The Ableton vocoder effect is a complex and powerful beast, full of surprises and probably responsible for millions of poorly executed Luke Vibert knock offs. I don?t want to talk about that. Nor do I want to talk about its one-bajillion parameters (although the Ableton Cookbook Live Course covers that nicely). I just want to talk about putting it on a Return track.

I like to put the Vocoder on a return track because then I can vocode very specific parts of the signal, instead of making everything sound like Roger Troutman (I know he was using a talkbox, it?s a joke). And, since the Return track is its own track, it can be affected separately: you can put a delay on it, let it ring on into infinity or do whatever twisted thing you?d like to do it. That?s between you and the Return track.

Here?s a few tips and a video to get you started.

For God?s sake: Turn the Wet/Dry knob to 100%. This is true for all FX on return tracks. Think about it this way, the Send knob is basically a Wet/Dry, so don?t complicate things by making it redundant.

For the most part, when I have the Vocoder ?inline? (meaning on the vocal track that I?m trying to ?Mr. Roboto?), I have to keep the Release time kind of low. Why? Because, if the release time is too high, the vocoded vocal (or whatever rhythmically clear signal you?re vocoding) the results will kind of slop into one another, the previous phrase overlapping into the next phrase and give you, well, something messy.

Automate the Send knob. The maneouvres (isn?t that how the British spell it?) get pretty specific and automating the Send knob will allow you to apply the vocoding to a single word or phrase. I?d suggest the cuss words!

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