Updated: Jul 18, 2019
This is part 2 of the “Recording vocals, how to improve your performance” article. In part to 1 we covered how headphones setups can impact a vocal recording. In this article, we’ll look at the psychological aspects of vocal recording.
Singing is a very personal thing, especially if the song’s lyrics have been written by the singer. It can be daunting, even for experienced singers to record in the studio, where every detail of their vocal can be heard and scrutinised. With this in mind, it is good practice to not harshly criticize a singer whilst they are recording, especially as they start recording. Doing this could destroy the creative vibe, making the singer close up their throat and feel inadequate. It is always a good idea to let the singer record many takes in the beginning of the session, even if they are singing badly, as they could just be warming and getting comfortable with the situation. If they continue to sing badly after this period, then there are several approaches to take to get a better performance out of them. Firstly, check the headphone mix. As covered in the previous article, a bad headphone setup can through off even experienced singers. If the headphones are not the issue, then have the singer hear their best takes back to see if they notice how they are singing bad (be it out of key, out of time, with inccorect dynamics, bad tone etc...), as they may simply have not noticed the mistakes whilst recording. Remember to always be encouraging and positive when sharing your thoughts on the vocal performance, even if they are criticisms.
Here are a couple of further tips
Avoid telling a singer that they are flat or sharp. If you tell them that they are flat, they will go sharp to compensate and vice versa. Rather tell them that they are singing out of key.
When they do a great take, be sure to let them know, they will feel more confident and be more willing to record more takes, giving more to work with.
When they are performing badly, use phrases such as “I’ve heard you sing it better”, “I believe you can do better” instead of “That was a bad take”. This provides encouragement whilst providing a bit of a motivational push.
Try these tips out to see the improvements that they can make when recording a vocalist.