Vocal Recording: Home or Studio, Whole or Piece by Piece
For singers, vocal recording is often a very personal, emotional act in which many factors play a role. At the same time, the quality of production often stands or falls with the vocal performance.
Tips For Vocal Recording
How does it feel to stand behind the microphone and have to “deliver”? What ways and means do singers have to get the best possible result? Which factors are particularly important to you? Is there one, right workflow? To find out, I asked some authors from the Bonedo Vocals editorial team and other experienced singers of various genres how and under which technical and emotional circumstances they prefer to record singing.
The most important workflow guides: song and genre
In general, it can be said that the method used to record the vocals depends heavily on the respective song and genre. Usually, the character of a song already tells us whether, for example, a lot of singing technique is required or the emotions are more important than perfection. The approach to vocal recording also varies depending on the genre, as singers explain to me. Logically, a relaxed jazz track is approached differently in the studio than an energetic rock song. In addition, there is also the occasion for which the singing takes place: In a purely commissioned job, different factors apply than when singing your own songs. However, there are some aspects of vocal recording that apply equally to all genres.
Approach: Whole takes or piece by piece?
When it comes to singing a song, there are different approaches to choose from: For example, entire takes can be recorded, i.e. recordings that are sung through in one piece. Within the songs, there is often an arc of tension or narrative connections and thus also a dynamic development. In order to capture this tension and tell a story, whole takes are often recommended, from which the best passages are then selected afterward in editing.
Especially in jazz, which lives from snapshots due to its improvisational character, this approach is usually the method of choice. The whole take from the very beginning is good in order to feel the overall flow. Most of the time there are already many usable parts. If the song can be divided narrative and dramaturgically well into individual sections, it sometimes makes sense to only care about one verse at first and then jump to the next part.
This is not unusual in (electro) pop. Often the preferred method in the “hard & heavy” area is recording part by part. Especially when you want vocal effects to come into their own or there are many different energy levels in a song. When shouts are recorded, for example, people often work line by line.
Home recording or recording studio?
In times of affordable, mobile recording setups, it is now common practice that vocals are often recorded in the living room or even in a hotel when there is no money or time left for a studio visit. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a recording studio: The atmosphere has to be right.
Whether at home or in the recording studio: Working with someone else, the producer or the sound engineer, is particularly important to all of the singers surveyed. These people give singers the feeling of being in good hands and thus contribute significantly to a successful vocal session.
You will want a recording studio for its technical aspect. In the studio, you have access to different microphones and preamplifiers that are usually not around at home. This ultimately results in recordings that sound more technically professional than would be the case with improvisational means at home.