In this article, our guest contributor Eric Dubois shares a simple, but awesome technique to get that classic Daft Punk Style Vocals using the Vocoder effect in Live.
A Producer works with artists from around the world, and sometimes it’s just impossible to be united in a studio to work on the vocals. The artist will usually send you by email a WAV file with the raw vocals, and if you are lucky, he will also send you some harmonies! But most of the times no… So it’s hard for the producer to ask the artist for Harmonies or simple vocal fills when the artist is half way across the world! It takes time, and we all know producers and artists have little time!
I am working with New York artist Carl Bailey on a new track that will be released by the end of July called “Overthinking”. Exceptionally for this tutorial and ProMusicProducers.com here is a sneak peak of the final track:
We worked together only by e-mail. I would send him the track, he would work on some vocals and send me the raw audio files by email. But when I was mixing it all together, the chorus was missing something… I couldn’t wait for more vocals, and it is hard to explain what you need when the artist is on another continent! So I decided to create a Robotic Daft Punk type harmony to fill up the chorus (as you can hear in the Soundcloud link above). I used the exact same vocal as the prechorus you can hear during the build. This Daft punk effect is really great for modifying voice lines instead of warping and pitch shifting the raw audio file.
Here are the two vocals:
As you can hear the vocal line changes with the distorted synthesized aspect. Daft Punk uses the same type of effect to create their voices: the Vocoder.
The Vocoder In Theory
For those of you who don’t know what a Vocoder does, I’ll try to explain it simply. The Vocoder uses the “shape” of your voice signal to modify and tweak the signal coming from an instrument (synthesizer, guitar, bass…). You can perfectly hear and understand the lyrics of your voice file, but the melody and the sound comes from your instrument! Have you ever played a song using the speaker of your phone and put it near your mouth? When you open and close your mouth you are tweaking the envelope of the sound coming out of your phones speaker! Disgusting example but we have all done this! Your mouth is the Vocoder placed on your vocal track and your phone is the external instrument coming from your midi track. That is the basics of a Vocoder.
So to set it up, you will need to create two tracks:
- a midi track (For the synthesizer)
- an audio track (for your vocal)
Group your two tracks together (ctrl + G) and Rename them (Ctrl + R)
Creating The Synth
First we are going to create our synth sound. You can do this with any type of sound, but for a good Daft Punk effect try to find an aggressive saw synth. I am going to use the synth sample below and drag it to Ableton’s Simpler to create a full instrument:
Tweak the Simpler as you want, but make sure to have the loop function on if you dont want your instrument to stop at the end of the sample.
Create the synth you want with some midi notes that fit your track. To make it easier I just added a Midi Chord Effect and an Arpeggiator to create the melody line for me. I won’t get too much into the details of creating the synth, but here is how it looks:
Really basic synth, no effects, no filter… but it’s enough to do the trick.
Don’t even bother with reverb, delays or any type of sidechaining because in the end we will affect our full robotic vocal (The audio track)! So here is the next step: MUTE this track! That’s right, we don’t want to hear this track! We only want to hear our Audio track called Vocal.
Creating Our Daft Punk Vocal: Vocoder
Drag your raw vocal file on to the audio track then drag Ableton’s Vocoder effect.
Here is how it sounds straight out of the box:
It sounds pretty terrible… But don’t worry here is how you set it up. First step, in the Carrier section (on the left hand side of the vocoder) select “External” and in the Audio From section, select the synth you have just created.
My midi track is called Synth
Here is how it sounds:
First thing I noticed was that we can hear the synth when there isn’t any vocal… In a way it sounds cool, but too messy and won’t blend in with the mix. This comes from your vocal signal. The raw audio file has some background noises, we need to cut those out using a gate. Either Drag Ableton’s Gate effect in front of your Vocoder or you can play with the gate knob directly on the Vocoder. I prefer to do both! Just a personal habit, I find it more precise.
So I added a gate in front of the Vocoder and tweaked the gate knob as well on the Vocoder.
The settings for the gate depend on your vocal track. Try tweaking it with the vocoder on and off.
Alright it is sounding much more clear! But I still find it too Robotic… Instead of having the “Bands” set to 20, set it to 40. The higher the Bands are, the clearer you can hear the vocals.
Switch between “Precise” and “Retro”, listen to the difference and select what you like! I prefer the retro version of the Vocoder.
This is how the Vocoder looks when you are playing your track.
Sounds pretty cool! But hard to blend in the mix… You need to consider it’s a Vocal track and an Instrument track! So some EQ and Compression are required.
I already have a pretty strong bass-line for this record, so I’m going to cut some of the bass out of my Vocoder track (as I would usually do for an instrument). I am also going to boost the high end of the EQ as I would do for a vocal, to have a little more clarity.
I am also going to add a Compressor with a strong compression ratio (as I would do for regular vocal tracks) to make the vocals a little more intense!
These extra effects are my personal preferences when it comes to mixing… If you do it in a different way feel free!
Gate, EQ, Compression and then the Vocoder.
And there you go! Add some final touches with reverb and delays and you are done! Try using different synths as well, and different notes, octaves… Until you find the coolest thing ever!
If you are using Samples to create your synth, try layering in different types of sounds. I layered in this sample as well:
Group your previous synth and drag the new sample on to a new chain.
Here is how the Vocoder sounds with and without the new layered synth:
Here is how it sounds in the mix:
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below or email me directly! Thanks again and be CREATIVE!
Official website: http://ericbakerdubois.wix.com/prod