After a decade of recording songs, I've learned that the most important part of the recording process is how you prepare for it. Being as prepared as possible will boost your confidence, improve your performance, and earn you the respect of the studio professionals you hired to help make your music project a success. Here are six tips to ensure you nail your recording session every time.
1. Book your best time
Schedule your recording session at an optimal time for your voice. If you're not a morning person, don't schedule a morning recording session just because it was the earliest date the studio could fit you in. Avoid scheduling a session during a time of day when you would not ordinarily be talking, let alone singing. Pinpoint the hours of the day when you naturally sing the most, and try to book your session within that time frame.
2. Know your stuff
Practice your song in advance to perfect the lyrics and song structure. Memorize the lyrics and know the musical elements of the song before you arrive to the studio. The sound engineer will ask you for the song key, chord changes, beats per minute, and other relevant information. If you licensed or purchased the track from a producer, ask him or her for this information. Be prepared to answer as many questions as you can, and provide the engineer with a rough recording of your song to use as a blueprint to follow.
3. Be well rested
Singing is fun, but it takes a lot of energy. Recording a song can be a tedious process that can drain even the most energetic people. Rest your body and your voice before your scheduled session. You won't be happy with the outcome of your song if you cannot give your best vocal performance due to fatigue. There are also a lot of technical aspects to the art of recording that require mental alertness, such as reviewing each vocal track in order to provide editing direction. If you're too tired, you'll need to schedule an additional session to finish up another day.
4. Prep physically and mentally
Bringing your "A" game has a lot to do with preparing your mind and body. Envision yourself executing a flawless performance to help ease anxiety and increase your confidence. Dress in layers of comfortable, non-restrictive clothing. Do breathing exercises and stretch to relax your body before the session. Practice vocal warm-ups before and during the session to relax your vocal cords. You'll be amazed at how doing simple exercises, like yawning, will open up your voice and improve the way you sound.
5. Bring tools of the trade
Come to your session with everything you need to be successful. This includes copies of your lyric sheets, a flash drive with your music stems, your iPod with an MP3 of the rough recording, throat spray, water, tea, and healthy snacks. Don't assume the studio is going to be equipped with anything you need, don't trust you'll remember every part of the song, and don't count on the engineer to have what he or she should (even if you sent it ahead of time). Preparing for any scenario eliminates the chance of wasting time and money.
6. Speak up
If you don't like the sound of your vocal tracks, the sound of the mix, or you're physically uncomfortable in the studio, tell your engineer so he or she can make changes. You're the client, and your feedback is expected. (After all, the better your session goes, the more likely you'll be to return for future projects and promote the studio's services to others!) The room temperature can be adjusted to your liking, the microphone can be moved to a more comfortable height, and many other things can be done to ensure you have an excellent recording experience. It's your music, so you have to be happy with the sound of the mix.
What are some other vocal recording tips you've found helpful? Let us know in the comments!
Shanon Lee is a professional writer and independent recording artist. Her bylines include The Huffington Post, MariaShriver.com, xoJane.com, and many other digital publications. While recording her second EP, Shanon also provides consultation to aspiring singers and music recording studio owners that wish to expand their business.