Vocoders exist for almost a century and have been used in music since the 70’s, covering various styles, like electronic, funk and even rock. There’s a reason why they are still around.
Setting up a Vocoder Channel
Requirements: VST/AU Support feature
For a vocoder to work we need two sound sources. One is usually a voice, acting as a modulator and the other is an instrument, a synth or really any other instrument, which will act as a carrier.
OK, let’s start.
First add an audio track and load a vocal sample, then add an instrument track and load electro synth or a VST plugin of your choice.
Add an instrument pattern, double click it and add some long notes to it covering the entire length of the pattern.
If you press play at this moment you will just hear the vocal sample and the instrument playing together. It can sound like a mess, but don’t worry.
We need to do some preparations to properly send signals to the vocoder.
Select the vocal channel, click the gear icon and select Send Routing > Pre Send Audio.
Do the same for the synth track.
This will send signals to the vocoder regardless of the channels fader positions. This is important so we can avoid the messy sound we heard earlier. More on this in a minute.
The modulator must feed one channel and the carrier the other, you can usually do this with simple hard panning, but panning in Stagelight seems to be working post-fader so it won’t be of any help here.
Instead, insert a plugin that will pan the vocal channel full left and the synth channel full right.
I will use Stagelight’s gater effect for this purpose, but if you prefer so, you can use a VST plugin that can do the same thing.
On the vocal channel insert the Gater and switch it to 8 steps and stereo. Fill all the blocks on the top channel and clear all from the bottom one.
Do the same on the synth channel, but reverse the channels.
When you press play you should hear the vocal only on the left speaker and the synth only on the right.
Now we need to send audio to the vocoder for it to do it’s magic. To do so you would usually create a mixer bus or group, but since Stagelight doesn’t have those, we will use sends instead.
Select the vocal channel, add a new send track and insert a vocoder VST effect, I’ll use the free and excellent MDA Talkbox.
Add the send to the synth channel too and press play. You should now hear both the vocoded and dry signals. To avoid the mess and hear only the vocoded signal lower the volume on both tracks all the way down.
We can hear the vocoder even though the levels are at zero thanks to the sends routing we set earlier.
If you used a different vocoder plugin and you are not getting the right vocoder sound after following all the steps, try to reverse the channels in the Gater effect. Not all vocoder plugins accept the modulator on the left and carrier on the right channel.
You can also do live vocoding if your system can work at low latency. You need to connect a microphone to your audio interface or sound card input and Instead of adding a vocal sample to the vocal channel, right click the track header and select monitor input.
You can then either play the synthesizer channel with the on-screen keyboard, MIDI keyboard or even your Qwerty keyboard. You can also create a synth pattern, simply start the sequencer and talk to the mic.