Good Vocals – Uncovering The Mystery Behind

We’ve all heard them. We all love them. We all want them.

Good vocals. 
I’m not talking your average vocals. I’m talking make you stop what you’re doing, turn it up, and figure out what exactly is going on – vocals. Vocal recording can make or break your entire song. Whether you are an aspiring songwriter trying to pitch your songs, or an artist trying to convey a specific emotion through your voice – the delivery of the vocal to the listener is vital to a song’s success. So, what is it that makes a truly great vocal sound?? Here are some tips to help debunk the mysticism around recording vocals!
  1. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, will ever substitute for a great performance. 
This is arguably the hardest part, and also the least convenient. In the world of autotune, click and drag plug-ins, endless reverb, etc. – there are thousands of tools producers can use to cover up vocal imperfections. But at the end of the day, that’s all it is. A cover up. TAKE YOUR TIME. Make sure the session is engineered with the best resources you have in the best way you know how. Make sure your singer is prepared, rested, and comfortable. Oftentimes, psychology has more to do with our performance behind the microphone than our voice does. Don’t settle for takes just because they’re “good enough.” Capture a truly inspiring performance because that is what will translate in your final product. The goal is to not have to cover up the voice, but showcase it!
  1. Learn and use the best process for the singer you have.
Everyone has their own process/preferences. Some singers like taking shorter takes, some like doing complete takes. Some singers like singing with reverb in their headphones, some like their mix dry. Some singers like click (rare, but I’m one of them), and some don’t. Taking the extra minute to communicate and get a comfortable mix for your singer can make all the difference in the world. Ask your singer how they typically go about recording vocals, and make a plan from there. Jumping straight into a session because you are short on time, or even just cause you are excited, will ultimately create more work in the long run. Work smart, communicate, and aim to capture the best performance you can! (There’s #1 again.)
  1. Think about the end goal every step of the way. 
It’s more than just singing into a microphone and recording it. Do you have any artists that you love and SWEAR they sing better live than they do recorded? Oftentimes the energy a singer feels while in the hype of a show will aid their performance! When you are standing in a vocal booth (maybe a closet for some of us) that energy isn’t there – so you need to make that energy. If you want something to come off more energetic, more breathy, more powerful, – sing it exaggeratively so. Nine times out of ten, it will come across just right in the final mix, even though it might feel silly in the moment.
  1. Leave your offense at the door.
Everyone MUST be on the same page that everything you are doing is for the sake of the song. Vocalists in particular can be very sensitive. If you aren’t open to constructive feedback, you are never going to grow as a vocalist and you ought not be a session singer. Your producer is listening objectively to you sing while the track is playing – something you can not do. So learn that nothing is a personal attack. You are talented, and you wouldn’t be in the room if you weren’t. Learn to appreciate feedback because you know it will make the end goal that much better. Producers, develop a good relationship with your singers – and vice versa. The more comfortable you are with one another, the easier it will be for you to communicate about getting the best vocal performance possible.
  1. Know your limits.
Producers, know what your singer can handle. Singers, know what your voice can handle. Don’t put yourselves in positions where you feel like you will be set up to fail or hurt yourself. Knowing when to take a break or even call it a night can make all the difference. Communicate about how you feel. No one is psychic. If you feel like your voice is getting hoarse and you need some water, ask for it. If you feel like a singer is straining to hit notes, ask how they are feeling. Knowing your limits isn’t giving up. It’s using your time wisely and ensuring a successful outcome.
Recording vocals can be loads of fun or a complete nightmare. Hopefully some of these tips will help to ensure the loads of fun part. The voice is the medium that we use in music to convey information. So just remember when you are spending hours making up the perfect track, or finishing up that final verse – don’t let that all go to waste by rushing through your vocals. Take your time, get a great performance, and have fun!

 

Keep Creating
Thomas Daniel
Project Manager / Songwriter
SongwritingTeam.com

Co-Writing for Songwriters | Tips & Advice

In this article I’ll be listing some tips, advice, and things to consider about co-writing for songwriters. Co-writing can be an exhilarating experience. It can also be a boring, awkward, or disastrous experience. Since our move to Nashville earlier this year we’ve been doing a ton of co-writing. Co-writing is a lifestyle here in Nashville. Everybody does it. In just a few short months we’ve put together a network of songwriters in various genres. So far, it’s been a great learning experience. Below are some of my thoughts about co-writing for songwriters. These thoughts aren’t in any particular order. They are simply bullet points.

 

1. Finding other songwriters to write with.

So, the first step is finding people to co-write with. We typically find people on social media. We search popular tags on Instagram, Twitter, and snoop around on Facebook and Youtube. We also go to open mic nights, showcases, and concerts. Once we find someone with music we like, we’ll find out who they are currently writing with and also establish relationships with them. This allows us to have a mutual connection that we can anchor to. “Hey, we know your friend _____, and they thought that we’d make cool music together. Want to get together and write sometime?”. It’s important that you have a portfolio of your songs. When you reach out to someone for a co-write always send them some of your work to check out. Usually, they will be able to instantly know whether they want to work with you or not.

 

2. Breaking the ice and eliminating awkwardness.

It’s weird making art with someone for the first time. Simply remember that everyone has great ideas and dumb ideas. I heard a story about a songwriter who had their first co-write with a major writer. She was scared. They went into a room and shut the door. The first thing the major writer said was “Today you’re going to hear me say some of the dumbest things that you’ve ever heard. I’ll also most likely hear you say the dumbest things I’ve ever heard”. Next, there was relief. The point is to immediately clear the air. They are most likely just as nervous and you may be. Sometimes during a co-write things can be awkward. There can be dead space and both parties start to get unsure about the entire idea of co-writing together. People can also be shy. My remedy for awkwardness is to have a few funny books laying around the studio. If I am finding it hard to strike up a conversation I’ll say “Hey, have you ever seen this book.. it’s hilarious!” This will lighten up the mood! This is the book that I use..

 

3. Co-writing and building a network.

To me the biggest benefit of co-writing is building a network. Before you know if you’ll be working with bigger and better people. We had a co-write the other day with a guy that we write with often. He asked if it was okay to bring 2 other writers to the session. We said yes. It turns out that one of the writers in the group brought a song for us to write for a major label artist. When you are co-writing with people, ask them about other writers at the end of the session. Say something like “Who have you been writing with recently? Anyone cool I should know about? I’m trying to expand my network”.

 

4. Being prepared. 

It’s always a good idea to have some ideas to bring to the table. This will help eliminate dead space. Sometimes writing something from scratch totally works, but I’ve found that we or the writer we are working with come in with some kind of starting point.

 

5. Checking in.

The first thing I like to do at the beginning of a co-write is to check in with the other songwriter(s). It’s almost like being a therapist. Ask them about whats going on in their life. Ask them how they are feeling today. This will start up an honest conversation. A lot of times a good topic comes out of it.

 

6. Making an agreement.

I wouldn’t recommend starting the session with contracts, but some people do. Use your judgement. But, at some point you need to ask the other writer about what the plans are for the song. Is it going to be performed, pitched, shelved? Make sure you guys have a solid agreement together and split sheet. You also need to follow up on registering your work together and having the copyright taken care of.

 

7. Consistency.

So many people start songs and then never finish this. It’s important to be consistent with each writer that you are working with and follow through with completing the song. Before they leave make sure you go ahead and get a date in the calendar for them to come back to finish the last song or to start something new. I find that creating a regular schedule helps. It prevents us from losing contact with the writer. When you write with some one often, you can develop a better bond with them. This will lead to more creativity and better songs.

 

8. Saying No.

No one likes telling people “no”. We feel bad. The reality though is that time is limited. You don’t have to say yes to everyone who wants to co-write with you. Be choosy. In the beginning you may say yes to everyone and that is okay. You are building your network. Eventually though you’ll have to say no to people or you will burn yourself out.

 

9. Don’t bring uninvited parties to the co-write.

This should be obvious. It’s best to limit “surprises” when co-writing. Nothing can kill the mood of a co-write quicker than having a random person show up and throwing off the energy. It just creates awkwardness. If you feel like having someone else at the session would be beneficial then ask for permission first.

 

10. Have fun.

Again, sounds obvious. But really it makes a huge difference. Having a good “hang” is a success even you don’t create a hit that day. If you make it a fun experience people will want to continue to write with you and tell their buddies about you. Have some laughs, recommend some new music, tell stories. This will rev up creativity and help build strong relationships.

 

Those are a few of my thoughts and tips on co-writing for songwriters. I highly recommend co-writing. When creative people get together it can be magical! Give it a try.

 

Feel free to add any of your own tips in the comment section below!

 

 

 

 

 

photo credit: Fabiana Zonca via photopin cc

How To Find Inspiration For Writing Lyrics

As songwriters, it’s important that we find ways to stay creative. It’s very easy to get stuck or complacent when songwriting. There are millions of ways to find inspiration for writing lyrics. Below are 3 that I really like..

Way #1 – Lyric Dice & Songwriting Tool Kit.

This week we had a client come to the studio from Reno, NV. It was a long train ride for her, and she planned on writing some songs on the way. We were having a conversation about lyric writing. She was curious to know how we are able to write so many lyrics for so many different people. I shared with her a little bit about our process. She was kind enough to then share with me a few things that she uses. She pulled out a tupperware bin filled with all sorts of goodies. It was her “Songwriting Tool Kit”. In that kit was a full set of dice with random words on them as well as a full set of dice with pictures. She mentioned that the cool thing about the “picture” dice is that you can interpret them in different ways. Whenever she’s feeling stuck or needs to be inspired she simply rolls some dice. The combinations are endless. You can find dice like these at your local bookstore or on amazon. Click here for more info on Diceware.

 

Way #2 – Start your day off with some free writing.

Starting your day off with some free writing is the second way to find inspiration for writing lyrics. For most folks, mornings are rough. A lot of songwriters have to get up and get to a 9 to 5, get their kids ready, etc. It’s hard not to just jump right into the hustle and bustle of the day. Doing this can put our “creative self” on the back burner. Our creative self won’t wake up unless we wake it up. We should wake it up first thing in the morning! It’ll lead to a more creative day. Take 10 minutes in the morning. While you’re eating breakfast or in traffic. Whenever you can. Take that 10 minutes to just free write random stream of thought. Don’t critique it. Let your guard down and just write. I promise that by doing that other ideas will pop into your head throughout the day. One of those ideas may lead to your next awesome song!

 

Way #3 – Be a reporter. 

Being a reporter is the 3rd way to find inspiration for writing lyrics. Ideas and stories are all around us. They come from people. I’d say it’s safe that most of you reading this “know some people”. I encourage you to drum up a conversation. Simply check in with people you know. Ask them what is going on with their life. Ask them if they have any cool stories to share, or maybe even some sad or funny ones. I’d say that about half of my inspiration for songwriting comes from “within”. The other half comes from stories from other people.

 

I hope these ideas will help you find inspiration for writing lyrics! As always, if you need any help or advice with songwriting or lyric writing. Feel free to shoot us an email!
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