Does Pearl Jam Use Autotune?

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Pearl Jam’s sound and musical ability have stayed incredibly consistent over the years. But in 2020, they changed their sound a lot, leading many fans to wonder, does Pearl Jam use autotune?

Here is what I discovered:

Pearl Jam has used autotune in some of their later recordings. Their most notable use of autotune was observed in songs like Backspacer, Life Wasted, Just Breathe, and their album Lighting Bolt. Since autotune was not invented until 1997, none of their first 4 albums use autotune.

But using autotune doesn’t necessarily mean that a singer can’t sing.

Autotune is a pitch correction tool that also helps in adding dynamics, emotions to vocals and also help fix severe problems allowing the music producers to get away with not having to do multiple retakes.

But the fact that its overuse can give a singer’s vocal range a robotic sound is also not hidden. Of course, autotune is a powerful tool if used with care.

The most important question is whether the application of autotune helped Pearl Jam improve their song quality or had the opposite effect?

What kind of voice does Eddie Vedder have?

Eddie Vedder is gifted with a powerful baritone voice and a rare 5-octave vocal range. He has a unique style and phrasing, but his voice does sound a little strained and gritty in his upper register.

Various coaches have analyzed Eddie Vedder’s voice uniqueness.

YouTuber Chris Liepe presented a detailed analysis of Vedder’s voice. I have embedded the link. Just click it to see the entire video. But to give a crux of the video, here is what I can tell you:

Eddie Vedder’s voice is very bright and deep at the same time. His voice is naturally relaxed and free sounding.

Another YouTube channel, NetMusic, attempted to isolate vocals from Pearl Jam’s three songs-Alive, Black, and Porch, to demonstrate the range of Eddie’s baritone vocals.

When you hear these songs without backing instruments, you can identify Eddie’s voice as one of the most potent forces that a musical group can have.

But Vedder is a poet first and foremost.

He puts his heart and soul into his words. But from a technical standpoint, he often sings “incorrectly”. His signature sound is basically obtained by him pulling his tongue way far back in the mouth. This depresses his larynx and creates that “Eddie Vedder” sound.

Despite sounding excellent and distinctive, that can fatigue or damage the voice quickly. 

It also muffles the clarity of your diction and makes your words hard to understand, especially your vowels. I have a friend who mimics him by gritting his teeth and keeping them closed while singing.

Funny, but not inaccurate.

How many octaves does Eddie Vedder have?

Eddie Vedder has an extensive 5-octave vocal range, although many of Pearl Jam’s songs stay in his lower registers. The average singer has a 2-octave range. 

The singer can produce a wide range of vocal ‘timbres’ for all pitches, according to various vocal coaches.

He can make a high note sound sweet and clean but also loud and distorted. The same goes for the low ones and everything in between. That’s hard. It is a quality that sets Eddie Vedder’s voice apart.

The Range Planet mentions that:

“A lot of Vedder’s melodies are based around the third octave with regular visits into the fourth. Eddie has an extreme lower register reaching down to the very bottom of the second octave. His high range is where he spends most of his time, most often in the chest though he has demonstrated his falsetto technique fairly often as well.”

The website also mentions that:

“Most of the time, Eddie Vedder doesn’t tend to go any higher than the upper fourth octave, though, on occasion, he has reached into the fifth octave.”

Why does Eddie Vedder sound like that?

Eddie Vedder sounds his signature way because of keeping his tongue too far back in his mouth, which depresses his larynx. But his style also includes a lot of soulfulness and emotion that come to him naturally. 

Pearl Jam fans have named Vedder’s unique singing style “Yarling.” This style was trendy in the ’90s, particularly in Grunge and Post-grunge bands.

It dates back much further but was made famous with folk singers and employed strikingly in the early twentieth century.

It is characterized by a nasal baritone quality, thus making the singers who chose this style sound unintelligible sometimes.

Decades later, the style was popularized by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. 

According to many, this style was controversial among music fans, with many claiming it to have worsened previous singing styles such as classic rock and heavy metal.

However, once Eddie Vedder began using it, it became a staple of modern rock and some alt bands who wanted to add a rough edge to their songs.

Is Eddie Vedder losing his voice?

Eddie Vedder did suffer some temporary troubles with his voice back in 2018, which required resting his vocals. But Pearl Jam’s shows since then confirm that the rock star is back with his powerful vocals.

In 2018, Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder was diagnosed with a case of laryngitis. The band posted the update on their Twitter account, saying:

“Pearl Jam are very sorry to announce that they will be unable to perform tonight’s show at the O2 Arena in London. The band is working on rescheduling the concert date for mid-July. Singer Eddie Vedder has completely lost his voice. He is on vocal rest for the next few days to heal and perform the remainder of the tour dates.”

The members added to the statement mentioning:

“It’s the first time having to postpone a show for this reason. Ed and the band are gutted thinking of all the folks who have traveled and made plans. Sending their biggest apologies out to everyone. And huge gratitude for the continued support.”

Luckily, Vedder’s voice got better in time for their Gigatone Tour.

This tour was initially planned to occur in 2020, consisting of 17 shows in North America and fourteen shows in Europe.

However, on March 30, 2021, the band pushed their tour dates to 2022 due to the coronavirus.

As it stands now, Eddie may not be the only rocker facing vocal concerns, but he is all set to hit the stage back with an ever-growing vocal ability.

Does Pearl Jam use backing tracks live?

Pearl Jam does not use backing tracks live, but they do utilize 2 additional musicians for live performances that are not official band members.

Using backing tracks has become a staple of live music concerts in recent years.

This is mainly because bands want to offer rhythmically solid sound, sync the show with an impressive set of visuals, and avoid voice exhaustion.

You might be surprised to learn that many of the popular groups you loved used backing tracks live or, in some cases, have extra musicians off-stage that the audience can’t see.

Some of them are: 

  • Pink Floyd 
  • Blink-182
  • U2
  • The Eagles
  • Dream Theatre 
  • ZZ Top
  • Muse 
  • The Ramones (somewhat briefly in 1982)

In addition, Pearl Jam is amongst those rare bands that rage against using any machines or equipment to make their music better.

Essentially, Pearl Jam sounds so great live because their albums capture what the bands might sound like as a live act.

Eddie Vedder - Even Flow - Isolated Vocal Analysis - Pearl Jam - Singing & Production Tips

Conclusion

Autotune is one of those things that almost everyone does these days, and Pearl Jam is no exception.

But that doesn’t always mean it’s because the singer can’t sing. Autotune used offensively sounds obviously artificial and can be used to correct a mediocre singer who can’t sing the notes correctly.

But it can also be used to intentionally make vocals sound artificial, such as “One More Time” by Daft Punk or “Believe” by Cher, which was the 1st song to use autotune.

And lastly, autotune can be used to simply alter the tone of the vocal and get it to fit with the music better. And for that reason, Eddie Vedder may use autotune.


Photo that requires attribution:

Pearl Jam at Lollapalooza 2007 by – EMR – is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

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