Singing tips for vocalists in any genre | Disc Makers

by DISC MAKERS

Singing tips from recording to maintaining vocal health to improving your vocal performance will help you on the road to being a better vocalist

Singing tips for vocalists - learn how to sing well.

Video: Vocal warm ups for your upper register (April 2014)
Learn vocal exercises for singers in our videos for vocalists series. Conservatory of Music at University of the Pacific professor Daniel Ebbers explores the upper register in these vocal warm ups videos.

Video: Vocal warm ups for singing to connect breath, vibration, and resonance (April 2014)
Daniel Ebbers, voice instructor at the Conservatory of Music at University of the Pacific, shares insights and vocal exercises for voice resonance and connecting the breath in our video series for vocalists.

Elevate your vocal performance: focus on rhythm and intention (April 2014)
In a standout vocal performance, how you end a note is as important as how you attack it, and rhythm and intention can be as relevant as note choice and intonation.

Producing great hip hop vocals (January 2014)
If you produce hip hop music and hip hop vocals, these production tips from Grammy-nominated Ken Lewis can help make your experience recording and mixing hip hop vocals and your final product a whole lot better.

Stop Shredding Your Vocal Cords (October 2013)
Veteran vocal coach Cari Cole talks about proper vocal care and five things you can do to avoid major vocal health issues.

8 Ways to Improve Your Vocal Health (September 2013)
Your voice is an instrument housed inside your body, and taking care of your mind and body is essential to optimal vocal health.

Improve Your Singing: Make Vocal Exercises A Morning Ritual (July 2013)
Daily vocal exercises will improve your singing and produce lasting results.

Singing Tips – How to Sing Better Right Now (May 2013)
Veteran vocal coach Cari Cole shares five singing tips to make your voice sound better.

Singing Tips – A Vocal Warm Up Is Key To A Great Vocal Performance (January 2013)
This excerpt from The Vocalist’s Guide to Recording, Rehearsing, and Performing focuses on the importance of warming up before a vocal performance.

Singing Tips – Don’t Tax Your Voice Before a Vocal Performance (November 2012)
Resting before a vocal performance is key, but environmental things, like being in a place where the decibel level is too high, can adversely affect your capacity to sing.

How To Record A Great Vocal Take (August 2012)
Capturing the ultimate vocal performance can require push and pull between the producer and talent, and the tact and technique of the producer plays a pivotal role in the quality of the performance.

Vocal Health Basics – How to Properly Care for Your Voice (January 2012)
Vocal health is often taken for granted, but problems can stop you dead in your tracks, so it’s important to understand how to keep your voice in good health.

Creating a Great Composite Vocal Recording (February 2010)
We take a look at the techniques used to create composite lead vocal tracks, referred to as “comping” the lead vocal by studio engineers.

Read more: Singing Tips For Vocalists | How To Become A Better Singer– Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/05/singing-tips-for-vocalists-in-any-genre/#ixzz32M0hhGGP

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Pre-production tips for recording drums | DiscMakers

by DAN GONZALEZ

Every studio recording should begin with pre-production – here are tips to help you prepare for a drum recording session

pre-production and recording drumsThis post on pre-production tips for drummers originally appeared on Cakewalk’s blog. These tips apply to drummers, producers, and engineers preparing for a session recording drums. Reprinted with permission.

1. Practice to a click track
If the drummer in a session isn’t rehearsed, you will either spend a lot of time in the studio or a lot of time editing drums. Spending time in the rehearsal room practicing to a click track is much easier than spending hours and hours behind an editor. Sit in on rehearsals and even record them to get an understanding of timing and how proficient the drummer is. Here are some solutions for drummers who have a hard time playing to just a click:

• Have someone else in the group play along with the drummer
• Use song demos as guide tracks
• Record in shorter sections, instead of longer sections
• Try different percussion as click tones (e.g. cowbell, woodblock)

2. Demo songs before you record them
Prepping for a studio recording is the only way to successfully take advantage of the time you have and cut the best performances of your songs. Practice recording yourself playing your band’s songs to understand how your tracks will come together in the recording studio. Review your recordings and focus on the group and your parts to understand where improvements need to be made to lock down the tracks. Take the time to finalize specific drum fills, hits, and patterns.

Techniques vary from drummer to drummer: some play behind the beat and others will play ahead of the beat. Sometimes drummers do not realize how hard they need to be hitting the drums to get a proper sound for recording. As an engineer or producer, you want to eliminate all the possible surprises before entering the studio.

3. Find the right type of drum head for the music you are recording
Different jobs call for different tools, and pairing the right drum head with a music genre is an important factor in the final sound of any record.

Single ply. These are some of the most common drum heads. Their sensitivity is perfect for light hitters. Single ply heads produce high-end frequencies when hit, and their pronounced tone and sound can be useful in arena rock shows as well as quiet jazz ballads. Single ply heads are typically made from one layer of 7 mil Mylar and are considered the thinnest of all types of drum heads. Unfortunately this means their durability can be sacrificed if they are hit too hard.

Double ply. Double ply heads have two layers of Mylar and can vary in thicknesses, the most common being two 7 mil layers. Double Ply heads do not produce as many overtones and frequencies as single ply heads, and the two layers of Mylar provide more attack and better control of the sound. Double ply heads are typically easier to record in studio applications.

Coated. “Coating” a drum head means that some degree of dampening has been applied. There are many variations of this, but the goal is to soften up the sound of the head so that it produces a warmer sound. Drum heads that are coated are sprayed, covered with Mylar film, or have some sort of other substance applied to make the drum sound warmer and less like abrasive.

Pre-muffled. Eliminating overtones and resonant frequencies from a kick drum is common practice for many styles of music. Rock, metal, pop, and country typically keep the tone of the kick drum from ringing in order to achieve a blend of the “thud” of the drum and “thwack” of the beater against the batter head. Pre-muffled heads come pre packaged with foam or other damping features to suppress unwanted frequencies, which can be important in a recording studio setting.

Once you’ve found the head you want to use, start the session with new and seated (broken in) heads. Make sure to have spares on hand.

4. Tune your drum heads, and continue to tune them as you record
Drum heads always need a good tuning before any recording. They start to change in tone as they are played or left idle and should constantly be re-tuned as you record for long periods of time. Drum tuning does not necessarily mean the drums are tuned to a set of pitches. They are usually tuned so to sound compatible when played in succession. Each size drum head has an optimal range for its tone, and tuning your drums outside of this range can result in strange aliasing or cause other drums to be pushed out of their own optimal tuning range.

5. Prepare in advance for tempo and time signature changes
Tracking a session that has multiple tempo and time signature changes can get complicated if your metronome track is not set up in a way that makes sense to the drummer. Once you get your hands on some demos of the group, tempo map the songs so you can give the drummer a decent click track to practice to before entering the studio. Getting used to multiple tempo changes and time signature changes can be a tricky task, and you do not want to break the drummer’s spirits by surprising him or her with a confusing or inefficient click track while they are trying to record. Prepare a track before you enter the studio with cues and count-ins.

6. Consider using triggers
A trigger is a transducer that is placed on the head of a drum. Once the drum is hit, a signal is sent to a sound generator which sends the programmed sound of a drum or MIDI information. A drum trigger can come in handy regardless of what style of music you are recording. You can record the MIDI information of the drum for easier time adjustment, to enhance the acoustic sound of your drums by blending the two, or to use the information to better understand where the attacks of each transient are. In music styles that are kick-drum centric, a common practice is to use a trigger to level out the differing hits in order to achieve an almost inhuman sound. As an engineer, the use of triggers has not handicapped my session flow or drum editing at all. In fact, it has made certain situations a bit easier.

7. Be prepared
Here are a few items that you as an engineer or producer should always have on hand with you when tracking drums.

• Moving blankets. Use these to isolate kick drums, cover hard/reflective surfaces, and change the acoustics within a room.

• Spring camps. Helpful for holding loose cables and moving blankets.

• Bungee cords. For tying up blankets, loose cables, etc.

• Counterweights. Counterweights are useful when working with inexpensive microphone stands that can fall and lose their placement.

• Extra tuning keys. Tuning keys always get lost. Purchase a few of these to keep on your keychain.

• MoonGel. This is a blue dampening pad that you can buy to place on drum heads during recording. It reduces the ringing and decay of a drum.

• Measuring tape. When setting up overhead microphones, you need to make sure the distance from the snare to both overhead microphones are the same distance.

• Gaffers tape. This tape is great for the studio because it is strong and does not leave a residue when removed.

• Acoustic foam. It is always good to have extra foam on hand if you need to muffled drums.

• Pillows. Removing the front head of a kick drum and stuffing it with pillows can reduce resonance and bring out more attack from the drum.

• Cinder blocks. Placing one of these in front of the kick drum can keep the whole set from moving forward in a room with a slippery floor.

• Camera. Take pictures of the mic placements to save for the future in case you need to re-track.

• DI box (triggers). Most trigger outputs are quarter-inch jacks, you will need this patch into a tie line box that only has XLR inputs.

• Spare snare head. 14” coated snare head. A broken snare head can bring a session to a sudden halt.

Read more: Pre-production tips for recording drums – Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/03/pre-production-tips-for-recording-drums/#ixzz31hIT592b

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The Top 5 Melody Pitfalls—and How to Avoid Them | BMI

An exclusive tutorial from the renowned instructor of the BMI Nashville Songwriters’ Workshop

by Jason Blume

Many of the writers whose songs I listen to at my workshops work long and hard on their lyrics, striving to find unique, fresh ways to tell their stories and express their concepts. But they sometimes forget that we’re not writing poems, but songs—and if we hope to create songs that resonate with listeners, our lyrics need to be delivered on the wings of outstanding, memorable melodies.

It’s often easier to identify weaknesses in lyrics than in melodies. While it might be evident that a line of lyric is cliché and needs to incorporate a fresher, more original approach, it might be more challenging to diagnose the reasons why a melody fails to jump out of the proverbial pile or remain seared in the brain.

Following are some of the melody pitfalls I most often encounter—and their remedies.

1. Crafting Melodies That Sound as if They’ve Been Imposed Upon Predictable Chord Changes

Many of the songs by current pop and urban music hit-makers are crafted by creating a music track first. In these instances, a musical “bed” consisting of the keyboards, bass, drums and guitars is composed and produced prior to the melody that the vocalist will sing. A vocal melody is then crafted to work with the chord changes, beats and grooves that have been established.

While this approach to writing is not typical in country music, there are more instances of songs being created for the Nashville market by using this method. In country, Americana, roots and folk music, although a full musical track is not typically created prior to a vocal melody, chord progressions played on an acoustic guitar often precede the melody.

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to write a great melody, and countless successful songs have begun with a chord progression. The problem arises when the vocal melody sounds as if it has been imposed on those chords as an afterthought.

In my workshops, I, too, often critique songs with melodies that sound as if they were created as the result of writers strumming predictable chord progressions on a guitar—then imposing melody that works perfectly fine with those chords. There’s no “rub”—no dissonance. So, you might ask, “What wrong with that?”

There may be nothing “wrong” with these melodies, but “nothing wrong” is a far cry from melodies that are unforgettable, fresh and original. No one walks down the street humming chord changes, guitar licks, drumbeats, grooves or bass lines. While these are all important components of successful songs, they aren’t enough.

Giving more attention to these components than to the melody that sits atop them is analogous to a builder spending the majority of his or her time and energy on a house’s foundation, then haphazardly slapping together the actual home. The foundation is crucial—but not more important than the house. Chord progressions, drum patterns, guitar licks and bass lines need to be paired with fresh, original, can’t-get-them-out-of-your-head melodies and rhythms for the singer to sing.

It can help to assess your melodies by singing them a capella, to be certain they stand up on their own. They should be memorable, easy to sing and should not sound as if notes are missing—or extra notes have been crammed in—to accommodate lyrics.

Remember your melody is critically important to your song’s success. Regardless of how a song is begun, when it’s finished, it needs a vocal melody that compels an artist, publisher, producer or an A&R executive to say “Yes”—and an audience to invite it into their hearts.

2. Settling for Predictable Rhythms in the Vocal Melodies

With the unprecedented amount of music available to listeners, it’s more important than ever to separate our songs from the competition. Songs with melodies that rely on stock, less-than-exceptional rhythms are unlikely to command a listener’s attention.

One of the best ways to elevate songs from “good” to “WOW” is to write vocal melodies that incorporate fresh, hooky rhythms. Taylor Swift is a master of this tool. A listen to the verse and chorus of her GRAMMY-nominated smash, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” (Taylor Swift/Max Martin/Shellback) reveals the enormous contribution of the rhythms within the vocal melody.

This technique typically includes syncopation—placing the rhythmic accent on a “weak” beat—and it can be heard in countless hits. Some great examples are: Rodney Atkins’ recording of “Take a Back Road,” (Rhett Akins/Luke Laird); Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” (Carly Rae Jepsen/Tavish Crowe); and One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” (Rami; Carl Falk; Savan Kotecha).

Including syncopation and catchy, unique rhythms that push the envelope are among the best tools you can use to help separate your songs from the competition—regardless of your musical genre.

3. Lack of Contrast

A common melodic problem is the failure to clearly differentiate each section of a song (i.e., verse, pre-chorus, chorus or bridge) from other sections. While melodic and rhythmic repetition within a given section can be the proverbial glue that helps melodies stick in the brain, in order to sustain listeners’ attention, ideally, each section should be rhythmically and melodically distinct from the parts of the song that surround it. In simple terms, you don’t want the verses to sound like the chorus, or the bridge to sound like either the verse or chorus.

There should be no doubt when the chorus begins. You can achieve this by choosing from several different tools. One of the most effective ways to announce the arrival of your chorus is to use higher notes. The chorus often includes the highest notes in the song, and in many instances, these notes appear in the first line of the chorus.

Two exceptional examples of choruses that “jump out” are Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” (Adele/Paul Epworth) and Jason Aldean’s “Fly Over States” (Neil Thrasher and Michael Dulaney).

Another way to be sure each part of a song is distinct from the song’s other components is to vary the rhythms in the vocal melodies from one section to the next. For example, if a pre-chorus is choppy and rhythmic, as a result of including a barrage of short notes (such as eighth notes), the subsequent chorus might benefit from longer notes (such as whole notes). Conversely, a verse that relies heavily on long, held-out notes might be best followed by a chorus that incorporates shorter notes for a more “rhythmic” feel.

While many pop, country and adult contemporary songs include choruses that “lift,” urban and urban-influenced pop songs often differentiate their choruses from their verses with a distinctly different rhythm—as opposed to soaring high notes.

To keep your listeners interested, be sure to vary the range and/or rhythms from one section to the next.

4. Introducing Too Many Melodic Motifs

We tend to remember that which we are exposed to over and over again—and this certainly applies to melodies. If you want your melodies to stick in the brain, repetition, repetition and repetition are the top three ways to achieve this. Your listeners can’t latch onto a melody and remember it if it keeps changing.

When I critique work from developing writers, I sometimes hear songs that establish a melody (for example, a 2-bar motif)—then bring in a new melody, and yet another melody—all within an eight-bar section. But when I analyze successful songs in various genres, I typically find that within any given section of a song (verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge) there are rarely more than two distinct melodic concepts.

For an example of a song that incorporates this tool, listen to Norah Jones’ GRAMMY-winning “Don’t Know Why” (Jesse Harris). You’ll notice that the verse is comprised of a 4-bar “call and response” melodic motif. The rhythm established in the first two bars is repeated in the second two bars. This 4-bar melody is heard four times; there is no additional melody introduced in the verse. The bridge also uses this tool by establishing a 4-bar melodic phrase—then repeating it.

Another excellent example of incorporating repetition by limiting the number of melodic ideas within each section can be heard in the chorus of One Direction’s career-breaking song, “What Makes You Beautiful” (Rami; Carl Falk; Savan Kotecha). The chorus is comprised of a 2-bar melodic phrase that is heard three times. It is followed by the 2-bar phrase that accompanies the title. This fourth phrase is a different melody and rhythm—thereby distinguishing the title from the lines surrounding it. This eight-bar melody is then repeated. With the exception of one line, every line of the chorus lyric contains the identical number of syllables, allowing the melody writer to repeat the same rhythm, and almost the same melody.

Listen to your favorite songs and you’ll likely hear the same rhythms and melodies repeated over and over within each section. By incorporating this technique into your work, you can write melodies that listeners can’t forget.

5. Failure to Rewrite Melodies

What’s the chance that the very first melody that pops into your head is such perfection that you couldn’t possibly improve even one note or one chord— even if your entire career were riding on doing so? Our careers are riding on composing songs that include melodies that are not just “good”—but exceptional. Your melodies need to edge out those written by the writers and artists who top the charts— the song crafters who have their fingers on the pulse of the current music scene.

To unearth the very best melodies you’re capable of, challenge yourself to rewrite each verse and chorus at least three times. You might craft alternate melodies by placing emphases on different syllables, words or combinations of words. For example, if your title is “I Know I Can Write a Hit,” you could emphasize the words in boldface (below) by holding them out longer or assigning them higher notes:

KNOW – I Can Write a Hit
I – KNOW – I Can Write a Hit
I Know I CAN – Write a Hit
I Know I Can WRITE a Hit
I Know I Can WRITE a HIT

Explore different note choices—try ascending or descending notes; try different rhythms within the vocal melody—including long, legato notes and choppier rhythms. You might also see how your melody works at different tempos.

Yet another way to craft alternate melodies is to repeat some of your syllables, words or combinations of words. For example:

I Know—I Know – I Can Write a Hit
Know I Can—I Can—I Can Write a Hit

You might also try using nonsense syllables to create an added melodic hook. For example:

Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh – I Know I Can Write a Hit
I Know EYE—EE-EYE-EE—EYE Can Write a Hit

For good examples of this tool being used in various genres, listen to Feist’s “1234” (Feist/Sally Seltmann), Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” (Stewart/Nash/Harrell/Beyoncé) and Jake Owen’s “Barefoot Bluejean Night” (Paslay/Altman/Sawchuk).

You can also try a variety of different chords to accompany your melodies. Sometimes, a new way of harmonizing your melody can be just the ticket it needs to bring it to life.

In some instances, the very first melody that flows from you will indeed capture the magic—but you can’t be certain of that until you’ve tried to make it even stronger. After you’ve explored a variety of melodies you can always go back to your first melody—if that’s the one you prefer.

Remember: If you don’t give the decision-makers and your listeners a reason to choose your songs over the competition—they won’t. Rewrite your melodies until they are distinctive, fresh and instantly memorable. Push the creative envelope while remaining consistent with the genres you’re targeting. Don’t settle for less than your very best. Your career is riding on it.

Jason Blume is the author of 6 Steps to Songwriting SuccessThis Business of Songwriting, and Inside Songwriting (all publishing by Billboard Books), and he has produced a series of instructional songwriting audio CDs. His songs are on albums that have sold more than 50 million copies, and he is among the few writers to ever have his songs on the pop, R&B, and country charts all at the same time. Jason’s songs have been recorded by diverse artists including Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, and country music stars including the Oak Ridge Boys, John Berry (earning a BMI Million-Air Award for exceeding one million airplays), and Collin Raye (6 cuts). He most recently had two top 10 hits in Europe with Dutch star, BYentl, and his songs have been included in top television shows including “Scrubs,” “Friday Night Lights,” “The Guiding Light,” Disney’s “Kim Possible,” and “the Miss America Pageant.”

In addition to developing and teaching the BMI Nashville Songwriters Workshop, Blume has presented master classes at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (founded by Sir Paul McCartney), and in Ireland, Scandinavia, Australia, Canada, Bermuda, Jamaica, and throughout the U.S., in addition to co-leading the Nashville Songwriters Association’s annual song camps. His latest book, This Business of Songwriting, Revised 2nd Edition has just been released and is available atwww.jasonblume.com, with e-books available at Amazon.com.