Now don't go thinking that there is a proper vocoder built into the Digitech
MV-5 as well as a harmony processor. 'Vocoder' is about as descriptive in this
respect as the word 'coffee' on a vending machine – it indicates the flavour
of what you are about to receive without actually promising the real thing!
In Vocoder mode, all the intelligence of the MR-5 is bypassed (as are the Harmony
Voicing buttons) and harmonies are created which exactly correspond to the notes
you play on your MIDI keyboard. Vocoder mode is actually more
versatile than the other modes because you can create exactly the harmonies
you want whether or not they fit into 'proper' chords or scales. It can go further
in that you could take an out of tune vocal recording and put it through the
MV-5 while playing the correct notes on the keyboard, and magically a perfectly
in-tune vocal will be the result. In fact the original vocal doesn't even have
to be close to the right notes because the MV-5 will harmonise a dog's bark
if necessary. There are of course limits to how well this process can work.
Basically, the more work the MV-5 has to do, and the more the vocal slides about,
the less believable the result becomes. I'd say this technique is best applied
to backing vocals where a little bit of 'flanginess' might go unnoticed.
This is another mode where the intelligence of the Digitech MR-5 is put on
hold. It could just be however the mode in which the unit is most used. One
of the most common requirements in recording is some sort of 'thickening up'
of the sound, particularly vocals of course. If you have ever sat in front of
the mixing console wondering what you could do to turn the thin, weak vocal
wafting out of the monitors into a fine healthy specimen, bursting with life
and vigour from the drive units, then this could be one of the possible answers
to your problem. You can achieve a similar effect with many units, but on the
MV-5 it's done with the push of a couple of buttons, and as we all know, the
sounds which are easy to get at are the ones that are going to be used. There
are three possibilities: Light Detune, which adds harmonies at plus and minus
seven cents to the original. (A cent is a hundredth of a semitone). Heavy detune
adds harmonies at plus and minus twelve cents. For the strongest effect, you
can combine the two. If you have used this trick before, you will understand
its benefits and limitations, but I think that Digitech have provided three
options which will cover most eventualities and can be accessed very easily.