A quick guide on how to use the TAL Vocoder along with Ableton Live.

If you are looking to give your voice a synthesized digital sound, the use of a vocoder can be the right tool for the job. Today, vocoders come in different formats as hardware and software plugins.

You can go out and purchase synthesizer and dedicated hardware that provide vocoder effects:

Roland VT3
The Roland VT-3

In addition, vocoder software plugins can be had for your digital audio workstation:

  • TAL Vocoder
  • iZotope VocalSynth
  • SoniVox Vocalizer Pro

Ableton Live has its own vocoder but lets use something a little more old school.

The TAL Vocoder 2 Plugin

If you want to get a sense of what a vocoder can do, try TAL Vocoder 2. It is a free VST plugin based on the Doepfer A-129 Vocoder. Although the A-129 hardware vocoder is no longer available, the company has some very useful technical information you may want to sift through. A quick read will familiarize yourself with the similarities between the A-129 and the software implementation via TAL. Its a great read and you may learn something too (I did!).

You will also find some demo sounds that will give you a good idea of just what kind of capabilities the A-129 had in the older days.

TAL Vocoder 2 comes in several deliverables. One is a VST and needs at least VST 2.4 support. The other as AU plugin.

The TAL Vocoder 2 and Ableton Live

Getting TAL to work with Ableton Live is a little bit tricky. The TAL installation and user guide gives you some hints on how to setup. I struggled a bit trying to get everything to work correctly at first. Here’s some setup details to make your configuration easier:

  • Create a Return Track for TAL-Vocoder
  • Drag and drop TAL into it
  • Click the Wrench icon to bring up the plugin’s editor
  • A nice UI rack view comes up. Click on the Input Mode

With the Input mode set, you need two sources of input – the Carrier and Modulator.

The Carrier will be something that generates discrete whole note kind of tones. A digital MIDI synthesizer is a good choice here. For this, you can use an Ableton Live Instrument. Simpler is a good choice along with a Vintage instrument. Set the Send 100% and hard pan left for the left input channel (since most clips will be two channel stereo you only want one). You will need to make a MIDI clip to set some notes in a loop. I found that using some nice chords works great. Also, the instrument you choose is important as most won’t sound that good. If you use something like Strings which have nice vibrato, you’ll get a cleaner sound.

For the Modulator, that would be your voice. Go record something on your mic. When you speak into the microphone, vary the pitch (modulate) to get good smooth amplitude characteristics. Then when done, set it in your Modulator Audio clip. Turn the knob to pan hard right and Send full to the TAL Vocoder return track.

The setup should look something like this:

Ableton Live with TAL Vocoder Setup

I put together a simple test which you can listen to here:


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