By Cari Cole
In your head, your voice may sound magnificent, but in reality is it … meh? Truth is, it takes a LOT to be ready to record and you don’t want to leave any stone unturned. Believe me, it won’t pan out well. Great vocals require great effort before you hit the studio. But how do you know when you are ready for the studio? And how do you get studio ready if you’re not quite there yet?
Step 1: 7 Ways to Know When Your Voice is Studio Ready.
1. Your Voice Doesn’t Sound Like Crap —or Make You + Everyone Else Cringe.
Look, most singers go into the studio pretty much unprepared and hoping for the best. But here’s why you don’t want to do that. It never pans out. You might sound pretty good (because your producers can use tricks) but when you hit the stage, you won’t. And believe me, you won’t want that kind of press.
The way to sound great is to prepare. Vocalize for 3 months prior (get my Singers Gift Vocal Warmups here to get you ready) and rehearse 5x a week on your songs for 1-2 hours at a time. Also work with your vocal coach on your pronunciation, vibrato (where you use it and where you don’t), your phrasing and dynamics.
2. Your Voice Is Smooth and Doesn’t Sound Like You Are Singing in an Unknown Language.
For some odd reason, most singers when they are new to singing don’t work on their voices much. It’s almost blasphemy to train. Well, chica’s, once you experience real training and why that doesn’t work, you’ll never turn back. You should not be struggling over every turn of every phrase or struggling to hit notes when you go to the studio. That definitely means you are not ready. Work on your voice until you feel comfortable, you want to do your best, not just an okay job.
3. You Know Your Songs In Your Sleep.
You never want to hit the studio without knowing your material backwards, forwards, upside down and inside out. You want to know your songs in your sleep. This gives you a comfort level that will make you sound relaxed. No one likes it when a singer overdoes it. I recommend having performed your songs before recording them. Performance helps you develop your approach and will make you sound 10x better than you would without.
4. Your Voice Sounds Pretty Close to What You Hear In Your Head.
To me the goal is to get your voice sounding on the speakers like you hear it in your head. Until it’s there, it’s not. If you develop that philosophy early on, you’ll stop at nothing to get there.
5. You Can Sing For 6-8 Hours Without Losing Your Voice.
This may seem like a lot, but honestly, it’s the truth. You don’t want to have a time limit when you are in the studio because you want to have a large window of time that your voice sounds good after you’re done warming up. Most great lead vocals take at least 4-5 hours to lay down and you don’t want to be struggling to sing for that length of time. Grab my Singers Gift Warmups here to get you ready.
6. You Are Nervous and Excited, But Not Terrified.
If you’re terrified, you don’t know your material well enough, or you haven’t had enough experience, or you have the wrong production team. There’s always a reason you’re off balance. But be sure to figure it out ahead of time so you can put a hold on things until they are right. It’s normal to be nervous, it’s not normal to be terrified.
7. You’ve Sung Each Song a Million Times and You’ve Worked the Kinks Out with Your Vocal Arranger Ahead of Time.
Every now and then you’ll arrive at the studio with a song you haven’t sung much, but for the most part you want to know your material and have worked out the kinks ahead of time. You’ve been working on the song for at least 2-3 months and have worked with a vocal arranger to get the most out of your vocal performance.
Now that you’ve gone through my studio ready checklist, you might feel like some of your boxes are empty. But no need to stress! Mama’s got you.
The great thing about voices is opinions are highly subjective. People’s opinion of what makes a voice great varies. Like 50 flavors of ice cream, the many genres of music give the music lover choices. Whether you want to chill to a heavy metal rock guitar god ripping scales like thunder and scream/singing at the top of his lungs or an indie folk rock chick weeping about her last boyfriend, there is music to fit your specific mood and taste. And when it comes to the voice, it runs the gamut from diva to guttural – depending on what you like most. So – the most important goal is to be the best singer you can and own your sound 1000%. Here are some top tools and rules of great voices follow to stay great.
Step 2: Top 5 Tools and Rules of Great Vocals.
1. Vocal Technique is the path to vocal freedom and more expression.
If you’re looking for more vocal freedom, you’ll truly find it in technique. One of the best tools in the world of great vocals is the art and science of vocal technique. If your voice gets stuck in your throat, you’ll never be able to deliver your greatness. No one wants to hear a voice that is struggling to hit the pitch or is stiff or is throaty or nasal. Study and train your voice. No one wants to hear a voice that is struggling to hit the pitch or is stiff, or stuck in your throat, or nasal. You got this!
2. Vocal Health is the key to longevity and avoiding burnout.
Being vocally healthy is important for obvious reasons, but especially to make sure your voice doesn’t crap out at important moments. Nothing is worse than not being able to perform or support your record because your voice is breaking down. Or going to sing and nothing comes out because you don’t have a clue for how to keep your voice healthy. Avoid embarrassing moments by knowing the best-kept secrets to vocal health and wellness. Check out my Vocal Rescue Kit to become the master of your vocal health and technique.
3. Natural Remedies to getting back on track ~ and fast.
One of the best ways to keep your voice healthy is to know what’s causing it not to be. Most people still run to conventional medicine (Theraflu, Nyquil or drugstore cold medicine) to treat colds and cases of flu. These products are not only poison, they only mask symptoms and do absolutely nothing for your healing. I still see way too many people running to the doctor for a round of antibiotics that will not only kill all of your good bacteria and weaken your immune system, but they are not effective against viruses or colds. If you want to know what products you should use for your colds, allergies, reflux or vocal problems, there are natural solutions that will not only fix you in the moment but solve your problems long term. Start with a fresh salad and green juice every day to bring more oxygen, chlorophyll, and vitamins into your body to raise your defenses. The next step is to get on a supplement program including Vitamin D3 (sublingual is best) to raise your immune system and get on the road to better health naturally. Check out my 3 Day Rule Perfomance Prep Guide blog for some remedies you can start using right now!
4. Smooth moves rule great vocals.
What makes a voice pleasant no matter what genre is being sung, is about smooth moves. Phrasing that sits in the music, not on top of it. In the groove, not rushing it. A vocal line is rhythmic AND melodic. Sitting in the groove and smoothing out transitions develops a “smooth sound.” If you want more smooth moves in your sound, study and emulate blues singers to improve your phrasing. All great pop voices have elements of rhythm + blues at their core. Watch the Muscle Shoals movie to see early Aretha and the movement in early American rock n’ roll for inspiration ;).
5. A distinctive vocal style helps you claim your lane.
The good news? Stop copying and be yourself. Having a voice that sounds like everyone else is actually a detriment if you want to stand out. Look for ways that your voice can stand out. Play with your words, extend your vowels, practice having dynamics with your voice. Study singers you like. How do they pronounce words? How do they use their vibrato (or not use their vibrato)? What do they feature about their voices? What can you feature about your own voice to have more style?
I hope this helps rock your vocal greatness ;).
Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below!