The secret to a great vocal sound is a
vocalist who knows how to work the mic, and an engineer/producer who
can keep that vocalist motivated. I know. You thought
going to tell you that the mic should be 6 to 9 inches from the singer
(or 1 - 4 feet for classical) but if they're hot closer is cool. You
thought I was going to recommend using a Popper-Stopper or other
pantyhose deal. You thought I was going to mention going from that
$2,800 mic into that $1,500 tube pre into that cool $1,900 compressor
into that (very very important) de-esser, then eq'd a bit with NO
effects onto tape. You thought I was going to tell you to keep the gain
reduction from 1db to 5db and setting that (very very important)
de-esser so that the sibilance is controlled and sounds natural, not
peaky or spitty (enabling you to add more highs without glaring SS's).
That's not the secret to getting a great vocal sound. Key: Vocalists reach a
sweet spot in their
energy and in their sound when singing, and it can occur on a scratch
vocal when the band is pumping, or it can occur after five hours of
singing. Your job is to recognize the sweet spot and maintain it so
that the performance is it's best. If the performance lacks, it doesn't
matter how expensive the mic is! A great performance on a cheap mic
will get you signed much sooner than a so-so performance on a
The Million Dollar Vocal Secret: Specific motivational language will keep a singer
longer and get you a way-better performance. This idea applies even if
the singer is the most radical dude (or dudette) in town. It's simple,
but it's overlooked nearly ALL the time. Here goes. Use positive
language. I call it the Perfect End Result.
It saves the singer mental and emotional energy that can be put to good
use in the lyric and melody.
the Perfect End Result? Here's some examples: "Dude... sing
that note a little higher." vs. "Dude.... you're FLAT on that note." -
"Tina bring your energy up a bit more." vs. "Tina, your energy is
dragging down too much." - "It will sound great if you sustain that
note longer." vs. "It sounds lame when you drop off the end of that
Every creative person PRIDES themselves in
their performance. It creates a mental
uphill battle when you
give the person a comment about what you don't want vs. what
you DO want. (This...by the
way is a great tip for parenting
your kids, too.)
Key: no...BIG KEY: The mind does not
understand the word
"don't". Why? Because the mind works in pictures, not letters. If I say
think of green jello wiggling in a bowl in front of you, what do you
think of? Now, let's experiment. Picture that green jello for a minute.
Now...... DON'T think of dark red cherries in that wiggly green jello.
DON'T think of bright yellow sprinkles on the jello and spilled on the
table. DON'T think of your best friend taking your jello and dumping it
on the floor. DON'T THINK OF IT! Don't think of your friend's shocked
face as the jello splatters all over the floor!!! DON'T think about
what I'm saying! DON'T sing that note SHARP again... DON'T SING SHARP!!!
it? I guarantee that while you were reading that paragraph,
you were NOT thinking of an elephant. Ahem. Up until now. Now you're
thinking elephant. But no matter how many times I said the word DON'T,
you pictured what I said. Your mind automatically locked onto the
image/idea no matter what - it was instantaneous and effortless.
tell your singer she sounds like her energy is low, she will
have to FIGHT off the energy drain since attention was brought to it's
lowness. It's easier for her to increase her energy if you say the
Perfect End Result - "Bring your energy
If you tell your vocalist what you DO want vs. what you DON'T want,
that person doesn't have to mentally process away the mistake - they
only have to aim forward at the bulls eye. If you tell your kids "Stay
on the sidewalk, you'll be safer." - they will do it easier and more
instinctively than if you tell them "Don't go out into the street, you
could get killed."
you. No matter what style of music you're into or what
instrument you play, if you LOCK this technique into your method of
music, you will accelerate your success and increase your staying power
in delivering the passion and magic that music is all about.
trust me. It's not the mic. It's the performance
that will get you signed. Once you find the pocket, you'll know that
groove is everything. LOCK IT in the pocket. Be committed to singing in
tune! BIG KEY: Practice DOESN'T
perfect - Practice makes progress. PERFECT practice makes perfect.
Remember that idea every time you play or
sing. It will make a
huge difference in your musical skills and presentation.
More about Result
sense and read all the recording magazines you can get your
hands on. If you're an engineer, it simply takes time and
experimentation to discover what works. There are no rules. Try
everything. Set up 10 mics around the guitar amp in different distances
and combinations and phase settings. Study gain structure so you know
how and where to eliminate distortion. Use good cables, good monitors
(lots to talk about on my Studio Monitor Madness page) and compare
(rough or final) to commercial CDs for reference. Look to the source of
the sound as the main ingredient for great results. Be original and
support others in their success. Positive energy
towards others brings it right back to you - so receive it - there's
plenty to go around.