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Kalebh Schroder

In the Studio: Decoding the History and Mystery of the Vocoder

Through the last 30 years the vocoder has made its way into mainstream music.


All the way from Kraftwerk’s “Computer World” in the early 80’s to Daft Punk’s “Around the World” in the late 90’s , to Zedd’s “Stay” and the Weeknd’s “I Feel it Coming”. The vocoder has made a significant impact in the music industry

Vocoding is short for voice encoder and it was first made for coding and transmitting messages that take up less bandwidth in the 30’s. Currently, it is used in a much more musical way. Vocoding more recently has been used to sing or to talk through.

The sound of a vocoder is mainly operated by two controls, the amount of bands and what pitch to generate. The amount of bands affect how natural and intelligible it sounds. The less bands, the less intelligible and natural it sounds and vice versa. Usually vocoders follow MIDI information to follow pitch Here is a great video about vocoding in Ableton with vocoding plugins like the Waves Morphoder.

As mentioned in the video, often times vocoders will have the option to have talk box effects in them. Vocoding is confused with the talk box effect as heard in Bruno Mars’ "24K Magic." Vocoding and talk box are similar in how they affect vocals, although how they are created through hardware is very different. Here is my favorite video of talk boxes being used in a vocal situation like a vocoder would. Vocoding and talk box are similar in how they affect vocals, although how they are created through hardware is very different. Here is my favorite video of talk boxes being used in a vocal situation like a vocoder would.

Here is a vocoder being used.

What are your favorite songs using the vocoder? Tell us some of your favorites!

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Kalebh Schroder Contributing Writer

Kalebh has been producing music for side and solo projects since childhood. He graduated from Full Sail University with a Bachelors in Music Production.

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