Vocalist with STEM’s
Okay, you’ve got your stems in hand and you’re ready to head to the studio, what do you need to know?
First off, you’ll want to make sure your stems are at the highest sample rate and bit depth as possible. You do not need anything larger than 96k 32bit files but they need to be wav or aiff files. DO NOT TAKE MP3 FILES TO THE STUDIO. Ask your engineer what he prefers if you are unsure. Those 96k files sound wonderful but are large and process intensive for computers and if he doesn’t have a powerful enough system to process those files, you could add HOURS to your mixing process. HOURS equal money, DOLLA, DOLLA BILL, YAWL! It’s your producer’s job to keep your project on budget as well as meet your albums sonic requirements. It’s your engineer’s job to deliver those sonic requirements, not to tell you how good your take was. Great engineers will do both but in a perfect world you want him focused on the sonics of your music and vocals. The more jobs anyone’s mind has the less focus each task has but obviously budget is always a factor.
Expect twenty to thirty minutes on the high end for your files to load into Pro-Tools or whatever preferred DAW your engineer might be using but before you jump into the vocal booth and make sure that the music sounds the way you remembered it. If the snare is too loud in the control room it will be too loud in your headphones. Get that rough mix where you want it while rehearsing your song in the control room. You’re in the studio because you want a professional record so act like a professional and prepare for your session. How should you prepare for your session? You should know your lyrics without your iphone or any sheets of paper. Your engineer should not have to edit out you turning pages and you should not sound like your reading. Learning your lyrics in advance gives you and your producer the opportunity to focus on how your lyrics should FEEL, not what you should be saying. Being unprepared is an easy way to kill everyone’s vibe.
Before you record one take, listen to the music in your headphones and practice your lyrics a few times, listening to the way your vocals sound in the room you’re going to record in. I find it helpful to dim the light or turn them completely out, close my eyes and hear my vocal against the music while practicing. If you’re supposed to sound like you’re in an ampletheater, find that tone in your vocal before you start adding reverb. If you need to sound intimate, like you’re talking to a lover, you need to sound that way with a dry vocal. Maybe move back or closer to the mic or to the side of the mic, switch mics or change your tone or maybe all three. You need to feel the way you want that vocal to sound before you begin to record. You’re not looking for the perfect take, you should find your perfect emotion first. Now you’re ready to record.