How to Get a “Killer” Vocal Sound
In today’s blog, we catch up with HowToLicenseYourMusic.com’s resident producer, Gary Gray, for Part One of a much-requested Four-Part music production blog and video course, called “How to Get a Killer Vocal Sound.” This course contains detailed video capture footage of an actual vocal production session, with each step clearly and concisely explained by Gary.
In conjunction with the new course, Gary and I will be hosting a live webinar, exclusively for members of How To License Your Music Premium this Friday, June 30th at 11 AM PST. If you’re a premium member you’ll get access to both the course and the webinar, as well as dozens of more courses, music licensing leads and much more.
Check out this amazing, 15 minute excerpt of the course that Gary put together, to get a taste for what the course will be like:
Though you haven’t heard from Gary for a few weeks, he’s been busy behind the scenes helping me with webinars, putting together content for the new HowToLicenseYourMusicPREMIUM website (http://HTLYMPremium.com), and working night and day in the studio on several deadlines for 20th Century Fox (his latest project for 20th Century Fox garnered this response from the Director of Licensing for Fox Music, “Wow! This sounds fantastic Gary! Very Well Done!”). Gary has also been busy at work on my new upcoming EP, as well as mentoring students around the world on music production, music theory and sound design.
Coming off a series of music licensing placements with my own music produced by Gary (including a virtual reality video game placement), I’m proud to also announce that Gary recently won a Telly Award as Sound Engineer, Mixer and Mastering Engineer for the soundtrack of “Path of Totality,” composed by award-winning AI Scientist David Fogel!
Over to you, Gary…
Thank you Aaron! To those of you who know me, and to those of you who are brand new to HowToLicenseYourMusic.com and HTLYMPremium.com, I’m honored and humbled to be able to share my experience and expertise with you, and to help you succeed, just as my mentors helped me succeed.
I’m especially excited about the new course Aaron & I are releasing called “How to Get a Killer Vocal Sound.” The course will be available to members of the new HTLYMPremium.com website. The course will also be available to purchase as a stand alone course in the near future, if you’re not yet a member of the Premium website.
There is such a vast amount of information that goes into creating a killer vocal sound in the studio, that I ended up creating a four-part series, with each part a full course in its own right.
Part One covers the Philosophy, Priorities & Initial Steps To Take right now in order to achieve a killer vocal sound in the studio. Parts Two, Three and Four cover additional steps to take, such as basic fundamental workflow steps, the vital practice of A/B’ing as applied to vocal production, reverbs, delays, compression, advanced vocal production techniques that can be heard on commercial recordings, such as “3D Reverb,” side-chaining compression of reverbs and other vocal effects.
There are two basic hats that every person with a home studio wears (or should be wearing) while recording and/or mixing music. This is especially true of vocal production.
The first hat is “producer.” The second hat is “engineer.”
In my 30 plus years as a producer, engineer, and mentor, it has become painfully clear that, in most cases, only one of these hats “shows up for work” in the home studio (or pro studio for that matter!). Which hat shows up? The engineer. The engineer seems to be the exclusive hat worn by most home studio owners while they toil away on their tracks.
The Difference Between Engineer & Producer
The engineer is the person with their nose stuck to the computer screen, continually diving down rabbit holes to solve this, solve that, create this effect, trying to find that brand new sound, etc. The engineer pays attention to the immediate task(s) at hand, and eagerly (or not so eagerly) attacks each one.
The producer, on the other hand, is the person who has the “big picture” always in mind. The producer steps back, away from the computer screen, away from any rabbit holes, and makes broad, big decisions regarding the project at hand.
When it comes to mixing vocals, the engineer, when hearing a vocal track, is already deciding what needs to be done in order to make that vocal track sound the best it can be, which is the correct viewpoint for an engineer to assume, for sure.
However, as stated earlier, the engineer is usually the only hat being worn in the studio, and so, the quality of the final vocal production suffers accordingly.
If, on the other hand, you were to wear the hat of producer as well, then you would tap the engineer on the shoulder and say, “Chill. We’re not going to necessarily finish mixing this track just yet. Let me hear this rough mix from beginning to end first.”
Mind you, these two “individuals” inside of you – the producer and the engineer, do not listen to tracks with the same purpose in mind. While the engineer is constantly figuring out ways to improve what is there, the producer may put everything on pause and say something like, “This singer is not the right person for this track, let’s find a voice that aligns more with the emotional flow and musical statement of this song.” Or, “Instruments sound great. However, this song is in the wrong key for this singer, it’s out of his range. Get the instruments transposed down two half-steps into the key of B Flat and then let’s re-record these vocals. Chop-chop, let’s do it.”
Or, even more boldly, the producer might state something as radical as, “You know what? This song is not cutting it. We’re not going to work on this song anymore, it’s a mess. It doesn’t really live up to the quality of the rest of this album. Let’s hit stop on this track and reconvene and go over the full list of potential songs for this project.”
You see the pattern here?
Producer = Big picture. Engineer = Small details. And even more importantly:
Producer = He or she is in charge. Engineer = Listens to the producer.
And so it goes as the project moves forward. The producer is in charge making the big calls. He’s there to facilitate the vision of the artist. The engineer is there to facilitate the vision of the producer. The engineer rolls up his sleeves and gets his hands dirty, puts his nose on the computer screen, and dives feet first into various rabbit holes of technical challenges and sonic puzzles.
To get an idea of how in-depth this course goes, I invite you to watch a short excerpt video of the course right now. This course gives you extremely important tools, workflow ideas and techniques that result in you getting a “Killer Vocal Sound” in the studio, every single time.