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. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Vocal Booth: 7 Tips To Make The Recording Space Singer-Friendly

What does a singer need in the vocal booth? More than just eye-friendly recording studio design. The voice is a picky, sensitive thing. If you want to record it, here are 7 things it wants:
  • Lighting -
It wants mood lighting, OK? Twilight dimmed to pitch black - experiment to find the lighting that makes it the least shy. Sometimes a singer is not bothered, but if there are windows to the daylight, the voice may like you to cover them with something.
  • Smell -
What the nose doesn't like, the voice won't either. It can affect breath, throat and focus. Save the incense candles for the smokers who sing. They are usually more used to the effect! One must be careful with perfume or room deodorizers, too. The plainer and cleaner the smell in the booth, the better.
  • Orientation of mic to control room -
The voice doesn't like to be stared at. You can fake it out by not aiming your singer (yourself if you're the singer) eyeball to eyeball with the producer, engineer or anyone else. If at all possible, position the mic so that the singer is facing a corner or side of the room... not the control room window.
  • Temperature -
Try and get the temperature in the booth comfortable for the individual singer. It amazes me how many engineers don't understand the importance of this. Ever tried singing when you're shivering? It messes with your control big time. Ever tried singing while burning up? It saps your energy like a vampire, and the voice will sound tired, uncontrolled, numb. If the studio vents are not optimally placed, the people in the control room may need to suffer a bit to get it right for the vocal booth. Yep. The singer comes first.
  • Furniture -
While not a deal breaker, it's nice to have a few simple pieces of furniture. Some kind of waist high table or ledge for water is nice so the singer won't have to bend over and then re-position at the mic. It can be helpful to have a tall stool for the singer who is fatigued. (And of course the vocalist will sit tall and flexibly from the front end of the stool, not hunched back into it.)
  • Music stand -
The last thing you want is for a singer to have to hold lyrics. This will, I promise you, affect optimum breathing. It's always best if a singer has memorized lyrics, but if it's a situation where the lyrics are needed, have a stand (or duck tape for securing the lyrics to the wall!)
  • Headphone box -
It's great if the "more me" cue box is on a stand instead of at the feet, so micro-adjustments can be quickly made from time to time. If, as I recommend, the singer is wearing headphones with one side half-off the ear, the headphone box should be set on "mono" instead of "stereo".

Anybody care to chime in on their thoughts for the perfect vocal booth area? What have I left out?

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  • At November 16, 2009 at 1:27 PM , Blogger Kelley Ann Hornyak said...

    For me, as a singer/songwriter, I like to surround myself with items that remind me of the person or situation that I'm singing about. Anything that will help me get into that mental space where I am really emotionally feeling the lyrics. Photos, mementos, scents that remind me of them... All the proper setup in the world won't help if my head's not in the right place, and a few well-chosen items can really help with that. Great article as always Judy!

  • At November 16, 2009 at 2:51 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Kelley, thx for the comment- you're not alone. I have had students who bring lava lamps, candles, pictures, and even colorful throws to make them feel uninhibited and focused. I personally have a bit of phobia concerning rm deodorizers or other strong candles. I can't hardly breathe.

    For the voice... whatever works!!!!

  • At December 2, 2009 at 5:26 PM , Blogger Louise DeLucchi said...

    what is the headphone box?

  • At December 3, 2009 at 1:39 AM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Louise, the headphone box is an electronic unit you can plug one or more headphones into to hear playback cue. It has a control knob for over-all volume level,a switch for "mono" or "stereo" output and sometimes other knobs that can be assigned by the engineer so you can control things like lead vocal, background vocals, the current live vocal, track vocal. Here'a an example of a simple headphone box: http://www.skeng.com/Simon_Systems_files/CB_4.pdf


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