Achieving a believable vocal track normally doesn’t require thousands of dollars of recording gear. An Impressive vocal can be achieved by working with an experienced singer on budget recording gear. Consider all the awesome vocal tracks from the Beatles. The Beatles didn’t have Protools, computers or anything more than vintage recording gear. While basic gear is necessary it isn’t always the pivotal factor when trying to get a great vocal out of a singer. It really depends on what type of band or artist you are working with. Here are some quick “non-gear related tips” to keep in mind when recording a singer.
1. If you have a home studio then it is more than likely that you don’t have a vocal iso-booth that has glass so that you can see in to the isolation booth Make sure the singer in the isn’t kicking back on a stool or chair. I know it sounds boneheaded but it happens all the time, especially when you as the producer or engineer can’t see in to the isolation booth. Be careful to make sure your singer is standing up. The voice needs support and that support originates in the mid-section of the body; the diaphram. The diaphram is the central muscle of the human body and is the muscle responsible for breathing. If your singer is slumped over, sitting down or in an awkward position it will be obvious in their tone. So, be on the look out for anomalies in their tone. Especially if their tone is changing as the song progresses. Change in tone will typically be caused by improper posture or them sitting down in the booth.
2. While I don’t advocate anyone to start smoking, contrary to what most people think, smoking doesn’t really harm your voice. Smoking affects your breathing capacity and as a result hampers a singers ability to sing for extended periods of time. So, if you have a singer that smokes don’t get bogged down in trying to convince he or she that their inadequacy to “get the great vocal track” is because they smoke. It simply isn’t true.
3. Good microphone positioning is key. You never want your singer’s head and neck at an awkward angle. Be sure to adjust the mic to a position that is adequate for your singer’s height. Just a few inches too high or too low will adversely affect a singers tone. You may have to experiment a bit to get the correct tone for your singer. I’ve seen singers wrestle in the studio and then I make one minute change to the angle or height of their microphone and it makes all the difference in the world.
4. Consuming hot liquids doesn’t help. I’ve had singers say “Hey, I’m gonna get a hot tea or coffee”. When they come back I make them dilute the hot drink to cool it down to room temperature because most of them don’t realize that the heat isn’t good for the vocal chords. Heat actually shocks the vocal chords. It is good practice to always drink luke warm water or tea. Keep away from carbonated liquids in the studio as the sugar does more harm than good to the chords. Try throat coat tea. Throat coat has slippery elm bark as an ingredient. Slippery elm bark has been known to coat the vocal chords and give singers “a little grease on the pipes” to help them sing for extended periods of time.
5. Make sure your singer is well rested. A tired vocal is a bad vocal. I’ve recorded vocals when I was tired or hung over. I’ve never recorded a good one when I was tired or hung over. Remember, you are painting an audible picture for the listener. If the vocal sounds exhausted then you aren’t recording a great vocal. Make sure your singer is energetic. If not, send them home to get rest and try again another day.
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