Recording Vocals: 5 Secrets Pro Engineers use to Make You Sound like a Rock Star!
Recording vocals isn’t an easy job, especially if you are a musician that is trying to record your music at home.
Are you getting frustrated because you feel like the recordings aren’t turning out how you thought they would? It might feel like there is no hope that you could ever sound as good as the singers you love.
Look, I get it. I spent years recording my songs from home, only to be disappointed and embarrassed when I’d listen back.
I knew I could sing, but I couldn’t get a recording that did my voice and songs justice.
It wasn’t until I got an internship at a professional recording studio that I saw what goes on “behind the hood” of excellent vocal performances.
I saw time and again our house engineer making ordinary people sound like rockstars.
This engineer went through the same steps every time and always captured a great vocal performance.
I want to give you back some hope and share these five things that a professional engineer does to make you sound like a rockstar.
Let’s jump in!
1. Choose the Right Recording Chain
Because the human voice is so varied and unique, the correct recording chain can elevate a great performance into a stellar recording.
More than likely, your home recording chain isn’t capturing your voice in the most flattering way.
A professional engineer first listens to your voice before making any gear decisions. They notice the natural tone and characteristics that may need to be accentuated or tamed.
They look at microphones, preamps, compressors, and EQs are simply colors to use on your voice.
A professional engineer isn’t seduced by their gear. Instead, they are in passionate pursuit of capturing the best parts of any instrument.
Remember, just because a microphone is vintage and expensive doesn’t mean it’s going to compliment you as an artist.
For you to sound like a rockstar, an engineer must make the right color choices to make sure the best parts of your voice stand out and connect with the listener.
2. They Make You Comfortable
One of my audio mentors was the in-house engineer for Meryl Haggard before he passed. My mentor once shared that an artist should never feel like they are in a recording session.
A professional engineer never allows the technology to slow down the creative process for you in the studio.
A great audio engineer is always two steps ahead of your needs as an artist. This courtesy allows you to explore your performance freely.
When you are confident in the engineer, this, in turn, makes you secure in the recording session. That confidence will carry into your performance.
The secret that great engineers know is if you’re going to sound like a rockstar, you first must feel like a rockstar.
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3. They Record Every Take
Recording music with others around is an intimate and nerve-wracking experience. You’ll feel the need to give the performance of a lifetime and prove yourself to those listening. This type of pressure can hinder an excellent performance.
Most of your best takes will happen when you thought no one was paying attention.
A professional engineer knows to capture everything the moment you step up to the microphone. These candid moments provide the golden nugget they can use to ensure your final take hits all the right notes.
To sound like a rockstar, the engineer must get multiple takes of your performance to cut together the best take possible.
4. Time Your Performance
Recording vocals is a challenging task. Your nerves will often be on high alert, and it’s easy to rush the timing of your performance.
A general rule of thumb with recordings is rushed vocals create anxiety in the listener. It’s a subliminal thing, but it could be the make-or-break of your song connecting with your audience if this isn’t the vibe you’re going for.
A professional engineer knows not to force you to into the pocket when you are recording your take. In fact, they should never bring it up. Instead, they simply will make sure that the heart of the performance is coming through and then adjust the timing of your vocals after the fact if needed.
From my experience, if done correctly, you will never know this step ever took place.
To sound like a rockstar, you must sing in the pocket or groove of the music. The pocket is often right behind the beat. A professional engineer won’t ever let your vocal take suffer by not fixing this transparently after the fact.
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5. Tune Your Performance
What do you think when you hear the phrase vocal tuning?
Do you instantly think of the digitized vocal sound made famous by Cher and T-Pain?
Tuning is so much more than Auto-Tune. There are tools on the market that can adjust the pitch of your voice in a highly transparent way.
However, I know It can be straight-up offensive for an engineer even to suggest tuning your vocals. Especially if you’re trained and a well-disciplined singer.
But the challenge with recording these days is that every other instrument is usually perfectly pitched. So for your voice to sound natural and connected to your backing track, you will need tuning adjustments, even if it’s ever-so-slightly.
A professional engineer knows how to tune your vocals transparently and with a light touch. They are not trying to change the character of your voice; they simply want to make sure that the melody you wrote stands out in the best possible way.
Sounding like a rockstar means that your performance has no distractions, so it easily connects with your audience. When your vocals get transparently tuned, your performance soars over the music.
To Wrap Up
Tips for recording vocals with a professional engineer:
- Choose the right recording chain – make the right color choices before making gear decisions.
- Stay relaxed and confident.
- Every moment counts – don’t be scared to improvise!
- Sing in the pocket or groove of the music.
- Embrace tunning tools – you will need some slight tuning adjustments to sound like a pro.
What You Should Do Next
Your music deserves to be heard by the world. But, if you’ve struggled in the past to get your songs sounding like they would fit in with your favorite Spotify playlist, then it’s time you reach out to an audio professional.
It’s the only real shortcut to making your songs stand out.
Find an engineer who follows these five steps, and you will come out the other side sounding like a rockstar!
Remember, a trained audio professional can do more than just make you sound good. They can also elevate the song you wrote to new heights by making sure the other instruments are recorded and appropriately balanced against your Rockstar Vocal Track. Just like we at Supreme Tracks do every day for our clients worldwide.
Now get to making music and remember it only takes one song to change the world!