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  • Writer's pictureAaron Logan

Recording Vocals

I don't know if anyone will find this interesting, but I guess if there are any aspiring musicians or vocalists who haven't really experienced the process of recording in a studio, here's a little breakdown of the vocal process. I copied my vocal process after Robbie Seay, when I recorded with him in Houston in 2012. I liked his approach, so I use it now. . First - NO effects on the vocals when recording & listening back. No reverb, no compression, no EQ or echo/delay. Or if you really really want some effects, just a tiny tiny amount. Barely anything. You really want raw vocals when recording & doing the early playbacks to choose the best take. The effects come later when mixing. But at this point in the process, you need to hear all of the flaws. The effects will hide flaws, and right now you need to hear them. That helps you choose the best take for each section. Or helps you realize you need to do more takes & make adjustments. You need to hear the flaws to narrow it down and/or adjust. If you're not used to this, it can mess with your head at first. You'll think, "My goodness, I suck!" lol But this is how you narrow it down & get the best out of yourself for the song. No effects yet. Second - Break the song up into sections. You'll have to do multiple takes, so going through the whole song over and over will exhaust your voice. Even if you're singing correctly, most people's voices still wear out. Break it up into pieces. Verse 1, do 3 or 4 takes, stop & listen back to them carefully & make sure you have enough good takes (or sections of takes) to work with. Move on to the pre-chorus, 3 or 4 takes, listen back after each. Chorus, 3 or 4 takes, etc. Stopping to listen back & analyze as you go allows you to rest your voice too. And actually listening back to each take will help you know what to adjust as you go. You might be slightly pitchy on certain points, or rushing a certain phrasing, but you don't realize it until you hear the playback. So if you listen back as you go, you can adjust those things. . Third - There are a lot of things to think about while singing (or playing). I'll stick with vocals for now. It's not just pitch & getting the lyrics right. Timing is really really huge. Practice with a click track beforehand. The way things are phrased is a big deal. How you pronounce certain words. We don't think about how we pronounce words when singing at home, but when you listen back to a recording of yourself, then you realize how weird it can sound when pronouncing certain words. If the phrase is "let you go," will you pronounce the "t" or as a "ch?" "LeT you go," or "Letchu go." Depends on the flow of the song & how you want it to sound. Sometimes our slang sounds funny in a song when played back, but sometimes over-pronouncing with perfect grammar actually sounds bad....too cheesy. It just depends. Work it out beforehand. Actually this section is really best for Pre-Production. You want to work out this stuff before you go into the studio so you don't have to spend time on it in the studio. You'll be paying by the hour. Don't waste time. Already know exactly how you want to pronounce words, how you want to handle phrases, etc. Record yourself at home on your phone or Garageband & listen back as part of your Pre-Production. And practice with a click track. . Fourth - When choosing the best takes (continue to keep the effects turned off for this part), you don't have to choose the entire take for the verse. You can break it up. The first couple words might have the best take on the fourth take, but then the next phrasing has the best take on the 3rd take. As long as there is a breath or a gap in there, you can separate them and use the best little section for each. Then you piece the verse or chorus together that way. (If you're working with a professional producer they will help direct all of this.) . Fifth - You're not there to get validation from the engineer, or anyone else who is in the studio. Usually people's first experience in the studio is wayyyy more nerve-racking than they can imagine. Engineers are focused on what they are doing, so they are not going to constantly stop and validate you. "Oh my god, you sound amazing!" Nope. You will likely get silence. Or, "Do you want to do another take?" That doesn't mean you sucked, they are just asking what you want to do. And if there are other band members, or a producer or someone in the control room with the engineer, you will do a take and stop, you will see them talk to each other, but not be able to hear them, and you need to not be insecure about that. You might even see them laughing at something, and then think they are laughing at you. You have to get over that shit. They aren't laughing at you, it's something else. You're there to do a job, stay focused. Be a pro. This section might sound really weird to people who have never been in the studio, but I'm telling you, it's a real thing. We are human beings who have insecurities and egos and issues, and we often have no idea how much we care what other people think until we're in a position like that. Then it comes out. You feel like you're naked in a room with everyone watching and judging. Have to get over that stuff. If you have a bad take, that's not a reflection on you as a singer or musician overall, you just had a bad take. So you do another one. The recording is not YOU. The takes are not YOU. Separate those things so that your ego & insecurities don't get in the way. Once you've had some studio experience, this won't be a thing. But for people new at it, trust me, it's real. And that's not just coming from me, that's also coming from other people I've worked with or spoken to who were completely caught off guard by this their first time in the studio.


-Aaron

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