Part 2: Talkbox vs. Auto-Tune, History of the Talkbox!

heil Talkbox
Heil Talkbox

The Talkbox on the other hand is an instrument you play like a guitar or a keyboard and it adds a richer more authentic element to the words (IMHO) than a simple one dementional robot voice effect. The roots of the talkbox are in the artificial larynx used by patients who couldn’t talk.

Artificial Larynyx
Artificial Larynyx

electric larynyx diagram

The first commercial talkbox was developed by Bob Heil in 1969. The talkbox is not for play or the weak of heart! It is essentially a speaker in a box connected to a tube that is inserted into one’s mouth. A guitar or a keyboard synthesizer is then used to make a melody that is played through the speaker into the tube and into the musicians mouth. The musician then mouths the words without making a sound, thereby “singing” in the melody he is playing on the keyboard synthesizer or guitar. Did you catch all that? No doubt, this takes skill and coordination between playing the keyboard and rhythmically mouthing the words, and it is thus no surprise that one of the first popular records using the talkbox was by one of my all time favorites, the mega talented Stevie Wonder in 1972 (i know…hella long ago) on the classic “Music of My Mind” album. Peter Frampton heard the effect on Stevie’s album and borrowed it for his Mega-Hit “Do You Feel”, which still stands as the most popular use of the talkbox on record, although I’m workin on breakin’ that record. 🙂

Stevie Wonder gets down on the talbox 1972!

“I Love Having You Around”/”Pappa Was a Rolling Stone”

One Reply to “Part 2: Talkbox vs. Auto-Tune, History of the Talkbox!”

  1. Ayo thanx 4 clearing up the whole talkbox/auto-tune thing. It frustrates me when i hear people getting the two confused, or even worse – thinking that it’s the same thing! Being a talkbox player myself, i know u feel my pain on that subject lol. Nothing against auto-tune, but talkbox is the REAL ish! 😉

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