Recording vocals is an enormously challenging task.
Not only is the post production process a real challenge in terms of balance, automation, EQ, compression and making a voice sit in the mix, it’s also getting the right take, in the right space and at the right time.
Frustratingly, some people are born with an innate ability to just sing and that is that.
The rest of us have to work hard and then some.
The perceptions of a good performance can become murky quite quickly. Forget X factor culture, (which I could easily provide a extended rant about), Judi Dench’s performance of ‘Send in the Clowns’ is a fascinating case study for me because it’s out of tune, technically on a vocal level, somewhat wrong, but despite all that, it’s so right!
The reason I think it worked is because she found the soul and the narrative of the song.
I was producing a singer today who has a lovely voice but for whatever reason, her voice just wasn’t capturing what I knew it could. I then realised, she was too self aware, too unrelaxed and I needed to find little ways I could support, encourage her and help her find that spark.
I turned the studio lights off, I then turned the control room and then asked her to tell me what the song was about. It was one that required vulnerability and a sense of pathos and as soon as that became the focus, the performance changed, words were sung more softly, things were held back, a phrase changed naturally and…magic!
I knew there was more though, so I told her she was there and just needed to lean in a little more.
We got the take.
It was a hugely enriching moment for the three of us (there was an additional band member) in the studio and I was proud of what we had achieved.
I like the whole idea of leaning into something.
And whilst it happened today in this scenario, I think it is possible to lean in elsewhere.