How to speak like a Dalek – a ring modulator tutorial for Audacity on a Mac

I recently wanted to record a message in the voice of a Dalek (for a silly little project I’m doing).

I looked for tutorials, but they all involved ring modulator software that only worked on Windows PCs.

I worked out how to do this on my Mac, and so decided to create a tutorial for Mac users.

Here’s a 10 minute video tutorial:

If you don’t want to watch the video, here’s the short summary:

  • Install Audacity:
  • Download the Ring Modulator Nyquist plug-in:
  • Install it in ~/Library/Application\ Support/audacity/Plug-Ins/Ringmod.ny
  • In Audacity
    • Effect -> Ring modulator…
      • Modulation frequency: 30Hz (preview values between 20Hz and 80Hz to see what you prefer). I believe over the years the official Daleks varied from 20Hz to 50Hz.  Some Dalek impersonators find 80Hz works well for them.
      • Amount: 100%
      • Waveform: 0 = sin
      • Pulse bias: 0%
    • Effect -> Distortion
      • Distortion type: Hard clipping
      • Clipping level: -6 dB
      • Drive: 50
      • Make-up gain: 50
    • I created a Macro in Audacity called “Dalek” to apply both effects with these parameters.

Tips on getting the voice right:

  • People think Daleks have no emotion, but actually they do feel hatred, and they’re very emotional about that!
  • They are also very uptight, so that has to be reflected in the voice.
  • Have a tight mouth, barely moving, like a ventriloquist.  You can achieve this by making a forced smile with the edges of the mouth pulled right up.  The lower jaw barely moves.  It gives quite a nasal sound.
  • The pitch rises during the sentence, as they get more and more excited.
  • The pitch often rises during a word, almost like a question, if you can do that – it feels quite unnatural!
  • Of course, break up long words into separate clipped syllables: Ex-ter-min-ate!

Have fun :-)