Introduced in the 1930s and made popular in 1970s recordings, the “talk box effect” catapulted to superstardom when it was used by classic artists including Zapp and Peter Frampton, and is still embraced today by modern acts such as Chromeo. Traditionally, this “virtual voice box” effect is created by sending amplified sound from a stomp box through a plastic tube that a performer holds in his or her mouth. The performer uses mouth contortions to manipulate the sound, which is picked up by a microphone. It’s a clever way to produce an effect, but the accumulation of saliva in the tube also makes it a little gross. With Articulator, you can produce the same classic talk box effect without putting a germy tube in your mouth.

How Does a Talkbox Work?

A talkbox works by letting a performer modify an audio signal—typically a guitar sound—by forming words and sounds with his or her mouth. This effect is created by directing the amplified sound of an instrument or effect through a plastic tube into the mouth. The performer “shapes” the audio with mouth movements, and this modulated sound is captured with a vocal microphone. The concept is simple but effective.

How to Use a Talk Box?

Articulator delivers the funky sounds of the iconic talkbox effect.

Virtual Talk Box/Talk box Online

Hygiene issues notwithstanding, producing the traditional talkbox effect requires dedicated hardware and takes a lot of practice to make it work. Thankfully, Articulator is here for all of your funky formant needs.

To hear how it works, let’s start with some very unfunky (and unsung) vocals:

Now, let’s play some funky clavinet, hitting keys in rhythm with the vocal and using the vocal as the modulator input in Articulator:

Note that by playing the notes along with the vocals, we can distinguish the words a bit more clearly, and we can hear that they took on the melody of the clavinet.

Now, let’s try an elongated “ooh yeah,” with some formant variety in the performance:

Let’s use a Minimoog to spice things up, while also using the vocal formants as inputs in Articulator’s modulator. The filter is completely open on the Minimoog for this entire phrase, so any timbral changes are coming from Articulator and the vocal phrasing:

No tube, no problem! Articulator’s simple interface makes it easy to to get funky.

Embellish the Background

One of the most colorful uses of the talkbox is embellishing background vocals and phrases. You can also use Articular to add the formant “flavor” of one sound source to another. For example, listen to the audio below starting with a dry drum break:

Now, I’ll use the same “ooh yeah” as a modulator on Articulator on the break, to add some formant movement:

Finally, let’s hear how it sounds together with the Moog phrase:

Create the Ultimate Talk Box Effect with Auto-Tune Unlimited

When you need the funkiest of funky vocals, Articulator delivers an incredibly authentic talkbox experience. If you’re ready to explore the possibilities with Articulator, download a FREE trial of Auto-Tune Unlimited. Available through subscription, Auto-Tune Unlimited comes complete with Articulator, every vocal effects plug-in, every current edition of Auto-Tune, and more.

Articulator is available with Auto-Tune Unlimited: the most comprehensive collection of professional vocal effects ever offered.