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Recording Tips: How to Record Vocals

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Unless you play instrumental music, the vocal track is the most important part of your demo. It’s the part of the music that most fans and listeners connect with the most, and that makes your vocal tracks the heart and soul of your recording. But recording vocals can be a tricky thing. How do you capture the spirit of a great vocal take without losing any of the raw energy of the performance? Here are a few recording tips for vocalists.

Finding a Place to Record

Where will your vocal recording take place? The opportunities are endless, really… Besides professional recording studios, vocals can be easily recorded at home with the proper setup. If you don’t have a home recording setup (or know someone who does), you might want to take a look at our guide to finding the right vocal recording studio to help you find the right location. If you do decide to head to a recording studio, you can skip the next section on recording software and hardware.

Recording Software & Hardware

When you take recording matters into your own hands, it is imperative that you choose the right recording gear for the job. The sheer number of options available may seem intimidating at first, but here are a few tips.

You’ll need a digital audio workstation (DAW) to start. Some of the most common DAWs include Protools, Cubase and Logic. If you don’t want to invest in expensive software, many companies offer scaled down, cheaper versions of their titles. There are also free options available as well, though if you’re planning on getting serious about recording you’ll probably want to spend a few dollars on decent recording software.

You’re also going to need an audio interface of some sort. This is the hardware that you will be plugging your microphone into (which then plugs into your computer, usually via USB or Firewire). Again, there are tons of options out there for interfaces, but there are plenty of basic affordable products such as the Mbox. Just be aware that the more expensive interfaces often boast better sound quality when recording. Music recording gear tends to be pretty straightforward with pricing; more expensive will get you better recordings and more options, while less expensive tends to deliver lower quality and fewer choices.

Choosing the Right Microphone

More than anything else, the microphone is probably the most crucial piece of recording gear you can buy when it comes to recording vocals. The best DAW in the world won’t make a difference if you’re singing into a $15 Radio Shack microphone. There are several different types of microphones, the most common being dynamic and condenser. Dynamic mics like the Shure SM-57 are typically more affordable, but tend to be better suited for live performance than for recording. Condenser mics can be pricier, but they’ll give you a much crisper, more nuanced vocal track. That’s why most engineers prefer to use higher end microphones for recording.
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Choosing the Right Instrumentation For Your Song

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

We love giving musicians a lot of options for their songs, but not every option can be right for every song. You should always carefully consider the instrumentation you choose. Not only will the right instruments make your track sound appropriate for its genre, they will also allow you to showcase the parts that are most important to your song. Here are a few choices you may come across when picking the right instrumentation.

Real drum track vs. programmed drums

The first decision to make is whether you would like a live drummer playing a real drum set or would rather have a programmed drum part. Usually if your song is rock, country, and certain kinds of pop, you’ll want the sound of one of our Los Angeles session drummers to give your song that full band, live sound. But if you do R&B, hip hop, electronic or top 40 pop music, you’re most likely going to want the sound of programmed drums.

Real vs. synth bass

A great bass line is a key part of a great song. That bass line can be played by a studio bassist, or we can program a synth bass line. Once again, it all depends on what vibe you’re going for with your music.

Guitars

There are many types of guitars that make all kinds of sounds: solid body guitars, hollow bodies, acoustics, electrics, etc. There are tons of different guitar sounds even out of the same guitar, too: different pickups, distortion, clean, reverbs, delays, and various effects.  Different guitar sounds fit with different styles: acoustic goes great with folk and singer/songwriter music, hollow body electric is perfect for jazz, etc.

Guitars also sound good when they’re layered, and rhythm guitar parts are often doubled in songs you hear on the radio. But don’t go overboard laying guitars; more than 3-5 and your song starts sounding muddy and undefined.

Keyboards and synths

Keyboards are similar to guitars: lots of options, but add too many and the listener won’t know what they’re supposed to be listening to. With keyboard tracks, you can have piano, organ, electric keyboards (like a Rhodes or Wurlitzer), and synth instruments (including string sections). If the rest of your song sounds very acoustic or live, you probably want to stick with one of the basics like piano or organ. If you’re producing a dance track, you’ll probably want to have a lot of cool synths and sounds that aren’t quite as “natural” as your standard keyboards.

Vocalists

Vocals are instruments, too. Even if you don’t use one of our vocalists for your lead part, they can add a new dimension to your music with harmonies or other background vocals. You’d be amazed what a few tracks of “oohs” can do for your song!

Horns

Studio Pros also offers horn sections.  Horn sections are essential for certain styles like swing and Latin music, but you might be surprised how many songs in other styles use horns, too.  A horn section can add a very unique element to your song, and they often bring the energy level up considerably when added to a recording.

Don’t forget that you can always mix it up—there’s no rule saying rock music has to have a live bass track or that rap can’t have a real drum set. We love to hear artists experiment and push the boundaries of their style. Just remember to always pick and choose your instruments wisely…  You want to make sure your listener gets the experience that you’re hoping for.

Featured Artist: Rich Marcello

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

A seasoned songwriter and poet, Rich Marcello teamed up with Studio Pros to give his productions the professional edge he needed, and keeps on coming back for more.

Boston based songwriter Rich Marcello is no novice when it comes to getting out the ink and jotting it down.  With over 30 songs professionally produced with Studio Pros, he’s gotten the continual experience of producing his tracks online, and is regularly bringing Studio Pros more material to produce.  “I’ve been writing for around 20 years,” says Marcello.  “At first I did a lot of the production myself but several years ago I decided to get them professionally produced, which was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Marcello came across Studio Pros (which was at the time DrumsForYou.com) through an online search and decided to give it a try.  Starting with just a drum track, he heard the quality of Studio Pros’ production team and decided to try it out for a full production.  “By letting other really talented musicians work on my material it really took my work to a much better place. I knew I found a great partner in music and I’ve felt that on every song Studio Pros has done for me.  I think Studio Pros is the best in the business–I won’t ever use anyone else,” Marcello stated.

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Featured Artist: David Llorente

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

David Llorente used Studio Pros for his first professional project and was blown away not only by the musicianship, but by how much they cared.

“It was probably one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had as a musician.”

That’s how David Llorente feels about his time working with Studio Pros. “Just going through all the processes, seeing what people have to do to get a professional track cut. I didn’t know how long it took. I didn’t know everything that was involved from start to finish. And now, having gone through it with Studio Pros, I’m never gonna forget it. It was awesome.”

Llorente, a Nashville-area singer/songwriter, was hunting down recording options online when he discovered Studio Pros. “I really wanted to get this project out, it was real heavy on my heart,” he remembers. “I read about Studio Pros and thought, ‘that’s a good idea.’” Though intrigued by the idea, Llorente still needed convincing that Studio Pros was the best choice for his music. All it took to persuade him was a little research and a phone call to head of production Kati O’Toole.

“The credentials behind the staff are amazing,” he explains. “I actually went and checked out Katie’s albums that she had done. She’s not just a producer, but she’s a musician and songwriter.” Knowing that his songs were in the hands of fellow musicians put Llorente at ease. “I could hear that she’s passionate about what she’s doing. It was cool to have some people that really cared.”

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Press Kit: What You Should Include

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Even if you’re relatively new to the musician world, you’ve probably heard the term “press kit” thrown around quite a few times by now. A press kit is a package of materials that you might send to record labels, media outlets, venues, etc. that contains all of the pertinent information about your band. But what does that mean exactly? What is and isn’t relevant information?

You’ll want your press kit to follow some basic standards if industry people are going to look at it. Here are a few tips and essentials on putting together the ultimate press kit.

Band Photo

The first thing in your press kit should be a hi-resolution photo of the band (or yourself if you’re a solo artist.) This can be black and white or full color. There aren’t a whole lot of rules when it comes to taking a great band photo (although you might want to stay away from some common clichés such as railroad tracks and brick walls).  But you should definitely make sure of at least two things: everyone’s face should be easily seen in the picture, and the band’s “image” should be on display. If you play dark metal music, it might not suit your image to be wearing bright colors and lying in a field of flowers. If you’re an upbeat pop band, it might not fit to be wearing all black and looking dreary. Let your band’s character shine through!

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