Getting the recording environment right for vocals always pays off – says Wes Maebe
I’ve come across several recording situations where all the energy and focus has been spent on recording all the instruments.
Weeks or even months are dedicated to recording the backing tracks, overdubs, solos and then at the end of the studio time all eyes turn to the singer who’s expected to deliver the best vocals in the galaxy, for an entire album, in a day or two.
It’s almost like the vocals are an afterthought.
The whole band is lounging around on the couch, goofing around the studio and generally bored because they’ve finished their hard work and want to go out, celebrate the end of the recording process and go on tour.
This is not exactly the most relaxed singing environment.
The Meaning of This Song
Obviously a song is about the music, but if the words and the emotions don’t translate over the speakers, your song is worthless.
The listener needs to be grabbed by a singer’s voice. It’s not only the quality of the voice that’s important, the words and their meaning also need to be clear.
And this is exactly why it is paramount that the singer is in top form when the vocals are recorded.
The singer’s physical condition is pretty much out of the producer’s control, but the recording environment and general atmosphere is another matter entirely.
Singer’s Comfort – Über Alles.
Spreading the vocal recording load goes a long way.
Once the basic backing for a track has been recorded, it’s always worth giving the singer a shot at putting down a couple of takes.
He/She’s been singing along as a guide for the rest of the band, so chances are the voice will be pretty warmed up.
All the juices will be flowing, everybody’s excited about the new song, so you may walk away with a master vocal take.
Making the studio into a comfort zone does wonders too.
Atmospheric lighting, lava lamps and candles can set the perfect mood.
Some vocalists love to sing in an open environment, so you can put them in the live room and baffle the back and the sides to control the acoustics.
Other singers love to be in a cosy vocal booth. Be prepared to go with whatever works and gets the best out of the singer.
The most important thing for me as a producer, when working with singers, is that they feel like a million bucks.
It is the producer’s job to ensure the singer is comfortable, feels important and valuable to the process and that everyone on the other side of the glass is prepared to put serious work into recording their voice.
Providing useful feedback over the talk-back – encouragement, directions – always work much better than “no this one sucked, do it again.”