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Learn Music and Audio Production | iZotope Tips and Tutorials

5 Basic Tips to Record Better Vocals

by Connor McCoy, Spire Contributor August 1, 2018

Record high-quality vocals anywhere:

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What makes a good vocal track?

Whether it’s a soulful motown song from the 1970s, a classic rock song of the 1980s or a popular electronic dance song of today, songs with lyrics have one thing in common, regardless of genre: a powerful and emotional vocal track.

In this post we review five simple ways to help your own vocals come across the way you want them to.

1. Drink water

It might seem like a no-brainer, but many singers often forget to hydrate before walking into a recording session. Staying hydrated is of paramount importance when it comes to performing your best vocally, whether it’s on stage or in a recording session.

Drink water at least twenty minutes before gearing up to sing behind a microphone. Not only does this keep your body healthy and working properly, it gives time for the body to keep the vocal folds lubricated and limber so your “voice box” can do the job.

2. Smile

When you smile, your cheekbones rise and create a more resonant space within your mouth. This improves the tonal quality of your singing by creating a brighter and warmer tone, and helps your voice resonate, which is often why you’ll see singers smile when moving to a higher pitch. This helps to pinpoint harder-to-reach notes, resulting in a more desired tone and making it easier for the listener to hear the pronunciation of the lyrics.

Sometimes, even just changing the shape of your mouth when you sing can create some strange new tones in your voice, so be creative and try some different faces!

3. Stay in rhythm

There are many techniques in post-production to help a vocalist stay in tune and on beat, but these technologies only go so far in retaining the original talent and energy of a vocalist.

Rhythm is one of the most important aspects of music; whether you’re singing an upbeat dance tune or a soul-wrenching ballad, rhythm is behind it all. The average music fan can notice when someone is off beat or out of time, so it’s very important to try your best to stay in time with the metronome (or in time with the band that you’re playing with) when you’re recording your vocal part for a song.

A common technique that I’ve used in the past is to silently tap the rhythm into your thigh or hand while you sing in order to physically feel the beat, especially for songs with complex rhythms or syncopations. By landing on the down beat specifically, you create more of an impact with rest of the production in the song.

When a section of a song is difficult to nail, sometimes it helps to slow down the tempo, and gradually increase it; always go from slow to fast when practicing rhythm!

The Spire app’s metronome feature is an excellent way to stay in time anywhere you are, whether it be in the studio at home or miles away from civilization.

Here’s a video showing how easy it is to set the tempo in the Spire app. Setting up a metronome in the Spire app can seriously benefit any performance or recording, and is always good practice for playing live as well.

4. Sing with emotion

Nothing is going to make a vocal track worthy enough to listen to without genuine passion and emotion behind it. The pieces will fall in the right spot as long as there is purpose and intention supporting it all.

It takes strength and dedication to nail a vocal performance. It’s very easy to become jaded or tired after singing the same vocal line over and over again—only the best vocalists are able to be in the studio for hours on end and repeatedly give the same amount of effort and emotion into every take.

If you’ve sung the take a couple times and it’s not sounding right, take a quick break to refresh your mindset. It’s not worth recording if it doesn’t have every inch of emotion that it was originally written for! Which leads us to the last and most important note…

5. Do it again and again

This one is simple math; the more takes you record, the more options you have when choosing the right one. Sure, there are some times when the atmosphere is right and the stars align, and you’re able to record a track that feels just right on the first take (like Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” for example), but there is rarely a song in the music industry that is recorded without taking bits and pieces from multiple takes (or “comping,” as it’s called).

Try a combination of different techniques for different results: different emotions, mouth shapes, standing positions, rooms, even the time of day can affect how a vocal track will sound.

Sometimes, the strangest and coolest vocal anomalies find their way into the final production, so keep experimenting with your voice and your environment in order to bring out the best in every vocal track you record!

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