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4 Tips For Great Vocal Performances

By Josefin Glenmark | Guest Writer

Photographer: Johan Gustafsson

My name is Josefin and I'm a professional singer and a Grammy-nominated songwriter based in Sweden. 

Writing the song is usually the first part of my job, then I switch to vocal coaching and being present during the vocal recordings, helping the producer to pick the right takes. I also often record background harmonies or help out doubling the lead singer to get a deeper dimension to the vocals.

Here are my 4 tips for getting a great vocal performance;

1. Make The Vocalist Feel Comfortable

This might seem obvious but it's suprising how many producers don't pay attention to this. It's pretty simple, if you make a singer feel uncomfortable and insecure, you will not get a great take out of them. 

So think about how you phrase your words, how you can encourage them to deliver the take you want and need. Being a singer I have the luxury of being able to coach them and also hear their possibilities. I hope to make them sing in ways they don’t even know they could. That is fun. If I need to get up and dance I will. If I need to take a break and talk, I will. Maybe a cup of tea with honey.... Or a break if I feel that the energy is not really there. The voice also needs to rest. And of course... be warmed up when you start recording.

2. Have Your Vocal Channel Strip Ready

It's really important for the producer to have a channel strip ready for playback, so we can hear roughly how the take will sound with effects on it. Put a tuner on there too, it is always more encouraging if the takes are in tune. But it encourages the singer to deliver even better in my experience.

3. Focus On The Energy Not Perfection

Many things can be fixed in post, but you cannot fix the delivery. So if there is lack of energy in the take, that is something that no plug-in can fix whereas timing, tuning and volume are all things you can improve afterwards. So always remember that if you don’t seem to get that 'perfect' take because maybe the pitch is off, don't worry - you can fix that, just focus on getting a great take. 

I want to feel something when I listen to a voice rather than getting a perfect take with no feeling. So the energy and delivery, that is key for me. If it is a sad song, be sad.... Try to get the feeling through. Happy... then be happy. A trick I often use to to tell the singer to sing with a smiling face. It opens up the sound and you will hear a different tone in the voice. Try it, it works!

4. Invest In Your Tools

Once we finished tracking, there are so many plug-ins out there to help us in the mixing / engineering phase. The arrangements I do most of the time are minimum 50 different tracks up to a 100. I need quick solutions for things like timing and pitch. Revoice Pro 4 has turned out to be an amazing help there as I can get multiple things done in one single app. Love it. It saves us a lot of time in the process.

Above all, always remember that creating music is fun. It is not always easy, but that is why you need to remember why you do it. It’s the love for music and that is a mantra I try to live by.


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