Artist Stories | March 30, 2017
From the voder and vocoder of the 1930s to present-day virtual studio technology plug-ins, audiophiles and musicians alike have long been experimenting with changing how the human voice sounds. Pitch correction and formant shifting have staked their ground in modern popular music production, and new-old tech like vintage computer voice chips are favorite tools of songwriters everywhere.
I caught up with audio engineer Colin Brittain (One Ok Rock, Papa Roach, All Time Low) and producer Chad Cisneros (Tritonal) on why and how they’ve used iZotope’s VocalSynth plug-in on their songs. Here’s what they had to say.
We started playing with Vocalsynth early in the process of All Time Low. Originally, we were using it for extreme vocal effects and vocoder type of ideas, but what makes this one special for me are the indefinite number of subtle characters it can bring to your mix. One day we were finishing “Dirty Laundry” vocals, and I was having a hard time getting the vocals to sit right. I fired up VocalSynth and found a setting that made the parallel track sound like a distorted whisper.
Track done, case closed. VocalSynth saves the day.
Similarly, One Ok Rock and Papa Roach have their share of VocalSynth. It's great for echos and changing the character of the delays, doubles, and parallel chains. One example of parallel vocal effects is if you use VocalSynth on an aux channel with EQ, compression, and reverb after it (Nectar is by far one of my favorites). Next, blend another aux channel of VocalSynth, this one with the widener all the way out and some of the formant distortion you can get with the Kitchen Sink Vocoder preset. Lastly, time that with an automated slow turn of the mix knob on Trash with a reverse slap delay after it. Pan to taste, and glue all of these effects together with Alloy and a discrete VCA style compressor. You can hear this recipe of madness on the intro of One Ok Rock’s “Take What You Want” featuring 5 Seconds of Summer.
Colin Brittain and Nick Furlong in the studio | Photo courtesy of Colin Brittain
Dave [Reed] and I have been using VocalSynth on our original records like "Strangers" and on remixes for Coldplay / Chainsmokers “Something Just Like This,” as well as on a remix of Zedd's single “Stay.” We love automating the formant knob while simultaneously giving a bit of overdrive through the distortion unit and mixing back in a bit of the dry signal with the mix knob. By doing this and adding a vocoded harmony, you can really add width, bite, and interesting timbres to sometimes vanilla vocal processing!
Tritonal on stage | Photo by Bill Whitmire