What Is A Vocoder?
The modulator signal is divided into different bands or points at which the carrier sound is altered across the frequency spectrum. Depending on the harmonic information presented by the modulator sound, the vocoder moves these bands higher or lower, producing that Daft Punk-like sound we all know and love.
Breaking Down The Parts of A Vocoder
- Carrier: This determines your carrier type. The carrier can be set to an external source (like a synthesizer as pictured above), a modulator, noise, or pitch tracking setting.
- Unvoiced Knob: This represents some of the sibilances in your carrier sound. For example, in vocals, this could be harsh “s,” “p,” or “t” sounds. The vocoder automatically sets this value to -inf so that you don’t hear them, but in the event, you want more sound clarity, you might start to bring in these frequencies.
- Bands: This is how many bands you want the vocoder to use when altering the signal. Generally speaking, the more bands available, the clearer the original sound is.
- BW: This is the width of each filter within the vocoder.
- Depth: This is how deep you want the cuts on each filter band to go when processing your signal. Depth goes hand and hand with attack and release, respectively.
- Formant: Formant knobs use filters to alter the tone of your sound.
- Dry/Wet: This represents how much of your processed signal blends with the original sound.
One of the best ways to grasp an understanding of the individual parts above is to experiment! Once you have your vocoder set up with a carrier noise and modulator, play around with each parameter to hear how different settings affect the sound.
How To Use A Vocoder
Method 1: Modulating A Voice
Method 2: Modulating Instruments and Melodies
Let’s use a bassline for this example. Here, I’ve mapped out a basic bass line with a stock bass instrument. It sounds like this:
Method 3: Modulating Drums
For this example, I just grabbed a simple 80’s inspired drum loop. It sounds like this unprocessed:
As you can see, the automated noise can help sounds swim and create interest throughout your mix.
All in all, vocoders are wonderful tools to have in your sound design arsenal. Hopefully, this brings you one step closer to making more interesting, complex sounds!