When it comes to recording vocals, there a lot of things to factor in. Since the voice is the only instrument that can’t be blamed for sounding bad, you have to take extra care with vocalists. From the first timer to the veteran, there are things that you as an engineer or producer can do to get the most out of a vocalist.
Tips for Recording Vocals
– Create a comfortable environment. This means lowering the lights in the booth. You may want to make it possible for a vocalist to put a curtain in front of windows so that they can feel more isolated and alone.
-Add some reverb and delay to their monitor mix. It will make them sound smoother and better, so it will help they really open up.
-If you need louder, more aggressive singing, you can turn down their vocal track or turn up backing vocals and instruments.
-On the contrary, if you need softer vocals, turn up the singers track and turn down any back tracks.
-Keep talking between takes. Especially if they can’t see you, silence will last forever. If you can, leave the talkback on so they can hear you.
-Turn the lights in the control room down, or make it so they can’t see you. Remember that they can’t hear you, and even if you are talking about something unrelated, they may think you are talking about them. This also goes with facial expressions, never give the appearance of unpleasantness or discomfort. Most engineers have a good poker face, work on yours.
-Always give the most info you can on a take. Don’t use one word or short sentences like “Cut.”, “Let’s try that again Again” or “Moving on”. Odds are the vocalist knows what they messed up or need work on. Use phrases like, “That was good. We should try the Second verse again, I know you can nail it.” Stay positive and remember you aren’t their instructor or teacher, so don’t try to give singing advice.
-Smile and keep a pleasant demeanor.
-Let them know it’s ok to take a break when they need it. Don’t ever question a vocalist if they say they need a break. It may sound fine, but they know what their body is doing.
First Time Recording Vocals
First timers are often overwhelmed just being IN the studio let alone being expected to perform for a total stranger that can hear the imperfections and mistakes. Often times a first time recording vocalist can feel as if you are judging them and have little time and patience for their mistakes, therefore putting more strain on their voice and over all attitude. An engineer or producer can have a direct effect on the outcome without even knowing it. But there are a couple things you can do to help a first time recording vocalist.
-Welcome them warmly. Make them feel at home. Be upbeat and excited they are there. The first impression is the biggest. Make every effort to welcome them at the studio door or even in the lobby.
-Show them around the studio. This can make a HUGE difference. Just knowing where you are in a building and what is going on around you can help them relax.
-Offer them a bottle of water. Always have water on hand, both warm and chilled. Warm water is better for vocalists, but after a session or on a break they may prefer the cold. Have honey, sugar and tea on hand as well. Beverages are the one area that a studio shouldn’t lack. Try to stock some soda, coffee and juice as well.
-Don’t rush them into the booth. Prepare enough time before hand for them to get there, settled and warmed up before you ask them to go in the booth.
-Show them everything they need in the booth. Have it set up ahead of time. Show them how far to stand from the mic and how to work the monitoring, if they have access to it.
-Let them do some practicing while you get levels. It’s a very strange sensation to hear yourself singing. Make sure they are comfortable with what they are hearing.
-Be patient. Remember that they have never done this before and will be nervous. Let them know they have control over what they hear and how loud. so they may go back and forth on the levels.
You will have to be extra supportive of First time Vocalists, so never show frustration. Be extremely patient if they are children, it can be really scary for kids.
If you use this tips, you will create a positive environment for your vocalist. Creating a positive atmosphere will ensure that you are doing all you can for them and will result in a more pleasant experience and over all session.
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