Tips for Producing Musical Robot Voices

Transcript:

Greetings! My name is Ian Vargo. I’m with The Pro Audio Files, and today, I’m going to be showing you how to produce a vocoder sounding robot voice, but one that’s musical, and one that could work within the context of electronic or popular music.

The music I’m going to be using is from Ugly, Ugly, Words, whose new record comes out on January 13th. The name of the song is “I Want to Love you Like a Robot.”

Sort of the lyrical content of the song, it’s about this robot that has human feelings of lust, and it’s confused by them. So the idea that I was going for was trying to transform a human sounding singer, our lead singer Andy, into a robot.

So, I used a combination of a couple different tools, and I’m going to show you how I did it.

Let’s take a listen to the original vocal. Here we go.

[vocals]

Alright. So, my idea was to try to create a vocoder sounding robot voice, that I could blend with that one throughout the course of the song, and make it seem almost like the human lead singer was turning into a robot.

So, what I did first was I actually, myself, re-recorded the part, but just me talking it.

So, we’re going to get out of Pro Tools here, and we’re going to go into Logic. Okay, so let’s take a listen to me simply reciting the lyrics.

[spoken word]

Alright, so clearly not as musical or as good as Andy’s performance, but what I did is ran this vocal through this plug-in, which is called Bit Speak. It’s amazing. Let’s take a listen.

[spoken word, processed with Bit Speak]

We can change the pitch.

[pitch shifts]

There’s other things you could do here.

Alright. So, as you can see, a very, very versatile plug-in.

So, what I did, is I did multiple passes of that. Some of the sounds were more gritty, some of them were more computer like, some were different octaves, and then I have four different parts here, which I then later loaded into Pro Tools.

Alright, so once again, it was monotone, and what I wanted was something that followed the song. So, what I did is I exported that from Logic, and brought it into Pro Tools, and what we have here is that track. Let’s just solo this one.

[robotic voice plays]

And then what I did, is I used Melodyne, which is amazing. I think you guys should read up and practice with Melodyne. What I’m going to do, is I’m going to capture a little section here, and I’m going to hit Transfer.

[robotic voice plays, transferring into Melodyne]

Okay. Now, it gives you a visual readout, which is simply incredible that we have the technology to do this, and it allows you to alter the pitch. So, let’s see here. Let’s find the spot.

[robotic voice]

Let’s take these two right here.

[robotic voice, pitch adjusting]

Alright.

[robotic voice playing back]

So, I went ahead and I Melodyned the heck out of everything for the duration of the song, so I’ve got four different parts all sounding a little bit different, and doing different melodies.

So, let’s put them together and play them.

[robotic voices play together]

Okay. So, together with the lead vocal here, we have something that’s sort of a blend of the lead and the weird, robot voices. I think it really helps with the context and the joke of the song.

[lead vocal and robot voices play back]

And of course, they’re mixed way lower in the final version, and you can go ahead and do volume automation and just play with it. Put effects afterwards – compression, distortion and stuff to make it pop.
So there you have it! If you have any questions about how I did this, or you need specific advice, just let me know. Ianvargo@gmail.com is my email address. Once again, this is Ian Vargo with The Pro Audio Files. Make sure to check out “I Want to Love You Like a Robot” from Ugly, Ugly, Words. Thanks!

Ian Vargo

Ian Vargo

Ian Vargo is a Producer, Mixer and Audio Professor based in Los Angeles. He has worked on numerous major label and independent records. Learn more or get in touch on his website.
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