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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!