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Monthly Archives: June 2024

Unlock New, Unique Vocoder Effects

By Craig Anderton

Usually, the Vocoder inserts into a track that provides the modulation, and the Vocoder’s sidechain receives the carrier. But why be normal? The same audio that provides the carrier can modulate itself. This technique unleashes a variety of processing options for drums, guitars, keyboards, percussion, and more. Even better, the Vocoder’s controls can tailor the results from subtle, to beautiful, to insane.

It’s difficult to explain the effect in words, so check out the audio examples. The first one has four measures of a loop without processing, then four measures of the loop vocoding itself.

The next audio example has one measure of a drum loop, then the drum loop vocoding itself.

The following example uses chorused guitar, with sawtooth Vocoder band automation to create a “rippling” effect. The vocoded sound goes through reverb as well.

The final example has two static Vocoder matrix settings with guitar. Static settings work well for instrument voicing, like changing the character of polysynth and pad sounds.

Channel Layout

Fig.1 shows the channel layout. This technique inserts the Vocoder in a bus, not a track. The audio track (in this case, Drums) has two pre-fader sends:

  • One send goes to the Bus with the inserted Vocoder. This provides the Vocoder’s modulator.
  • The other send goes to the Vocoder’s sidechain, to provide the carrier.

Figure 1: Channel layout. The Drums track provides the Vocoder’s modulator and carrier.

Vocoder Parameters

Figure 2: Typical Vocoder settings.

Start with the settings in fig. 2:

  • The Carrier Source needs to be Side-chain.
  • Shorter Release times add a percussive quality. Longer ones let the sound develop more.
  • Mix sets the balance of the carrier and the modulated sound. Mix at 100 gives the most novel effects. Lower Mix values mix in more dry sound.
  • Both Send levels from the Drums (or other audio track) affect the sound. Edit the sends to optimize the effect.

Automation, Too!

The vocoder matrix provides an almost unlimited tonal palette. The audio examples capture only a few of the options—just draw on the matrix, and listen to what happens. Also, note that automation can preserve your matrix doodling. Here are three examples of how to use automation:

  • Automate the Flip button, and change it on the beat with drums and percussion loops. With the right settings, this can alternate between DJ-style “bottom” and “top” loops.
  • Choose Write mode, and use the Vocoder matrix like an Etch-a-Sketch to create various tonal effects.
  • Use the Paint tool to add periodic automation (square wave, sawtooth wave, etc.) to the matrix modulation tracks.

Whether used as a glorified tone control, a way to create rippling frequency changes, or to breathe new life into loops, vocoding a sound with itself is can give you new and surprising sounds.

Louis Michot | Take the Leap | Quantum Audio Interfaces

The GRAMMY-winning fiddler, songwriter, and New Orleans native talks about taking his leap.

A life in music requires passion, creativity, dedication – and for many creators, their trajectory can be traced back to a defining moment that changed everything: the moment they took the leap.

Louisiana native Louis Michot is the fiddler, songwriter, and lead vocalist for the GRAMMY award winning Lost Bayou Ramblers. With more than 20 albums under his belt – and a passion for Louisiana French, local folklore, and environmental sustainability – Louis’ music career both honors and pushes the boundaries of the Louisiana French music traditions.

Watch as Louis performs his track “Les Beaux Jours” (“The Good Days”) through the all-new PreSonus Quantum ES 2 audio interface, and shares his story about growing up with Cajun music, his role as a cultural ambassador, and taking the leap with his first solo album.

Louis Michot might be best known as the fiddle player and lead-singer of the Lost Bayou Ramblers – but what truly fuels his career as a musician is Louisiana French, local folklore, and sustainability in the fastest disappearing landmass in the world: “Louisiana is beautiful and complex, both geographically and culturally,” Louis says. “The diversity of cultures that are intertwined here have given birth to some of the most popular music in the world, and the ever-changing landscape inspires people to keep creating new expressions: from Zydeco to Mardi Gras Indians, Cajun to country, and everything in between.”

Growing up surrounded by Cajun music seemed “normal” to Louis. “I thought every kid had an older generation around that played accordion and fiddle music and sang in French. But when I started playing guitar at 12 years old and learned all the Rock’nRoll and Blues standards, I realized that the Louisiana French music my family plays was very different from popular music.” 

Recognizing his unique cultural inheritance, Louis decided to get out into the world and learn French and the fiddle for himself. “I traveled and hitchhiked throughout South Louisiana and Eastern Canada, learning the language with every French speaker I could meet, and honing my skills on the fiddle by playing on the streets.”

Inspired by his experiences at home and abroad, Louis started playing standup bass with the family band before taking the leap and founding the GRAMMY-winning Lost Bayou Ramblers with his brother, Andre. “After a decade of pushing the traditional music to the edge, we started melding the Cajun music we grew up with, and the Rock’n’Roll we learned to love, and playing Louisiana French music in a way that truly inspired us.”

23 years and two GRAMMYs later, Louis decided it was time for another leap of faith, and began work on his first solo album. “When I finally decided to dedicate myself to releasing a solo album, it was because I needed to get this music out of my head and my heart, and wanted to explore the scary freedom of starting with an empty canvas and making something brand new and completely unique to me.”

Hot on the heels of his hurricane relief work, Louis set up shop in a dry-docked houseboat affectionately named “Sister Ray,” and started tracking the songs that would go on to become his first solo album, Rêve du Troubadour (The Troubadour’s Dream). For Louis, the personal and artistic significance of this effort cannot be overstated: “I felt like I was fulfilling a part of myself that was in my blood, part of my heritage, and I want others who feel that same yearning to be able to follow that feeling and keep their culture alive, whatever that means to them.”

“I definitely never set out to represent anything other than myself, but I think my passion for the music and language have led me to be a representative for the importance of cultural depth in Louisiana. I’m continuing tradition within the music and the family, and doing my part to preserve and grow these cultural expressions of Cajun and Creole music.”

PreSonus products used: PreSonus Quantum ES 2 USB-C Audio Interface.
Meet the all-new family of Quantum USB-C Recording Audio Interfaces, and get in-depth information about the entire product line here.