If you are a singer, one of the most exciting technological advancements for you has to be in the field of live vocal processing. It all started out as just a small number of harmony vocal processors but, it has blossomed into a wide array of effects and processors that can almost recreate studio magic on stage. Yes, it’s possible to have a precise and killer live sound without needing to alter it in production before the release of a live album. You can wow your live audience with these awesome tools. Here is a basic overview of the types of speech processing options available today.
Pitch & Harmony
Live pitch and harmony were among the most sought after vocal processors early on, and while early attempts were more than a bit robotic, the current generation of live pitch effects are almost indistinguishable from their plug-in equivalents. Of course, if you want something with a more classic electronic sound, options like the Electro-Harmonix V256 Vocoder and the Roland VT-3 Voice Transformer will be fantastic.
Today, you can add simple chromatic tone correction to your microphone with something as small and convenient as the TC-Helicon Mic Mechanic 2. Similarly, independent harmony processors, such as DigiTech Vocalist Live Harmony, make it easy to add choruses to your sound. As useful as the simple tone and harmony effects are, they are limited entirely by your voice or by presets. So if you are too far from the key, you will end up with some fun effects. Fortunately, these are just the initial days of these tools and they are bound to evolve very quickly.
Modern tone and harmony effects are almost always combined together. The most popular vocal multi-effects processors belong to the TC-Helicon’s VoiceLive series. Many of these vocal multi-effects, allow you to trigger harmonies and restrict tuning parameters by following incoming guitar or keyboard chords. This allows you to use a wide range of great tone-based effects on stage.
Processors and Vocal Effects
While most processors and vocal effects still live within more sophisticated units, individual pedals have become increasingly common. For example, the TC-Helicon VoiceTone D1 offers doubling and detuning effects with the simplicity of a guitar pedal. Similarly, the BOSS VE-1 Vocal Echo features adjustable delay effects, though it also includes basic doubling and pitch correction. Other dedicated vocal effects pedals cover reverb, distortion, and more, while you can get everything from compression and unwanted to the added harmonic warmth of the TC-Helicon VoiceTone T1.
One fun way that many vocalists have explored new performance options has been with loopers. Originally only found on guitar pedals, loopers are now a standard part of practical vocal multi-effects like the popular TC-Helicon VoiceLive Touch 2. Live vocal loopers such as the BOSS RC-505 Loop Station, allow you to create DJ-style performances by looping your voice and other input sources and adding samples. There is no limit to what a creative vocalist can do when equipped with a powerful looping workstation like this one.
Live Speech Plug-ins
Now that we’ve seen the emergence of a new generation of live speech processing hardware, what’s next? Looking at the latest trends, it’s safe to assume that live vocal processing plugins are becoming more and more viable. Antares led the charge with its special low-latency version Auto-Tune Live, a standard native plug-in that runs on most plug-in hosts.
The DiGiGrid hardware also brings many specialized Waves SoundGrid plugins to the live stage, allowing engineers to add things like auto gain and various vocal enhancements to large-scale music production. We will likely see future generations of live vocal processing follow this same pattern, giving vocalists incredible new possibilities.