Propellerhead Record + Reason: Vocoding with Drums

By Line6Piper

Line6Piper (aka Matt Piper) teaches you how to use Reason’s vocoder to turn acoustic drum parts into synth-rhythm, synth-bass, or electronic percussion parts. Matt is the in-house Propellerhead Product Specialist at Line 6, and the author of the acclaimed instructional guide, Reason 4 Ignite.

Perhaps I should refer to what you’ll see in the following tutorial video as “drumcoding” instead of “vocoding,” since no human voice is actually used. Instead, the attack and timbre of an acoustic drum part are used to modulate a synthesizer sound. This has two very cool applications: One is to make a real acoustic drum part sound like an electronic drum part, while maintaining the natural human feel in regards to timing and dynamics (and requiring no painstaking drum programming!). This is achieved when the synthesizer used for the carrier signal is outputting noise instead of tuned notes. The other use for “drumcoding” is to easily turn a drum part into a melodic rhythm keyboard part or bass part. All you have to do is choose a few notes on your keyboard, and the drum part you’ve chosen takes care of the groove!

In the video, I use a little device (included in both Reason and Record) called the Spider Audio Merger and Splitter. What it does is very simple, and very useful. On the rear of the device, the right side connections are used for splitting, allowing you to send a single audio output to four identical outputs. If this was a hardware device, you could plug a single guitar into the splitter input, and then send four cables out to four guitar amps. (Your neighbors would love you.) The left side of the Spider rear panel is the “merger” side. It allows you to merge up to four separate audio signals on each channel to a single mono output.

(Images courtesy of Propellerhead Record's integrated Help Guide.)

(Images courtesy of Propellerhead Record's integrated Help Guide.)

At the end of the video, I mix the original un-vocoded drum signal with the vocoded signal. If you are not planning to use an un-vocoded version of a particular drum or percussion part in your song, you may wish to skip the Spider Audio Merger and Splitter, and just connect the right or left output of the drums to the vocoder’s modulator input. You can experiment with which drum output (right or left) gives you the most desirable result with the vocoder. You may also like to try using a completely different drum part for the percussion in your track, and vocode other drum parts to create rhythm synth parts and bass synth parts (or even additional electronic percussion parts).

Download Drumcoder Setup

To download a Record Song File with the same setup used at the end of the video, click here!

Questions? Comments?

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