I’m currently on the road for a mini tour in Spain. Among my stops of concerts, I also taught a workshop at Yamaha Music School in Valencia about music production. In this workshop, I outline my procedure to write and produce from the beginning to end. It is certainly a lot to fill in 3 hours, but it is merely to outline the procedure, rather than a detailed survey of the craft.
In the second half of the workshop, one of the activities I like to get into is producing vocals for a song. When it comes to music production, producing vocals is a very hefty and crafty task. This is because when we listen to the vocals in a song, it sounds like it is done in one take. However, in reality what we hear is a collection of multiple takes, which might have taken hours or even days to record. So, in this blog post I would like to provide 5 tips about the art and craft to vocal production:
1) Chop down your takes in smaller parts. Let’s face it, you probably have dozens of takes in your session waiting to be edited. Keeping them in large chunks will only make your job harder. After all, in order to build a wooden ship, you have to chop down the lumber first.
2) Trust your gut instinct in picking the best take. I think that vocal production is what differentiates a good producer from a great one, because the song will only be as good as your standards. If you like a take and do not listen the rest, then you might miss out on some good material. That said, always listen to all your takes.
3) Work with a clear and rested mind. Nothing will make your song worse than trying to listen to dozens of vocal takes and randomly picking one. If you are not feeling like it, then do not start editing. I start editing vocal tracks usually a while after recording it, especially if it was a long and hefty recording session.
4) Do not say ‘we will fix it in the mix’. If you have bad product, you can have the fanciest polish, but it will still be a bad product. Don’t hesitate to go back to work and record it until you are happy with the results.
5) See how you can recycle material in your session. One of my favorite things is to create harmonies of vocal lines using pitch modulators. Samplers are a great way to create ‘instruments’ of vocal samples. You can also borrow some tools from the mixing area to make your vocal productions unique by adding auto filter and delay.
So there you have it, these are 5 tips that should get your feet in the water at vocal production. Keep in mind that you get better at vocal production as you keep doing it, song after song and project after project. It takes a long time before you get really good at this, so keep recording new songs and producing!
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Alper Tuzcu is a Berklee College of Music and Denison University alumni, and a Boston based guitarist, songwriter and producer. His new EP ‘Lines’ was released on November 2017 and his debut eclectic album ‘Between 12 Waters’ featuring 8 different vocalists is available on Spotify. In addition to being a musician, he regularly teaches workshops and masterclasses internationally. You can follow him on Instagram or Twitter, and for more information you can visit his website www.alpertuzcu.com