsetto.

The man can truly hold a falsetto. 

The other interesting thing about the use of the falsetto by Bon Iver is that he typically uses it for full songs. Most artists use the falsetto for parts of a song. Perhaps an adlib or a chorus.

Using a falsetto is difficult to hold consistently for a long period of time.

This means it takes real pipes to maintain it for the duration of a song. This is part of the reason so many people associate him with the falsetto.

Is using autotune cheating?

Autotune is cheating if the primary goal is to correct notes that were sung off-pitch. But the way many artists use it to simply alter the tone of the voice is not cheating.

In a way, it’s not that different from how guitarists such as The Edge or Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead use effect pedals to alter their sound.

No one would call what they do “cheating” as they are both awesome guitar players.

But there are many schools of thought when it comes to autotune. Some think it’s cheating regardless of the situation.

Some people have a sliding scale approach to determining if it’s cheating to use autotune. Autotune is a tool that has been used in music for decades now.

The first published song with autotune on the vocals belongs to Cher for “Believe” in 1998.

And even the way it was used by her isn’t cheating as it is obviously intentionally being affected to almost sound like a computer voice.

It’s not there because Cher sang a bunch of wrong notes and was too lazy to re-do her vocal tracks.

Some would argue that if the person can actually sing, autotune is not cheating. Justin Timberlake is a good example of someone who has a fantastic voice but still uses autotune.

This is because the talent is there, but they are simply using a tool to alter the vocals. However, there is a different side of the equation.

Should untalented singers stand with the greats?

Some singers are much less talented.

If you’re older than 30, Ashlee Simpson comes to mind (remember her embarrassing moment lip-syncing on Saturday Night Live)?

These artists are helped by the use of autotune. Many would argue that this is where autotune becomes cheating.

This is because these artists are deceiving fans. This is not simply using an effect; this is completely changing a person’s voice. I can understand why people hate when autotune is used in this way.

There is an argument to be made about autotune opening the doors for less talented people to make it.

However, the industry has always done this in various ways. Autotune is just another method to push less talented, but more marketable people to the top. Milli Vanilli, anyone?

Overall, I do not think autotune is cheating.

I think with as widely used as it is, it’s simply a part of the industry. In the ’70s and ’80s artists often double or triple tracked their vocals (recording the same part multiple times) to make them sound better. So studio trickery, which didn’t really exist in rock’s infancy of the ’50s or ’60s, has been around for a while.

But, assuming they aren’t lip-syncing, a live concert always tells the truth of their true talent.

What is the Prismizer Effect and Can it Be Used on Instruments

Conclusion

Bon Iver is known for their indie-folk anthems, but they are also known for using autotune.

Their use of the tool simply adds to the music. The lead singer of the group is well-regarded for his vocal abilities. What this shows is that there are many uses for autotune.

Not everyone who uses it needs it to sound good. Autotune can add a mood to a song or enhance the emotions in a great way.

Bon Iver helped change the industry, and now more people understand how autotune can enhance a song without compromising an artist.


Photo which requires attribution:

Bon Iver – Justin Vernon – Water is Life – Honor the Earth – Duluth Minnesota by Andy Witchger is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

Jeff Campbell

Hi, I'm Jeff Campbell, a former DJ, music journalist, musician, and music lover. I'm old enough to have seen all the cool bands and young enough to still remember them.

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