For many, getting down a good vocal sends them into a cold sweat. Vocal performance seems to strike right into the heart of personal identity and insecurities. I’ve sat in countless vocal sessions and seen even the most seasoned professional fall apart. Here’s are my top 5 habits to get that elusive vocal take.
- Be Prepared
A vocalist is stressed enough as it is, without having to sit in a studio whilst the engineer and producer sort out microphones, stands and all the other stuff. The less time a vocalist has to sit around, the less time they have to worry.
- Know What You Want
As a vocal producer, experimenting can be fun, yet at the same time, knowing the track beforehand and having an idea of what you are aiming for is essential. Ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve with the vocal performance, it might be helpful to think of the vocal as the narrative to the music. Imagine watching a documentary about death, with some narrator sounding like they are doing a kids TV show? Songs are the same, think about the style of performance so you can direct the vocalist.
- Test Takes Are Sometimes The Best Takes
If you’re one of the people I’ve produced vocals with, then I have an apology to make. I recorded everything you sang, even the takes where I told you just to practise. Often they are the best takes.
- Voices And Mics Are Meant To Be Matched
If you have a project studio, then you may only have one mic, if that’s the case then try and borrow or hire some different ones. I often put 3 or 4 mics in front of an artist to see which sounds best. I was once over dubbing vocals on a live album and in the end the SM58 worked better than the U87 - it’s about matching a voice and a mic in context. You’ll be amazed how much difference a mic can make on the same voice.
- Performance Should Always Come First
In our auto-tune obsessed industry, it’s easy to think that everything has to be on the nail. Even to the point of recording every single word bit-by-bit. It might sound technically perfect, but they seldom sound good. When push comes to shove get down a great performance and don’t try and work the vocalist trying to get perfection. Get down enough takes to give yourself some comping options later, after that give the vocalist a break!
So there are 5 of mine, what about you?