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The Talkbox FAQ

V. Technique

Contrary to popular belief, the musician doesn't talk into the tube. The sound comes out the tube and into the performer's mouth. The sound can be modulated by the performer to produce sounds that are unique to the talkbox, or they can mimic other effects. for best results, a little practice is required. Each user will want to try the best method to hold the tube in his/her mouth, and to try moving the larynx as if talking (but not making any sound with the vocal cords). The author lightly clenches the tube between the incisors. A light grip is maintained so that the air flow in the tube is not restricted.

Brett's Tip #1: Breathing out (quietly) helps you move your larynx to get a full, rich sound.

Brett's Tip #2: When recording with your talkbox, be sure to use a pop filter with the microphone. It will filter out any inadvertent wind, pop, or breath noises caused by trying to modulate sounds with the vinyl tube in your mouth. It's not necessary for stage use, since the sound from the band will usually cover any such noises. But for recording, it's a must!

Brett's Tip #3: I use a twist tie to keep the vinyl tube connected to the mic stand for stage use. This makes sure that the end of the tube stays clean (by keeping it off the stage floor), plus there's no fumbling when I'm ready to use it. Tape would work, too, but it will leave a gummy residue on the tubing that will attract dirt.

I don't recomend this for recording. If the tube touches the mic stand or boom in any way, the action of moving the tube in any way will be heard in the mix. Again, it's OK for live use, just not for the studio.

Brett's Tip #4: Harmonics play an important role in being understood. Distortion and fuzz have high frequency overtones. The talkbox driver thrives on reproducing high frequency sounds. Use some raunchy tones with your stomp box, then kick in the talkbox. You'll sound just like the recorded examples listed elsewhere in ths FAQ.

Here are some sounds to experiment with:

  1. Wah wah - Move the lips by phrasing "wow wow" or "wah wah"

  2. Living on a Prayer - You can get this Bon Jovi sound by mouthing "ooh-wa-ooh-wa-ooh-wa" while moving the larynx as if you were trying to speak in a deep voice. It's okay if a little air escapes from your lungs while you do this. It's all part of the technique. You need to breathe while you solo!

  3. Talking guitar - Play guitar while lip syncing. You'll be surprised at how clearly you can produce words. Experiment with moving your voice box as if you were speaking in both deeper and higher than normal pitches.

  4. Vocorder - Play chords and lip sync. The fuller the sound, the more realistic the vocorder effect. Since a vocorder uses a synthesizer engine, you'll find that using a fuzz box will add harmonics to the sound and make it easier to understand.

  5. Phase shifter/flanger - Slowly open and close the lips while playing. Don't try to make word sounds.

  6. Crazy Eddie - Try fretboard tapping while using the talkbox. Who knows what will happen?

  7. Scat Meets Grunge - Solo while singing the same thing (perhaps an octave down) and talkbox it. Will produce Octavia-like effect with the added modulation from your lips.

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