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How to Get the Most Out of a Recording Session

With the holidays just around the corner, many of our students are opting to record Christmas albums in our Orange Rhymes Recording Studio. If you’ve never sung in a recording studio before, your first time can be nerve-wracking. After all, you’re in a tiny recording booth by yourself, wearing giant headphones, and hearing your voice turned up to a higher volume than you’re used to hearing it. While the only way to get good at recording is to, well, record, we’re here to give you the scoop on how to get the most out of a recording session.

Come Prepared!

Sure, you can do multiple takes at a recording session, but recording time is expensive, and your voice only has so many takes in it before it starts to get tired. It’s best if you’ve rehearsed the song well before your recording session so that recording time can be dedicated to fixing small nuances–finding the mic that best suits your voice or trying a few different ways to interpret a passage–instead of helping you learn how the song goes.

Sing Along With the Accompaniment You’ll Be Using Ahead of Time.

It goes along with being prepared but is a slightly different issue. No matter how well you’ve mastered a song, new accompaniment poses new challenges. If you’ve been singing along with your voice teacher’s piano accompaniment, and she’s been following your rhythmic patterns, switching to a karaoke track that moves ahead at its own speed and refuses to pause when you need to take a breath might be difficult. If you’re singing with a karaoke track, practice the song with that karaoke track. If you’re singing the song in D# Major, practice the song in D# Major.

Communicate With the Recording Engineer.

No matter how great a recording engineer is, only you know what you’re hearing through your headphones. If you can’t hear yourself well enough to sing on key, or you can’t hear the background music enough to stay on the rhythm, make sure your recording engineer knows. He can adjust the levels. The worst thing you can do in this situation is forge ahead, getting take after bad take because you don’t want to say anything about the problem.

Try Different Things With the Headphones.

Personally, I find recording the easiest when I keep the headphones off of one of my ears. It’s easier for me to hear myself that way. Some people record best with both headphones on and find themselves fully immersed in the mix this way. Don’t copy what I do or what Katy Perry or John Bon Jovi does. Figure out what works best for you.

Don’t Move Around Too Much.

In a stage show, you may take the microphone off the stand and walk across the stage during your number. In a recording session, the mic is planted in one place, and you should be too. If you turn your head to the right, your sound will die out. If you look down at the ground during the sad part of the song, the sad part of the song won’t get picked up very well in your recording. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t move around at all. There are plenty of good reasons to move. Moving just your arms as if you’re performing may help bring the emotion out in your recording voice. Backing up or turning your head slightly during the loudest note may help prevent distortion in your recording. Just make sure you’re thoughtful about your movements and that they’re done in the name of a good recording.

Invest Time Into Listening Back.

Your voice won’t sound the same during a recording as it does live (not to mention that you’ve never actually heard your voice live anyway because your instrument is part of your body). Listen back to the recording. Not every single time, because like most people, I’m sure you have limited time and a limited budget. But at least some of the time, so you can figure out what you might want to do differently in the next recording. Are you belting and like the way it sounds in your lesson but wish the recording had a more intimate sound to it? Maybe do a take incorporating some breathiness into it. Did that high note feel right but sound flat in every recording? Aim a little higher on the note than you feel you should. The recording engineer can do a lot in post-production, but getting the recording as close as possible during your recording session is almost always a better bet. It’ll come out sounding more natural that way and possibly even cost you less, since the engineer won’t have to spend so much time correcting your vocals.

Be Particular, But Not Too Particular.

A little pickiness is good. If you know there’s no way you could ever be happy with a note you hit, by all means, go back and fix the note. But your pickiness should be proportional to how much time you have to record. If you have to knock the song out in an hour, don’t spend an hour fixing one line, because inevitably, there will be other lines that need the help. If you have all day to get a recording done, you can afford to fix more problems. While you don’t want the recording to be filled with errors, a crack in your voice once in a while may have the effect of making you sound human and relatable.

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