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This wonderful little device has stood the test of time but rarely does it make its way into my sound design bag o' tricks. Who has good tips or stories?

Btw, my version of a vocoder comes by way of Pro Tools plug-ins…what are you folks using?

7

I don't often use a vocoder, but when I do I quite enjoy it.

Things I've used it for:

  • Adding noise to an explosion, so that the blow and decay sound a bit harsher.
  • Giving rhythm to a sound. I wanted a cartoony sound of train, so I put together a 'farty' motorbike sound and, if I remember correctly, a rock falling and bouncing in a metal bin, then looped it. It worked quite well.
  • Unconsciously, whenever I time stretch without pitch shifting and vice versa. I think that uses phase vocoding.
  • The usual instrument stuff... Including to fatten up drum sounds.
  • No robot voices though :-)

I use the Vokator by Native Instruments. Although lately I've mainly been using Max/MSP and it's FFT objects, there is a nice external by Tap.Tools called [tap.vocoder~].

  • Cool examples, Andrew. I recently used a vocoder on some ultra-fast doppler horn bys I was creating by using some pitched-up wailer sirens as a modulator to give them some high freq bite. – Jay Jennings Mar 17 '10 at 19:15
  • Nice use of a vocoder. It could not have been such a pleasant sound to work on ;-) – Andrew Spitz Mar 17 '10 at 20:04
  • After a few hours…no, it was not so pleasant. – Jay Jennings Mar 28 '10 at 23:07
2

Though an ITB solution, I am using Reason's vocoder a lot.

I usually use vocoder to create unusual rhythmic elements when I need an uptempo track for chase scenes or high intensity moments in the video footage.

2

I will use vocoders when I'm trying to blend two very different sounds, and I want them to gel in a more active way than just editing/mixing will achieve. An example of a recent use would be gunshots and paper.

An animated piece I've been editing on and off over the last few monts has a segment that looks like animated paper. I've been trying to match some of the sounds to it's style. So I used gunshots as modulators for paper tears. There's a slow motion section, and I got a nice, relatively subtle, sound where the gunshots have elements of hard paper tears and the bullets have a peeling through the paper effect.

It's still mostly a gunshot sound, but it added a little coloration to the effects that help cement it as part of the animation. It would have been hard to get the envelopes to match so well without the vocoder (Waves Morphoder).

  • That sounds awesome. Any chance you could whip up a tutorial? ;) – Dave Matney Oct 14 '11 at 15:52
  • @Dave Matney - maybe one day...if i ever get some of these other projects that have been sitting around for months done...including the mentioned animated piece. lol – Shaun Farley Oct 14 '11 at 17:59
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Try using the same sound as both the modulator and carrier. I get some great ringy,spacey effects with that.

1

Other than using it when i'm banging out an electro track, I have used it to create artificial harmonics to an otherwise monotone to add a layer of depth, same goes for harmony tools designed for vocal/singing harmonies (antares harmony efx). Adding a layer of harmonics to a monotone source like a high pitched ring or drone swell will sometimes add more complexity and induce more emotion.

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Right now I'm using it to create a library of EVPs.

  • EVPs? Sorry I'm not conversant... – Jay Jennings Oct 13 '11 at 19:33
  • Like SyFy Ghost Hunter, electronic voice phenomena EVPs? Is that what you're talking about @Joe? – Steve Urban Oct 13 '11 at 19:52
  • @Steve Urban and @Jay Jennings --Yes, sorry--Electronic Voice Phenomena, the Ghost Hunter thing where they listen through the static and room tone on little handheld digital recorders to hear "ghost voices." I have to build a bunch of them for an upcoming project. Whispered voice + white noise as the carrier = ghosty EVP. – Joe Griffin Oct 13 '11 at 21:00

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