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18 Jan 2019

5 essential tips for working with vocalists

18 Jan 2019
producer/techniques 5 essential tips for working with vocalists


Music and technology continue to evolve, creating better and more convenient features for impressive recordings. But along with the best microphones, preamps and knowing how to use them, we can't forget that effective work with the artist is what really creates magic in the studio.

The job of a producer or sound engineer is not only to show their technical skills but also make sure artist is getting the most of the experience. Hopefully, these tips will help you maintain a creative attitude throughout the recording sessions and achieve the best results.

Preparing

To make the most out of the studio time, music producers and vocalists need to be well prepared. All recordings need some prep work to help your project succeed. 

Get some artist's background information and ask for some materials to become familiar with their music project. Or if this is your project you need vocals for, provide all the materials for an artist to prepare for this session. This will motivate you both and make it easier to work effectively.

Always take time to set up microphones and the headphone mix. The way vocalists are hearing this mix is more important than what you hear from your monitors, because they are the ones doing magic. Don't forget to prepare a reverb or click track if vocalist will need it.

It will also be good to be prepared for some unforeseen circumstances. What if this microphone won't fit the artist's voice? Is there enough disk space for the whole session? Which sample rate is preferred with this project? Your recording system needs to be reliable and your file management should be clear.

Also, keep your studio clean, you don't want any mess and distraction. :)

Support

Even with an experienced vocalist, a producer should support and encourage when it is needed. A singer will be more confident and the results of the recording session will be higher quality.
Being nervous is normal, especially when it's someone's first recording session. But it can lead to a decline in creativity, so your goal is to encourage the artist and do some coaching.

Use some tips for making the singer give the best performance. Advise doing some breathing exercises to relax. Ask to sing the song like communicating with someone close. Or ask to focus on the meaning of the words and imagine the story of the song.

You can also read some materials about vocal techniques to be more confident explaining what do you want from a singer.

Atmosphere           

Is creating the right environment important? Yes, absolutely. If music producer is putting too much pressure on the vocalist, it's not going to be a good performance. It is important to give the artist a few takes to start to feel comfortable with the sound. If there's anything that can help to create a warm and creative atmosphere, you should use that. Turn the lights off, put some candles and make an artist feel at home. It's time to change the focus when it starts to lose creative vibe and become work instead.

Feedback

When the vibe feels right and you've made some good takes, it’s time to figure out what takes are the best. The artist might need your help with it, but there are times when you need to stay out of the way. People are sensitive about their art, so be careful with the words you say. Make sure that the feedback you give is constructive.

You may not be excited about this session, or the artist's talent level, but don't give bad vibes. Deal with what you have and make the best out of it. It is much worse when the music producer doesn't give any feedback at all. Give some energy and you will help the vocalists achieve their best.

The focus should be on the performance and emotions, not on technique because vocal imperfections can be fixed, but you can't add any energy and emotions to the recordings.

Follow-up    

Vocalists always want to hear themselves in the best light. It is important to develop the skill of choosing and comping takes throughout the recording session. If you feel like you need more time for that, take a break and make a good rough mix. You can send this mix within the day so that the artist will hear the best version.

Make sure you back up everything from every session, as you never know when artists will come back and ask for tracks. You don't want to tell them that their tracks are gone.

Also, make sure to credit vocalists before any release, unless you have agreed on other conditions.  A positive follow-up may lead to a long-term collaboration and new clients.

Use these tips to establish professional relationships with any singer you are working with, and help artists get a better connection with a listener!

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