Digitech Vocal Harmony Processors (part 4)
To go through each of these in more detail, Of course, the voicing of the harmony will be very important, so you are offered the choice of two up and two down with respect to the input note, three up/one down, four up and other combinations. When you have the right voicing, then you will have to press the front panel notes or the keys on your MIDI keyboard to define the chord's root note, and one of the eight soft keys to say whether you want a major, minor, dominant 7th, diminished 7th, major 7th, minor 7th with flattened 5th or suspended. This could result in some pretty feverish button pushing, so there is also a Song Mode where you can predefine the steps and simply push one button repeatedly, or use a footswitch, to step through the chord changes of the song. 'Amazing Grace' is provided as a demo song, and it really does work amazingly well. If you ever wanted to be an 'a capella' choir all by yourself, then this is the unit for you. An interesting provision is the ability to change the male vocal timbre into female and vice versa while changing the pitch or keeping it the same. It really is quite convincing. I don't think anyone would be totally fooled on a lead vocal, but on backing vocals some very adequate results can be achieved. The two timbres can be combined into a mixed ensemble and you can easily find yourself doing an impression of a Gospel choir in the privacy of your studio.
Even though I don't find Scalic Harmony mode all that useful personally, probably because I prefer to choose my harmonies rather than have them added automatically, Studio Vocalist certainly does a good job. Good enough to pass its Music GCSE probably! In Chromatic mode, where the pitch shift interval is constant, then it comes down to a question of quality. What does the output sound like? About as good as the best on vocals I would say, bearing in mind that there's no such thing as perfect pitch shifting. For optimum results I would put the signal through a compressor before pitch shifting, since the unit definitely works best on a signal it can get its teeth into, yet doesn't go over the top into horrible sounding distortion. Going back to the intelligent modes for a moment, signal level is doubly important since the unit will try and create notes from whatever input it receives. It will harmonise breaths and coughs given half a chance. To control this to a reasonable extent there is a gating function where low level signals won't produce any sound. An 'ess' sensitivity control also regulates how responsive the unit will be to noise components of the singing voice which can't be considered notes in any real sense. A 'Bass Rejection Threshold' function does a similar job of sorting out sounds which ought to be harmonised from those that ought not.
It's a wonder that vocoding isn't a more popular effect, considering how powerful an effect it can be. Perhaps it is because it is normally used to make an instrument appear to sing and you can get tired of the novelty value in this quite quickly. In this type of application, vocoding is used to take the relative strengths of the harmonics present in speech and superimpose them on another signal that is rich in harmonics. The Digitech Studio Vocalist in Vocoder mode isn't a real vocoder. What it does is to take an input signal and create harmonies according to MIDI note inputs that it is given. For instance if you play a simple chord of C major and sing any note into Studio Vocalist, then you will hear yourself singing C, E and G. Oddly enough, you can sing, groan or grunt and you will still hear a chord of C major but the more you stick to a precise note, the better the sound quality will be. When you input notes from a MIDI keyboard you need to be careful to lift all of your fingers and play the next combination of notes cleanly, because the unit can easily get confused about which notes it is meant to be producing. I'm not sure whether the vocoder function doesn't have more novelty value than anything else, but I'm sure someone will come along and apply a kind of creativity that I haven't thought of yet and achieve something really astounding.