In the previous article I mentioned the famous "comfort zone" of the singer. In the coming weeks we'll look into the material conditions around a vocal recording which are susceptible of helping the performer in creating this comfort bubble. And when I say material conditions I'm not talking about gear but rather to the physical environment in which the singer will find him/herself in during the recordings. Still not clear enough? Let me try to explain myself...
Home, Sweet Home
Let’s start with the place itself. In a previous article I already mentioned the importance of being able to offer the singer a place that is cozy enough for him/her to feel comfortable during his/her performance. I’m not saying you should bring out some incense, the teapot and use subdued lighting (although if that’s your thing, by all means!), but rather make sure that the place is welcoming enough, at least clean and tidy. I know you might think this advice is futile, but I’ve seen some “bedroom producers” receiving artists in a room that puts much more emphasis on the “bedroom” rather than the “producer” side of the term, which is why I take the opportunity to try to drive the message home this time. Believe it or not, this level of detail does make a difference between a professional and amateur working environment. A place that is good in every respect will create a more suitable environment for a special magic to take place during the takes.
Another point I want to highlight regarding the place and the comfort bubble you want to create: the fact that you work from your home studio doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stay “at home” for your recording sessions! Going outside of your place has always been an option for all sort of recordings, but it is especially so in current times. In fact, you don’t need much to record vocals: a laptop, an audio interface with a mic preamp, a mic a mic stand, an anti-pop filter, headphones, some cables, and you’re set. The “luxury” setup includes a pair of acoustic panels to improve things a bit, but as you can see there is no need to bring out the heavy artillery to record vocals. And yet, recording in a place where the performer feels more comfortable will have a much greater impact on the final result, regardless of the mic/preamp used and the acoustics of the room in question.
So I strongly recommend you to consider your vocal recording sessions anywhere the singer feels more at ease. It can be a place he/she knows and feels comfortable in, like his/her place or rehearsal room, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to that! To illustrate my point let me tell you about a friend of mine who owns a high-end project studio in the suburbs of Lyon, France. Despite having gear worthy of much more expensive professional studios, he usually records vocals outside his studio with a minimalist setup like the one I described above. In the course of the years he has created a wonderful catalog of places to record for free or for a reasonable fee, ranging from a wine cellar to gardens, garages, villas, mansions, etc. He told me he had recently organized a recording session of a choir inside the chapel of a deconsecrated chapel, combining a meaningful and acoustically rich atmosphere.
As you can see, it only takes some willingness to find recording spots out of the ordinary which can contribute to create an extraordinary and/or comfortable atmosphere for the singer. If you have access to any such locations, I can guarantee the magic will happen much more easily. Try it out, you’ll be grateful!