Guest Blogger: Gregory A. Barker, PhD is a Co-Founder of Singdaptive and its VP of Publishing. He is also an editor, with Kathy Alexander, of The Ultimate Guide to Singing and, for years, served as Commissioning Editor for the original VoiceCouncil Magazine, the leading website for singers. Greg is also a Fellow at the University of Winchester, a published author with Oxford University Press, a textbook writer and journalist.
You’re about to record or perform.
There’s the hard work of organizing, getting people on board, setting things up and tweaking gear settings. And then there’s the magic of your vocal performance.
But the nuts and bolts of getting a recording off the ground can derail us from accessing the vocal creativity we need for our performance to “cut through”. Performance coaches, singers, rappers, and artists of all genres use these techniques to make the transition from managing a music project to going behind the microphone. Here are four tips pro singers use to prepare for recording and streaming sessions.
Read more: 3 ways to increase your singing longevity
This first technique is so easy that we usually forget to do it: take a breath in, hold it, and then release slowly. Do this a few times and you will instantly find that tensions subside and you’re able to engage with your music more deeply. Leading US creativity coach Eric Maisel says, “When something comes up instead of exclaiming ‘Oh, hell!’ or ‘How disappointing!’ or, ‘There I go again!’, stop, breathe, and say, ‘Let me coach myself through this situation’”.
Some artists take this further and advocate mediation practices. Rapper Kendrick Lamar has even made mediation the subject of some of his tracks: Meditation is a must, it don’t hurt if you try. See you thinking too much, plus you too full of yourself. Worried about your career, you ever think of your health? (untitled 03 | 05.28.2013) Whether or not you’re convinced about the power of meditation, at least try the simple step of a deep breath and slow release before you sing or rap on your next recording.
Remind yourself of your why
Vocal Coach Kerri Ho at Singdaptive says that a powerful way to overcome performance anxiety or other mental static is to ask yourself: “Why am I doing this project?”. Kerri recommends getting out a piece of paper and writing down a list of answers to this question. Then, try to summarize your list in one powerful sentence, phrase or word. Post this on a wall in your recording or performing space so that you never forget.
Some fear is normal when you are taking steps to share your art. So the goal isn’t to remove all fear, but to introduce a different focus. Reminding yourself of your “Why” is effective because it quickly replaces fear with different thoughts. Let’s say, for instance, that your “Why” is simply, “because doing this music makes me feel more fully alive”. Just considering that sentence for a few moments may be all you need to unleash your musical power.
Keep Your Focus
Many vocal artists immerse themselves in their artistry by thinking about a person or group they hope will uplifted by their recording or performance. This can have the benefit of curing any anxieties that come from being too self-focused.
But it’s not wrong to focus on your personal reasons. Vancouver-based hip hop artist and songwriting instructor Kia Kadiri says, “My focus is on making a song the best I can for my own development, and enjoyment, unless I’m addressing a specific topic or audience. For example, I recently wrote a song inspired by the BLM movement in which I address systemic racism. When I recorded this song, I reflected on people who have inspired similar movements and who have suffered in ways that I wrote about. I imagine people benefitting from my creations by relating to them, and by causing them the think about ways they can express their feelings.”
Early Gear Prep
It’s impossible to really focus on your vocals if you’re worrying about a kink in your cables or an unbalanced mix in your monitors. It’s worth the extra time to sort out all of your technical concerns before hitting the recording button.
Al Schmitt, the renowned engineer who has recorded more than 150 gold and platinum albums (that’s right!) says “Make sure you have a relaxed atmosphere in the studio. As an artist you just have to minimize stress and be able to approach your recording knowing you have the right mic and headphone mix.”
Read more: 10 creative ways to write better lyrics
Singdaptive is the innovative online platform for singers, with are delivered by instructors who have coached for The Voice, Disney, the BBC and Grammy-winning artists. You’ll meet singer-songwriters with top credits, award-winning choral directors, and accredited medical specialists.