Getting The Best Performance From a Vocalist


Recording Tips and Tricks

Submitted by Shane Irwin

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Studio Location: 3940 Hickory Heights Dr. Hendersonville, TN 37075

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Recording Tips and Tricks (250 – 600 words):

Getting the best performance from a vocalist.

I have recorded many many different singers here in Nashville. Some great, some far from great. In either case, getting that absolute best vocal performace from a vocalist in the studio can sometimes only come after a bit of trial, warm up takes, encouragement, and some coaching.

A given song can either be brought to life with a great vocal, or it can be brought down. Sometimes, a specific vocalist may not be right for a given song, yet there may be no choice to go on with it. How to get that “best possible take” out of a singer can often take longer than you hope for, but the results are usually worth it.

Recording Tips and Tricks

In short, here are a few tips, with some explanation of them.

1) Almost always, just plan on redoing verse 1, after you think you are done with the song.

A great thing to do is to record the whole song in one take, just as a warm up. You MAY actually get some great lines to keep, especially when the vocalist knows you are just recording a “practice run”. The heat is off! No pressure. This is often perfect for bringing out some great vocal licks, and some great phrases to keep. Either way, whether you record one line at a time, or whole sections at a time, I advise usually going back and redoing V1. The singer will usually be “feeling” the song by then, and can really nail it. Maybe even redo the first chorus as well.

Recording Tips and Tricks – Getting the best performance from a vocalist

2) Don’t be afraid to “coach” a singer through a song, but with plenty of humility!

Often, when I hire a singer for a particular song, the singer is already a great vocalist, but may need coaching though this one song. I don’t mean telling him how to breath, or how to sing. I mean, coaching the performance out of him/her. “Hey Brandi, I really need to HEAR the emotion on that bridge. Can you give me a little attitude at the end of the 2nd phrase?”

Recording Tips and Tricks

3) Have fun!

Recording vocals in a HUGE part of the song. Have fun with it, even if it’s a sad song. Get into it. Take on the song. Have the singer take on the emotion, or the role within the song if need be. Laugh, be silly, have fun. Keep it “loose”. Nothing brings out the best in a singer as when he/she is loose and relaxed.

These were just a few of my favorite nuggets of knowledge I’ve collected over the years. I hope you can apply some of them!

Recording tricks and tips submitted by Shane Irwin of

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