Talk Box
For those who don't know what a talk box is, the definitely recording is Peter Frampton's "Show Me The Way" and a few other tracks on the Album "Frampton Comes Alive."  However, you can also hear them used on Pink Floyd's "Keep Talking" (pun almost certainly intended), particularly on the live versions with the extended coda.  Also, Slash (an underrated player, imo) does some interesting work with them live with "Slash's Blues Ball."

The idea is that the guitar produces the pitch, but you shape the tone using your mouth and, to a lesser extent, your throat.  This allows you to go beyond a mere wah-wah pedal to the point that you can form words ("We're having a good time!") or any number of other tonal effects.

The device itself is simple enough, but the set-up sounds complicated.  First, the device:
Building the Talkbox
  • Get a horn driver.  The wattage rating has to be pretty high (>100W) to keep it from distorting at the speaker level... which mine does, unfortunately.
  • Bring it to the plumbing department of your local hardware store and get the appropriate fittings to attach plastic tubing
  • The tubing should be flexible but as hard as possible.  If you get very rubbery material, the sound will be absorbed (the high frequencies in particular) before it reaches your mouth.
  • Get some test jumpers with alligator clips.  You can see one of the lugs on the side that I connect this model to.

Hey, that doesn't look like a box!
I know.  In a professional model, the horn driver is enclosed, but I never bothered with the extra trouble or expense.  Still, an enclosure would help insulate the raw sound coming from the driver so you wouldn't hear as much of it.  I would recommend this, although it definitely wouldn't matter in a live situation or when recording as the microphone would never pick up the sound of driver beyond what is directed through the tube.

Setting it up

The flowchart is a little hard to follow, but here's the sequence:

You really almost need a dedicated amp for the talkbox, although you should probably hold off on that investment until you find for yourself how much you're going to use this.  In the meantime, you will have to unplug your amp's speaker and connect the horn driver every time you use it.  (Presently, this is particularly bothersome for me since I have an Ultimate Chorus amp with two speakers to disconnect.)

Ideally, in a live situation you would have a switching device in the line to select a conventional amplifier when the talk box was not desired.  Also, like most other tones, the talkbox sound is great with a little effects processing.

Don't know what to do with all that extra tubing you just bought for your project?  Check out my project for guitar stand protection.

Copyright Alexplorer.