author: Mikkee June
So You Wanna Be A Vocal Producer…
…Or maybe you don’t. But, Picture this: you’re sitting in the studio with an artist and you’re having to go over the same line, or phrase, or even note over and over. The artist is overwhelmed, which is causing them to get frustrated, which is slowing down progress. How do you help? I got you.
The Singer Is Likely In Their Own Head!
So many have imposed their own views onto what singing “should be” that oftentimes those influences can get in the way of your singer being who they are. When a singer becomes concerned with how they will be percieved, they often find themselves creating their own problems in the process. The first step is to identify the problem, that’s where this article comes in hand. There are a few pitfalls that even some of the best singers can find themselves falling into. Here are 3 of the most common problems that singers find themselves facing, and what you can do to help:
- They’re nervous
- They’re approaching the note incorrectly
- They’re singing too loud
Now, I can hear some of you thinking, not my artist. Yes, sometimes even your artist. Artists, especially new ones, are under a lot of pressure and as confidently as they present themselves at any given moment, they are human. Sometimes the issue that they’re having with that note is as simple as being unsure they can hit it. A major indicator that the singer is dealing with this particular issue is a vocal crack, or just an obvious shift in vocal presence when they go for the note. What can you do? Make sure that they know that your studio is a judgement-free zone where they can feel comfortable trying new things and experimenting. Try not overreacting to mistakes, and try gassing them up as needed throughout the session.
Matt note: sometimes being silly or goofy in the studio can help an artist get out of their own head. Sometimes I ask the singer for a song they enjoy singing, I start singing it myself (badly) and get them to join in.
2. The Wrong Approach To The Note
This definitely falls under the umbrella of the psychology of singing. Sometimes, when a singer is in the flow of things they come up to a big interval jump and they aren’t quite nailing it. This could be because they are not approaching the note correctly. Most often, they are focusing too strongly on the interval between the notes as opposed to focusing on the notes themselves. This causes them to approach the top note from ‘underneath’ which causes too much tension and doesn’t allow them to land on the note. What can you do? It’s as simple as recommending that they imagine the notes are closser than they are. This will allow them to switch their focus from the space between the notes onto the notes themselves. This will set the singer up to sucessfully land on the top note rather than straining to reach up to it and singing flat.
3. Too Loud: Dialed to 100
People often believe that loud singing equals good singing. Only very recently have the likes of Billie Eilish and Sabrina Claudio made it okay to embrace the softer and gentler charcteristicts of the voice. With the old school mentality being what it is, you will find artists who are doing their best to emulate the voices of Adele and Beyoncé. Loudness in singing means adding weight to the voice. The more weight in the voice, the more difficult it can be for a singer to move their voice from note to note. This can affect the singer’s speed, nimbleness, tuning and, without the proper techinque, can result in straining the throat which can damage the vocal chords. What can you do? Encouage the artist to give a little less. Start by having them sing quietly and have them increase their volume little by little until you find the sweet spot. Working with them to find a happy medium will result in a smooth line and less risk of longterm damage.
You are a team
These are just some of the most common things you’ll come across when working with a vocalist in the studio. The number one thing that you can do is remember that you are a team. You both want the session to be smooth and successful.