Vocoder effects are fairly common in modern electronic music. When used tactfully, they can give your production lots of flair and character. In this demonstration, we’ll take a look at how to create a Daft Punk style vocoder in Ableton Live.
Take a listen to our audio sample:
Note: The instrumental used in this sample was taken from PlatinumLoops Big Bad Basslines Electro House loops.
I would still recommend most analog vocoders over software emulations, but you can get some good results with a little bit of knowledge and understanding.
How A Vocoder Works
A vocoder combines the formant qualities of an input signal (i.e. – your voice) with tonal qualities of another signal (usually a synthesizer). The two sources blend together to create a vocoder effect.
The input signal is also called the modulator. The tonal signal is also referred to as the carrier source, which sends frequency information to your vocoder. To hear some cool examples of how a well used Vocoder can rock your dance tunes check out the Platinumloops release Robot Vox V1 – Vocoder Samples.
Step 1 – Load Up A Vocoder Track
In your Ableton session drag and drop a vocoder on an audio track.
Step 2 – Create a MIDI track and choose a synthesizer sound for your carrier source.
You can use any synthesizer sound you want as a carrier source, but I recommend looking for something in the realm of a Saw Wave. Ableton has some good synth brass sounds that work well too. There are some decent sounds in the Operator like Brass Brasinski or L3ktra.
I ended up using a patch I created in Massive. I took a preset (Ad Voca) from the factory library and tweaked it to get some added definition out of my vocoder.
If you own Massive you can download this patch here:
Take a listen to my synth sound (carrier source):
Step 3 – Choose a vocal sample (modulator) to drop on your vocoder track.
I took a simple vocal snippet from PlatinumLoops Pop Vox loop library.
Step 4 – Route your Carrier (synth track) through the side-chain input of your vocoder.
Set your Carrier to External. Then, set your Audio From to the MIDI synth track you created earlier. I chose track 9-Massive. Select Pre FX just below that.
Make sure the Enhance button is yellow.
Also, make sure that your synthesizer track is muted or inactive.
Step 5 – Record your vocoded segment.
Record-enable your carrier track and lay down a melody.
Step 6 – Add a compressor to your Vocoder track.
Drop in Ableton’s single band compressor before the vocoder. Start with the settings shown below, but then tweak to your liking. Don’t squeeze the life out it just apply some moderate compression.
Step 7 – Set up your Vocoder parameters.
I’m not going to explain all of the Vocoder controls, but set your Bands to 40. The higher your band count the more accurate you’re Vocoder’s frequency analysis is, even though this doesn’t always mean a higher band count is better.
Highlight your Precise tab.
Step 8 – Add a multiband EQ after your Vocoder and brighten up the high-end.
Step 9 – Polish off your Vocoder sample with some Ping Pong Delay. Finish with an Opto Compressor.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different Carrier and Modulator sources. You’ll be surprised at the multitude of results. Analog Vocoders still reign supreme, but not all of us have the money or resources to get our hands on one. Ableton’s Vocoder is flexible, easy to use, and it won’t cost you any extra money.
Feel free to sound off in the comments below and share any tips you may have for working with Ableton’s Vocoder.