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Audio Toyes: Recording Vocals

Brian Toye
June 20, 2013

It can be very stressful for you. Especially if your band members are staring you down while you are trying to get in your zone. Let’s face it, you probably won’t find your comfort zone in that environment and you therefore will not give your best performance. That’s what we are after though, right, your best performance, so this just won’t work.

It’s common that the singer may not be the main songwriter in the band. Therefore the main songwriter will want to be present to make sure the singer is actually singing what was written (lyrics, melody and phrasing included). It is not uncommon for the songwriter of the band to “think” the singer has been performing the parts as was intended during rehearsals and live shows when in actuality the singer is doing something slightly different. It’s tough to hear vocals clearly when the full band is jamming in the garage. When this is realized in the studio, the songwriter will constantly correct the singer “no, that’s not how we agreed to sing that’s like this la la la (sings into talk back mic)”. The singer “Oh, but I’ve been doing it this way all along and no one said a thing (confused)”. This conversation has forced the singer to quickly comprehend the new “phrasing” or “melody” and record a performance for the album...with no preparation. It does not turn out well, ever. The singer gets nervous, anxious and upset. The songwriter is getting frustrated and the studio engineer is scratching his/her head as to why the band said they were totally prepared a month ago.

How to do it right? If the singer is not the songwriter, or if a number of band members collaborate during the writing process then it is imperative that each of those members gets together with one acoustic guitar to work with the singer. Go over each and every phrase nailing it to the wall, writing it in stone...phrasing, melody, lyrics and the emotion of the phrase intended. Once this is taken care of, the songwriters can be confident in their singer. They can let the singer record with the engineer and without band members in the studio. Less eyes and ears on your singer means he/she is much more comfortable. The engineer knows that you (the singer) will not be giving “the best” performance within the first few takes (so don’t sweat it). We understand that you need to warm up those vocal chords, find your rasp or open up your high end. Therefore it’s not necessary to shout “sh!t, f@ck, i messed that up, damn, sh!t” during the first half hour of recording your vocals. We know you didn’t get it. Breath deep, think about the note you missed instead of swearing into the microphone. You have nothing to prove nor are we (the engineer) judging you. Take that energy and focus it on your performance, work on getting comfortable with your headphones and the microphone. Get your voice into its zone as we record pass after pass. After about half an hour your anxieties will have washed away and you will be ready to do business. That’s how we capture your vocal the way you want it to sound.

1) Prepare your vocal parts ahead of time with your songwriters. Do not assume your overly loud jam space rehearsals have prepared you for the studio.

2) Come into the studio alone.

3) Allow yourself half an hour to warm up and make mistakes. Be silly if you have to, sing your parts in funny whatever to warm it up and to not care that each take is not perfect.

4) Find your zone and a working chemistry with your engineer and get down to business.

5) The engineer is not judging you; he/she is there to capture your best performance.

- Brian Toye - We Make Records!
We Make Records