Vocals are usually recorded in the live room area whilst wearing a pair of headphones, in sight of the producer/engineer, who if necessary can give visual cues. They can communicate via the talkback system. The producer/engineer will be looking to get the best performance possible out of you. This will cover making sure that you sing in time, in tune and that the diction is good. Wherever possible we prefer that a song is sung through in it’s entirety to get the most natural performance, then we will pick the best parts from a number of takes. How many takes depends on each individual singer, if with every take you are singing better we will keep asking for another!
Reverberation helps with tuning (that’s why people sing best in the shower!). We always provide artificial reverb in the headphone mix, but many people feel more comfortable with one ear of the headphones off so that they can hear themselves more naturally. Whatever method is best for you may take some time to figure out, but do not be afraid to ask if you want something changing.
We prefer to create composite takes without the singer in the room, as hearing early takes can sometimes be damaging to confidence. Also distinguishing the minutia between takes that to a layperson sound identical requires a great deal of concentration and absolutely no background noise. But don’t worry! We don’t get rid of any takes at all, so if when we’ve finished there’s a line or just a word you don’t like let us know and we can play you the alternatives.
On the prickly subject of pitch correction – yes we use it. Everyone does. We work hard at making it as transparent as possible, we can recognise and correctly handle a blue note or a glissando, we don’t tune out vibrato, and we hate the ‘Cher effect’. Although if you really really BELIEEEEVE you want it, we’ll do that too. Some singers take exception to ‘needing’ to be corrected, but it’s not about that. Pitch correction software has become so good that when used well it is impossible to differentiate between something sung in tune or something corrected. To refuse it is to hand an advantage to your peers. And from our point of view – if we were to hear a modern song on the radio that was out of tune we would no longer think ‘they’re not singing that very well’ we would think ‘why didn’t the producer fix that?’ so to produce records with poor tuning is potentially damaging to our reputation.