The Vocoder and Singers in the 80s

Taking a step back in time to look at how the iconic voice manipulating device, the Vocoder shaped a generation of musicians and their music, this article covers the areas that matter. Singers and music makers everywhere were influenced by the extended capabilities opened up by this amazing machine.

While musicians were really pushing the sound envelope with ever improving synths, vocalists had their own secret voice altering weapon, the Vocoder. In many ways similar to the sound bending and changing characteristics of the best synthesizers, the Vocoder enabled the singer to do many tricks with their voice that had a big impact on the way music was changing in the 80s.

Who Made Their Mark with the Sound

Bands like Japan and Ultravox were early pioneers in synthesizer music right at the start of the decade using the then monophonic synths such as the Moog to create incredible instrumental sounds to back their records. And while synths had been around for several decades before that, it was the popularization of that sound by these early 80s recording musicians that stamped their mark on the music industry in that era.

While singers were still by and large left to produce the "soul" in many songs at that time that had become very regimental in beat and layout because of the limitations of drum machines and sequencers, that didn't mean they were forced to stick to pure vocal talent to get their sound across. Using technology that had also been around for several decades Vocoders enabled singers to bend their notes and colour their sound in many interesting ways.

No Replacement for True Talent

That didn't mean a totally talentless person could be swept off the street and into a recording studio to make a musical masterpiece! They still had to take vocal coaching lessons to be able to at least sing in tune and carry a well intoned song. That meant gaining knowledge and practical insight into singing and vocal talent as can be found at Web Music Star (here's the url: in great detail.

What it did mean however is that people with very basic vocal skills could now record and have their voice altered to enhance and rebalance it in many ways to produce a surprisingly good result. This device was often frowned upon by much more talented singers of course, as true talent can never be usurped by cheating, as many saw this form of pop music recording as.

A Place for Everything

In the end, the marvellous Vocoder has proved itself to be an integral part of both the history and the ongoing development of music and the vocalists that aspire to great heights and in some cases get there. It has earned its place in the formative years of musical history as an innovation and a creative extension.

Analogue purists may not hold this piece of equipment particularly dear to their hearts, but it came, was used and had quite an impact nevertheless. Digitally enhanced sounds are here to stay, whether they are particularly much loved or absolutely hated, so we might as well get used to them!

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