My album is now in the mixing and mastering phase, which means that we are on the homestretch! My producer came across a challenge though as he started mixing my vocals; he is used to recording vocalists who record their vocals in parts. I on the other hand like to record the whole tune in one go–performing the song, and moving my body as I sing. I do 3-4 takes from which we choose the best moments. I get lost and confused if I have to sing just one line or one verse… It doesn’t make sense to me. I forget what the song it about and try too hard to ‘nail it.’ Boring. In my humble opinion.
I could get a little ‘muso’ on you here, trying to explain compression and all the tinkering that you do with vocals to make them fit the rest of the track. But I won’t. I will simply say that this process was apparently more complicated with my vocals, because I sing with such a wide variety of volumes within a song. I sing quiet, I get louder, then I get real loud and then I get quiet again. Stuff that you’d naturally do on stage, you know. It’s much harder to even out the vocals to fit the track when there are all of these dynamics going on. When recording a song in pieces you have a lot more control over the volumes and the compression. After some trial and error my producer did figure out what works for my specific kind of vocals. Now we’re finally on our way to the finish line.
But here is what I deem the most interesting part–something that I hadn’t thought of before. Recording vocals is one of the many areas of music making, where there is a direct comparison to film making. Recording vocals in the studio is much like film acting. Imagine a stage actor doing the same performance on camera as he/she does on stage. It would probably look false and over the top. This is true for vocals too.You can’t sing the same way in the studio as you would on stage, unless you’re recording the whole song live with a band. At least I can’t.
It turns out I’m more of a ‘stage actor’ by rote. That’s the style I’m most comfortable in these days. I actually have to pipe my shit down in the studio in order for my vocals to sound like they belong in the track. Nuance is what wins the day both for the film actor in front of the camera, and also for the recording artist in front of the studio-mic. You have to keep it simple, with minimal frills. Meh. I hate to practice restraint.
I have to say though, that I am proud of my intensity and of being that “stage actor”. There was a time when I was too timid to express myself fully, even when singing. Now clearly those days are gone. As a perk I like to hear that Bono of U2 records much the same way in the studio as he performs on stage: with a hand-held mic and lots of movement. Now that’s something I can relate to! If he’s made it work, it might as well work for me.
Both a ‘movie actor’ and a ‘stage actor’–now that’s what I want to be! Well…need to be; at this point; actually. Naturally I’ll be fine-tuning all of this as I go…
So, ok. I’ll agree to piping my shit down. But decidedly not too much.