If you want to record great vocals in a studio or at home, here are my top studio singing 101 tips for successful and fun recording sessions!
The biggest challenge can be learning to translate the energy of a live performance into the more sterile environment of a vocal booth or studio where there are often walls close to you & a mic you can’t hold!
Here are some tips to help you get the best out of any recording session – for originals or covers.
Studio Singing 101 Tips
1. Know what you want & own it!
Feeling comfortable to take or leave advice from engineers, producers etc can help to boost your confidence in the studio.
Being prepared will help too. You should offer reference tracks to show the musicians, producers, engineer of the direction/vibe you are going for.
This can also assist them (or you) in deciding what microphone might be best for the session.
2. Demo first
Try doing rough demos at home (Cellphone/Garageband/Audacity etc) prior to getting into the studio to listen for any elements that could be tweaked.
This can help to work out solutions in advance for any tricky vowels, tonal qualities, enunciation and save you time & money!
3. Develop your storytelling vocal delivery arc
Make sure that the vocal has a natural arc. Avoid giving away too much too early. Like all your best licks/melismas/riffs/runs in the opening lines/first verse.
Delivering the message as succinctly as you can with the emotion behind the song is the focus.
You can then add vocal production, embellishments or backing vocals as a boost.
4. Plan the vocal build
Think about the embellishments/backing vocals/production direction you want in advance, to help with tips two and three.
This will help too solidify your ideas when expressing them to your producer but also so you know what you want!
5. Get a good headphone mix
It takes some time to get used to hearing yourself through the headphones & to get the right balance with the track.
It’s a great idea to take one ear off slightly to hear your voice naturally, as long as the sound doesn’t spill into the microphone.
Talk to your engineer or set things up for yourself so you are comfortable BEFORE you start recording. Adjust as often as necessary throughout your takes!
6. Try to not overdo it!
Aim for three to five takes per phrase or section so that you don’t overdo it.
Overdoing the vocal can lessen the impact of your delivery and tire you out.
Make your focus connecting with the song content, whether it’s your original or a cover. An emotionally charged take with a voice crack is a winner over technical perfection if helps deliver your message better.
7. Physical movement
I often dance around in the studio and pretend I am actually on stage, singing to an audience.
Sometimes I even jog on the spot or do dynamic stretches to amp myself up prior to a take!
I use my hands and smile when I sing, to brighten & lift up the vocal energy. You do need to heighten or exaggerate the emotions in the studio to allow them to translate.
8. Use good mic technique!
Just ‘cos you’re in the studio doesn’t mean you can’t use your mic technique.
Get in a bit closer to get a breathier more intimate vocal or step back a tad when you are belting. You can even move between these points and still maintain the proximity the mic needs to capture your vocal.
Use a pop filter to help lessen the impact of:
Fricatives – F, TH
Plosives – P, B, G, T, K,
Sibilants – S, Z, SH, CH
A good engineer will help guide this process as well but you need to come as ready as possible knowing your mic technique skills!
9. Change of scenery
Try changing the environment to help flick a mental switch if you are having problems in the booth.
Try to record in a different room – either at home or if there is the option of changing booths in the studio you are working in. This is not always an option so even just a break or a walk to change the scenery may help you to reconnect with your song.
Even dimming the lights or removing any distractions (band members can be encouraged to use your vocal recording time to go grab a cup of tea!) if that’s what helps.
Make sure you can relax, by taking your time and by being as prepared as you can be vocally (well rested voice that has been coached ideally!).
It helps to be sure everyone is on the same page creatively as to where you want to take the song.
If you are just by yourself, make sure YOU know what you want so that you can enjoy the experience (see above about setting the scene & removing distractions).
Take breaks when you need them. If you are working with others, ask for what you want so you’re not tense and feel comfortable. If you need a break, water, rest – whatever – make sure you have what you need.
Studio Singing 101 Vocal Care Tips
All the time but ideally at least 3 days prior to getting into the studio:
- Rest/Sleep/Limit talking
- Nutrition – Avoid dairy, spicy, dehydrating foods & drinks (ie; coffee & alcohol)
- Warm up your voice & body daily
- Use your technique
Studio Singing 101 Vocal Technique Tips
Things that can help create your signature sound & deliver a killer studio performance:
Phrasing – knowing how to & utilising conscious phrasing & logical places to take a breath, can help shape the conversation with your audience & define your signature vocal style.
Vocal Skill – have solid vocal technique to lean on. Work with a vocal coach prior to getting into the studio. Some will work with you in the studio as well. This is an area I love working in & plan to delve into further in the future as part of my artist development/coaching plans.
Diction – Understand how diction can help deliver your message & make singing easier both technically & emotionally.
Dynamics – makes a performance exciting & engages the listener in the journey the song is taking them on.
Vocal Arrangement/Production – can really set you apart creatively & vocally – you can create ideas yourself or work with a vocal arranger/producer to help you arrange backing vocals, strengthen your song through phrasing & vocal skills, amongst other things.
Here is a behind the scenes view of me in the studio. The audio you hear is just from the camera so you can hear all the background noise and none of the backing track that we are using!
There’s us talking and even stopping the session to restart a take. It’s good to see how things REALLY look and sound without effects, auto tune or any music even – the voice out there all on it’s own!
Ok, this is a LOT of information to take in! If you have any other tips that you have & want to share, please leave a comment below! The same goes for questions – shout out!
The happiest of Studio Singing sessions to you!