Vocal Timbre Effects with Differentiable Digital Signal Processing

David Südholt; Cumhur Erkut
DAFx-2023 - Copenhagen
We explore two approaches to creatively altering vocal timbre using Differentiable Digital Signal Processing (DDSP). The first approach is inspired by classic cross-synthesis techniques. A pretrained DDSP decoder predicts a filter for a noise source and a harmonic distribution, based on pitch and loudness information extracted from the vocal input. Before synthesis, the harmonic distribution is modified by interpolating between the predicted distribution and the harmonics of the input. We provide a real-time implementation of this approach in the form of a Neutone model. In the second approach, autoencoder models are trained on datasets consisting of both vocal and instrument training data. To apply the effect, the trained autoencoder attempts to reconstruct the vocal input. We find that there is a desirable “sweet spot” during training, where the model has learned to reconstruct the phonetic content of the input vocals, but is still affected by the timbre of the instrument mixed into the training data. After further training, that effect disappears. A perceptual evaluation compares the two approaches. We find that the autoencoder in the second approach is able to reconstruct intelligible lyrical content without any explicit phonetic information provided during training.