A vocoder is an electronic device that analyzes the sound of the human voice and produces a synthesized version of it by using an external source of sound. The device was invented in 1938 by Homer Dudley at Bell Laboratories. Since then, it has been widely used in music production, sound design, and various other fields. In this article, we will explore how to use the vocoder in music production.
What is a vocoder?
A vocoder is a device that analyzes the sound of the human voice and synthesizes it using an external source of sound. It consists of two main components: a carrier signal and a modulator signal. The carrier signal is a musical instrument or a synthesized sound that provides the basic frequency and tonal characteristics of the synthesized voice. The modulator signal is the human voice that is analyzed by the vocoder and used to modulate the carrier signal.
How does a vocoder work?
The basic principle of a vocoder is to divide the human voice into different frequency bands and then analyze each band separately. This is done by using a bank of bandpass filters that are tuned to different frequency ranges. The output of each bandpass filter is then rectified and smoothed to produce an envelope that represents the amplitude of the signal in that frequency range.
The envelopes of the modulator signal are then used to modulate the amplitudes of the carrier signal in each frequency range. This results in a synthesized version of the human voice that has the tonal characteristics of the carrier signal but the articulation of the modulator signal.
How to use the vocoder in music production?
Now that we have a basic understanding of how a vocoder works, let’s look at how to use it in music production. The vocoder is a powerful tool that can be used to create a wide range of sounds and effects. Here are some tips on how to use the vocoder in music production:
1. Choose the right carrier signal:
The carrier signal is the sound that the vocoder will use as the basis for the synthesized voice. It can be a musical instrument, a synthesized sound, or even a recorded sound. When choosing the carrier signal, it’s important to consider the tonal characteristics and the frequency range of the sound. For example, if you want a deep and bassy sound, you might choose a synthesized bass sound as your carrier signal.
2. Record a clean and clear modulator signal:
The modulator signal is the human voice that will be used to modulate the carrier signal. It’s important to record a clean and clear modulator signal to get the best results from the vocoder. Make sure to use a high-quality microphone and record in a quiet environment to avoid any unwanted background noise.
3. Use the right settings:
The vocoder has a variety of settings that can be adjusted to create different sounds and effects. These include the number of frequency bands, the level of modulation, and the attack and release times. Experiment with these settings to find the right balance for your desired sound.
4. Add effects:
Once you have the basic vocoder sound, you can add additional effects to enhance the sound further. This can include reverb, delay, chorus, and other effects. Be creative and experiment with different effects to find the right combination for your desired sound.
5. Layer multiple vocoder sounds:
You can also layer multiple vocoder sounds to create complex and interesting textures. For example, you might layer a vocoder sound with a regular vocal track to create a unique sound that blends the two together.
The vocoder is a powerful tool that can be used to create a wide range of sounds and effects in music production. By choosing the right carrier signal, recording a clean modulator signal, and experimenting with the settings and effects, you can create unique and interesting sounds that add depth and character to your music. However, it’s important to remember that the vocoder is just one tool in your arsenal, and it should be used in conjunction with other production techniques and tools to create a cohesive and polished final product.