Producing The First Musical Instrument… YOU! (SO SING THEN!!!)

So I wrote a blog about setting up your home studio and some of the things you may want to look out for to get started. It was based on getting started with the bare minimum to moderate understanding and money. Now I wanted to focus a little on the vocalists in this blog.

As a producer, I have been/am blessed to work with a beautiful range of uber talented singers/songwriters. These people have taught me a lot about how to make recordings because they’ve always shown me ME! To those who I have had the pleasure of pushing the record button for, I thank you.

I always like to help out as much as I can to get each singer to their next level because changing up my mindset and ideas to fit each singer (every one is different), allows me to reach and push. So.. in this blog I wanted the singers to think more like producers/musicians/engineers when they go in the studio or to record.

Experiment Experiment and Experiment MORE

I can’t stress the importance of finding out what your vocals sounds like. By experimenting you will hear the different tones and resonances that can come out of you. If you have a smart phone with a “voice recorder”, USE IT! Know what you sound like in headphones. On the big speakers. In the car.

There are apps like Take App for iPhone users. Or Music Maker Jam App for Android users. Again these are apps that will allow you to practice producing your vocals. The iPhone and Samsung phones have really good quality microphones to get good recordings. Either of these devices can give you a quality reference of what you sound like. Both of these apps are FREE!

If you have an iPad, iPad Mini, iPod Touch, Or iPhone you have A REALLY GOOD TOOL for recording your demos. Sorry Android Users. I haven’t used any of the android apps for music production. But for iOS users check this out. Garage Band is your friend! Especially for writing and demo purposes. This app allows you to not only do vocal work but even tinker out chord structures and beats if you sit down with it long enough. This DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is super easy to use! I’ve added the iRig Pro (as my iPads interface) and a controller to be able to do full mobile production.

But hey, IT’S NOT ABOUT ME RIGHT? You have 32 tracks to work out all of your vocal parts with Garage Band by Apple. There are all kinds of tutorials on YouTube to get you started. Again.. Experimentation is the key. One thing to keep in mind. You can transfer files to a cloud or back-up to your computer.

If you want to use your original demo vocals in your recording, you may want to record somewhere that has very little background noise such as a closet or your car.(depending on how noise proof your car is) … Again you have to think like a producer/engineer to get the cleanest recording from your devices.

Practice Your Craft

Just like any other craft, you have to practice recording your vocals. You have to learn how to think more like a musician and a producer when it comes to recording your songs and then put this thinking into application. Practice singing the bass lines to songs. Learn the horn parts to your favorite jams, or keyboard parts.. learn to beatbox.. YES BEATBOX! ALL MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS ARE IMITATIONS OF THE HUMAN BODY. So why not imitate what imitates YOU? Besides, Bobby McFerrin won 10 Grammys for imitating instruments that imitate him. Just sayin… He used his vocals as/like a jazz musician. Again. This is a mindset.

From Stage To The Studio

So now here is where I get all the folks who “grew up sangin in da church” upset. There are a lot of bad habits that form when singing without proper tutelage. I, like most of you, don’t/didn’t have a vocal coach (I AM IN NO WAY A SINGER. I IMITATE MY INSTRUMENT WITH WORDS) to get me to practice good habits such as proper breathing techniques, posture, what to eat and drink before a performance and to wrap my neck up when it’s cold outside, and the beauty of echinacea tea and honey to warm my vocal chords up. Most of the church folk have been told as long as you got people shouting then “you must be anointed”! There is a tendency to sing loud and “full of spirit”.. this is wrong. How do I know? As a producer it can be heard in the recording. And the “truth shall set you free” by listening to the play-back! Your bad habits and lack of knowing your audio nuances will be caught on the recording. Now as a producer I can just edit all of this stuff out, right? Yes.. but trust me.. this takes time … time YOU will have to pay for. Just saying…

Studio recording is about finesse and precision balanced with emotional content. This is more about the marathon not the sprint. You will have to do your parts over and over and over and over and over again. If you are singing the way you do in church your voice may be SHOT within an hour or two. The stage, however, is a place where those listening will forget/forgive the bad notes and worn voice because they are caught up in the over all experience of your show. Your bad habits may be great for the stage… but definitely NOT for making a quality recording.

My hope is that this tidbit of perspective will save you time, money and enhance your journey called music. I hope that you are able to think in terms of know how to produce your own vocals. I would strongly recommend hanging out with producers on their sessions to get a reference on how they produce music. This would allow you to get an idea of a big picture when it come to the finished product and how you can go along to speed the process up… and a perspective on how YOU’D produce YOU.