A Singer’s Guide to Studio Sessions

Photo by Jon Moreaux

Hey everyone, I’ve been tossing around the idea of starting a blog for a year now and well… here’s my first post! Lately I have had the honor of sharing some tips of my life as a songwriter to some new musicians who are just getting started. Hopefully this blog can help inspire those of you who I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet.

First off, I don’t pretend to know everything about this subject, but after 15+ years of experience in recording studios, I think I have enough pointers saved up to at least share what works well for me. Secondly, there is no “right” way of being creative, so don’t stress yourself out too hard about it… Without further ado… Here are my 3 T’s to help you get started.

TOOLS.

Before you walk into a studio, make sure you’re equipped with the right tools. I usually bring a backpack with the following items:

  1. Water, duh. Don’t assume all studios are fancy and will have room temp water waiting on a platter for you.
  2. Ricola Natural Herb Cough Drops. A personal fave to help you hit that high note.
  3. Lyric Book. Yeah, I’m old school. I have plenty of lyrics in my phone but there’s just something cool about writing it all down.
  4. Laptop / ilok. Personally I track my demos in ProTools and like to have them there if I need to reference something in a session. This isn’t super important though if you don’t have it. Just make sure you send the person you are working with the instrumental or anything they might need beforehand.

TIME.

If you know me, you know time is important to me. Some may call me impatient. I like to say that I just have a lot of living I want to do in a short amount of time, so why not make the most of it?

ANYway. The point of this paragraph is to remind you to be a singer that people want to work with again. Part of that means being respectful of other people’s time. Musicians are notorious for being late. But that doesn’t mean you have to be. If you’re going into a session where someone is paying for the time, show up early. Give yourself time to find parking (ugh LA is the worst) and allow time to have a conversation with the people you are going to be working with, without cutting too much into the session.

If you’re going into a writing session, block out the whole day. I’ve been in songwriting sessions that lasted an hour, and other sessions that lasted for 8 hours. It all depends on the enviornment, and if you are able to vibe off of the other person. However, if your session gets cut short, that doesn’t always mean that it isn’t going well. Sometimes the first idea is also the best idea.

TRUST.

The most important thing you can do to ensure a great recording session is to trust yourself. Sounds cheese, I know. But if you aren’t confident walking in, you’re not going to leave with something you are proud of. The key to trusting your abilities is being prepared. When going into a writing session, I usually like to have a few voice memos of melodies in my phone for ideas to share. If I am going into a recording session to lay down a vocal track, I make sure I am warmed up before I arrive.

Speaking of warming up… while studying music in college, I used to think warming up meant an hour in front of a piano. I used to have a super intense list of warm ups I did which not only tired out my voice, but also annoyed the hell out of anyone within ear shot. Now I just sing along to a recording of a vocal warm up in the car on the way to the studio. Usually that 15 minutes is enough for me. However, if you are more nervous about your session, then just spend more time warming up, it can’t hurt! The more prepared you feel, the more you will trust your voice, and the better the whole experience will be.

One last note on warming up… If your voice is tired from a show the night before, I recommend getting a personal humidifier. (Yes, this is how much I love you guys, I am sharing this ridiculous photo so you can see it.) I picked this up at a CVS on tour a few years back when my voice was thrashed. 10 minutes with your face in this thing and you’re golden. Happy recording!

PS. Since this is my first blog, feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you want to hear about!