Vocoder Demonstration for Music Production

If you've not come across Osca from Underdog, then I would highly recommend checking out his videos. This video is a great demonstration on using a Vocoder with voice, percussion and synth stabs.

The demonstration is in Reason, but the same, or similar controls are available with most vocoders, hardware or software.

Vocoders In Music Production

Vocoders have been successfully throughout electronic music since the 1970's. An instrument used by many bands and artists such as Kraftwork, Tupac, New Order, Beastie Boys, Daft Punk and one of the latest tracks by Floating Points, suitably named Vocoder.

They were initially designed as a tool to carry speech over long distances, but now they are typically recognized as an instrument to make your voice sound like a robot, que Daft Punk. However, Vocoders are not just for not just for vocals, they can also be used with many different sounds sources including drums, percussion, synth stabs and even pads to add textures and harmonic movement.

How a Vocoder works

The initial use of a Vocoder was to transmit speech over long distances, this was made possible due the low bandwidth of the transmitted signal. Before the speech was transmitted it was passed in parallel through multiple bandpass filters which split the signal into individual frequencies. Each frequency had a reactive volume envelope which monitored the amplitude of each frequency band over time. Once the signal reached its destination, the multiple frequency volume envelopes were then mimicked and the speech could be deciphered and synthesized. 

Vocoder Products

Vocoders have traditionally been hardware based, normally synthesizers with an added microphone for input, such as the Micro Korg, Roland VP-03 Vocoder, Yamaha Geno Digital Workshop and Electro Harmonix Voicebox pedals. Now many great software Vocoders are available, such as Vocalsynth by Izotope, Razor by Native Instruments and Vocodex by Image-Line. Vocoder can also also be found built into DAW's such as Ableton and Reason. However, no matter if you using software or hardware they share similar controls and can be a great tool to inspire your creativity.