5 Ways to Improve Your Session Singing

As the digital creation and consumption of music has become more widespread, the goals of several aspiring recording artists have become more attainable. Before the emergence of ProTools, Logic, Reason and other digital platforms, it was cost prohibitive to build an in-home studio. Prior to the digital age, recording yourself meant building a studio with equipment that cost thousands of dollars. Furthermore, we ain’t talking about basic equipment for which use is intuitive.  Even after purchase, I had to spend more money and/or time learning how to work the stuff!

Oooh but tap your neighbor, and say: “thank God for Jesus” LOL! Thanks to the digital age, I can produce quality recordings on my own using only a laptop, a quality microphone, and some sort of interface. Though record labels, retailers and artists have lost a great deal of money on physical sales, it’s now much easier and affordable to be considered: “a recording artist.”

I’m not writing to from a place of prominence or out of the acclaim I have achieved. The truth is that I haven’t YET mustered a hit record or been given a platform comparable to that of Kirk Franklin, Myron Butler, Donnie McClurkin, Marvin Sapp, Yolanda Adams or the like. However, I am an adept session singer. I’m passionate about making background and session vocals sound SWEET, and herein lies the purpose of this blog. Below are 5 simple ways to improve your session singing:

  1. Before you book any studio time, or spend hundreds of dollars on equipment, spend time practicing for free! There are several programs available to you that will allow you to further develop your ability to match yourself. **The greatest and most time efficient studio singers sing with good intonation, blend well with others (and themselves), and learn quickly.
  2. When recording background vocals, there are several things that can make or break your blend, or distract from your sound collectively. Take time to determine where you will breathe, how you will pronounce vowels, how long you will hold notes, where you will add vibrato, how you will sustain notes with diphthongs (i.e. when sustaining the word “hold” you can either hold on the “oh” vowel, or on the “ooo” vowel that occurs naturally before you pronounce the “d.”), and how you will use dynamics. All these things matter! **The greatest background vocalists are more concerned with how their tone and melodic choices affect the unit than how they sound individually.
  3. When recording leads and/or ad libs, don’t limit yourself lyrically or to any certain melodic idea. Practice your lead and ad lib a variety of ways. Your ideas will always sound different on tape than they did in your head. If one concept, line, or melody doesn’t sound good on your voice after several takes, or if it doesn’t evoke the right emotion from the listener… CHANGE IT UP!
  4. Keep a positive attitude! Don’t discount the influence of a winning disposition! Your outlook can be the difference between a productive or nonproductive session.
  5. Lastly, before you begin the session: GET PREPARED! Unless you’re rich and/or never plan to anything aside from your recording, time and money are always important considerations. Be sure to learn the form, the chord changes, BGV harmonies etc. before you step into the booth. Why pay someone to watch you rehearse?! ;0)

Again, you can take my advice with a grain of salt. I am by no means the only authority on background vocal production. However, for 1 or 2 of you, I hope the above information aids you in producing the BEST possible results!

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Seasons

Several weeks ago, on Father’s Day, my Pastor began a series titled, “God’s Mandate for God’s Men.” It was intended to be a supplement to a series Co-Pastor began on Mother’s Day, titled: “Significant Wisdom for Significant Women.” For this series he used Psalm 1 as his sermonic text. Psalm 1 is a very short, yet very familiar passage of scripture. In fact, I presume anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time in church or in private study has considered this passage on several occasions in several translations.

Though I’ve read this passage several times in my own private time, and heard several sermons preached with it as the focus, something struck me when Pastor got down to verse 3:

“…He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper” [Psalm 1 NKJV]

On several occasions in scripture, we see the connection between those who are obedient to God and the abiding favor of God. But for some reason, at this time in my life, this particular occurrence stands out in front of the rest. The author of this passage promises anyone who delights in the law of the Lord that they WILL bear fruit… in season. Furthermore, not only will they be fruitful, but they will experience success in everything they purpose themselves to do.

Without being unnecessarily transparent, I will share with you that my life is changing fast! And there are several opportunities ahead, and many doors that are opening that won’t yield a harvest for some time. I’m aware of God’s promise to the faithful [Matthew 25:21], and while that boosts my morale, it does nothing for my depleting resources.

Consider for a moment the word, “season.” How many times have you heard it used in poor context???? “This is your season to ‘name it and claim it…’ to ‘speak it and see it!'” Or what about “it’s your season to trust God… your time to stand on His promises.” Well… even though we understand their intent, as Christians, we need ALWAYS live, work, pray and make decisions in faith. Let’s consider the definition of the word, “season”:

Season:

1. A period of the year when something is best or available

2. A period of the year marked by certain conditions

3. A suitable, proper, fitting, or right time

When we consider the working definition of the word, “season,” we notice 2 things: First, we expect seasons to change. Secondly, the change of season can be unpredictable. Those of us who live in New England understand that you can be in shorts on Monday, but in need of a winter coat on Tuesday.

In Isaiah, chapters 47 & 48, He prophesied that Israel’s LONG season of servitude and captivity in Babylon would soon come to a close. A season that began as consequence for Israel’s disobedience would give way to a season of restoration and liberty. However, this miraculous change could only occur at the appointed time.

I will close with the following: each of us was gifted of God with a specific set of skills and talents. Before we were born, God designed a very special plan for our lives. For our benefit, that plan is designed in such a way that allows certain circumstances to serve as a “furnace of affliction.” Remember, Joseph learned discipline in the pit and built his character in prison… BEFORE he got to the palace!   ;0)

 

Resolution

So if you’re like me, and waiting on your hard work to bear fruit, approach the changing of seasons with 2 things:

1. Humility – The seeds you sow now WILL yield a harvest later. You determine what is planted!

2. Gratitude – Be grateful even when the answer is “no” or “not yet.” Delight yourself in the way of the Lord and eventually the things You desire, will become the things He desires for youImage.

 

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