How to set up a Talkbox Part 1:Preparation

Japanese Version is here(日本語版はこちらへ).

Hi, What's up?

I will write some tutorials of Talkbox.
This is because I received many comments on my youtube channel like 'Where did you buy the Talkbox device?', 'How do I configure synth voice setting?'.

At first, in this article, I will explain what should you prepare for in order to play talkbox.

For hasty person

Do you wanna start playing talkbox right now? immediately?
You should purchase 2 devices below.
It is enough to start playing talkbox.

microKorg Synthesizer

MXR M222 Talkbox

Please read on this article if you want to know more details.


I explained how the talkbox works in the article below.

You should prepare 2 instruments below.

  • instrument: Electric guitar or Keyboard Synthesizer
  • talkbox device

In case you want to record or live, you should prepare for these devices below.

  • Microphone: Capacitor or Dynamic
  • Recording Equipment: Audio Interface, DTM Software
  • Live Equipment: Mixer, Monitor

I won't explain Microphone, Recording and Live Equipment in this tutorial.
Sorry but I just focus on instrument and Talkbox equipment only.

How to choose an instrument

We need a instrument for playing talkbox.
It does NOT mean every devices suit talkbox.

Generally, the following requirements must be met.

  • Use electric / electronic instrument
  • Don't use your mouth and breath to play instruments

Reason for use electric or electronic instrument

Electric signal is used to input voice into talkbox, and so instruments must be electric / electronic device.

  • Keyboard Synthesizer    ・・・Recommend
  • Electric Guitar / Bass ・・・Recommend
  • Electronic Piano
  • Acoustic Guitar / Bass with pickup device.

Since the clarity of pronunciation varies depending on the tone of the instrument, a synthesizer that can configure its tone is the most recommended.

Reason for not use mouth or breath to play a instrument

The sound from the instrument reaches a mouth and the voice from a mouth picked up by a microphone.
Therefore, it is very difficult to pronounce clearly when you use your mouth to play a instrument.
For instance, wind instruments such as trumpet, sax, wind synth are NOT suit talkbox.

What kind of synth is right for a talkbox?

Talkbox players often use sawtooth wave.
If you want sawtooth sound, you should choose synth that can create raw sawtooth wave from oscillator.
I recommend an Analog or Analog Modeling Synth.
However, to state extremely, every synth is ok as long as a good sound is created as a result. It's up to you.

The following are typical synths that are often used.

For discontinued instruments, you may want to visit an auction site or a used instrument shop.
DX100 appears on the secondhand market quite often, but it sells out quickly since it is a popular product.*1

How to choose a talkbox

Mainly, there are 3 way of talk box procurement.

  1. Make by modifying the amplifier with monitor
  2. Procure parts separately and combine parts
  3. Get ready-made talk box ・・・Recommend

If you don't have a talkbox expert around, I recommend buying a ready-made talkbox.
If you try to make your own from the beginning, you will work without knowing the right inner structure of talkbox.
Please refer to GF WORKS' page on making your own. The page is awesome.

Built-in Amplifier and Non-Built-in Amplifier

Now, there are two main types of off-the-shelf talkboxes: "Built-in amplifier" and "Non-built-in amplifier". This can be divided by the functions the talkbox has.

Type With Amplifier With Speaker-Driver Advantage Disadvantage
Built-in just plug it into your instrument Most of them have a small output
Non-Built-in X Relatively High Power Possible Needs a Separate Amplifier

Which type you buy is a preference.
I would recommend you to buy the built-in amplifier type if you are not particular about it.
Since the built-in type is small and not too bulky, you can easily take it for jam session or your live.

Low-cost ready-made talkboxes available on the market would be the following.

Name Bland Type Image
BANSHEE ROCKTRON Built-in f:id:contemporarycuz:20200820215841p:plain:w100
M222 Jim Dunlop MXR Built-in f:id:contemporarycuz:20200820215230p:plain:w100
HEIL TALKBOX HT-1*2 Jim Dunlop Non-built-in f:id:contemporarycuz:20200820215300p:plain:w100

See below for product pages.

To consider when purchasing equipment

For example, if you are a frequent performer of gigs and sessions, keep in mind the things below.

  1. Is the equipment compact enough to carry?
  2. Is it easy to set up the equipment at the live house?
    Won't there be any parts that need to be assembled on site?
  3. Is the equipment hard to break
    Especially, in case you purchase used device, you should buy one more for a spare.
  4. Is it easy to find replacements for broken equipment?

That's it for equipment preparation.

In the next article, I'd like to introduce you to an example of how to set up your equipment.

See ya!

*1:This is the case of Japan.

*2:HEIL is out of production and will gradually become harder and harder to find.

How Talkbox works

Japanese Version is here(日本語版はこちらへ).

In this article, I explain how talkbox works.

What is the Talkbox

Talkbox is the device that makes a robot-like voice.
You feel as if a man/woman is really singing when you listen to the sound.
It is also called 'Talking Modulator'.

Let's listen to the sound of Talkbox. Seeing is believing!

Zapp is the disco band and Roger Troutman is the most famous legendary talkboxer in this world.

How Talkbox works

As you can see, he plays keyboard synth and he bites a vinyl tube.
The sound color is changed by moving his mouth.

Difference from other instruments

Take a look at the difference in sound transmission from general playing style.


  • Only instrument
    The sound from the instrument reaches the speaker via amplifier.
  • Only vocal
    The voice from a mouth is picked up by a microphone.
  • Talkbox
    The sound from the instrument reaches a mouth and the voice from a mouth picked up by a microphone. Talkbox Unit is composed of amplifier and speaker driver.

In this way, the talkbox sound includes features both instrument and vocal.

How to put the sound into your mouth

You might be wondering how to put the sound into your mouth. Talkbox solution is using vinyl tube. The sound from a instrument pass the tube and reach your mouth.


The sound color is changed by moving his mouth.
For example, you will hear the voice of 'A' after you make the mouth shape of 'A'.

Please keep in your mind that talkboxer does NOT vocalize.


Talkbox is not the only way to convey the sound from instruments.
In the 1940s, SONOVOX device is used for getting voices like a robot.
This speaker-like device is placed on your throat.

Difference from other machine sound.

The Talkbox differ from the Vocoder and the Autotune.

In the Talkbox, sound source is musical instrument and players do not make his voice, whereas in the Vocoder and the Autotume, players need to make his own voice.

Simply put...

  • The Vocoder is the technology for synthesizing human voices with synth sound.
  • The Autotune is the technology to control the pitch of human voices.

Feel the differences in the tone by watching the video below.

Vocoder Video

Vocoder can create very beautiful sound.

Autotune Video

It is easy to understand the difference by comparison between the original singing voice and the using Autotune.

How about that. Did you get interested in the talk box?

See ya!