Recording Tips for Singers

If you’re a singer and want to sound better in the studio, here are 9 recording tips for singers I’ve learned from my time spent in the studio. This video is meant for singers, (not producers) and is based on my opinion from my own recording. I hope you find it helpful next time you go to record.

Like anything, recording vocals is a skill and you get better at it, the most you do it.

Nicola x

Here are my 9 recording tips

1. Drink lots of water before hand and in-between takes

Hydration. This is the easiest way to give your voice a boost on the day, so why wouldn’t you…

But seriously, drinking plenty of water before and during studio sessions can significantly reduce the risk of vocal fatigue, which means you can sing better for a longer session and reducing the need for extensive post-production correction due to inconsistencies in vocal quality.

Some singers swear by room temperature or warm water as cold water can tense the vocal muscles, but I’ve personally never found cold water to be an issue and find it quenches my thirst better. So just go with what suits your needs.

2. Take the time to make sure the mic is comfortable to sing into 

Don’t let anyone rush you in this step. Take the time to make sure the microphone position feels as natural as possible to sing into. Make sure the space around is roomy enough. I personally don’t like being squashed or too hot when I’m singing so I pick studios that have a slightly larger space for the vocal booth without a bunch of clutter. It’s all personal choice.

Also, feel free to do a sound check to make sure you’re happy with how you sound.

3. Don’t be afraid to move around

Your producer will stick you in a position that is perfect for recording and will fuss over getting the mic close enough/ just at the right level blah blah blah… and this used to freak me out. I thought I couldn’t move and so my singing came out stiff. Now I know that those mics are powerful enough to pick everything up even when I’m moving around and grooving to the beat.

Don’t be afraid to move. Your singing will sound better for it. 

4. Take the time to get your mix just right

You will often be given a little mixer of your own so you can adjust the volume of the other instruments and your voice. I like to do a sound check so I can hear how it sounds at both soft and loud volumes, similar to how you would on stage.

 

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for a drop in 

This depends on your producer, but some like to make you sing the whole take all over again when all you really need is a drop-in (ie they start the recording a bar or two before the spot you want to re-record). I prefer this because otherwise I wear my vocals out repeating sections that are already good and then I stress out about getting the ‘spot’ just right and often stuff it up anyway.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a gazillion drop ins if you need to – also good for when you’re doing harmony. I don’t like too much run up. I like to sing the harmony in my head then have them drop me in quickly before I forget it.

 

6. Sing with one ear in and one ear out of the headphones 

When I first started recording, singing with headphones on felt WEIRD. You do get used to it over time, and it also depends on the headphones, but sometimes I’ll move one side away from my ear a bit so I can hear myself ‘outside’ the headphones if that makes sense! It can help.

7. Ask for a little bit of reverb on your vocals

Vocal booths are designed to be dead spaces in that there is NO reverb or external noise. This allows for the best capture of your voice, but for a singer, you most likely won’t like how your voice sounds in there. We all like a bit of reverb!

So I get the producer to add a bit to my headphones so I feel like I’m singing really well… and when you think you sound good, you usually sing better. If you think you sound crap, you lose confidence and strain your voice and it all comes out sounding poo.

 

8. Be fussy about your microphone choice

When you hire a producer and a studio, you’re also hiring that space and the gear they have invested in. That means they should have at least two really quality microphones for you to choose from. Not all mics are created equal. Some bring out different qualities in a voice. The trick is to learn what your voice needs and then to go with the microphone that best suits you. For example, I need more mid-range in my voice and less low end so I choose a microphone that does this without being too high end and losing the rich low qualities.

9. Practice enough before hand

You’d think this one was obvious… but I’m going to say it anyway. Practice all your songs before hand so you know them without thinking… then on the day you can just focus on the emotion.

That means, recording yourself on your phone and listening back for things like your phrasing, dynamics, articulation etc… and of course… if you can’t remember your lyrics without a cheat sheet, you haven’t learned the song enough. Keep practicing! 

So those are my 9 pro tips for getting the most out of your recording session. I hope they help you next time you’re in the studio – whether that be a home one, or a hired studio. Have fun! 

Nicola x 

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