examples of artists who employ vocal samples and equipment for same
March 29, 2007 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Vocal sampling and sequencing in music: examples and equipment?

I'm interested in experimenting with sampling vocals and including sampled vocals as a component of live and recorded music. Most sampling in music seems to rely on samples from prerecorded music, my interest is in artists who utilize samples they create themselves, bonus points if they incorporate live sampling into onstage performance.

If anyone has input based on experience for portable sampling and sequencing hardware suitable for sampling and basic mixing on the fly, and vocal effects hardware, that would also be appreciated. Not interested in software-based solutions at this point.
posted by nanojath to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You probably want to check out Bjorks last albulm, Medula, which has a lot of just what you describe. The first people to use that kind of technique that I can think of were probably artists like Laurie Anderson and The Art of Noise, though there were most likely people beforer them using tape loops and similar.
posted by Artw at 9:56 AM on March 29, 2007

Laurie Anderson's use of the vocoder throughout United States and other works comes immediately to mind.
posted by The Bellman at 9:58 AM on March 29, 2007

Amy X. Neuburg is doing that live vocal looping in her current project.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:01 AM on March 29, 2007

You may want to watch this video of kid beyond, who uses ableton live to sample his own voice on the fly.
posted by subtle-t at 10:47 AM on March 29, 2007

Herbert's Bodily Functions comes to mind...
He not only used vocals, but also other bodily sounds as the title suggests.
posted by lorbus at 10:58 AM on March 29, 2007

It's probably worth your while to track down recordings of MC Conrad performing with LTJ Bukem. An improvisational singy-rap-traditional master of ceremonies that looks to be run through one of the Korg Kaoss effects boxes. It definitely makes for a compelling live show that maintains that dance energy which you're looking for in a club over a rock show.
posted by minedev at 11:05 AM on March 29, 2007

Here's a Youtube video of KT Tunstall building layers of a song (her only good song, IMO) using a sampling pedal. I've also seen Lou Barlow and Juana Molina do the same thing live. This Youtube video shows Juana Molina building up a song using samples, although not in much detail.
posted by liquidindian at 11:09 AM on March 29, 2007

Steve Reich's early works, like "Come out," "piano phase" and the like are great examples of this. In each case, he recorded the samples on to tape and would perform them live. You can get a whole CD on iTunes called "Early Works" by Steve Reich with 4 complete songs.

Also worth mentioning is Brian Eno. As wikipedia says, he is considered to be the father of electronic music. A lot of his stuff is loop-based, and he creates the loop.

Then there's FM3 with its Buddha Machine. This chinese group creates loops and performs live with them, or you can get a really cool gizmo that plays some of their loops (I have 2!)
posted by fvox13 at 11:13 AM on March 29, 2007

Radiohead, Everything In Its Right Place, live [YouTube].
posted by Superfrankenstein at 11:17 AM on March 29, 2007

Here's another video of Juana Molina playing live that might give a better idea of what she does.
posted by liquidindian at 11:17 AM on March 29, 2007

That droney half-hour last track on the first Polyphonic Spree album comes to mind.

I'll second Matthew Herbert. Some specific tracks: "Going Round (Hmmmmix)" and "This Time" (as Herbert), "Royal Wedding" and "Jam Jar" (as Wishmountain), "Babykiss" and "Theeeee Ennnnnd" (as Doctor Rockit).
posted by hilker at 11:39 AM on March 29, 2007

Imogen Heap's "hide and seek" is probably one of the more popular recent examples of what you are talking about. Here is one of several live versions on YouTube.

I believe Ms. Heap also recently finished a tour with the above mentioned Kid Beyond.
posted by heh3d at 11:49 AM on March 29, 2007

Ellen Allien does a lot of this. Her music is filled with samples of her voice, even tho it has relatively few actual lyrics. It adds a great human quality to what is otherwise fairly cold and abstract music. (Not that I'm opposed to cold and abstract music.)

I don't know much about vocal sampling and looping in a live context. Nowadays it would probably be done using some kind of software -- something that can be synced with the tempo of any other musical elements (recorded or live) that are part of the performance.

A popular sequencing program that has a high degree of real-time interactivity is Ableton Live. Quite a few electronic musicians who perform live seem to live it. Maybe it will work for your purposes.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 12:05 PM on March 29, 2007

Correction to my last paragraph:

Quite a few electronic musicians who perform live seem to love it.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 12:06 PM on March 29, 2007

I saw Imogen Heap at an outdoor performance one night last summer. There was a storm approaching and she was so nervous about all of her equipment getting rained on that she had to end the show early. To her credit, she played for as long as possible even after it started to sprinkle. She was great. It was just funny because you could tell that she was so worried the whole time.
posted by daser at 12:15 PM on March 29, 2007

Jamie Lidell is your man
posted by phrontist at 3:25 PM on March 29, 2007

I have an old Digitech pedal (that I can't remember the name of right now) from the 90s that records 2 seconds that you can loop. I used to use this for guitar, but have hooked it up to a PA using an effects in/out loop to create different layers with vocals/saxophone. The Boss RC-20 Loop Station is capable of saving pre-recorded loops, has 5 minutes of recording time available, and a mic input. I've never tried it out (but man do I want to), but it might be a way to get what you want without going through software.
posted by sleepy pete at 3:29 PM on March 29, 2007

Jean Michel Jarre's "Zoolook" album had several tracks composed entirely of layered vocal samples, IIRC. This is going back to the 80s, so the technology is totally different, but the liner notes are very extensive.
posted by adamrice at 3:40 PM on March 29, 2007

Todd Rundgren's album A Cappella has a wide variety of (pop-oriented) styles and sounds, all (excepting some handclaps) created by sampling and manipulating his own voice. Some of it sounds like standard multi-tracking; some of it is nearly unrecognizable as human.

It's from 1985. Here is a link to the allmusic review.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 4:35 PM on March 29, 2007

As far as equipment -- I use a Korg Electribe S-1mkII but I've never used it live or "on the fly." I've just barely started using it, actually, so I'm not really being much help, but I like it so far (although I sometimes prefer the Casio SK5!).
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 4:45 PM on March 29, 2007

You might want to check out Loopers Delight and in particular, the Tools Of The Trade section.

The sight and it's mailing list are focued on "live looping", aka building up songs and pieces on the fly by sampling and looper. It tends to be instrumentalists mostly, but alot of the ideas and tools apply well to vocal artist as well
posted by alikins at 6:34 PM on March 29, 2007

building layers of a song using a sampling pedal

Andrew Bird and Final Fantasy both do this in their live performances.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:57 PM on March 29, 2007

When it comes to poppier music, here's a bloke called Reggie Watts, who layers up sung/beatboxed loops using what looks to be a Line 6 DL4 pedal. Mark Boombastik does a similar thing, only a bit more punk - when I saw him live he was only using pedals, no 'proper' sampler.

When it comes to more experimental music, I'd guess the best known vocal looper would be Masonna, but there are probably hundreds of noise/improv musicians who use vocal loops/samples live - Jessica Rylan, Skaters, Kylie Minoise, Inca Ore etc., etc..

On the equipment front, I've used an old SP-303 for this sort of thing - it'll only do relatively short samples, but you can pick them up cheap and the on-board effects aren't too bad. Also I've done vocal things with the Boss ME-50 multi-effects pedal, which has long delay times and a delay hold function.
posted by jack_mo at 7:56 AM on March 30, 2007

This won't be of use to nanojath, since he's in Minneapolis, but anyone in NYC who's interested in this subject might want to check this event out:

Dj Shakey and Moldover present
the monthly party:


2 Floors of Omnidigital DJs and Biomorphic Musicians!

Live Music from 8pm sharp 17+ electronic music performers
Projected Images from Full - Stealth and guests

9:30 pm free workshop:

with artist In The Loop

Tuesday, April 3rd
7:30pm - 2am + free
168 Delancey (betw. Clinton and Attorney)

posted by Artifice_Eternity at 1:50 PM on March 31, 2007

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