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I'm an amateur singer, and I work with my band on some original songs.

I'm looking for a way to add some vocal "effects" to some portions of our songs. Naturally, if we ever record our songs professionally, I will try to play around on a DAW with digital effects until I find something I like, but currently I'm more interested in ways to make the vocals sound a bit different using low-tech household items in front of the microphone, like paper cups, cardboard, combs, etc.

Has anyone here ever played around with something like this and has some tips for me to try out?

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+50

Things

  • Tubes, straws, pipes and hoses
  • Cups
  • Put things in mouth (e.q. water or sweets... don't choke!)
  • Pillows
  • Balloons (scream all you can while pressing a balloon to the mouth)
  • Combs and paper, foil etc.
  • Moving Fans
  • Vibrator on throat
  • Tubes into water
  • Springs (toy spring mics, Thunder Drums etc)

Head

  • Shake / Rotate (poor mans leslie/tremolo)

Hands

  • Cupping
  • Funneling
  • Hoot n Cover (Indian War Cry Style)
  • Muffling the Mouth (Inside and Outside)
  • Throat Effects (Shake, Pressure, Pinch)
  • Block The Nose (only one nostril for reduced effect)

Techniques

  • Inward Singing
  • Growls and scream
  • Ululation
  • Constrained tongue
  • Manual echo (repeating things)
  • Conventional styles (falsetto, vibrato, etc).

Singing through a fan:

Tubes into water (I think he has another point though :-D):

Spring Mic:

Thunder Drum (no vocals though, but you'll get the idea..sing into the can):

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Once upon a time I found and brought home some lengths of plastic tubing (intended for plumbing, I imagine). They were very long - up to 3 metres - with about a 1-inch diameter. When you sang directly into one, you found your voice pulled to one of its natural harmonic pitches (the harmonic scale familiar from valveless hunting horns etc.); being so long, there was quite a full scale of these accessible to my vocal range. It was such a strange experience, actually feeling your vocal cords 'snap-to' specific pitches, as if quantised. So, if you want to experiment with tubes/piping.. go long!

If you'll stretch to going electric...

Wire up a basic contact mic, sing into that. Try attaching it to various membranes for a very dirty mic. Also, always keep an eye out in charity shops for kids' toys with sound distortion functionality. Some of those are pretty sophisticated! I picked up this guy for £1 not so long ago, and have been using it in performance. Includes octave shift up/down and a vocoder-type effect.

Another thing to try is cupping the microphone. Cardioid mics use air filters on the sides to eliminate off-axis sounds through phase cancellation. If you block those filters, you change its pick-up pattern (it turns omni). If you're monitoring the input through a speaker, you'll get feedback - and different degrees of cupping will give you varying amounts of feedback or a bit of a ring on certain vowel sounds. The frequency of the ringing of course corresponds to modes in the room, so try changing your position as you do this, with respect to the monitor, and to different corners of the room.

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I haven't tried recording this but it should record as it sounds...

Try a wrapping film like those used on cigarette packets. Grab the 2 opposite ends and push the film against your lips as you speak/sing. I don't know how to describe the kind of distortion it creates but it reminds me of people listening to football matches on old pocket radios.

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Cardboard reminds me of man pile + ear training, a somewhat experimental composition.

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