Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Pitch problems in the recording studio

I recently received an emailed question about pitch problems while recording vocals that I'd like to share here.

The question:

Dear Judy,
I've just started recording some songs and have run into a problem. When I sing my vocals, I am off pitch. I play in a band and have for a few years and we seem to be very popular locally. I sing lead for roughly 1/3 of our songs and have never had anyone tell me my singing was bad or that I couldn't sing. I have read about headphone mixes, etc. and am wondering about this and the recording process. We are recording with headphones , mic, drum machine, into a Korg d3200. Your help would be greatly appreciated.

My answer:

When an artist is really good in live performance, there is quite often a curious thing that happens when that artist goes into the studio. The person ceases to move, ceases to "communicate" with the body, the hands and the face. The weight of the mic is missing, so the singer subcounciously leans forward with the head, causing the chest to cave in a bit. This causes breathing problems, affecting both breath support and breath control. This may very well be the source of your pitch problems.

To fix this, try moving your feet farther in towards the mic, causing you to subconsciously have your head farther back (or you'll hit the mic with your mouth) and your chest will open, stretching the ribcage and diaphragm out, enabling you to get both better inhale and better control of that breath when you sing.

Also, try using your hands, like in live performance. Don't grab the "cans" with your hands, because this tends to put subtle weight on your ribcage, closing it. Another thing I frequently have people do is put fingertips together in front (I call this "studio hands"). When you "go" for a note, you'll press your fingertips into each other, causing your chest to open and your head to go back. Be sure you're not lifting your chin, keep it level and floating and just let your neck be flexible and your spine will take your head back.

Another thing you need to watch is that you need to be very present with the pitch in some kind of acoustic instrument in the track. Don't "listen" for pitch from the bass, because overtones can throw you off. Try taking some of the instruments (especially swimmy instruments or busy instruments) out of your headphone mix.

Also, watch how much reverb you are using in the mix. Too much or not enough, and you won't do as well. Just enough to make you feel "live", but not enough to get lost.

Lastly, I recommend having one headphone half-off one ear. That grounds you in the vocal booth... And gives you more of an accurate sense of the pitch you're using. Not everyone does better this way, but most do (I certainly do).

If anyone has any feedback after using suggestions I've made, I'd love to hear from you (click comment link below this post). Thanks!

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