Some Guidance for Singers and their Producers and Engineers
The first person I need to address here is the producer. Your singer is central to the success of your project. Ask most singers about their studio experience and they will tell you that their vocals were done in a rush, late at night, after 5 days watching the back of the programmer’s head while he/she noodled away on endless plug-ins.
This is about as wrong as you can get. Firstly I would suggest you try and record the vocals early on so that the singer has to do more of the work to get the track to come alive. Second you should leave enough space in the arrangement for the singer to interpret rather than be restricted like dodging bullets masquerading as lots of fiddly little overdubs.
Be nice, be sure of what you and the singer are after – a shared vision at the outset.
Take a huge amount of time getting the headphones just right for the singer’s comfort and confidence. If you can give the singer control over their headphone volume this is a great start.
Study the tips below as you need to play your part here.
Notes for singers:
Don’t be in too much of a hurry . . . music is something we do every day, not a series of career moves . . . that’s my opinion anyway . . . get it right, experiment, find your heart and soul . . .
Sing every day, warm up like you would before you go for a jog . . . your voice box is a muscle . . . keep your mouth shut and hum in long sweeps from the bottom of your range to the top and then down again. Keep this up for 5 minutes. You cannot damage a cold voice this way.
Drink warm drinks when you sing, not cold ones. Avoid too much milk cheese yogurts eggs and chocolate as it binds the tubes in goo, reduces head and chest resonance and makes the voice nasal.
Don’t put the mic stand up so you have to raise your head, it tightens your throat.
If you have normal size hands stand in front of the mic, put your thumb on the end of your nose and stretch out your hand with fingers splayed like you are cocking a snook at someone. When your pinky just touches the front of the mic you are the right distance away . . . no closer . . . Put the pop shield near your face, not near the mic as it won’t work as well.
Pay as much attention to the way you end words and lines as you do to how they start . . . this is a robin secret and sorts out great vocals from good ones . . . it’s like being a sprinter . . . hold your form right to the finish.
Learn your lyrics don’t read them. Pretend you are a stranger to your own song. You are just the carrier of the song to others. Take the song by the hand and walk with it across to the other side where the listeners are standing . . . keep their attention, don’t let them turn away for a second.
The benefit to you comes without trying.
Use your tummy when you sing . . . pull it in as you hold a note or a line . . . a gradual pull in . . . not by breathing, by using your muscles . . . check your shoulders are not heaving up and down as you breathe . . . you should be able to keep your shoulders quite still while you fully inhale and exhale. As any yoga teacher will know, breathing in is automatic, it’s not an effort, you concentrate on breathing out and the breathing in just has to follow.
To develop control over your voice is really easy. You just do two things:
- Any time you like, practise singing various notes for as long as you possibly can with absolutely no vibrato whatever in your voice . . . the vibrato is natural and stopping it uses the muscles at the back of the tongue to strengthen them [I don’t know any other non pornographic way of doing this!]
- Say as much of the Lord’s Prayer or a long poem you know or a song you know at a measured pace without taking a breath notice as you practise over the weeks you will be able to say more and more . . . as you run out of breath, pull that tummy in more . . . you will eke out more words than you think
Take it carefully with the equipment. Get it right.
Commit fully to vocals. Be unselfconscious and unashamed. Check out Big Joe Turner or Janis Joplin on YouTube to see how it’s done. Have no fear.