The recording studio is one of the most unnatural environments to sing in. When we sing live, little imperfections go by in a moment and are unnoticed because of the excitement of a live performance. In the studio however we hear every little error and if it goes on record we will hear them forever. We also need to get used to standing in a studio or vocal booth like a fish in an aquarium (unless you are in your home studio), wearing headphones and singing to a recorded backing track. Here are a few basic hints to help make the experience more productive and enjoyable.
1) Be well prepared – As much as possible know what you want to do with the song. Map out your performance eg Louder on this phrase, vibrato at the end of that phrase, brighter here, softer there etc. Rehearse your performance and make changes if some of your voice quality and phrasing choices don’t feel right. Do all this before the recording session.
2) Take your time – Expect to have to sing the song in whole and in part many times to get the definitive track. You will probably assemble the final performance out of many “takes”. I usually like to record 3 or 4 takes right through, then listen to each and pick out the best verses, chorus, bridge etc and then assemble the best of each into one take. After that you can “punch in” on any small problems you want to fix.
3) Record everything – Some times that first rough take has magic in it and it may take hours to get back to that. If you have someone engineering for you tell them to push record even on the practice takes.
4) Headphones – Try singing with one headphone off to hear yourself partially “dry” (no effects) in the room. Make sure you can hear yourself and the track well. Sometimes it helps to mute some of the instruments to simplify what your hearing in the head phones. I find it easier to sing more in tune to piano or keyboards.
5) Be comfortable – Adjust the mic so you don’t have to sing up to or down to it. Stay hydrated. Drink room temperature water – lots of it.
6) Have fun – Keep a sense of humour and an open mind. Sometimes mistakes sound better than what you had planned.