I like harmonizers (harmonizer pedals), A LOT. I use them as songwriting tools, and for playing my favorite songs, and having them sound as legit as possible (if the harmonies are simple, like most are).
It’s my belief that if a song melody is catchy enough, harmonizing that melody will make it ten times catchier.
It is also my belief that if a melody is well-written, harmonizing said melody works for all of the notes in the phrase, and really pushes it into the stratosphere.
Why some people hate harmonizers
They don’t like that a machine is being used as a tool for a solo singer-songwriter, for extra vocals. Most people assume that everyone should have a backup singer. But what if you don’t have access to a good one? What if you have a major personality clash with someone helping you harmonize? What if they look stupid up there, all alone, holding a tambourine, and simply singing, and doing nothing else? I mean, ultimately… what difference does it make, how the job (the song/performance/recording) gets done, as long as the end result is good?
The main reason I use harmonizers
As many people know, as I’ve been quite “vocal” about it (no pun intended), I’ve had vocal cord/singing problems since summer 2008, when I had a major vocal cord surgery. I was ok after, until early 2011, when some weird flu/swelling of my throat happened, and since then, I lost basically all of my falsetto and higher range, as it’s too damn “breathy”, often. I’ve done warmups, and vocal therapy, dietary changes, lifestyle changes, you name it… ultimately, most days, I can’t sing with my full range. So I use a harmonizer pedal as a tool, in recording situations, and performance situations. I consider my voice issues more a hardship, than a handicap… but whatever it’s called… I think this is an important tool in my arsenal. I never would ever say I’m an amazing singer… at best I’d say I’m competent and I can hold pitch. And often, when I hear people demonstrate these vocal harmonizers on YouTube, they are completely amazing and have high, powerful voices to begin with. It, of course, makes me feel like crap, but I see what they’re doing. Vocal harmony makes everything better and it’s extremely useful when you mainly write and perform completely alone (as I do). It’s nice to have background singers who don’t give me any drama or make me sing a song I’d rather not (or cannot physically attempt). As long as I stay in pitch, my harmony singers (my pedal) are happy.
So don’t fear ’em…. try them out. They’re extremely fun. I own the TC Helicon Voicelive 2, and also the Voicelive Play GTX (with the “Switch 3” pedal) in a small pedalboard setup, for live and songwriting use. Pro tip– common vocal harmony is a 3rd above, so try a preset in the pedal that is exactly that (most harmonizer pedals default to that, as preset 01).
Some of my favorite harmonizer pedal demonstrations: