Sound Similar to Plaid by Making Percussive-Toned Beats

A demonstration of the “percussive-toned beats” effect.

Using TAL Vocoder (free), you can make some really interesting “percussive-toned beats” that have a sound similar to the band, Plaid. But, you have to use the vocoder in an unusual way. The idea came to me as I read an interview with the members of Plaid – a band I like.

In the interview, Plaid members Andy Turner and Ed Handley described a technique involving vocoders that they used for their album, “Reachy Prints.”

They said “We used quite a lot of vocoder on the album, but not with voice. We ran other audio into the vocoder, and you get this quite detailed, scratch sound, which could sound subterranean.”

They used Razor in Native Instruments. “Yeah, you get a very particular effect. There are a few new types of vocoder that are out at the moment. There is one called Razor, which has a very particular and quite unique sound, and it uses a new method for vocoding, which is very nice. ” But here, we are going to use TAL Vocoder that is just as good in my opinion and creates the effect very nicely (for free).

How it Works

Normal Use of a Vocoder: Feed a synth sound into it as the carrier and modulate it with a vocal to get a synth that sounds like it is speaking.

Percussive-toned Beats Use of a Vocoder: Feed a synth sound into it as the carrier and modulate it with a drum pattern.

It’s not really all that different from normal use, and I’ll bet you can find many other modulation sources to make things sound very interesting using the same basic concept.

TAL Vocoder

The TAL Vocoder emulates vintage vocoders so it has a special tonality to it that I like, but that is just preference so use any vocoder you want and you can get similar results.

For the TAL Vocoder, the button in the upper right of the front panel bypasses the internal carrier section on the left and allows input of your own carrier signal. I use a vintage synth input here playing a MIDI melody in my piano roll. For the example video, I used a Kontakt instrument. This carrier signal must come in on the left channel, so I panned my synth melody all the way to the left and fed it into the channel containing the vocoder. You can see this in the video. The carrier is the melody that is modulated by the modulation signal.

The modulation signal I used in the video is a drum machine called Microtonic. It produces some high and low sounds so it is well-suited for this application as you want to modulate all along the spectrum for a good effect. You can see the drum channel is panned all the way to the left and fed into the vocoder channel. This is how the TAL Vocoder works, and if you use a different one then it will work differently. You just need to know where the carrier and where the modulation feeds in and you’ll be all set.

Now when run the synth melody as the carrier and the drum set at the same time, the drums modulate the melody and you only hear the sound during the time when the drums are hitting. Keep in mind that you have to turn off the drums and synth from going to the master output and only allow them to go to the vocoder. If not, then you will hear everything and that may not be what you want although it does sound great too.

Hawkmoth is one of Plaid’s songs that has a percussive-toned beat that makes up the melody:

An example from Plaid’s “Reachy Prints” album.