Find a voice teacher or a vocal coach to go over your songs with you
No matter what kind of recording you do, I think it is really important that you find a voice teacher or a vocal coach to go over your songs with you. A lot of you are probably thinking, why do I need to bring my own songs that I wrote to a voice teacher or a vocal coach? And I want to say that if you wrote the songs yourself, that is the number one reason why you need to bring them to somebody who has a really good ear. When you write music or anything for that matter, you are very, very close to what you’re writing, right? So it’s difficult to see if it’s problematic or if there are issues in your song. Just like when you’re reading something that you wrote and your brain auto-corrects it, your brain does the same thing when you’re singing. There could be notes that you wrote that don’t make sense. There could be places where your intonation is not where you want it to be for something that’s a recording quality. If you have somebody that you trust like a voice teacher, a vocal coach, even if you have a really good friend who’s a good musician that you trust, going at it in front of them and really workshopping the piece.
I have a bunch of students that do this with me. The funny thing is I’m not a composer. That’s part of music that I really don’t enjoy that much, but I like helping other people write their music. So one of my students, he’ll play me his songs and we’ll go over them. I’m not helping him rewrite the song but I’m helping put final touches on it for recording. Same thing with another one of my students, she loves recording and sometimes she just has trouble figuring out where things should go or what chords are even being played. If you’re not very good at music theory, and you’re expecting to put a band together when you don’t know how to communicate with them, then that’s another way that a voice teacher could help you.
Prepare your songs 2 weeks in advance
Make sure that you have your songs totally prepared about two weeks in advance. There is just always such a temptation to procrastinate, I have these extra two weeks and truthfully you do, but in the two weeks before you’re recording, you want to be just having fun with the pieces. You want to be connecting to them, but you don’t want to be changing things. You don’t want to be like adding more instruments. While that can be fun if you’re a professional musician, if you’re not there yet, it can be very startling to your ear to all of a sudden hear these parts that were never there before that you didn’t practice with.
Do a mock recording of yourself
When you think your song is ready to record, even if you have to do this in your house, you want to go through your morning or your afternoon, whenever you’re going to record exactly like you’re going to do it on the day of the recording because you don’t want any surprises. Pretend that this is your recording session and that you’re going to do the best that you possibly can do. That way you have the recording of your song, you can listen to it and you can also give it to a couple people to listen to, to give you feedback. So that’s really important as well and remembering that the feedback is all constructive. Don’t ask people that you feel like are not gonna be constructive with you because it’s already close to what it’s going to be, but you’re just trying to make it even better.
Record a maximum of two to three songs per recording session
When you plan to record, remember that your voice will get tired quicker than in live performance, because you are generating all of your own energy and usually you’re not running on any adrenaline. Believe it or not, adrenaline is what helps us carry through a long performance when we are performing live. I would say you should plan to record two songs in a session. Obviously, if you only have one that’ll be cheaper for you and shorter, but if you want to make the most out of your time that you’ve booked in a studio or booked at someone’s house, you could try to record two songs max three.
The order that you want to do it is that you want to start with your best or the song that you need to have, start with that, and then go down the list. If you get to your third and you’re like, my voice is not quite there, but I have the time, I’ve already paid for the time, or I’ve already paid for the musicians and I want to stay, then record your third song. See how it goes, give it a whirl the most important thing to remember is that you will get tired. If you do choose to go the route of booking at a studio it can be pretty expensive. If you don’t want to go that route, remember that there are plenty of other DIY options for you. If you do decide to book a studio, you want to make sure that you really like the work that the recording artist has already done. So chances are when you’re searching around your area, searching Yelp, you’ll find reviews, but you’ll also find links to the website, go on the website and listen to the other stuff. If they don’t record your kind of music, don’t go there. The other thing you’ll want to ask about is turnaround time & customer service because you’re paying them like good money to be there for you.
If you are dealing with deadlines, don’t do it the day before the recordings are due. I’ve done that. It’s always a mistake. It never works out well. If you have to redo something, you don’t have any time to redo it because that happens too. Especially if it’s your first time recording you may be unhappy with it, but it’s going to be such a different experience for you that you are probably going to think “I want to redo this” and that’s okay, but you have to give yourself the time to redo it.
A couple notes on the day before the recording and the morning of the recording.
Sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, please sleep
Your vocal folds need seven to nine hours of sleep to sound good and for your endurance. A lot of times it’s so much more than your vocal folds, it’s about your whole body’s endurance. How long can you do this? How long can you record for, before you get super tired. You want your body to be as close to 100% as possible!
Drink a lot of water BEFORE the recording
Drink a lot of water and you don’t want to do it right before the recording. Stay hydrated the entire week. Day of, you want to wake up and drink a bunch of water right away because it takes your body time to process that water. You can’t chugging water down your throat three minutes before you walk into an audition/recording and expect that to affect what your voice is going to sound like.
Don’t overuse your voice the day before the recording
If you have a job that you’re on the phone all day, take off. I know that might not be possible for everybody but I have done that before, where I’ve taught all day and then like immediately gone to an audition, it’s just never a great situation. Remember you’re trying to put yourself in the best possible mood, and best possible health to get the best possible recording.
Do not record if you’re sick, just don’t do it
Call everyone and tell them you’re sick and don’t go. Sometimes that means you’ll have to take a hit if you’re at a professional recording studio, but let me tell you if you’re sick, you can hear it in a recording. You can hear it in a recording more than if you were performing live because the microphone is really close. Not only that, but if you’re sick, there’s no way you’re going to make it through more than one song. It’s just going to be a waste of your time and everyone else’s time. There’s some tough love for you but so true. So, so true.
Be emotionally prepared
Lastly, take your emotions out of the equation because you have to ask yourself like, am I the most prepared that I can possibly be? If the answer is yes, then you just have to go through with it. But emotionally speaking as a musician, as like a perfectionist about my music, which I’m working on, I can tell you that you’re never going to feel like you’re 100% ready and you’re never going to feel like it’s exactly the way you wanted it to be. When we’re listening, we can be our own harshest critic. Remember to enjoy the experience and everything will sound better!