Are There Any Vocal Effects for Audacity?

Written by seamus islwyn
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Are There Any Vocal Effects for Audacity?
Use effects to bring out the best in recorded vocals. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

The open-source digital audio editor Audacity includes a full set of built-in audio effects. Although you can, of course, apply any effect in the program to any type of audio, certain Audacity effects are specifically designed for use on vocal tracks. Because Audacity supports VST plug-ins, you can also add third-party vocal effects to the program, then use them on your vocal tracks.

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Vocoder

Electronic musicians from Kraftwerk to Daft Punk use vocoders to create robotic, futuristic vocal effects. Vocoders use a source vocal track to modulate a synthesised carrier track; in other words, a vocoder "plays" the synth sound using the voice as the input. Audacity's vocoder plug-in requires the vocal track to be in the left channel of a stereo track, and the synthesised carrier to be in the right channel. Experiment with different sounds on the carrier track: try a burst of generated white noise to produce a whispery effect; use a sawtooth wave for the classic vocoder sound.

Pitch Shift

Audacity's pitch-shifting effect, which you can access from the "Change Pitch" section of the "Effect" menu, moves the pitch of a vocal sample up or down without making it faster or slower. You can change the pitch of a voice by specifying a new musical note, moving it by a certain number of semitones, typing in the exact frequency by which you want to shift the pitch or moving the "Percent Change" slider. Try raising the pitch of a vocal by a few semitones to create a vocal effect similar to that on the chorus of Kanye West's "Through the Wire"; drop the pitch of a vocal by an octave or two to create a demonic-sounding voice.

Tremolo

A tremolo effect slightly raises and lowers the volume of a vocal track in correspondence with a waveform. Pick the waveform that you want to use in Audacity's tremolo effect, then use the "Wetness Level" slider to determine the degree to which the tremolo effect affects the vocal. Change the speed of the tremolo using the "Frequency" slider. Subtle use of a tremolo effect can add depth to a flat-sounding vocal recording by simulating vibrato singing; using a more extreme tremolo effect creates psychedelic vocals like those in Tommy James and the Shondells' "Crimson and Clover."

Third-Party Vocal Effects

Because Audacity supports the Virtual Studio Technology standard, you can move beyond the built-in vocal effects by adding third-party VST plug-ins to the program. Install the AudioEase Speakerphone VST plug-in, for example, to add a telephone or walkie-talkie effect to a vocal track, or use the Nectar multi-effect vocal plug-in to recreate classic soul and jazz vocal processing chains. For more extreme vocals, use a plug-in like Glitch to apply stuttering, distorted effects to the vocal track.

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