Vocal effects and harmonies can really add to the professionalism of a live performance, but they’re hard to implement, especially for the singing guitarist. It’s difficult to get harmonies happening between band members sometimes: bad monitor mix, one or more vocalists having an off night – and that’s before you start to think about how this will all actually sound to the audience, which is the most important thing. TC-Helicon has tackled this problem head-on with the Play Electric, a floor-dwelling device aimed at giving the singing guitarist two things: interactive control over the creative execution of their vocals, and control over the quality of the final sound as heard by the audience.
FEET, DON’T FAIL ME NOW
Play Electric is basically a multi-effects unit dedicated to the singing guitarist, whether they play electric or acoustic guitar, solo or in a band or duo (there’s also a model called Play Acoustic, which is specifically aimed at the needs of the acoustic guitarist). It features professional-level TC-Helicon effects, including state of the art harmony processing. And because TC-Helicon is associated with TC Electronic, one of the finest guitar effect makers in the business and the company behind legendary units like Stereo Chorus Flanger, TC2290 Digital Delay and G-System, Play Electric is overflowing with guitar effects and amp simulations. The amp models are from the VoiceLive 3 processor and there are effects from the TonePrint range of pedals, including the Hall of Fame Reverb, Flashback Delay and Corona Chorus.
Each preset — whether it’s one of the onboard ones, one of hundreds you can download or one you make yourself — can be enhanced with the dedicated HITbutton, which adds additional vocal effects as you need them. For instance, if you only need a harmony in the chorus, or if you need a megaphone effect for three words in a verse, you can add those effects to your existing sound via the HIT button without having to dial in an entirely new preset. And you can store selected presets as ‘favourites’ to make setup easy. There are inputs for microphone and guitar (Guitar In and Thru jacks are included, in case you want to send the modelled sound to its own amplifier or bypass the effects completely), and Play Electric has the ability to sense the note or chord you’re playing on guitar and to then create a harmony based on what it hears! Play a D chord, sing a note over it and you’ll get a luscious harmony, then change to a Dsus4 and part of the harmony will shift too. The effect can be surprisingly complex, and it really aids in creating the illusion of several singers. There’s also pitch correction, which you can use for everything from the most subtle tidying up of errant notes to the full-on robot effects. There are also doubling effects which can be made to sound more natural or more artificial at your discretion.
SHUT UP AND SING!
Just like TC Electronic guitar gear, part of what’s great about the Play Electric is that the presets aren’t ridiculously over-the-top like some other multi effect units. Some presets have very subtle effects on the ‘Hit’ button – a little doubling here, maybe some reverb there – which gives your music a little extra push for a big chorus or a moment here and there. Or there are more overt effects like additional harmonies or a megaphone effect. The pitch correction feature is handy, especially when used either very subtly or in complete overkill mode.
The guitar effects are good, although it can take some tweaking to make the amps sound natural. They’re certainly useful in a cover band or duo situation where you need a lot of sounds without fuss, and they’re great for demoing song ideas, but it’s nice to have the option to bypass them too if you’d rather use your own amp. And embedded stereo RoomSense mics allow you to detect the pitch of instruments nearby, replace the cabled mic for headphone practice, or give you some much-needed ambience in your headphone mix. There are some other handy features as well: MIDI jack (yes, you can ‘play’ vocal melodies on a keyboard), foot pedal jack for adding even more control, an auxiliary in for practicing or taking control of your live backing tracks (with a useful Vocal Cancel mode for singing over existing recordings), a headphone jack, stereo outputs, and a USB connection, which you can use to update the software and to share new patches.
AND VOCALS FOR ALL
Although this is a great unit for singing guitarists, there’s also another very handy use for it: non-guitar-playing singers can use it to put control of their vocal processing — and particularly their harmonies — at the feet of their band mate or musical director so they can focus on performance, or to simply take a feed off the guitarist in order to control intelligent harmonies. And even singers who don’t play guitar or have a guitarist to work with can use the aux input to detect the pitch of backing tracks. Ultimately, anyone who needs to create harmonies from a musical source can benefit from this great little gadget.
Hits and Misses
Easy to control
Great vocal effects
Awesome intelligent harmonies
- Complete vocal path including Tone, Harmony, HardTune, Reverb, Double, Delay, μMod (chorus/flange, etc.), and Transducer (megaphone/distortion FX)
- Global Adaptive EQ, Compression, De-ess, Gate and Pitch Correction
- Note-perfect Vocal Harmonies using Auto Chord Detection from guitar input
- 2 Voices of NaturalPlay Harmony, plus 2 voices of humanized Doubling
- TC Electronic guitar FX with styles from Flashback Delay, Hall of Fame Reverb and Corona Chorus
- Dedicated Guitar and Vocal FX access/edit buttons
- Separate vocal and pro-quality guitar outputs or stereo mix
- VLOOP™ performance looper for vocal and/or guitar with undo and redo
- Loop time: Stereo: 15 seconds with Undo (30 seconds without). Mono: 30 seconds with Undo (60 seconds without)
- RoomSense microphones for monitoring and practicing
- Key/Scale harmony mode for setting specific song keys via the footswitches
- Plug in and practice with your mobile device via AUX or stream tracks and record over USB including a Vocal Cancel function
- USB for audio streaming and connection to VoiceSupport, our free app for firmware updates, preset management, and tips & tricks
- Compatible with the MP-75 Modern Performance Vocal Microphone and Sennheiser e 835 fx microphone with Mic Control
- Optional Switch-3 for additional performance control
- Headphone output