Vocal Session Preparation — Important!

Lets face it — preparation for anything tends to be kind of a bitch. Practicing all the parts of the music to a metronome, setting up microphone stands, setting levels/compressors/effects, laying carpets and other ghetto ways to deaden ugly frequencies. All in hopes that it will make your music sound sexier.

Last summer, while recording my band a few demo tracks, I seriously underestimated how long it would take to prep for each recording session. It was the sole reason our demo project turned into a rush job, and our recordings definitely suffered because of it!

Vocals, in particular, were a super-robo-bitch. It figures I’d find an article giving advice on how to prepare effectively NOW, and not 6 months ago. Anyway, this little ditty makes some excellent points that I’d like to share!

Microphones

1. WRITE DOWN THE LYRICS!! There’s nothing worse than a singer showing up for a session thinking he knows all the words and starts brain farting all over what could have been some great takes.

2. Set up the microphone prior to the session. The microphone should be positioned accordingly and the preamp levels should be set to some sort of baseline level so only minor adjustments need to be made once the sesh starts.

3. Patch reverb into the monitoring chain. Not necessary but it helps the singer and you get an idea of how the track will sound in the final mix

4. Digital sessions are organized and ready for playback. In the actual project file in whatever sequencer you are using (ProTools, Sonar, Cubase, etc), make sure to create several empty tracks in advance so time isn’t wasted moving things around during the session. Also, make sure you are able to playback the entire mix when needed – freeze some tracks if necessary!

5. IMPORTANT – MAKE SURE THE VOCALIST IS COMFORTABLE. Keep extra people, friends, enemies away from the session. The last thing a vocalist will want to hear is people cracking jokes about the session. Make refreshments available too! (water, wine, lemon juice, whatever their preference).

6. Don’t make them practice too long beforehand. Vocalists tend to give their best performances during the 1st hour of recording. Don’t waste it with a bunch of do-re-me’s.

7. NO Negative Feedback! Don’t tell a vocalist that a take was bad, or flat, or sharp, or poopydoodies. He/she will most likely start to hate you. Keep everything positive, compliment them when you hear something you like and ask them what THEY thought of the take if you thought something was off. Usually they will admit it.

8. Is the material ready? Are the melodies tight, rehearsed and polished accordingly? Is the singer satisfied with the arrangement of the lyrics? These questions must be addressed pre-session. I know from experience with my band because we skipped this vital step and ending up having to tailor some things here and there. This took lots of time, and our recordings suffered.

“Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity” -Henry Hartman

_chris

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