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!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Common Mistakes Producers/Engineers Make That Sabotage Singers

 Emil Bishaw set up in the vocal booth

A producer or audio engineer who produces vocals can make or break a singer's performance. Anything that affects the following areas will affect the studio singer's vocal ability:
  1. The Breath
  2. The Throat
  3. The Ear
  4. The Zone
  5. The Vocal Cords
Here are some common mistakes I see production teams make:
  • Putting music stand too forward right in front of the microphone. The singer will be leaning forward into the mic. This will tighten the ribcage and the throat channel of the singer, sabotaging breath, control of tone, pitch, licks, volume and vocal stamina.
  • Not setting the singer's cuebox in mono or putting the same thing in both phones when the singer is using the 'one headphone half-off" technique. The singer's ear will miss something.
  • Assuming the singer does or does not need reverb without asking, checking or experimenting. Different singers and even the same singer on different songs may need different reverb choices and amounts. 
  • Pointing the singer directly into the control room. This is intimidating and distracting for new singers, and can be disorienting even for veterans, sabotaging the 'zone'.
  • Assuming it's always best to have the singer sing the whole song every take, and compile the best of the takes for the final vocal track. Sometimes this indeed works for emotional songs. But many times (especially with big range melodies) it just fatigues vocal cords and certain parts of the song never get as good as they could if the singer has a chance to rest. Best to be flexible.
  • Not getting the track mix in the headphone cue right. There are so many variables that affect the singer's ear, from bass overtones to whether an instrument provides emotional support or pitch distraction. It helps to be able to make a good guess as to what the SINGER wants, and then to ask and experiment before the singer fully commits to performance. 
  • Not knowing how to ask for 'more' from a singer. If you don't know something about vocal technique, your suggestions may cause the singer to push too hard instead of be more powerfully emotional. Frustration sets in, singer's confidence slips, vocal cords begin to strain and effort becomes counterproductive.
Find much more on this subject at www.vocalproductionworkshop.com 

Question for producers and engineers: What has been your most frustrating problem with singers? 

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  • At October 18, 2013 at 10:51 AM , Anonymous Bill Wright said...

    Good points, Judy! Thanks for sharing!
    It seems that the "punching-in process" in a lot of cases might not be as easy to accomplish as it was in the old analog days. Of course, the more sophisticated recording tools might offer more ease in digital recording, but many may not. Do you have any thoughts on this?

  • At October 18, 2013 at 10:57 AM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Hi Bill... actually, punching in can be easier digitally due to the 'pulling back' ability of the separate tracks so the connection between takes is seamless. This is one of the benefits of digital vocal recording.


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