Skip to Main Content
In the late 1990s, the application of a well known mathematical transformation revolutionized the music industry. That process, known as Auto-Tune, relies on the ability of the Fourier Transform to identify dominant frequencies within a time-series record of a signal. Mega-stars like Madonna, Cher, Britney Spears, Tim McGraw, Kanye West, and many more heavily use Auto-Tune not only to ensure perfect pitch, but often simply for the unique sounds the function produces. Perhaps unknown to these singers, wave experts were using exactly the same mathematical functions to identify ocean wave characteristics forty years prior to the first mainstream music hit (Cher's “Believe”) to use Auto-Tune. This paper presents an overview of the Fourier Transform and its application in both the music industry and the scientific study of water waves.