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9/13/07

Talk box

A talk box is a musical sound effects device that allows a musician to modify the sound of a musical instrument by changing the shape of the mouth.

The effect can be used to shape the frequency content of the sound and to apply speech sounds (such as singing) onto a musical instrument, typically a guitar (its non-guitar use is often confused with the vocoder) and keyboards.

A talk box is an effects pedal that sits on the floor and contains a speaker attached with an air tight connection to a plastic tube. The speaker is generally in the form of a horn driver, the sound generating part of a horn speaker with the horn replaced by the tube connection.


The box has connectors for the connection to the speaker output of an amplifier and a connection to a normal instrument speaker. A foot-operated switch on the box directs the sound either to the talkbox speaker or to the normal speaker. The switch is usually a push-on/push-off type. The other end of the tube is taped to the side of a microphone, extending enough to direct the reproduced sound in or near the performer's mouth.

When activated, the sound from the amplifier is reproduced by the speaker in the talkbox and directed through the tube into the performer's mouth. The shape of the mouth filters the sound, with the modified sound being picked up by the microphone. The shape of the mouth changes the harmonic content of the sound in the same way it affects the harmonic content generated by the vocal folds when speaking.

The performer can vary the shape of the mouth and position of the tongue, changing the sound of the instrument being reproduced by the talkbox speaker. The performer can mouth words, with the resulting effect sounding as though the instrument is speaking. This "shaped" sound exits the performer's mouth, and when it enters a microphone, an instrument/voice hybrid is heard.

The sound can be that of any musical instrument, but the effect is mostly commonly associated with the guitar. The rich harmonics of an electric guitar are shaped by the mouth producing a sound very similar to voice, effectively allowing the guitar to appear to "speak".

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