by Brad Chapman
Brad Chapman has been doing vocal pre-producing for over 35 years, and developed a signature technique for producing FEEL while working with producers and artists such as: Quincy Jones, David Khane and 100+ Grammy winners.
1. Personalized Warm Up Exercises:
Learn how to warm up your voice with exercises specifically for you. Canned warm ups or YouTube warm ups, most likely won’t work well for you (they might even hurt you.) Your warms up should be specifically for you.
Singing songs is an ineffective way to warm up, as you could be tiring out your voice; rather than warming it up. Why do I stress this topic? Being warmed up to your best vocal condition, will keep you from being distracted by your voice and keep your mind on the story line and emotions.
My phrase for this is ‘sing from feel’. Feel the emotion first and then sing them out. If you do cardio and or a steam room, do these before you do your warm ups. Especially if you have an early morning performance.
2. Constantly Train And Be Prepared:
Start pre-production now and never stop. You must always be preparing for the right moment. A quote from Grammy winning Jeff Bhasker is: “If you’re not completely ready for me, I won’t produce you”. This is something I hear more and more from seasoned producers. They don’t want to train and develop you. It’s up to the vocal artist to be trained and prepared.
Developing a strong belted-head-voice will keep the producer from having to fight to record your voice due to overloading the pre-amp. (Don’t yell on your high notes.) If producers have to limit the sound, this results in less color in your voice. Also, intimate passages are difficult to record unless you can control the volume dynamics thru belted-head-voice.
3. Work With Someone During Vocal Tracking:
Train your voice and ears for the microphone, headphones, floor monitors, and in ear monitors. There is always someone running your sound system or vocal tracking (at least there should be.) I realize that there are a few stories of artists like Prince and Todd Rundgren self-producing. (However, I doubt that they were alone during the vocal tracking.) The reason you want to work with someone during your vocal tracking is that it is quite complicated to engineer and focus on your emotions of the song.
The totally self-produced vocals I’ve heard, lack feel and that’s what the vocal needs the most. Remember always that singing is communication to your fans. Having a producer in the studio helps make sure you are communicating, otherwise you’re
singing to yourself. If you’re producer doesn’t know that, ask him to listen as an audience would and give you feed back. Your vocal expression if far more important than the Sonic’s of the recording.
4. Befriend Your Producers:
Become immediate friends with your producers. Get them to like you, so that they care about your performance. (The average producer is like the average audience. If you don’t take care of your electronics, then they assume that you are not a quality singer. If you ’piss them off’, they may actually intentionally create a bad mix, where you can’t hear yourself.). Note: Please refer to Music Connection Magazine, cover page ‘Don’t Piss-Off The Sound Guy: http://www.musicconnection.com/dont-piss-off-the-sound-guy/
Your producer actually can purposely or accidently ruin your voice and your career.
When people hear you sing and you don’t understand the electronics you’re performing through, your audience will blame you for sounding out of tune and strained; and they should blame you. When you can’t hear yourself comfortably with headphones, in ear monitors or stage monitors; you will sound tone deaf and/ or over the top (meaning that you are trying too hard to hear yourself).
5. Monitor Feedback Is One Of Your Enemy’s
Buy a small mixer, microphone, head phones and floor monitors and use them every day (even while doing vocal exercises.) Learn about how the equipment works. Then, you can talk intelligently to your producer and make sure the recording studio and the live audience will hear you at your best; and consider you a good to great singer. When you put headphones on at the studio, you must communicate with the engineer/producer in order to make yourself sound great to yourself in the tracking mix.
Have your voice working so well that when the producer, stage or studio, doesn’t need to correct you; or if he does, you can make corrections on the spot. Always test your mic before the music starts. If you start singing with the music and your mic is off, it’s quite embarrassing and again the audience will blame you; not the sound man.
6. Feel Your Song’s Story; Ignore Mistakes During The Performance:
Ninety percent (90%) of your singing must have feel. Make sure that your vocal problems do not distract your conscious mind from the feel of the song. Your mind should be at least 90% on the story and how you feel about it.
The producers call this ‘feel’. They will always ask you for more and more feel, and emotional expression. They know that is the only way they can produce a performance
that means something to your fans. If you make a mistake, learn to ignore these and continue singing the song’s story with emotion; and stay in the feel of the music and the story.
7. Train Until The Song’s Technique And Emotions Are 2nd Nature:
How is this done? Repeat your song over and over again. You will develop the ability to stay in the story from beginning to end; never being distracted. At the same time, make the story’s emotions the only place you want to live in, as you feel the story.
8. Enjoy Your Performance And The Music:
Now, you will have a great time performing live and in the studio, and everyone attending will enjoy your great performance.
Brad Chapman Vocal Pre-Producer http://www.bradchapmanvocals.com