Beginning sound scoring for Sonata Maria, an ost based on Badinerie #music #bach #akailpk25
I recently decided to get the TC Helicon Harmony Singer because my band does a lot of live vocal harmonies and it just fits my music. For those unfamiliar with this little pedal, the TC Helicon is a guitar-driven vocal processor and harmonizer. You plug two things into it: your guitar and your mic. The guitar signal goes out into an amp, and your mic signal goes out into the PA. So, that’s a lot of cables, but that’s just me nitpicking, lol. Anyway, this means that it will create harmonies based on a mixture of the guitar chords you strum and your voice, which implies that this nifty little device is very intelligent and can create eerily accurate harmonies on the fly, without you ever having to dial in a pitch or key beforehand.
In the demo below I play a few of my original songs in both standard and alternate tunings.
It arrived last week and I was able to test it out at the studio for about an hour and a half, with the following first impressions:
The harmonies are VERY accurate, so if you sing off key it will follow you. If you have a breathy, soft voice (like I do) and all the mic picks up is the breathy part of your singing, the harmonies tend to become warbly and confused. This will force you to sing louder, but I don’t recommend kissing the mic to do it. The farther you move away from the mic, the less “wet” the mix between vox and harmonies is and it sounds better. So, I like to sing louder from a few inches away from the mic.
A lot of the demos on youtube feature singers who do the sort of forceful “soul” type of singing that sounds great with human harmonies, but sounds terrible with the Harmony Singer. Overly nasal voices also create dull harmonies. I found that singing in a clear, steady, audible and non-wavering voice allows this pedal to shine (think Dallas Green steady). I have to always remember that it’s a machine, so it will only follow the signals, not what “feels” right.
Lowering the mix of harmonies and vocals does wonders, especially since if they’re too prominent (and very accurate) they will sound robotic. Fixed this by decreasing levels and adding a bit of reverb. Also found the harmonies follow the last note you strum on the guitar, so it requires you to be mentally present when singing instead of strumming along whenever you feel like it, which takes some getting used to for me.
For a female singing voice the “below” male harmonies are really nice and seem less prone to wandering, so I tend to use those more. Don’t really see myself using the higher, chipmunky harmonies much (plus they warble a lot when you have note changes). The double harmonies are best used with standard chords (they go off key with complicated chord phrasings or plucking). I did however use it with a DADAAD alternate tuning and it sounded lovely provided every string was perfectly tuned and I didn’t resort to plucking too much.
The TONE button (which de-esses, gates, compresses and auto-EQs your vocal signal) is great. The 3 Reverb choices (Room, Club and Hall) are slick and very nice. It’s worth buying this pedal for those features alone because not only is the pedal a harmonizer, it’s a very powerful mic preamp. :D
Do I think this pedal is worth the money? Definitely. If you’re a solo acoustic singer who does a lot of cafe gigs, this will prove invaluable. If you’re like me who does both solo sets and full band sets, it will prove to be a wonderful addition to your gear and adds polish to your singing, provided it’s used sparingly and with the proper settings. Just like any other piece of gear, it will never replace human decision-making, but it does a pretty good job if you work with it and do a lot of prep before taking it out for a spin at a real gig.
Earlier this year my parents went to Brisbane and came back with ipad minis for my siblings and I. It’s probably one of the best gifts I’ve ever received, creatively speaking. I’ve had a 5 inch android phone for 2 years and I’m not a stranger to the lovely world of music apps on the Android market, but when I got my ipad mini it suddenly sunk in just how much I was missing! It made me wish that I had gotten on the ios music app bandwagon a lot sooner, but at the same time today is an excellent time to be making music on the ipad: the tablets are cheaper, there are more apps, demo videos abound on YouTube and support forums now have so much available data from users and beta-testers it’s practically impossible NOT to get inspired.
Just off the top of my head, here are some of the apps I’ve purchased so far.
Nanostudio ($14 + additional instrument tracks $4.99)
Loopy HD ($8)
JamUp XT (Acoustic Pack $9.99 + Effects Pack $9.99 + 5 individual pedals at $2.99 each)
Soundprism Pro ($5)
Novation LaunchPad (downtempo $1.99, cinematic $1.99)
Vio (VIO sound pack $4.99)
Crystalline ($5 but I got it free as a gift from Holderness Media!)
Swoopster ($5 but I got it free as a gift from Holderness Media)
StereoDesigner ($5 but I got it free as a gift from Holderness Media)
If you’re interested in my music apps and the various things I apply them to, and don’t mind a rather long blog post, then read on. :D