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FDP Forum / Performer's Corner / Vocal harmonizer stomp boxes, are they "smart"?


New York City

Aug 8th, 2016 03:40 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I see some performers using harmonizer boxes for voice and I think even for guitar. Do they do more than simply provide a parallel voice in a third or whatever that tracks the source. Is there some kind of key "awareness"?

It seems like the harmony voice tracks the source and provides a "logical" note of harmony that is not always simply an exact parallel, but doing that would require some kind of programming. Maybe it's just my imagination?

Contributing Member

So. Cal. USA

Aug 8th, 2016 04:12 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

These FX use your guitar or other instrument signal to track the chord and respond with a suitable harmony within the chord being played at the time. Play a clam and it's a double bad one on ya.

I've heard them used to some good effect but most times the user has the harmony gain/mix to high and it is really evident what is happening. Settings and FX vary by manufacturer and with many you can double and do octaves too.

Many forget to stomp/mute the effect off then talk to the audience. Really bad sounds occur.


New York City

Aug 8th, 2016 04:27 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Does the harmonizer use a mic to "hear" or is there a direct connection to the accompanying instrument?

I just saw George Porter using one while he sang but he plays bass. Bass lines being single notes, would seem to be not enough info for a processor to deduce a proper harmony. Maybe the box was reading overall stage sound or was connected to the keys or rhythm guitar?

Contributing Member

Eat. Sleep. Guitar.

Aug 8th, 2016 04:53 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

They take the instrument's signal through the circuit--not a mic. There's an input jack and an output jack for the instrument, and an input jack and output jack for the mic.

The good ones allow you to select the key and scale (major, minor, etc.) you're going to use for the song. That zeroes in the software to the correct notes necessary to generate harmonization. And they also allow you to select which interval from the sung note to replicate, e.g., the 3rd, the 5th, etc., or a combination of intervals.

FDP Data Goon

When I sin

I sin real good
Aug 8th, 2016 10:41 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Depends on the unit, and how they're using it.

Can also key it to somebody using keyboards or have global key changes tied to multi-fx, etc.

Going to have to be VERY specific.

Contributing Member


A Man of Constant Sorrow
Aug 9th, 2016 05:55 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

The Boss Harmonist PS6 is the best intelligent harmonizer unit I've played through, with the exception of a high end Eventide rack unit I used in the studio once.

You need to select the key you're playing in on the PS6, but I think that's standard on all such units. I have mine set at Em most of the time.

Juice Nichols
Contributing Member

Panama City, FL

I'm just a dude, playing a dude...
Aug 9th, 2016 08:45 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I have a Digitech Vocalist Live III that works just as Peegoo describes. Guitar runs through the unit to provide the key the harmonies need to be in. It will provide up to 5 part harmonies if you want and do lots of other things to your voice that I never used. I quit using this unit a few years ago and no longer have a need for it.



Why do I keep fixing things that work?
Aug 9th, 2016 09:39 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I'm interested in this topic also. Our band is playing some olderssongs that I think need more than just my voice providing the harmony phrasing.
The Digitech Vocal Harmonizer looks to be a treat. I can program the key and have 2-3 voice harmony to accompany me on background vocals and bring out the fullness that is missing.
I'm using in-ear monitors and this will help Harmonizer not to find other frequencies that would cause a lot of weirdness through the microphone.
So, not withstanding of the stage volume and our instrument amplifier, I was hoping and watching this thread to hear those experienced with these type of units and how they performed in a live situation.
With the songs we do, I am the only backup singer, where on songs that I perform the lead vocals, a single harmony voice is only needed.
So, if you have one of these units, I would be happy to hear your experiences and stage setup to avoid a lot of mic bleed while performing live with one of these units.
And also: how well the unit tracked your voice and also need to know how were the adjustments as to presence/volume of the harmonized vocals? And, are these parameters saved for recall?
Thanks, Woody

Contributing Member

St. Louis

"Thumbpicks don't slide into soundholes"
Aug 9th, 2016 10:05 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

There are a lot of these on the market now. I use a T.C. Helicon model that tracks the guitar chords and picks out appropriate harmony parts.
I used to use a digetech midi vocalist that was cool but you had to use a midi guitar setup to make the input work.
The main thing is to keep your voice on pitch.I was surprised at how many people can't . I guess they another voice and get pulled off pitch. As mentioned earlier less is more. If it's too dominant it sounds way too processed. But if dialed in right it can enhance the on the fly harmonies greatly with the push of a button.

Juice Nichols
Contributing Member

Panama City, FL

I'm just a dude, playing a dude...
Aug 9th, 2016 02:00 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

You don't have to program a key with the Digitech or the TC Helicon (an excellent unit as well). There are a bunch of pre-sets in the unit that has the CSN or Eagles stuff already dialed in. Or your can just dial in a 3rd or 5th above/below etc. You can also add effects to vocals or instrument.

The Digitech figures the key off what the instrument is playing, not the vocal input, so as long as your playing the correct chords the unit will play the proper harmonies regardless if your voice is slightly off key. There's pitch correction in there too if you need it.

As far as performing with it, it's pretty straight forward. Push a switch to turn on/off for harmonies, guitar effects (I never used these by the way) and two pedals for up/down on the setting you're using. There's no apparent delay when turning on and off. It tracks your voice very accurately and will fool most of the audience. Put a mic in front of your other bandmates and most people probably wouldn't know the difference. They'd just think you guys can sing your asses off. LOL

(This message was last edited by Juice Nichols at 04:07 PM, Aug 9th, 2016)

Contributing Member


England's Sloppiest Guitarist
Aug 9th, 2016 02:57 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I've also had a digitech vocalist for a few years, although I've never gigged it, and haven't used it at all for a while. It is pretty good though, but as it takes the harmonisation from the guitar chords, it's vitally important that your guitar is in tune, or it'll harmonise the wrong note. Eeeew.


New York City

Aug 9th, 2016 03:24 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I found some demos on Youtube that are pretty impressive. One in particular where the harmony line sometimes stays on a note while the main vocal moves melodically. This is something often done in country harmony. Clearly the processor is doing more than just following parallels to the source voice.

Do some of these boxes actually have style presets like say for country, gospel, soul, etc?

Juice Nichols
Contributing Member

Panama City, FL

I'm just a dude, playing a dude...
Aug 9th, 2016 04:36 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

"Do some of these boxes actually have style presets like say for country, gospel, soul, etc?"

The Digitech doesn't.

Contributing Member

Columbia, SC

Aug 10th, 2016 07:24 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I've had a TC Helicon for several years, and it's quite versatile. Don't use it live anymore, and yes, LESS IS MORE with these things. I used to dial it in so we used it sparingly. I'll bet few knew when it was being utilized.

However, in the spirit of traveling light I eventually stopped bringing it (mine is BIG). My bandmate decided to get the digitech version and put it in his pedal board. I finally made him stop using it, because he could never remember to turn it off! He also had it turned up too much, so it sounded fake.

My opinion is they can be nice, but the audience should never realize you are using it.

Steve Dallman
Contributing Member

Merrill, Wisconsin

Age is just a number...mine is big
Aug 11th, 2016 10:19 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I have used a Digitech for years, both in my solo act (triggering it with my guitar) and in our band (using a line from the guitar player's pedalboard to trigger it.

I preset all 5 presets with different intervals, and set the A on each for one harmony and B for two.

Works very well. I recently tried the new, more programmable Digitech, but prefer my old one.

I do like the other features, effects, compression, simple two band EQ, warmth, but not the auto-tune, which sounds awful. It might be a worthy effect for some songs, but not for mine.

Our guitar player hates the thing, but I use it sparingly and when we need three part harmony, he doesn't do it.

The key is to use judiciously and not to turn the harmonies too high. It's a fine line.

Using the harmonizer forces me to be a better singer. Sloppy doesn't cut it.

FDP Forum / Performer's Corner / Vocal harmonizer stomp boxes, are they "smart"?

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