I’m just finishing up recording for my EP.
The last thing that I like to record is vocals. I sing all the vocals myself, and I like having all the other instruments blaring in my headphones to give me a nice musical environment to sing in.
There is a lot of information out there about how to record vocals well. But today I want to talk about how to prepare your voice for recording. Because no matter what mic you use, or what DAW to record into, or what mixing tricks you have up your sleeve, a good vocal recording starts with a great voice.
If you’re not a singer yourself, chances are you’re going to need to work with a singer sooner or later. These tips will help you to prepare your singer for recording day.
Practice, practice, practice
Ok, so maybe it’s a no-brainer, but it has to be said.
You’re not gonna get a good vocal recording if you can’t sing the part well.
Yes, we have some great tools today for making a vocal recording sound great. Autotune and Melodyne can work wonders when used properly. But there will never be a tool that can take a bad vocal performance and make it sound great. It’s just not possible.
So make sure to practice the part. Practice a lot. It will help you to be able to hit the notes effortlessly so you can focus on what really matters: the character and emotion of the performance.
Take care of your voice
On my vocal recording day, I made sure to spend some time warming up my vocal cords. I didn’t do specific vocal warmups (although I probably should have), but I did a number of things to prepare:
- I sang a few songs with just me and my guitar. Not songs I was recording, just some other songs I knew. If you’re going to do this to warm up, make sure the songs are easy and don’t strain your voice.
- I drank a hot drink. It was a Lemon Balm and Honey herbal infusion, actually. It was delicious and soothing. This sort of thing warms and wets your vocal cords. Just stay away from milk and caffeine. Even a simple mixture of hot water, lemon juice, and honey will do the trick.
- I “steamed” my voice. This is something I often do if I have to sing when I have a cold. Simply boil some water in a pot, put the pot on the table, stick your head over the pot, cover your head and the pot with a towel so the steam doesn’t get away, and breathe. It looks absolutely ridiculous. But spending a few minutes inhaling the hot steam will help to warm and loosen up your vocal cords. Just be careful not to burn yourself…
Have plenty of water ready
It’s really important to keep your vocal cords hydrated. You can damage them otherwise, especially if you’re singing songs that are at your vocal limit.
I usually have a water bottle right beside me when I’m recording vocals, and I have a small drink before every take. Have a sip, clear your throat, and start singing. It helps to keep you at the top of your game.
Seriously. Don’t do 3 takes of 5 songs all in one go. You gotta take breaks if you don’t want to hurt yourself.
Recording any instrument is the same way, but this is even more important for vocals. Again, especially if you’re singing a difficult song. Your vocal cords need time to relax and get ready for the next song.
There’s no formula here. I’m not going to tell you to record a certain number of takes and then have a break. Just be mindful of how your voice is feeling, and take a break before you strain it too much. You may even need to quit for the day and come back tomorrow. It’s better than pushing it too hard and hurting yourself.
Don’t overdo it
Unlike other instruments like guitar, a vocalist can only do so many recordings before tiring out. So don’t record 10 takes of a vocal part. It’s just not going to be worth it.
Personally, I like to stick with 2 or 3 takes at most. If I can do it in 1, then that’s even better. But after 3 takes, things can start to get worse instead of better. You get tired, and start to wear yourself out.
So don’t overdo it.
What do you do to prepare for a vocal recording? Have any other tips? Leave a comment below!
10 thoughts on “How to Prepare Your Voice for Recording”
Brilliant Alex. Great stuff that one would generally not think about in the midst of recording day. All great advice that I will definitely be heeding on my next vocal recording day. Always a pleasure to read your posts Alex!
Excellent! Yes, a little bit of preparation goes a long way. Not only to get a better recording, but to save your voice too! 🙂
Looking forward to hearing what you’re making when all is said and done. Hot Tea is my go too but I am really into juicing and smoothies – so when my voice needs a little extra kick, I make a Lemon/Ginger Powershot – or a Pineapple Smoothie or a Green Juice.
I’m looking forward to sharing it too! It’s getting very close. Really hoping to have it mixed by the end of the month. Very exciting!
Yeah, I’ve definitely done the Lemon/Ginger. Particularly when I’m sick. It’s amazing how much it soothes the vocal cords and helps to get a better tone from your voice.
Great post! I’ll definitely use these tips next time I’m trying to record vocals. On a related note, keeping the number of takes to a minimum also helps save time in editing because you don’t have to wade through dozens of takes. Thanks for the great advice!
Yes, I agree. I like to keep it down to 2 or 3 takes at a maximum for all of my instruments. It’s especially important for vocals of course, but like you say, having more takes can cause a nightmare later, and usually doesn’t even help all that much!
Great advice(as usual).
Having a cold and steaming your voice with boiled water is good. Put a big amount of kitchen salt to it and then inhale for ten minutes. You not only will have a warmed-up voice but will get rid off a lot of ‘dirt’ in head, nose and throat.
If you still have a ‘frog in your throat'(as we say here), try singing ten minutes with a falsetto voice (almost any Bee Gees song will do ;-). This especially helps when you record early in the morning.
Looking forward to your songs.
Cool idea, singing some falsetto to loosen things up. I had never thought of that. Thanks! 🙂
Super tips, Alex. Would be very useful for me when I start recording my voice. Keep it up! 🙂
Thanks Kaitav! Good luck with your recording, when you get there 🙂