In this 1987 clip from the TV show Video Soul
, Zapp founder and synth-driven funk pioneer Roger Troutman (“More Bounce to the Ounce”) discusses his use of the talkbox
with the host. Also made famous by guitar legend Peter Frampton on the song “Do You Feel Like I Do,” the talkbox is actually a miniature speaker cabinet which uses a tube to route the speaker output to your mouth acoustically. You then shape formants with your mouth, causing whatever you’re putting through the talkbox, such as a synth or guitar--to “sing.” If you’re thinking this is like a vocoder, it is, only with the “modulator” and “carrier” signals interacting in the air as opposed to in the circuitry. Roger left us way too soon, but this video proves he was ahead of his time.