Working with a Vocalist
Recording is obviously right here it's tze much mental as it is production know how um because you got to think er thes people are you know they're putting themselves out there they're seeing in front of a stranger um it's pretty uncomfortable generally speaking if you haven't worked with them before that you know they don't know you you don't know them just like the people that are coming in today we're going to try our best to make him comfortable but you know this is ah cameras everywhere you know there's an audience like this is like hardly ideal for an actual vocalist um but you've got to realize you gotta think about it if you're going to do it yourself I I also do vocals I mean I'm not the best so like I am really putting myself out there because like I'm not like singing and impressing everybody it's like uh it's hard but I still going to do my best so um you will probably hear me sing a little bit whenever we do that but uh you know whatever sometimes when you're bad it makes ...
the vocalist feel better because because then they know better than that so uh all right here we go so it's just like I said uh you don't know what you're getting into especially when you're working with strangers uh you want them to do their best to feel comfortable with the environment, the equipment and you so let's talk environment uh like in here you know, like I said these these cameras in the lights and stuff it's just hardly ideal uh what I do usually whenever I'm doing vocals is I want the environment to feel as calm as possible so this might just be me and I might just be a freak, but I like to clean the room I'd like to make sure that the actual environment is not cluttered um I sometimes well, like put up candles or like dim the lights or turn the lights all the way off just to make it as calm and relaxed as possible because like uh, your your actual heart rate can ruin a vocal take if it's if it's you know, if you're nervous or it's going too fast um so it's really important for the actual environment to not smell weird it's it's important for it to become from one in every way the temperature you know get to cater to what the vocalist ones you know they're the ones that you have to squeeze the performance out of it's like yeah, they might be paying you but that's the person that you have to make work in the best way possible you know you don't you don't put soda in your gas tank and expect your car to drive you gotta put gasoline in it, so I mean it's tze it's simple but a lot of people don't think about it you have to put yourself in their shoes something else that I do also because I record myself if I ever do any kind of equipment change or like set up changing that I like to test it out myself and I like to get behind get stand where they stand where the headphones that I give them listen to it at the volume that they're listening to it at and use the set up is it comfortable you might notice that something is completely whacking leo man you know I've recorded tons of people and they don't say anything about this like maybe there's like somewhere late in c or something like that so it's important for you to put yourself in their actual position um sometimes you'll be working closely with them this is kind of goofy but like think about how you smell you're going to be in a tight room make sure that you have showered this I mean this sounds like dump stuff, but I mean this is a real problems people uh to gum like make sure that your breath isn't bad like everything everything into consideration there should be no option for them to feel uncomfortable or feel weird or like, you know, thinking weird thoughts about what's going on you know don't don't touch him in a weird way like like be a normal person uh so like I said, all these things are very important so the equipment and that's what I mean when I put equipment up there test your set about how does it sound? You know, um and I do that for every single aspect of my studio like I like to sit behind the drums and put the headphones on and what is their headphones accent like I'm like oh, man, I could make this you know, one thing sound way better or like I can't hear this snare whenever I hit it through the headphones so just putting yourself physically in their shoes um well, you'll solve problems that you never even may have known were problems you got to think about other people so let's say you got all that stuff taken care of then they're going to sing for you uh you want to assess their strengths and weaknesses quietly you can't just say you suck I think this is pretty pretty obvious with some people you could be brutally honest others will lock up uh remember how personal vocals are um so sometimes you will immediately think man, this is a horrible vocalist right away you've just got to sit there you had to be patient, you have to let them get through the stuff because sometimes, um vocalist will surprise you they'll have a strength in a certain spot like maybe singing high is their strength and they've been singing too low for instance so let him go through it and then then form an opinion don't jump to you know to a conclusion about what you think should happen or they shouldn't be on the record or whatever um sometimes you don't have that option when you're recording other bands they have a limited amount of time you have to get it done you can't just kick him out of the band I have had bands break up in the studio because their vocalist was so bad yeah and they were just there like we gotta reschedule we're getting in new vocalist so it happens and you've got to be ready for that so sometimes you might want to let the band decided that uh so you don't have to say anything um so if anything like I said you want them to be comfortable with you so if their band is yelling at them that's not that's not good to begin with but it's better than you yelling at them because it's it's going to be a one on one thing I usually have everybody empty the room whenever I do vocals to like make sure nobody is like sitting there staring at him where are you know breathing on him or whatever sometimes you're tracking in the same room as your vocalist and sometimes you're not but sometimes it's even better if the vocalist mind is at ease where it's like I know that nobody is listening you know I can't see anybody but I know that nobody is in the room and I know nobody can hear what I'm doing so I'm suddenly more comfortable um yeah sometimes someone you could be brutally honest with some people that's another thing like while you're while you're with the band like you're getting to know the people so uh some people kind of need that push they need you to be honest and other people will walk up and what you need to do is think about everybody individually I know it's kind of sounds like you know, walking around eggshells but you you kind of have to because you want them to perform as best as they can and I mean it kind of goes into every guitarist and stuff like that but like I say here remember how personal vocals are a guitarist you know they're playing a nen stra mint and the sound that's coming out is is the instrument but a vocalist it's their voice it's attached to them I mean it's identifies them they're also uh the lyrics are probably going to be really personal to them sometimes asking about the meaning of a song will break someone down like immediately I've had people cry like they start talking about what it actually means so you have to be really sensitive about your criticisms uh when you're talking about all this stuff because you have no idea what what's going through their head and the best thing you can do is put their minds at ease um okay, so some singers will get in there and kill it on others think they're killing it and then some of them are really talented without egos and with egos so you'll get you know, get resistance so let's talk about egos for a second this will be interesting yeah uh now when you when you do start to work with bigger bands you you work with people that have success already and it's like they kind of know that what they've done has worked and the weirdest thing is whenever I get a small band and they have egos just like where are you coming from that doesn't really happen anymore maybe if you're still if you're starting your studio out, you're experiencing that now I went through that people are just like they're small bands and their terrible and they're just like being really mean to me and I'm just trying to make suggestions and stuff um so sometimes for the smaller bands it's not worth it it's it's not worth the argument so just like just you know, just go ahead and do your thing but whenever you're doing larger bands you have to remember uh the end result is permanent people are going to listen to it thousands of people are gonna listen to it over and over for years so you all of these things are important because you have to figure out how to get through the session successfully and get the best focal take so um now I'll probably get in trouble for talking about this but I'm going to do it anyway uh I'm not talking about anybody specific I'm talking about people like averaged out because I've had a lot of a lot of different weird attitudes in the studio and you'll notice that because obviously everybody's different but sometimes uh you have to lead the person with uh well actually let's go to sleep my gosh, you're trying to be so careful with what you say right now no, I just remember some of what you say is on the next slide um sometimes they can't take criticism on sometimes like if you are a talented person if there's a bunch of talented people, I'm sure you guys hear a creative life know this there's a bunch of talented people, everybody has opinions and ideas and a lot of them are good whose are better? Sometimes you have no idea, so if you're working with somebody who has great ideas, you have to sit back you know, like maybe you have a good idea but just wait just hear their idea, let them get it out and then maybe make a suggestion if you think it's completely necessary the as patient as you can um and avoiding arguments keeping the uh you don't want tense focus environment if you think you're right and the other person thinks they're right just try to avoid the argument like maybe move onto something else or or just talk about it in a different way I don't know but um okay, so sometimes you have to lead the vocalist I was just saying this is this is good life advice yeah yeah she's like siri ecology will realize I'm sure this will probably make everybody uncomfortable but here I go so you have to lead some people to believe that they made a choice so um sometimes you'll ask them certain questions to get them to get to your final result so it's like taking and this is why I say it's mental because it really is when you're working with some people um it's like doing blind tests kind of whenever whenever I'm going through guitar tones, some people like I don't want to use this brand of guitar on use this brain a vamp it's like really weird biases for whatever reason and then you just like, hey, how about this? We'll just try all these different things we'll listen to it have somebody else in the band listen to it somebody that's not attached to this argument and make the choice and and who's ever whose ever's winds will was what will use and sometimes you'll be surprised at you know like what people, what people choose and then sometimes people will choose the opposite of what they wanted to choose so, um let's take specifically vocals so you're talking with somebody who has an idea and you know, because you've been doing this for a long time that it's a bad idea or that it's that it's cheesy or just won't go over well, because this is something that you can't do when you're starting out, this is something that, uh, you have to have years of experience if you don't I don't want to be arguing with you, I don't want you should be argue with anybody else if you have no grounds to stand on like you're in a smaller man and you don't no, but you work with somebody who is a lot more, uh, skilled than you respect their opinion because they're probably going to be right chances are, but anyway, so let's say you're both kind of at the same level, for instance um you'll have them do their vocal part and sometimes in your head there's a you think okay, this is not going to be the final result, but this person is really stoked on this idea for whatever reason so what you do is your record it and this sounds time consuming but sometimes you have to take time on these things you'll record it and let them choose the next day you you think okay this doesn't sound very good record it move on so you come in the next day and they hear it and there are a lot of a lot of times they've thought about the part overnight which is weird because it just it kind of happens like that instead of getting into an argument about the part you let it resolve itself and that's that's one tip of actually doing it so you wait overnight they come in the next day and they notice hey this isn't actually good oh man you know or I've been thinking about this party all night and I actually came up with a solution for it so that that will happen when you're working with other people that are also skilled so sometimes you just gotta you gotta let them take control even though you might have a better idea and then when they're like well I don't you know I don't really like this then you can suggest an idea as though hey you know you might even think about all day hey uh or if you just try this like ok yeah that's a cool idea you know sometimes that's the best time to suggest something sometimes it's your it's your timing like if somebody is struggling there frustrated you know they don't they don't want to hear it it's like I'm trying here okay? You know, I'm putting my own thoughts and my emotions into this and you're just sitting here telling me that it's bad if they can choose themselves that it's bad and sometimes that's what's going to happen things they're not attached the next day things have kind of dissipated so that's when you go in for the kill like how about this poker great idea you know everybody's kind of relax the the tension is gone so the worst time to get into an argument is when somebody else is frustrated and when somebody else is having a hard time in there there there trying to to get something written and they just can't so and I think that's that's a huge way to deal with people with egos so what about you guys? A creative life? I'm sure that you guys run into this problem a little bit there's no egos that creatively no, never nothing creative let's not say goodbye let's say creative differences create differences. Well, I mean it's just like you know there's a certain amount of what is the technology capable of so that's really where we draw the limit, you know and yeah and to its we're all working for the best like end result right? So if you're working I think like in a studio setting, if you're working with somebody you need toe negotiate that relationship so that they feel comfortable enough to put down a good vocal like that's the end goal you know it's like get the best mike and if they're resistant to certain things if there's like you just you mentioned away tio have a conversation do blind tests and that's hugely helpful because it eliminates the like although I don't yeah the biases so everyone has the same end goal, right? They ought to make the best product yeah, you just gotta know one toe actually no one to hold him no one folding that was probably one of the biggest golden nuggets that we'll get out of the hole the whole workshop because I think that's huge technology and you know all of the things that we're dealing with if you cannot interact with people and cannot draw out the best in them and you don't think about it starts at the beginning how do you introduce yourself how two people perceive you? What like two people think you're just a jerk? Well, if you're a jerk nobody's gonna wanna listen to your opinion you know? I mean so if the on ly reason if you are a jerk naturally and the only reason you could be nice is so uh people will listen to your good ideas I mean maybe you should do that because you're you're easier to work with you know and and you're going to notice that when you work with more and more people it's like well you do have good ideas but you don't have to be a jerk about it nobody does so we're gonna have to do another class life skills one one e really pushing um in terms of your work flow when you have vocalist in studio like how often do you have them listen to playback and do you have any advice about I mean do you like happened listen back to every take or is there like a good no no not always and when we actually track I'm going to talk about all that stuff uh which is in the next segment but um yeah I actually have a really hold on that's deception actually I'm going to talk about that like right now uh okay um this is another thing this is a problem if you have vans something like to drink uh your best performance isn't gonna be when you're drinking alcohol so any vocalist that are watching this please drink outside the studio or whatever um some people feel more confident when they drink obviously but their actual performance is much worse so later when you listen to it it's like you've made it a bigger idiot out of yourself then um then you would have if you were just sober so some people feel really stressed intense and this goes this brings everything back to the environment why did they have to drink? You know, I mean, there could be some other reason in their life whatever I don't know, but if everything else is like really relaxed really chill and that's the most that you can do yourself as an engineer and has a studio owner is to make your environment really com um and encourage them to not drink if if you do see that as as maybe a problem, so if you aren't making a tense situation, you might be encouraging alcohol drinking, so just keep I'd say keep that out as much as you can I mean that's all you can do vocals an exercise if you are a vocalists, any do cardiovascular exercise and stuff you can actually hold your breath and do louder, bigger takes and more salt hits more solid notes that's just science so that so that those were just opposites, so I want it so it's like what are you going to do if you're vocalist and you want to do the best thing ever do cardiovascular exercises and don't drink maybe the week leading up to your vocal, your vocals and you uh exercise reduces stress and naturally and it also puts your diaphragm in a better uh, condition than if you didn't do that so I think if you're vocalists these air really important things to know, okay, so if somebody is struggling so we talked about you goes on and you know how to deal with stuff, make sure you're not attacking somebody or seem like you're attacking someone in a tense situation now what if you're recording somebody who is just absolutely not talented if there or if they're struggling now some singers you'll hear the first few notes come out of their mouth and it will be the worst thing you've ever heard. I have personally been through this a few times there is one band whose name I will not mention I had to seeing their main vocals on their album because their singer couldn't do it they are disbanded now and that was a long time ago and you probably never figured out but uh but it happens um and in my whole career that's the only time I had to do that one time so they're they're ways that you khun figure itself so uh if they're struggling trying to figure out why they're struggling, chances are they're singer for a reason they like they like to put themselves out there or um they they do have talent, but maybe they are nervous or whatever so cater to their needs um that's obvious target specific problems like the environment is everything set up like how I was saying in the environment uh is there are they having personal stress did something happen in their personal life did you have a weird argument with them before you went into it is there you know band having a hard time uh you know what their label or something like that and if they are going through something maybe push back the vocals or uh reschedule them or just doing when when they are in a less stressed situation the time of day matters really bad we could have done the singing parts earlier today but I chose after lunch because that's my favorite time to actually start vocals er e I personally and I know this is with a lot of singers have a hard time in the morning like especially trying to push air out it's like my body is not ready or awake but you've been around moving to get you know, food and yourself and and your system starts to work pretty well so uh I don't really expect to vocalise to do their best in the morning try to do a little bit later in the day um okay these are really specific problems that I'm goingto tryto cover right now uh they may be pushing to hard to hit a note um sometimes whenever they you try to sing really high you actually need to back off and not pushes pushes hard because sometimes you're actually overshooting the note or your voice is distorting but you just need to relax and all goes back to relaxing here um they may have an elevated heart rate exact same thing whenever if you're trying to sing a calm vocal part, it will never sound right if if your are quiet thing will always sound weird unless you really are relaxed maybe have him sit down on a stool or on the floor or in a chair whatever uh having chill out, track it like that, you know, some people are our surprise when they do that and they do a lot better job uh be careful with your effects I do not track with reverb or delay because sometimes they'll be talking or singing and then they'll be hearing the playback afterwards and it's throwing him off. Um, make sure you're late and seeing your program is as fast as possible, so they're not hearing themselves talk after they talk. Uh like I said, try try actual equipment that you're having them use sometimes it's none of that stuff uh and sometimes you got to make him feel comfortable so you'll sing with him and I'm I'm going to sing with jessica a little bit when she comes in, I'm gonna demonstrate um the difference between a male and female register er and I'm just going to sing with her, try to make her feel a little comfortable, show her that she could sing way better than I can, so she'll be excited about that, um, you know, no intimidation there. Sometimes the melody just needs to be changed. Sometimes the melody is a difficult melody or a weird melody, or it just doesn't flow, so, uh, you could work on that with them to something that they're more comfortable with something that's in their range, for instance, um, actual lyrics might need to be changed. Sometimes your lyrics don't flow or are your you're just struggling over some words? Um, make sure it's something that you khun say or sing quickly, and if you could do that that's like a little test that I do, if you can say a phrase quickly, then chances are you could sing it smoothly when it's, even when it's slower, but if you have a hard time saying something quickly, that's a good sign that it might need to be rewarded uh, so it actually flows a little bit better rolls off the tongue easier. Uh, here's some these are all, like my favorite things to do, sing a guide track and make it perfect for them to sing teo uh, I'd say that that's one of the most effective tricks that I use but probably mohr effective than that is have them sing a guide and you correct it when they when singers sing with their own voice let's say they didn't hit the notes right and you can go into pitch correction program, which will get into tomorrow and you can put it on the right notes and have them sing with themselves sometimes they sing way better and they'll get it like that for whatever reason I don't know suddenly there like a good vocalist when they hear themselves corrected and they sing to that guide track they're incredible sometimes I'll have a singer just sing to a click like no music just sing to the click and for whatever reason that will get them to do it right uh sometimes maybe a lead or something else and the song is throwing him off just mute the other mute other tracks so maybe they're just saying with the guitar and drums or just get over something like that um that will help them sometimes they need to be turned up more in the headphones they can't hear themselves very well sometimes some singers don't want to be heard in the headphones at all and they just want to hear the music some people saying better like that sometimes you want to just have one headphones off um so they can hear themselves naturally, but to me that's that's my favorite way that's the best way and I'll usually kind of make a cupping shape here with my hand so my voice is like directed towards my ear everybody try this just put your hand here and say something anything it's like it's louder it's like you're boosting your own voice into your ear it's louder, it's natural and immediate and that's why I like it it doesn't mess with the sound of recording so I like to have one headphone here and I like to do this to channel my voice right into my ear so it's like blasting so I can really hear everything have them try that sometimes they're having a problem of the part just let him win it to say hey do whatever you think you should do on this part you know maybe whatever you say naturally will sound better and you'll be able to do it uh skip it then come back to the part for whatever reason sometimes the way your brain works, you do something over and over and over again even if it's wrong it like sinks in while you're not even thinking about it and you go back to and you could nail it it's just a weird trick I it doesn't make sense at all, but it it works a lot um have them sing without headphones okay so this is uh this is kind of a weird one but I know my friend from the singer from newfound glory he does this technique um it will be in the room with the monitors and the music will be playing so he'll be in front of the monitors and those be playing really loud and he'll just be singing in the room with the monitors no headphones or anything so during that you would turn off the click or whatever you will get bleed over from from the speakers but uh when it's in the music it's it's gonna be like it's kind of hidden you can't really hear it because like exactly what is being played and I've done that a few times and it's kind of cool it's kind of annoying if you really want to get something super polished sounding it's I think it would maybe only really work well for rock not something really quiet like a soft piano song or soft acute acoustic song or something like that um so with rock music that works really well sing without headphones show physical pattern with your hand guitar melody so like if your lot uh it's like you can show them that it's going up here and then maybe back down or whatever and sometimes like do that while you sing it and sometimes they get it so they actually steak and physically see a pattern you can do it on the guitar sometimes maybe the guitarist is singing and you can show it's like this patterns like okay, I know how to sing that pattern you can show them on mideast couldn't physically see the notes uh as they sing um and sometimes you can just maybe need to change the key so it's it's cool tio to try different keys on vocalist to see what key sounds um the most relaxed for that person so like whenever I was doing this a song that we're going to do in the next segment uh actually skyped with a female vocalist too to work on the key and I would just playing in a bunch of different keys to see which one sounded the most comfortable for her voice it actually wasn't jessica it was somebody else but usually female voices are pretty close in and range um have them saying close the note okay, so this like sometimes maybe the notice a little bit high you don't have timeto teo change the key of the song you want, you can just get him to sing close and then pitch correct it up to the note uh it's unfortunate if you have to do that but sometimes you got to do that um create a scratch vocal with a repeat leading that sounds kind of weird, but I'm going to demonstrate that this is a really cool technique I'm gonna demonstrate when we do the screaming in the fourth segment um it's a way if a vocalist is having a hard time with a certain pattern they basically I like to copy and paste themselves like three times and then they sing the fourth one so it's like they hear this weird pattern weird pattern weird pattern then say weird pattern right there so it's like you here in a few times and then you do it so sometimes it might be you doing the pattern or you know, whisper track or some kind of guide track. So bottom line here try everything you can think of now all these things are things that I encourage if you're working with the bad volvos try all of these things sometimes it seems impossible I've recorded some vocalists that so my other friends have recorded and they're like how did you even get this guy to say he is pretty bad so it's because I try all these things like I get to the bottom of it I tried to make sure I can figure out the problem uh and these are gold nuggets I mean, this is like a checklist that you should have like whenever you're working with a bad vocalist pullout it's for changing the melody but just memorize this stuff you know, like these are all things that you need to try um get into their head into their head and put yourself in their position make sure they're comfortable one thing that people always do that like never works is breaking a vocal part down scientifically uh it pains me when I hear somebody do this to their vocalists like somebody else in the band like trying to explain it just like that they don't get it sing this part like share and then this next part needs to go up and sound like a mountain and then this next part is needs to sound like a babbling brook are like something really you know, weird description it was like, I know what I want to sell it and I don't even know what that means so don't try to break it down that much vocals are all about field so they might want teo you know, have him have him wing it I do want to just point out uh my favorite thing is the most successful are ah uh having the vocalist singing guide track and correct it have them sing to it to me that is the number one successful thing that I've had with struggling vocalists um this is our last slide here uh sometimes you're limited on time, so maybe for instance, just do that one technique and and you can't transpose songs or whatever sometimes use a wing it that's also really good one too remember, vocals are permanent will be listened to for years like I touched on earlier. Uh, if you especially if you're working with a bigger bannon, the vocalist is struggling, do everything you can because your name's on it and thousands of people are going to listen to it and it is gonna be around for the rest of your life, so try to make it as good as you can. Uh, and that was all. Okay. It's super super helpful. I loved the last comment like no pressure, right? Like here's all this, these amazing golden nuggets, but no pressure. And I think anybody that serious about recording vocals, this stuff is just a gold mine and it's the stuff you can't get out of a book most often or you can't just find online. It's more that's, more like the science. What, mike, what preempt what you know it's, the working, working. Yeah, but just learning howto work with people. I don't think that's being taught anywhere, so, yeah, that is huge. I've never heard anyone teach you that in school.