Vocal Recording Tips and Principles – Part 3

Here is the third post by Jon Wright. Written while sitting in on a vocal session with Kevin Ward and Wayne Haun.

“Two more tips for a great vocal session:

As an engineer you need to find a workflow that works well for you.

For Kevin, it was making 3 passes (minimum) on separate tracks and comping the best of those three takes into one track.  This workflow allowed him to get a great track, without tiring the artist out with a hundred takes. This workflow also allowed the producer some freedom to either do whole takes of the entire song or jump around sectionally by verse, chorus, bridge, etc.

Because getting the best takes is always the most important thing you should never use a sluggish workflow that does not allow time for creativity. So finding one that tailors to your needs is really important. As an engineer you can touch up on small session organization things between takes while the producer and artist talk. This can be things like trimming and consolidating regions, adding crossfades, adjusting outboard gear, record enabling, or rough mixing tracks.

Another tip that is very closely related to workflow is: Memory locations are you friend.

While you work your way through the song, make sure to place easily recallable memory locations. That way if the producer or artist says, “give me the 2nd half of the bridge” you can get there in nothing flat.

– Jon”

– Something to think about and discuss: what workflows have worked for you in the past and why? Also, what hasn’t worked?

By Jon Wright

As a graduate of MTSU with a degree in Audio Engineering and Technology Jon has been working as a full time mixer and engineer in Nashville. He loves running, writing, and all forms of entertainment. He also enjoys long walks on the beach with his wife.

2 comments

  1. I have found that using Kevins workflow of doing about 3 takes through the song is a very good general starting point. However, I think that every singer is different. If you are working with a vocalist who has been in the studio before, talk to them before the session and see what they feel worked best for them in the past. Maybe they are the type that can’t do the entire song all the way through. Maybe they work better if they do all of the verses first, then the bridge, then the choruses. Once again, we are back to the importance of communication. Thoughts?

    – brandon –

  2. Absolutely Brandon. There are lots of usable workflows. And finding one that works well for you as a producer/engineer as well as one that works for the artist is great.

    A different one that I use in sessions with a couple vocalists (vocalists/musicians that can do great full takes) is to get one great take and punch-in the few sections that need to be changed. This can be very fast and effective if your singer can do full takes. But can slow you down if they cannot.

    One thing to keep in mind is that as the producer or engineer, you set the tone for the session. If you are unsure about what workflow to use, the artist (and even the engineer) will pick up on it, and be less confident.

    That’s why it’s so important to have a “go-to” workflow that works well for you in a wide variety of situations. Many workflows are great, some are terrible, but there are a going to be a few that work better for you personally. Find them, and be confident in them.

    Great comment! Do you have any other “go-to” workflows we haven’t discussed? Do you have any that have crashed and burned? We would love to hear about them and discuss them.

    – Jon

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