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How to Record - Preparing your vocals for the Studio

A post here for singers who have had none or else little experience of recording in a studio.

If you have never recorded in a studio before it is natural to feel nervous, any environment you have not spent time in can bring up anxiety. It is understandable given you may not know what will be expected of you.

Firstly, a good studio with a good engineer or vocal producer will likely be very experienced with the kinds of concerns you have and will know you are nervous and will be primarily concerned with helping you feel better, they will want to help you to settle in.

A good vocal producer will want you to be relaxed, because that makes his or her's job easier, it will make the recording run smoother and the results better.

Many experienced producers will have a bag of tricks up their sleeves to deal with your nerves, anything from an initial informal chat about whatever you like, to setting up the environment to please you, adjusting room temperatures or the best position for your performance to be recorded. If your producer is good, it is all about you, so if you can, enjoy this pampering.

That said, recording - especially if you want great results is both time-consuming and demanding work. What you listen to on the radio has usually taken hours, maybe even days to record and any amount of studio wizardry to manipulate and squeeze the best possible performance out of the singer.

You should be prepared to work on the finer details of your performance and not be surprised or concerned if it takes a long time. Actually while this can be challenging and tiring, when the vibe is happening, it can be exciting and very rewarding, it's just not necessarily...immediate.

It makes sense then that you are as rehearsed as you possibly can be. You do not want to waste studio time on work you could have done on your own time, learning your lyrics so well that you do not need to look at them is one less thing to worry about and will free you up to perform. Likewise, knowing the song - the arrangement, its emotional thrust, the key lines and deliveries again means that come the studio, you can focus on knocking your performance out of the park and capture something special.

Obviously it makes some sense to be rested, to not be hungover or bleary eye'd, not to have just consumed a giant indigestion inducing meal or to drink beverages that will tighten your vocal chords or stress you physically. Smoking benefits few singers tonally and caffeine is probably best avoided as are overly salty foods, both of which will dry you out.

My recommendation is warm water with honey, which lubricates the throat and fights infections, it may sound boring, but unless you have the budget for return sessions, financially astute.

Likewise, prepare your materials. If you need a lyric sheet, make sure it is clear, accurate and easy to read...and that you bring it.

The same with sheet music for the pianist or yourself, if you can, forward these things to the producer or musician via email, prior to the session. Worst case scenario, if you do forget these things, they can print off copies on the day with little loss of time.

If you are going to be working to a backing track that you are to provide, again, send this to the producer prior to the session, ensure ahead of time that it plays ok in the studio sequencer and that there are no incompatibility or technical issues to worry about. If the producer is to provide this, he or she should send to you for your approval and to ensure the key and tempos are good.

When you first start recording, things will feel a bit weird.

We can be so used to hearing our own voices in our head that it can be rather disconcerting to hear them coming down a pair of headphones or listening back in the cold, unforgiving environment of a pair studio monitors.

Singers, rarely, if at all ever like their own voices, it seems to go with the territory. Our voices are so personal that it can be horrifyingly brutal to realise we do not sound just like our favourite pop stars or other hugely successful performers.

Be prepared for that and be prepared to work with what you have.

The producer will work with you to help you achieve the best you can on that day and with a little faith and some simple adjustments huge improvements can be made, remember the studio is essentially an operating theatre, it needs to be sterile and might open up a few wounds, however the work we put in here means that on the outside the results are shining, sparkling and flawless.

If you are mulling over the idea of recording but are being put off for any reason, hopefully this will have helped a little. Certainly here at W.V.R, we try hard to make your experience a triumph every time and you are welcome to contact me directly through our contact form, we can certainly talk about the session prior to you coming or even arrange a visit so you can look around and decide if we are right for you.

Good Luck!

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