How To: Record High Quality Vocals Part 1 (Facts and Insights)

I am sure, if you're a little bit like me, (that'd be a perfectionist and an excellence pursuer); that you read a lot about what I'm about to write on How To Record High Quality Vocals already. 

Still, I encourage you to give this article a shot, given that my knowledge has been tested through the years and I know better than from theory alone, what works and what doesn't. And I'll try to be objective. I hope this adds up to your current knowledge on the subject. Go for it and enjoy!

I assume that if you want to learn about this and kept on reading is maybe because you either want to or will record a single, EP or even a LP, or you already did and still think there's a better way or better results to achieve. So let's create a context to the tips; "you have to be prepared to record 4 songs at the studio, starting in 15 days and you aim to record the best takes within 2 days". 

To make it dynamic and easy to follow, I'll make a list of the tips.

To Record High Quality Vocals you will need:

1- A vocal warm up routine
And go through it each and every day for the following 15 days. If you never ever warmed up and are not aware of how important this is, then start with just the basics, it'll always be better than nothing. And the best thing you'll ever read about how to sing properly, and even warm up properly: RELAX. Even if you're a Rock singer. Doesn't matter which music style you're into, the longevity of your vocal chords will depend on it. You won't want to be exposed to the possibility of a surgery -as scary as it may sound, (research for articles about Adele's cause of surgery)-, just because it doesn't seem that important at the moment. And if you want to be a pro, just be a pro. Money doesn't make you a pro, what you do with what you have takes you there.
I'm also a vocal coach so if you need coaching we can arrange Skype sessions.
So basically you need to be vocally prepared to record with the best you can offer to the mic...

2- If your voice is as good as it can be, then rehearse the songs with an interval of one day each time you do it. Our emotions fluctuate and that's completely fine. And we can make the most out of those changes in regards of interpretation. You have to get to know yourself, you can even choose to practise different songs based on the lyrics or the feeling on the songs depending on what drives you that particular day. But always practise, and by practise I mean, sing the melody as you wrote it, or as the songwriter did. Then approach it as if it is up to you to arrange it vocally and allow yourself to improvise on top of the backing track or reference track. Try singing it differently each time until you can choose what sounds better for you. It can be a roller-coaster, but you won't regret it when you finally get to give the songs your own style and voice. I'm not saying change the melody (your producer might want to know who told you that!?), I'm encouraging you to explore yourself into the song. Remember that confidence, how prepared you are, and how much you like and know the song will all reflect on the recording. Wether you agree with this or not. :)

3- Let the technicians and editors be happy. Nowadays it's so easy to just want to sound great just because and let others do the fixes for you. Please, please, please it's still necessary that you learn proper breathing, being on pitch (that is directly connected to vocal resonance), and following the groove and tempo of the song. This things will save you time, money, stress and will make you a more accomplished vocalist. Why not?

4- Obviously... know the lyrics by heart. If you didn't write them, make them your own. We're also "acting" while singing. There's added quality within proper interpretation of the lyrics. Maybe you don't relate to the lyrics. But you can, use your creativity, your imagination. Make it the story of someone else that you love... whatever works for you, but own the story. 

5- Make sure you concentrate as if you were going to play a football match. It sounds silly, also because I'm a woman and I don't play football but you understand what I say. Take these 15 days previous to the recording as a big momentum for you. Some other things can wait, you can keep on partying hard after you rocked at the studio. Use it as a celebration even but after you've done a great job in there. Limit your intake of alcohol, rest 8 hours per day, eat as healthily as you can. It all adds up to the equation. An instrumentalist may have more freedom in this area, but your voice won't lie.

6- Don't wait till last minute to ask questions about the songs. And maybe you never ask questions. Be humble and work as much as you can with the producer and songwriter. You're building your career, you're not just a lost voice in the universe to which the world owes reverence. Your voice is inevitably attached to your persona and your voice alone and your talent alone won't take you to the places you want to be. We're not in the 90's anymore unless you want to be a plastic pop star. 
Work, work, work. This is a job and if you want a solid career, success will find you working!

7- An unconventional one: be happy. It doesn't matter if the song/s you will be interpreting/recording is/are sad. You need to create a perspective, a place within yourself from where everything is possible. This place facilitates art. Art will inspire you to get the job done. Avoid sad or stressful situations if you can. Enjoy, embrace, deliver. 

8- Get knowledge about sound. At least the basics on recording. You need to be able to listen to yourself and the backing track while recording and have a good mix on your headphones, monitoring is very important for you and you need to be able to communicate with the producer and engineer clearly.

That'd be it for now, I hope you enjoyed it. I know it does not sound extremely technical, but there's a lot to each point and a lot more to say about Recording High Quality Vocals and kind of impossible to resume it all in one part of an article. Again, if you're curious and want to know more we can always arrange a video-call to go deeper!

Will try to keep giving you guys more facts and insights about this wonderful art with more articles as I find time!

  • Default-avatarby Paul Brier

    don't try to tell the producer/engineer what mic is your favorite. I owned a recording studio for over 35 years, and I had some real bozos tell me that they "knew how they were supposed to sound". Sometimes it was holding the ball of an SM58 in their fist, sometimes a person with excess sibilance telling me that a certain AKG414 was "what they use"

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