So, last night, we started tracking lead vocals! I’ve been getting pretty nervous, because vocals are the last thing (typically) that you track in a recording project, and I’ve been waiting several weeks to find out what they were going to sound like. You can hear all the instrumentation coming together, but until you get that vocal down, it’s not really “your” album. And the studio is a whole different animal than that seat on a log by the campfire. Over the years, I had become used to karaoke, and more recently, open mic nights, where the resonance of the room, coupled with a high-energy crowd, a touch of reverb, and…well…beer, made me feel like a rock star.
The studio is different. In the studio, you really ARE the star. You sit on comfortable, cushy furniture, drinking temperature-controlled water, wearing big stereo headphones with 1/4″ plugs (the kind that say, “I’m headphones, and I mean it”) and singing into microphones that were made to be sung into by professionals, instead of folks from Friday-night office parties. The kind of microphones that don’t smell like cigarettes and PBR. The kind of microphones that say (in a language all their own), “Hey, this is what you REALLY sound like.”
And what a difference! I’ve learned more about my voice singing into studio mics than I ever knew in some 20 years of mimicing the sounds I heard coming from the radio. Until I heard my voice through studio mics, I was certain that I sounded like Marie Osmond, Amy Lee and Lzzy Hale all rolled in to one. Imagine my surprise when I heard myself sing into a quality microphone, and the sound that came out was….well…MY voice. My very own voice!
I suppose it’s not very easy to explain to someone who hasn’t been there. It wasn’t a rude awakening, though it was definitely an awakening. Singing into good mics, you start to learn the intricacies of your own vocal style–what works, what doesn’t, and what sounds are unique to you. You learn what your real recordable range is, and which types of songs sound better in different segments of that range. You begin to think of these things as you’re writing songs, and you chart them in the best key for your voice to begin with–instead of the best key for your self-accompaniment ability.
So, tonight we track another song or two, and we “Keep the Fire Burnin'”, as REO Speedwagon would say. Turns out, this isn’t going to be a Pat Benatar record. I don’t know about you, but I’m relieved. She’d sound pretty funny singing “In-laws, Outlaws and Offspring.”