Artist Tips for Vocal Recording
What’s up good people? So we’ll jump right in with a few recording tips for the studio coming directly from a recording engineer. These tips will help you be prepared for your studio session and will also maximize the productivity of it.
I’ve known many artists that have come to studio sessions unprepared, hadn’t practiced their songs, too high to perform, had no sense of recording techniques or ethics, lacked focus, and were poor at communicating their wants and ideas to the engineer. Not to rag on you artist, (I’m coming from a place of love when I say this) but, TIME IS MONEY. When you book studio time, it’s usually by the hour and whether you’re prepared for the session or not, the studio will still charge you the same. With that being said, it’s in your best interest to get the most that you can out of every minute that you’re in the studio.
Below you will find a list of tips that will help you to get the most bang for your buck in the studio.
- SEND IN YOUR MUSIC TO THE ENGINEER AHEAD OF TIME (if possible): Doing this will give the engineer a chance to upload your music into the session so that the track is queued up and ready to record on before you arrive.
- KNOW YOUR SONG: The best favor you can do yourself when it’s time to record in the studio is to know your song. Knowing your song will not only save time on recording an excessive amount of takes but it will ensure that your delivery of the song is confident and strong.
- KNOW HOW YOU WANT YOUR SONG ARRANGED: Know how long the verses and choruses are in your song. Know how many verses, choruses, bridges, etc. are in your song and be able to convey that to the engineer. Seeing that in most cases, the chorus is the same throughout the song, it’s usually only recorded once and then copied over to the other sections of the song where it belongs. Knowing the number of bars that are in your verses and choruses will help the engineers place them where they need to be in the song faster than if the engineers has to figure those things out.
- STACKING VOCALS: In order to create a fuller, richer sounding vocal performance it is common to record 3 or more tracks of vocals for each part of the song. For a typical rap song, the verse lead vocal will usually be accompanied by a “doubles track” (only certain words or phrases are doubled on top of the lead vocal) to give emphasis and presence on certain parts of the song. The lead vocal can also feature an “adlibs track” (where the artists is making sound effects, chanting, doing call and response, harmonizing, etc). Having an adlib track fills the body of the verse up and creates the audio illusion of multiple voices on the recording. If you are a singer, you’d stack as many tracks as you have parts in your harmony. For example: (Lead vox, lead vox hi, lead vox low, and adlibs or runs). Having multiple tracks of vocals allows the studio engineer to create a sense of space, depth, and presence in the overall recording. Going back to our previous tip…(knowing your song), will be very beneficial when it comes to doing doubles and adlibs.
- KNOW YOUR DOUBLES AND ADLIBS AHEAD OF TIME: You can save yourself a lot of time and ensure that the best parts of your verses are being emphasized by knowing the lyrics you want to double and adlib over ahead of time. Unless you are good at free styling, don’t leave this to chance.
- MICROPHONE TECHNIQUES: A very important yet often overlooked skill of any artist. When you go before the microphone, understand that it is capable of recording your voice without it having to be 2 inches away from your mouth.
- Consider the size of the room that you are recording in and step back about 1 to 2 feet away from the mic.
- Again, going back to knowing your song, if there is a part in the song where you are going to be yelling, step back a little farther away from the mic. If there is a soft part in the song, step a little closer towards the mic. The idea is to keep the volume of the vocal consistent and strong throughout the recording.
- Try to keep your mouth pointed straight towards the mic. If you are reading your lyrics, hold the paper or tablet almost in front of your face but make sure you don’t cover the mic.
- Avoid excessive movement by dancing and making hand gestures (no one can see you doing that anyway).
- After the mic stand has been adjusted for your height, do not touch the mic or bump it because that sound will pick up on the recording.
- AVOID EXCESSIVELY LOUD HEADPHONE MIXES: Most artists for some reason can only “feel it” when the music from the headphones is blaring in their ears. I’m telling you now, loud headphone mixes not only bleed into the mic and cause instrumental sounds to be on your vocal tracks but they can also cause the artist to hear too much of their own voice in their ears causing them to under compensate their vocal volume when recording into the mic. Get a headphone mix just loud enough for you to hear the music without it blaring into your ears. If music can be heard from your headphones during the recording, then it can be picked up by the mic. While some minor headphone bleed is acceptable, try to keep it to a bare minimum.
- BREATH CONTROL: Practice rapping or singing your verses and choruses aloud, the places in the song where you run out of breath and have to take another one in order to continue are “breath breaks” and if left unchecked, they can sound extremely displeasing to the ear in a mix. Know your song lyrics well enough to anticipate the breath breaks and either control them or have the engineer punch you in after taking a breath. Remember, if you can hear it with your ears, so can the mic but better. So things you normally don’t pay attention to like lip smacking, saliva sounds, stomach rumble, or other bodily functions that cause sound can be recorded so make sure you are aware of that and do what you need to do to fix that issue.
- PUNCH INS: Sometimes (actually quite often), artists come in the studio not knowing their lyrics because they failed to practice the song. In that event, it can be very time consuming if the artist spits 3/4 of the verse only to run out of steam for the last bar, punching in solves that problem. The key to a successful and seamless punch in is for the artist to start rapping a few seconds before the punch in occurs so that the volume and energy is consistent with the previously recorded material.
- MENTAL FOCUS: Last but certainly not lease, it is extremely important to have mental focus. When you come to the studio with an entourage of people all with different personalities ready to offer up their opinion of your song, it becomes very difficult to maintain focus on recording your song. Unless the people in your entourage will be appearing on the song, if at all possible, avoid having them in the studio with you. I know sometimes an artists may need to “get their minds right” by drinking or smoking. No problem with that, just don’t drink or smoke to the point to where you can no longer function.
Thanks for reading and we do hope that you’ve found these tips to be helpful. As always, please like, share and comment.Like it? Share it.