Vocal Guide

Check out a handy vocal guide, which will help you with your vocals in and out of the studio. From warm-ups to rehearsal, from live performance to the studio. It has useful tips for every singer.

Useful tips...to save time and money

- Most singers need to have some type of basic warm-up routine, even if very basic. Make sure your routine always includes the same basic passages or exercises so you'll be able to judge where your voice is in relation to where it normally is.
- Practice singing in front of a mirror. This will help you notice posture, airflow, facial expressions, and overall how you appear to your audience.
- Try not to hold your breath when you're singing. You want the air to flow freely through your diaphragm and back out.
- Open your mouth! If you can learn to sing with your mouth "very" wide open, you will hit clearer notes and sing more strongly and cleanly overall.
- Consider singing as part of a group, even if your main interest is solo work. It can really open up your ears to singing better on pitch and blending your voice to match other sounds.
- Keep your vocal chords moisturized. Drink lots of water or liquids at room temperature.
- Avoid strange remedies for your voice. If you train among singers, you will undoubtedly hear strange concoctions of beverages and even over the counter medications to improve vocal stamina or help a fatigued voice. These will do more harm than good. Sometimes simple vocal rest is needed.
- Remember that your vocal chords are instruments and they must be cared for as such. Be sure to get proper rest and do not shout or scream for long periods of time before a vocal performance.
- Don't just mouth the words of a song in time with music … SING from the bottom of your heart and soul. By pouring your heart, your passion, and your emotion into every line, you can spiritually take your listeners right into the throne room of God.
- When singing notes that are very high in your vocal range, don't be afraid to modify the vowel sounds a bit if you are singing solo. For example, the "a" in "far" could be sung where it sounds like it is between an "a" and an "e".
- Avoid tracks (or sheet music, for that matter) that are outside of your vocal range. 

Recording can be an expensive and even daunting process. Here are some tips to help you better maximize your time in the studio and minimize your stress and expenses.

- Have all songs written and parts figured out and assigned before coming into the studio. Don’t waste valuable studio time and money on things you can easily do at home or at your rehearsal space. This point cannot be stressed enough. In the studio, time is money.
- If you are sequencing tracks or using beats, have them ready to go on a CD or hard drive before coming in.
- Practice, practice, practice! The tighter your songs are, the smoother the recording of them will be and the better the end result.
- Prepare a minimum of 25-30% more songs than you plan to actually use on the final product. Allow yourself a few throw-aways for the songs that aren’t up to snuff with the rest of the album.
- Come into the studio well rested, clear headed, and ready to work. Recording is a physically and mentally demanding process. Bring plenty of water and food.
- Change guitar strings and drum heads the day before coming into the studio and bring extra sets of everything, including drumsticks.
- Bring in your own rig. If you are a guitarist and want to capture the sound you get from the daisy chain of your guitar, pedals, and amp then be sure to bring your entire setup in. Experimenting with studio instruments, amps, and pedals is fine if you’re not set on what you want for a sound, but put a time limit on it. Let the engineer and producer, who are much more familiar with their own gear, assist you in finding the sound you are looking for.
-Discuss production ideas ahead of time, and set aside reference CDs that serve as good examples of production styles you are striving for.
-Make a budget of how much money you have to spend on your project. Estimate how many hours you think it will take to complete your project in its entirety. Most musicians grossly underestimate how fast they think they can record their project. Depending on the band, a full length CD could take anywhere from 20 hours on the low end up to 50 hours or more on the high end. Variables to consider are how much recording experience the band has, how long the band has been playing together, and how elaborate of a production is desired.

- Stow all instrument cases and other items not needed for the session either back in your car or in an out of the way nook of the studio. Keep the floor space as uncluttered as possible, and set up allotting a comfortable amount of space between band members.
- Wait in the control room while each member sets up individually and is given their sound check. Keep talking to a minimum to allow the engineer to focus and hear everything that is going on in the soundcheck.
- After everybody has been soundchecked, a headphone soundcheck will be conducted. In a similar fashion, the engineer will proceed by instructing each individual how to produce their headphone mix.

- Mentally block out all of the microphones and gear surrounding you. Stay relaxed and play naturally. Put emotion and feeling into your performance.
- Stay focused. The studio is an expensive place to party. Refrain from texting and other recreational activities. Don’t invite guests to your sessions – they will only serve as a distraction and may try to inject their opinions. Avoid unnecessary phone calls. Stay focused on the task at hand.
- Do more than one take of every song, but limit it to 3 takes. Odds are if you haven’t hit the performance you are looking for in 3 takes, you are not going to. Move onto another song and come back to that one if time allows.
- LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN! When you think you have a song in the can, come into the control room and listen to each take of it before moving on. Do not assume a take was good enough without listening to it just because “it felt right”. Get the sound and performance you are looking for. Don’t assume that you can fix things in the mix.
- Tune up in between each take.
- Consult with the engineer before recording with effects.
- Defer to the engineer in terms of recording process and performance quality. They are much more experienced in a studio setting than you are and have finely-tuned, objective ears that can hear things you may miss (i.e. flat notes, bad chords, tempo changes, etc.).

- Bring in CDs that you like sound of for references.
- Mix at a moderate volume.
- Don’t mix on the same day you record.
- Keep chatter and noise to a minimum. Listen attentively to what is coming out of the monitors. Don’t distract the engineer or one another.
- Take small, five or ten minute breaks between songs. Go outside or to another room where it is quiet to give your ears a break.
- Mix down sessions should be limited to 8 hours to ensure your ears stay relatively fresh.
- Listen for random noises, such as lip smacking, foot tapping, digital “crumbs”, etc. These annoyances will be amplified when compression is added. Listen for them with headphones and remove them as you discover them.
- Listen for the overall balance between instruments. Think about the song as a whole. Not every instrument can be front and center. Mixing is about compromise. There is a natural tendency for musicians to want their own levels to be raised even when it may not be what the song calls for. Do what is best for the song as a whole.
- If the entire band is present at mix down sessions, appoint a spokesperson to be the liaison between the band and the engineer. Discuss your mix ideas amongst yourselves before coming into the studio and convey them to the engineer at the beginning of the session. Work out differences as a band, and don’t put the engineer in the middle as a referee.
- Trust the engineer / producer! They are much better trained to mix your record than you are. Don’t expect to get each mix right the first time around. Bring home CDs of your mixes and listen on as many different stereo systems as possible – especially boom boxes, moderately priced home stereos, and car stereos. These are the places people are most likely to listen to your CD. Experiment with different volumes, but be sure to include low, soft volumes too. Make notes of your observations and bring them with you to your next session so you can tweak the mix. You may have to repeat this two or three times before you end up with what you consider the perfect mix.