Taking care of the singer - Part 1The ultimate guide to audio recording - Part 87
Today we'll see how you can look after the singer during a recording session. Do note that for the sake of simplification, whenever I write "singer" in this chapter I will be referring generically to any person who sings, raps, slams, etc.
And since charity begins at home, it goes without saying that all recommendations I will be giving throughout this chapter can obviously be applied to yourself, if you happen to be one of those "lonely" homes studio owners.
As I mentioned last week, the human voice is a unique instrument which crucial from the point of view of the listener. Now, if you look at it from the singer's perspective, it is, literally, an extraordinary instrument. In fact, if you take a guitar, for instance, sound is produced by the musician strumming the strings to make them vibrate, and then this vibrations are amplified by the soundboard or an amp. With a piano, the musician plays the keys which, in turn, trigger the hammers, which strike the strings so that the vibrations produced are once again amplified by the soundboard. The idea is more or less always the same: the musician puts something into motion so it vibrates generating a sound wave which is then amplified. But in the case of a singer, the musician, the instrument and the amplification system are one and the same. It's the most intimate instrument by nature! However, even if this unique situation in the music world has some obvious advantages, it also entails certain disadvantages.
Let's go back to the guitar example. Would you ever come to the idea of recording a guitar out of tune, with rusty strings or not well-adjusted? I hope you answered no, unless of course you are deliberately looking for a weird sound, but in any case, that's no the usual situation. In short, more often than not, any musician with some self-respect would probably prefer to play an instrument that's well-adjusted and in tune. If that instrument is a hardware piece it shouldn't be too hard to achieve that. But in the case of the vocals it's not as simple... For things to work properly in this case you need the singer as a whole to be in the best of shapes, both physically and mentally. This means he or she needs to be healthy, well rested, at ease, and focused for him/her to give his/her best.
And don't get me wrong, I mean, it's obvious that anybody who takes part in a recording session ought to be in good shape. That said, the guitar player having a cold is not an unsurmountable problem, whereas it's a completely different story with a singer. Along the same lines, while stress and fatigue can certainly affect the performance of any musician, the instrument itself isn't really affected by these factors. With a bit of elbow grease and a good those of will you can still get a good enough result that will make it impossible for the listener to even imagine the state of the musician during the recording. In the case of a vocal recording, fatigue and stress also have a psychological impact on the singer which will most probably affect his/her ability to sing. And since the listener is particularly sensitive to this sort of thing (see previous article), it would be almost impossible to try to conceal it.
What's that you say? That you are not responsible for the health of the singer?
True, at first glance you might think there's not much you can do about it because it's the artist himself/herself who is responsible for the situation. But if you think about it, there are several ways you can help the singer to make the best out of the recording session.
First of all, don't forget the main advantage of a home studio compared to a professional studio: time management! So, take the time to discuss with the singer the best time to do the recording, in other words look for a date when he/she has enough time to focus on the recording and isn't overloaded with work so he/she can get a good night sleep before the session. If, for any reason, the singer is sick or not in the best of shapes and you have the possibility to cancel the session, don't hesitate doing it. Trust me, you won't regret it.
When calling the session off is not an option, kindly ask the singer to read about this topic online, including this article of course, to minimize the risks. What's more, even if you are not a singer yourself these readings won't hurt either and will actually help you understand better and help the singer, so start reading!
Finally, concerning stress, in the upcoming weeks you'll see plenty of tricks to keep it to the minimum. But I don't want to keep you waiting too long, so here are some things here's one thing you can suggest the singer right before a recording session, to start things on the right foot: 10 minutes of meditation you'll both do together. I know, I know it sounds somewhat esoteric. So in case you or the singer don't like such practices at all, don't push it because the result will be counterproductive. But it can have a monumental impact on anybody who is a bit open to the idea, trust me. If you don't know what to do exactly, a quick online search for guided meditation will allow you to find something that you like. In the end it's all a matter of taste, so if you know or find anything interesting, do share it in the comments below!
See you next time to continue our adventures in recording!