August PopMark Media/Studio Unknown’s “Confessions of a Small Working Studio”—Beyond Burning Candles: The True Art to Help Singers Get the Most Out of Vocal Sessions

Aug 8, 2011 8:38 PM, By Lisa Horan


Don’t worry. If you’re an engineer or producer, it’s not all on you. This article is not at all suggesting that successful recording sessions are solely your responsibility. Singers still have to do their part to ensure that things go smoothly. Here are a few pointers singers should take into consideration. 

1. Knowledge is power. Even though, as a singer, you’re not expected to understand all of the technical aspects of recording sessions, the more educated you become, the more it helps you to maintain your own sense of personal strength and ability. “A singer who knows nothing about how things work in the recording studio—no matter how many times he has recorded—will have more difficulty repeating good sessions because he won’t know what made it successful,” says Deva, who is the author of numerous books and CDs designed to help singers, as well as the originator of The Deva Method®. “There are so many times that I’ve been in a session with a singer who is having difficulty, and he has no idea what to say or how to fix things, and he is just waiting for someone to rescue him, but no one can because they don’t really understand what he’s going through.” That said, as a singer, you must do your homework to prepare for vocal sessions and be sure to take notes about your experiences in the booth that can be applied the next time you have a session.

2. Speak up. Speak specifically. “If you’re in the vocal booth and you need more or less of something in your headphone mix, you should make sure to explain exactly what you’re looking for,” says Deva. “Do you need more of your vocals? Less guitars? Less percussion? Being specific helps the engineer know what your specific needs are so the engineer can address the problem more effectively and more quickly.” And, Deva says, if all else fails, you should take one ear off of your headset. The bottom line is, if you’re a singer and you’re not getting what you need, it’s up to you to let the producer or engineer know. 

3. Change things up. If it feels difficult at all to sing in front of the mic and the problem isn’t getting resolved quickly, Deva suggests asking the producer or engineer to sing the same section of the song a cappella or off-mic. “Maybe you can sing with music coming out of monitors so the producer can hear you singing the section uninfluenced,” says Deva. “If you do it that way, you’re asking your tech team to problem-solve.” 

4. Be prepared. While this should be a no-brainer, some singers fail to prepare before a recording session, believing that the more spontaneous they are, the more natural the session will be. That’s rarely the case. “Singers should always arrive with their lyrics memorized so they’re not trying to read as they sing because it diminishes the power of the performance,” says Deva. “As a singer, you should know the song so well that it has become part of your story. This will only help you to express it more authentically and grab the listener with your delivery.” Singers should also request a rough mix or basic rhythm track to practice with several days before coming into the studio. And while this certainly won’t be popular with some, to get the most out of a session, singers should refrain from drinking alcohol before a session because it will wind up causing them to push their voices because of dehydration.

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