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Old 8th July 2009
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Originally Posted by six_wax View Post
How do you get the performance you want out of your vocalists? Are there techniques you use to get them in the right head space to sing? Any tips on making them comfortable? How do you know if you've gotten the best performance a singer can offer?

I'm working with a phenomenally talented singer-songwriter right now. We've heard her kill it on (sadly bleed sullied & unusable) scratch tracks and live, but she's psyching herself out when we go to do vocals! Any suggestions?
The approach to getting great vocals is different with every artist. Some singers respond to very detailed feedback..."you're a bit flat on the 2nd line of the chorus" or "you need to push it more, give it more emotion"...other singers internalize feedback too much and start to over think what they are doing,and the performance gets too clinical. The trick is to understanding how to get them in a zone, so they are relaxed and uninhibited.

I like to go for full takes when I start, and not give too much feedback. Sometimes you'll get what you need from the live takes, and make a great comp from it.
Sometimes as we work on the song, I'll start to break it down by section, and give the singer much more feedback. You can usually tell right away if they are getting better or worse as you focus, and I have to adjust the feedback accordingly.

Hopefully you get enough great takes to make a comp. I like to work from 6-8 strong performances. Sometimes more if I want more options, sometimes only 3 or 4.

You should see my comp sheets, they are pretty weird looking. I make little checks and X's for each line on every take, as they record it. I make darker checks if a line is really great. Lighter checks for good, X's if I heard something I didn't like.

Vocal comps are one of the most mentally draining things I do in the studio. I listen line by line, sometimes word by word, for attitude, pitch, and phrasing.

I also don't like singers to listen to themselves when doubling. I'd rather have them sing another take as a lead vocal, and use that as the double. Sometimes when they listen to their own voice, they change the tone of how they sing to match the original, and it can get kind of weird sounding.

Vocals are the most "human" part of recording, and the most fragile!

Good luck!