When I’m going into the recording studio, I forget time. I want it right, more than quick – says Wendy Moten.
Wendy Moten is a seasoned studio and touring session singer and recording artist, singing on records such as ‘All I do’ by Stevie Wonder and Michael McDonald’s ‘No Love to be Found’.
We caught her with her for a chat and asked how she maintains the professional spark in the studio.
I’ve got so many records out there that I wish weren’t out there, because I didn’t know these things then! Now I know how to make a song my own and make it believable.
There is a reason we listen to our favourite songs over and over again; it’s because those artists really dialled in and knew what they were singing about. They knew the message they wanted to get across.
1. It’s not about singing pretty and perfect
When I was a young singer I just wanted to sing the song. But now I really get into it and make it breath and allow it to be organic, instead of just being ‘perfect’.
There were so many songs I just ‘sang’ and now I just hear emptiness. Nowadays I want every note to count and mean something, even the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. It doesn’t have to be the most pretty tone – because pretty tones can be empty. I want to leave an imprint of myself and the message.
2. Get used to the sound of your own voice
Sometimes a session is quick, sometimes it’s slow. Nashville taught us to be quick – but on it! If you’re doing backing vocals, you have to be out within the hour – and it better sound like a hit record! That teachers you how to dial it in real fast.
That’s why young or new singers need to record as much as possible. Everyone’s got Pro-Tools or Garage Band or something. The more you record yourself and the more you hear your voice, the more you understand and get to know your instrument, and the more efficient you will be.
Guys who play instruments know their instrument much more than a vocalist know their voice. That’s because they always have their guitar or bass in their hands. Most times, singers only sing when it’s necessary. I live with a bassist, and our house is filled with all kinds of bass guitars! Instrumentalists are always playing, but singers rarely sing 24/7.
3. Put in the practice to impress the producer
Sometimes singers spend a lot of time being mad because they think they sound great but the producer disagrees!
So, keep practicing, be patient and get better! I have a few vocal coach friends who are nothing alike and have different techniques, and I love that. Diversity is better.
If you’re young or just starting out, maybe you need that one teacher to help ‘dial’ you in and get you to a good place. But after that, mix it up because there are many tools out there that you might need. There is no favourite warm up, anything that just gets our machine moving.
4. Enter the studio with an open heart and open mind
Go into a studio session with patience, an open heart and a willingness to learn and adapt.
This is why I get session calls from all kinds of genres because I can give them what they need, not what I think is best. Unless they ask for my input of course! The first thing I’ll do is ask them, “what do you have in mind?”
If you realise their vision, that phone will keep ringing. But remember, you must learn to leave your ego at the door!
My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry
Debbie Abbott - Skyline Pigeon
Your voice has the tone it takes to capture an audience. You have an ability to make people listen…And that’s what you want them to do, just listen. I would love to hear you sing the song again after trying a few suggestions. 1. Print out the lyrics to this song, 2. Read them without music, connect each note to its lyric, 3. Go to a mirror and sing the song to music looking right into your eyes. Think about the story and what it means. Sing the song with very little movement. Sometimes too much movement takes away from your voice and storytelling.