A Beginners Guide To Vocal Production

‘A Beginners Guide To Vocal Production’ is about understanding music production’s crucial fundamentals. The human voice is a unique tool that captivates, inspires, and moves an audience like no other instrument. Vocalists are often said to be the heart and soul of a track, but to capture raw emotion, one needs more than just a talented vocalist. This is where the role of a vocal producer becomes indispensable.

Vocal producers are a guiding force behind the scenes. They are responsible for ensuring that a vocalist delivers their best performance and that the recording captures the intended emotion and energy. They bridge the gap between the artist’s vision and the technical aspects of recording and production.

In this article, we debrief a beginner’s guide to vocal production to help explain the valuable skills and techniques required to create the perfect vocal recording. 

Pre-production Planning

The process of vocal production often starts before the artist even steps in front of the microphone. Vocal producers work closely with the artist to understand the vision and message of the song. They discuss vocal arrangements, stylistic choices, and the emotional tone the artist aims to convey. This pre-production planning is crucial for creating a roadmap that guides the recording process.

Soft skills

Our previous article about Studio Etiquette discussed the importance of learning essential soft skills as a music producer. As a vocal producer, having this knowledge and understanding can be even more essential.

Ramera Abraham, alumna and MPG Vocal Producer Of The Year has shared her valuable insights from her work in this field. She says, “Having the skill to nurse a connection with the artist is the most crucial quality for a vocal producer. Reading the artist’s body language and increasing their confidence by creating an effective and respectful communication channel are skills that can significantly impact the talent’s performance. It’s all about earning their respect and trust”.

Vocal Producer

Guidance and Coaching

Vocal producers wear many hats, including those of a coach and a motivator. They create a supportive and comfortable environment for the artist, allowing them to perform at their best. Part of their role is offering feedback and guidance to ensure the vocalist delivers an emotionally charged performance that resonates with the audience.

This may involve suggesting changes in vocal techniques, addressing pitch or timing issues, and helping the artist infuse the song with the intended emotions. They also advise using harmonies and vocal doubling to add depth and richness to the music.

“Having the skill to nurse a connection with the artist is the most crucial quality for a vocal producer.”

Ramera Abraham

Selecting the Right Microphone

One of a vocal producer’s technical decisions is selecting the appropriate microphone. This choice is influenced by the artist’s vocal qualities and the desired sonic characteristics. A vocal producer’s expertise in microphone selection can significantly impact the recording’s overall sound.

Johnny Studio Two

Capturing the Emotion

An exceptional vocal producer knows how to capture emotion in a recording. They encourage the artist to connect deeply with the lyrics and melodies. This helps them deliver a performance that feels authentic and heartfelt. This requires creating a space where the artist feels free to express themselves, even if it means revisiting certain lines or phrases until the perfect take is achieved.

Additionally, the vocal producer considers the recording environment. They may choose a studio for its acoustic qualities, vibe, and emotions that might trigger the talent. They will also work on implementing acoustic treatment, microphone placement, and isolation techniques if the recording happens in a less-than-ideal acoustic environment. It’s all about making the artist comfortable so they can deliver their best performance.

Modern Production Techniques

Once the raw vocal performance is captured, it’s time for the vocal producer to enhance and refine it. One crucial expertise of a modern vocal producer is to be proficient in using their DAW of choice. Modern music production techniques such as non-linear editing, combing or pitch correction ensure the vocal track is ready to shine over the music.

Also, by collaborating with mixing engineers, the vocal producer ensures that the vocal track blends perfectly with the music. They provide input on vocal levels, stereo placement, and effects to create a balanced mix.

Elevating the Vocal Performance

The role of a vocal producer is an intricate dance between technical expertise and emotional understanding. Their ability to guide and support artists, capture the essence of a performance, and collaborate with audio professionals makes them indispensable in creating the perfect vocal recording. In our Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering course, we ensure our students empathise with artists while capturing their performance with the best tools available.

To learn more about vocal production, you can read Ramera’s article, The Art Of Vocal Production, in the September issue of Sound On Sound.