Digital Tips on Choosing and Using Vocal Harmony Processors

Kevin Alexander shares tips on vocal harmomny processors for perfomring vocalists.


Sound Engineer | Technologist | Co-founder of Singdaptive

This week’s Tips from the Team are all about vocal harmony processors! Today, we hear from sound engineer, technologist and Singdaptive co-founder, Kevin Alexander, on things to keep in mind when using a digital gear for harmony.

Number of Voice & Setting the Key with Vocal Harmony Machines

Tips from the Team Transcript: Okay. You’re doing it. No one knows why. Well, maybe you know why, but you’re going to add vocal harmony to your setup. You’re going to add some sort of digital processor to do vocal harmony. You’ve decided that you want to do it. What do you buy? Well, here’s some things to keep in mind.

First of all, don’t worry about the number of voices in your vocal harmony processor. If you got one voice, you have enough. If you have two, yeah, you’ll sometimes use two. The amount of times you’re going to want more than two harmony voices isn’t very often. So don’t necessarily worry about paying for more harmony voices.

So as a listener, if I’m kind of thinking, “I think I need to understand those words right now and I can’t,” I might get a bit frustrated. So it’s almost that in between. What I mean is, if somebody goes too far with effects to the point of oblivion – I can’t hear anything that’s being said – I’ll just make the assumption, “Well, that was the goal in the end, because there’s no possible way somebody thought I would understand this.” But it’s almost like if you don’t go extreme enough, I will get just frustrated as a listener. and I will be like, “I can’t … I don’t understand what they’re saying.” Did you really think you knew the lyrics really well maybe and that’s why you understood it? And that can kind of create a frustration for me.

What Kind of Vocal Harmony Processor Should I Buy & How to User It?

The other big thing to keep in mind when you choose a harmony processor is how it controls the key, scale and chords for the harmonies. A lot of harmony processors today will have an input for your guitar, so it will use the chords of your guitar; or maybe it will even listen to the music that is happening in the room. In these cases, the harmonies will respond to what it hears to produce the correct harmonies. It needs the music in order to produce the harmonies correctly.

But here’s the thing. None of them, even the best ones out there, necessarily get this process right all the time. However, some products let you manually input a key and a scale to get the harmonies and then you can change that information over time if needed. Therefore, I always recommend buying a product that lets you do this. If you can never set a key to a scale, you will inevitably have times where it just doesn’t work for you. So try to make sure to get a product that at minimum you can set the key and scale, which will be helpful for a lot of the time, but not all the time.

Kevin Alexander

Kevin Alexander is CEO and co-founder of Singdaptive, bringing his past experience as CEO of the singing technology company TC-Helicon, as well as live sound, recording and love of music. Recently, he has been a university instructor in Multimedia Learning and is helping to envision an exciting future with technology at the research firm