Thursday, March 1, 2007

Recording Studio Vocal Producer...Do You Need One?

What is a vocal producer?
Do I need one?

These are questions which should be asked by everyone needing to record a voice. Period. Why? Because it can make SO MUCH DIFFERENCE to the final outcome.

Ok, I know this may be a bit self-serving, because I am one (a vocal producer). But sometimes you truly do NOT need one. Here's how you can tell:
  1. Does your vocal quality really matter that much in this recording? If you are just putting a quick song down that won't be heard by the music industry outside your inner circle, maybe it doesn't matter. Included in under this heading would be: songwriter worktapes (rough recordings to put the song down), pre-production recording (to experiment with vocal style, find the best key for your voice, see if the song really fits you, etc.) , casual or non professional recordings where you don't need to sound your best.
  2. Is the producer of your recording project really a good vocal producer as well as an instrumental track producer? Sometimes they are both instrumental and vocal producer rolled into one. Quite frankly, this is rare. There is a difference between KNOWING WHAT TO TELL SOMEONE TO DO when they sing and KNOWING HOW TO HELP THEM DO IT! For example, Tom Paden is a great producer and artist developer who is wise enough and caring enough of his clients to suggest they hire me for vocal production. They are not always quite sure why they need this, but after they record, they are amazed and very happy with the results they can get with a vocal producer. They also gain vocal instruction which helps them improve their voices immediately.
  3. Are you a veteran of the recording studio? Hey, sometimes even YOU need objective feedback from someone with a qualified ear who knows how you sing at your best. This is especially true with "master" vocals, which are "final vocals" you intend to sell, or with which you intend to pitch yourself or your song to the music industry. Assessing your own vocals while singing is never a good idea anyway. It scatters your focus. It IS best for you to make the final decision on whether to keep the vocal or to re-record it, but get another team member to help pull out your best as you record.
  4. Can you afford it? If you can't, try to at least find a recording engineer who knows some things about the voice. If you just get a great "techie" who is not a singer or musician at the board, you're on your own :) I love working with these techies because I can trust them to record the vocals right; when paired with a good vocal producer it can make for a great recording team. I have an engineer I've worked with who has decided to take vocal lessons from me to understand how to better serve his clients who can't afford another recording team member. How cool is that?

Have you had experience with or without a vocal producer? If so, click on the comment link below this post and share your thoughts!


Anonymous said...

I can't believe I have finally found some sort of article on vocal production. Vcal producers are often underrated (I know) and don't nearly get enough credit (or as much as track producers). Can I ask: for your vocal production, are you also technically involved as far as producing the vocals go or are you more involved on an artistic ("okay, try that line with less breathyness") level? I've always been curios to find out what REALLY constitutes a vocal producer: a coach, an arranger, or someone at the switchboard when it comes to dealing with vocals?

Judy Rodman said...

Thanks for the great question!

A vocal arranger, which I also am, will deal with the structure of background vocals. The one at the switchboard is usually referred to as recording engineer.

I believe the term "vocal producer" usually refers to a specialized studio vocal coach. This is artistic production, which in my case involves psychology (how they are communicating the message to the audience, physiology (how they are standing at the mic, how flexible the body is, how they are including their hands in the process, and various vocal techniques I've found that are extremely effective for studio work.

Also, I help with style within the chosen genre, and this help can be more or less intensive according to the abilities and experience of the singer.

I try to coach uniqueness. I try to pull the singer to a place they can't quite be without help, so they go home and improve to match the great vocal they got instead of going home improving and wishing they could do the vocal over!

Hope this helps clarify.