Guitars are one of the most common and popular instruments used to make music.
They have been a popular choice of instrument for a very long time and as electric guitars became more well-known, the options of things you could do with guitars became almost limitless.
Enter the talkbox. A device that allowed the player to make their guitar sound like a voice. I first heard it when I was watching VH1 and Living on a Prayer came on…mind blown!
Though it is most commonly used with a guitar, it’s not limited to this instrument in the slightest!
So what exactly is a talkbox? Well, in this article, we’ll tell you all you need to know about this wonderful device!
History Of The TalkBox
The first known talkbox came to be in 1939 when big band musician Alvino Rey used an early version of it. In 1964, guitarist Pete Drake used the talkbox for his song “Forever” and it ended up getting certified Gold.
Pete Drake introduced the talkbox to Peter Frampton, who ended up bringing the talkbox into the mainstream.
His breakthrough album “Frampton Comes Alive”, which was released in 1976, features the talkbox on the popular tracks “Do You Feel Like We Do” and “Show Me The Way”.
Peter Frampton’s use of the talkbox inspired later artists such as Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Foo Fighters, and Aerosmith to use it in their own songs.
It’s a bit dated and old-fashioned in modern music, but the talkbox is highly regarded in the history of rock music.
So, What Is A Talkbox?
Now we’ve gone very briefly over the history of the talkbox and its place in the rock world, we will now explain exactly what a talkbox is.
The talkbox is quite literally a box that has a speaker inside and is attached to a plastic tube.
Once you’ve connected the speaker to the speaker output on your desired instrument amplifier, you then place the plastic tube into your mouth.
Sound will travel through the plastic tube and the player shapes their mouth to make the desired shape of the sound.
An example of this is if you want the talkbox to make the letter “o” in sound, you would shape your mouth as if you were about to say the letter “o”.
You aren’t limited to just making vowel sounds though. You can produce full words and sentences, all you have to do is shape your mouth around the tube to get the desired sound.
You can actually say the words if you want to, but just mouthing them will work too.
Because the sound of the plastic tube is quite low, it is recommended that you place a microphone in front of you so the sound can be amplified a bit.
Difference Between A Talkbox And A Vocoder
Talkboxes and vocoders are quite similar in their sound, but they are two different things.
The talkbox aims to emulate a human voice, making the machine sounds like a human, but the vocoder does the exact opposite, making the human voice sound like a machine.
Vocoders are often used in tandem with a synthesizer, whereas you don’t necessarily need one for a talkbox.
Using a synthesizer with a vocoder allows you to manipulate and carry the frequencies and allows them to be pitched to specific notes.
Though they are similar, talkboxes and vocoders serve very different purposes and are built very differently from each other.
Talkbox And Autotune: Are They The Same Thing?
Lots of people find that the talkbox and autotune sound extremely similar to one another, but they are actually two completely different effects.
The talkbox is modulated via a tube in the mouth and autotune is a process in which the singer’s voice is recorded and then digitally manipulated in post-production.
Autotune was designed to correct pitch in already recorded vocals, whereas the talkbox is designed to be played live and is only used to modulate the voice, it doesn’t correct the pitch at all.
Though they may sound similar, they are in fact two very different effects.
Famous Examples Of The Talkbox In Music
If you’re still a bit confused about how a talkbox actually sounds, don’t worry! We’ve compiled a list of famous examples of songs in which the talkbox has been used.
Check out these songs and artists to hear exactly how the talkbox sounds:
- Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer
- Weezer – Beverly Hills
- Peter Frampton – Do You Feel Like We Do
- Mötley Crüe – Kickstart My Heart
- Steely Dan – Haitian Divorce
- Alice In Chains – Man In The Box
- Joe Walsh – Rocky Mountain Way
- Chuck Garvey – Okay Alright
- Pink Floyd – Pigs
- Jeff Beck – She’s A Woman
Though the talkbox has been mainly popular in the rock scene, there is also a fantastic example of it being used in mainstream music by the electronic duo Daft Punk. You can specifically hear the talkbox in their smash hit “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”.
Once you have a listen to these songs, you’ll have a better feel of what the talkbox actually sounds like and you’ll be able to notice it in any other sounds you might come across in the future!
The talkbox is a really interesting piece of kit that has revolutionized the music scene, specifically the rock scene.
It allows the user to manipulate both the guitar and their voice, combining them to create a very unique sound.
Once you’ve heard what a talkbox sounds like, it’s undeniable how easily you will recognize the sound again
The talkbox has been used in many really famous songs. Two prime examples are “Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” By Daft Punk.
If you are a musician yourself and you’re considering adding a talkbox to your arsenal of instruments and tools, they range in price from quite cheap to quite expensive, it depends on what make you’re going for and what sort of quality you’re after.
If you are just starting out, go for a lower-end talkbox to see if it’s a good fit for you!