It’s not unusual to hear about artists using autotune today, to polish minor imperfections in their songs and achieve those perfect high notes. All the major popular faces in the music industry are using it, which made me wonder does Coldplay use autotune?
Coldplay does not use large amounts of autotune either in the studio or live. However, they do utilize pre-recorded backing tracks for live performance, likely including backing vocals. Additionally, some of their official live concert releases have augmented audio tracks from what was originally played live.
For proof of their raw sound and talent without any audio trickery, just check out their performance on NPR’s Tiny Desk series.
You can clearly tell Chris Martin’s voice is pretty much the same as it sounds on their recordings and in concert.
The post-Britpop band has released more than 160 songs, and vocalist Chris Martin relies primarily on guitars, drums, and his vocal capacities, contrary to others who depend heavily on electronic music featuring extensive use of synthesizers.
There is a reason why Chris is able to fill the stadiums and achieve the highest number of concerts performed. But is Martin’s voice really that magnificent, or is there some trickery?
Let us explore. So stay (Auto)-tuned with me!
How does autotune work?
Like using spell check software for misspelled words, autotune can save singers from the sour notes and wavering pitch by adjusting their pitch to match the exact notes they intended to sing.
If you have ever wondered why some of your best songs on the iTunes list sound so different from the concerts, the most probable answer to that is Auto-tune.
And it’s been pretty much there since 1997.
Oh yeah! The smooth electronic tones working their way to make the singers sound flawless. That! My friend is the magic of Auto-tune right there.
Big famous faces use it, such as:
- Katy Perry
- Justin Bieber
- Post Malone
- Travis Scott
- Lil Wayne
- Britney Spears
- Bon Iver
It’s the big difference why most of the stars sound pitch-perfect in studios and leave the audience with a bad taste in their mouth during live performances.
According to Marco Alpert, vice president of marketing for Antares Audio Technologies, “Quite frankly, [use of Autotune] happens on almost all vocal performances you hear on the radio”.
Autotune users set a reference point as a scale to calibrate digitally corrected sounds so that they sound natural. Moreover, Alpert says that autotune can save singers from giving multiple retakes and losing the song’s emotion.
Chris Martin singing directly into our hearts during @Coldplay‘s #iHeartRadio set pic.twitter.com/QevReVRxlc
— billboard (@billboard) September 19, 2015
Can Chris Martin sing?
Chris Martin has a great singing voice and regularly carries Coldplay concerts for 1-2 hours. While he may not have the range or vocal strength of a top vocalist, he more than makes up for it with raw emotion, enthusiasm, and deep, introspective lyrics.
Chris Martin has been in the industry for more than 20 years now.
It’s hard to imagine his survival on anything other than sheer talent. So while it’s pretty easy to question his vocal abilities, it seems a better idea to come to a conclusion after analyzing his skills.
Honestly, bad performances exist, and so do bad days. Sometimes even the best singers fall prey to mishaps and limit them from giving their best performances.
To provide you with an example here, Coldplay performed “A Sky Full Of Stars at BBC Music Awards in 2014”. The British singer begins his performance by running all around the stadium and singing simultaneously.
As a result, Chris sounds out of breath most of the time, his pitch isn’t perfect, the song sounds terrible, but at least- he is not using auto-tune or lip-syncing like most crappy singers.
It’s safe to say his vocals may not have been a 100%, but at least he chose to do it naturally.
And if you’ve ever seen Coldplay in concert (I have 5 times), you know running, jumping, and constant movement is just his style from the start of the show to the last note.
Chris uses a fully-fledged, disconnected falsetto. And he has a delicate quality that always permeates his chest voice.
He belts intensely. If this intensity is isolated, the singer gives out a breathy quality, while if you close your vocal cords a little more and do the crow, it leaves out a darker textured tone resonating the crow.
He has excellent control of his diaphragm, which allows him to be a mix of bright and dark texture-evident in his Viva La Vida song.
Chris’s voice is unique, relaxing, smooth, and follows one sound across his entire range.
His upper notes are balanced when he finds the head voice, which many singers have difficulty navigating. He may not have sounded his best at many places, but the guy can sing well.
Yall I still cant believe I got to experience Coldplay live 😭 I MISS THEM pic.twitter.com/Da6n6JFDTn
— Eddie 🐙🌙☀️ (@EddieCooo) September 24, 2020
Does Coldplay use backing tracks?
Coldplay has always chosen to use pre-recorded backing tracks for live performances to deliver the full, rich sound from their recordings without having to add additional musicians and alter the chemistry of the 4 band members.
Backing tracks are just recorded tracks, usually directly from their albums, of all the parts the band doesn’t intend to play live.
For example, all Coldplay fans know that Chris Martin is a piano player.
But sometimes, he wants to sing and run into the crowd. So, at certain points in those songs, he stops playing piano, and a backing track of the piano part kicks in.
It’s a practice that has been around for decades.
And even before backing tracks, it wasn’t uncommon for bands like The Eagles to have extra musicians off-stage that the audience couldn’t see, playing extra parts.
Let’s take a closer look at Coldplay’s performance at Glastonbury in 2016.
It is pretty evident that Chris ought to be exhausted from all those jumping and chasing camera, but compared to his BBC Music awards performance and Live at Global Citizen Festival Hamburg, Chris here does not seem entirely out of breath which he should have been given that he is already a minute in the song.
It’s hard to say whether the band is doing lip-syncing here, but there are definitely a lot of backing tracks being used, and vocals could be part of that.
All that being said, I’ve seen no evidence of live use of autotune or lip-syncing at the 5 Coldplay shows I’ve seen.
Exactly 4 years ago today, @Coldplay performed live in Manila for the first time. Were you there? What’s your #ColdplayManila experience? @Coldplay_PH pic.twitter.com/026SVsGM3Q
— Philippine Concerts (@philconcerts) April 4, 2021
Would an audience know if Coldplay were using autotune live?
If a band such as Coldplay were using autotune live, the audience might hear a bubbling sound or small glitches in-between notes, along with a microscopic delay in the vocals. Another way to test it is to look out for unnatural transitions, crushed vocal phonations, and straightened-out slides, or immaculate vocals.
If you pay attention, it’s actually a little hard to be fooled during concerts.
One Coldplay fan went on to do his research and posted videos on https://coldplaying.com/ (supporting his observations) of the band taking the help of autotuning.
He says: “I don’t really care that much about how they have been using autotune in recent shows, but a lot of people still don’t know that they do use autotune.”
Part of his observation included studying the Coldplay documentary A Head Full Of Dreams.
He claims that the footage of the concert in France on July 15th, 2017, is made to match with audience footage. Moreover, the video was paired with audio from the Love In Tokyo album instead of France and contained a highly autotuned and more minor straight cut of Chris singing Fix You.
The audio, however, is not from France and is probably a mix between the Tokyo shows contained on Love In Tokyo and another Asian leg show.
But I do think there’s a difference between them just using autotune regularly and trying to clean up the audio and make the most of a video release.
And it’s entirely possible they used a different show’s audio track because of a technical glitch in the recording and not due to poor vocal performance.
20 feet away from Chris Martin singing Streets of Philadelphia #ColdplayPhiladelphia pic.twitter.com/6fWVzxuPyM
— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) August 7, 2016
Do most singers use autotune?
Most pop singers do use autotune, at least for studio recordings. Sometimes it’s obvious, as in the case of Post Malone. But there are a few artists that avoid it, such as Billie Eilish, who prefer to get a perfect vocal by recording multiple takes rather than use autotune.
While it is true that most singers use autotune, not all of them do.
To be quite honest, those who don’t need, don’t use it. Some of the stars known for their no-to-auto-tune approach include:
- Coldplay’s Chris Martin
- Ariana Grande
- Ed Sheeran
- Jessie J
But even these stars have used autotune at some point in their career, but only to a small degree.
The band has come a long way from singing about the virtues of deodorant (one of their earliest demos) to producing some iconic songs of the decade (Viva la Vida) that have stayed on Billboard charts for three weeks at a stretch.
Chris has powerful vocals and doesn’t need a hell of lot of trickery.
He is amongst those rare artists who like to record songs all the way through in one take, like in the song Shivers, rather than piecing them together.
So to answer the question-does Coldplay use autotune? Here is my answer- Interestingly, I’ve learned that he has used autotune on a few occasions but only to a small degree.
Photo which requires attribution:
Coldplay by Alex Bikfalvi is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.