The Finished Product: How to Record Your Music

I have been working on getting my music recorded and this is my first result. It is simple and anyone can get something like this together successfully and it will be the first step in gaining a foothold in musical communities. Below I will discuss the recording process.

How necessary is it to record your music? Will it help you reach your goals as a musician?

I have so many goals as a singer. To teach, to perform on stage, and to record. All of these things are something you are going to do at some point in your musical journey but the hardest and most expensive part is going to be trying to get a recording. It is not as hard as you might think.

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The first thing you need is a recording studio computer program. Audacity is a free recording program that is perfect for the starting musician. It is easy to use and a great resource for anyone getting started. There are a few important effects and tricks you’ll need to learn. Outside of the basics, you’ll want to learn a few key effects like equalization, normalization, and noise reduction. These will make your music sound very professional even with a not so great microphone. A few other programs to check out if you want to spend the money on them are ReaperProTools, Cubase, and Logic (Mac Only). Each has their own different cost and learning curve with Protools and Logic being the highest and Reaper being the lowest. They all usually have student discounts as well so if you are in school make sure you get that because it will save you a lot!

Now that we have covered the stuff that can be free, let’s talk about Equipment!

You will want a decent microphone. The built in laptop microphone is okay to start out, but definitely not what you want. I personally own a Blue Yeti microphone and it is pretty great. It picks up everything with beautiful clarity. The best way to pick out a microphone though is to go to your local music store. Try and find one that isn’t a chain but is locally owned. They tend to be run by real musicians that have used the product and have real experience with different things.The most important thing is definitely do not spend less than $100 on a microphone. Trust me, it will be worth saving up for. You’ll also want a decent pop filter for your microphone. It is the foamy/cloth thing that goes in front of the mic to avoid picking up too much of your breath when you use plosive consonants like Ps or Ts. They aren’t very expensive and you don’t need to send a lot on it, just make sure that it will attach to your mic easily. You also might want an adjustable stand to make it more convenient to record instruments or if other people are also going to be recording. But that isn’t as necessary. Lastly you’ll want a decent set of noise cancelling headphones. You’ll want to hear your playback on something that can pick up every little detail so that you can make sure you eliminate any small mistakes.sheetsnthings123

Now that you know what software and equipment you’ll need, you will want to set up your recording space. What you will want is a quiet room that is as sound proof as possible. Windows, wood floors, and other hard surfaces reflect noise creating extra sound that your microphone will pick up. To limit those noises you’ll want a carpeted room and what I did for my recording was hung up thick sheets along the walls. If you don’t mind spending money though, you can always buy the kind of sound-proofing foam that professionals use but I would only do that in a room that isn’t very easy to get quiet.

So that is everything you need to do it yourself, though that isn’t your only option if you want to record. Finding a studio that will help you record your music can be a really wonderful experience. It can be pretty expensive though. It can be a few hundred up to a thousand dollars per track. If you’re in school though you might be able to find some budding audio engineers that want to practice. Then you can both get some great experience recording. Or you can also see if there is anyone who would let you do a track for free just to see if you want to record with them. If you have a new band sometimes studios will run special promotions to get more people to come use them. So make as many connections as you can with other musicians to try and find those deals!

The main thing to know before going to a studio recording is have your music learned 100%. This might seem somewhat obvious but you, and anyone recording with you, need to be able to play your part independently and flawlessly. You can’t do any practice or last minute changes that you haven’t rehearsed on a studio engineers time. They often get booked solid and any time you spend figuring out your harmony or instrumental part is huge waste of their time and your time. You will also want to be as professional as you can when dealing with them. No cussing, no attitude, and be super respectful. The connections you make with your local studios can be incredibly helpful to your music career. They can help you get gigs and recording with other groups. They can help you meet producers that could be interested in your content. Working well with an audio engineer will have an amazing effect on your music. They are musicians too so it is somewhat of a collaboration when recording with one of them. They can also give you tips for working with a microphone that will be super helpful if you decided to switch to doing it yourself.

So get started on recording! And if you like my song go ahead and give it a like on SoundCloud, I would certainly appreciate it. If you have your own music I would love to see some links in the comments to your own work. If I like it then I’ll give you that helpful thumbs up, and offer constructive critiques to help you out!

 

 

Power Performing

One of the hardest thing with music is actually performing. Getting on stage and remembering all of the techniques you’ve practiced. I feel like whenever I perform I lost about 30% of things that I practiced. There are several things that you can do to combat this though.

First! Practice so much that it becomes habit. Remember though, perfect practice is the only way to have a perfect performance. Pay attention to everything you do and make sure you don’t let anything weird things creep in like strange hand gestures, weird tenseness in your face, or closing your eyes too much. And practice in front of a mirror, that way you can see if anything looks extra strange.

Second, all of your expression should come from your face. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use your body as well, but any gestures you make should be deliberate, clear, and big. If you don’t think a line deserves a big physical gesture than it doesn’t need any physical gesture. Your arms should just hang loose by your sides if you’re not using them. One warm-up exercise you can use to get use to this is sing on an “ah” up a fifth and then descend back down. While doing this lift your arm up and gesture out and then as you descend just let it fall naturally. You may feel tension and feel it want to descend slowly, but don’t let it! Just let it fall limp. Try this with other gestures like putting your hand over your heart, or on your neck, or wringing your hands together, but each time allow your arm to just drop naturally afterwards.

Third, practice your technique through your character. If you’re having trouble take big breaths then take a breath like your character might. Are you surprised? excited? sad? bored? It is always important to make sure you still maintain your posture though so don’t let your expression enter your body too much.

Fourth, your natural slate. Look at yourself in the mirror and completely relax your face into the most normal you can get it. This is your slate. This is the natural pallette you were given to express with. Maybe you have more of a frown in your face, this means you have to try harder to look happy, but less to look sad. Experiment with this and see what works best for you.

Now the most important, when you are outside of the practice room and on stage. When you are on stage and all your nerves are coursing through you, there honestly not a lot you can do to overcome that. You are going to feel nervous, and that’s okay. All you need to do is look down for a second, get in character, take a few deep breaths, I like to think of one or two important techniques that I need to sing well, then look up, and perform. It is that simple. It could feel like forever, but your audience wants the best you they can get, so give it to them!

An amazing book that covers some of these topics, and much more is Power Performance for Singers. Check it out and I’m sure you will learn a lot!

Exercise Those Pipes

Get that voice swoll

If you want to be one of the great singers then it is essential that you exercise your voice daily. If you take any days off then your voice will take an immediate turn towards bad habits.

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Man exercises his pipes while exercising.

It is vital to your singing career that you find a way to sing every day. The easiest way is to learn guitar and accompany yourself. You can also look up karaoke versions of all of your favorite songs on YouTube. The best way to make sure you’re keeping up with good technique is to join a choir either through school, church, or community-run choir. There are many ways to find local choirs in your area you can try using Meetup, or check in local community boards like at your local library or other places like that. You can also hire a voice coach if you have the money for it. The price can range anywhere from $40 on up to $150, and even higher potentially, for a half hour lesson. Schools are a great place to look because graduate and undergraduate students will be the cheapest and still have a lot to offer. There are also some studios that have multiple students which has the added benefit of occasionally running recitals so you can perform in front of others. Regardless of how you choose to sing make sure it happens every day.

Getting sick is one of the few exceptions because sometimes you physically can’t. You still can sing, but it is possible to damage your voice under those circumstances so be careful. If it hurts don’t do it! You will more than likely need sometime to recover back to your full voice afterwards. A lot of technique can go away when you are on vocal rest and it is different for everyone which areas are affected. It is up to you to figure that out. For me I lose my breath control first, so I usually do a lot of breathing exercises to get my lungs back up to full capacity. One of the things that affects most people is called vocal fry which is a creaking sound you can make by closing of the back of your throat and phonating. It is common in most people especially in the morning but it is even more common when you get sick. So do everything you can to talk in a higher voice after getting sick and most importantly if it hurts or wears you out then stop doing it.

Make sure you practice every day and you can become one of the great singers. I have a friend who could possibly be the next Justin Timberlake or Sam Smith because he has a serious passion for singing, and more importantly he practices every single day. So make it happen and reach your g

 

Singing Healthily

Let’s talk about vocal health and fitness

Vocal health and fitness are two incredibly important things to pay attention to when you begin your vocal journey. There are many rules you’ll need to follow if you want to stay fit for performance.

Rule #1

If it hurts don’t do it! This may seem simple and obvious but many people develop habits that can be very harmful to their voice especially when attempting high pop music. Many famous singers such as Sam Smith, Adele, Meghan Trainor, and Justin Timberlake have developed problems that were serious enough to need surgery (source). This is from improper technique and overuse. Now if you’re famous then you can afford to fix these issues though I’m sure it is still an unpleasant experience. Avoid anything straining and stop singing when your voice gets tired or hurts.

Rule #2

Drink a lot of water! The vocal folds need proper moisture to be able to work without causing injury. Drinking water as you’re singing or right before isn’t enough. You need to stay hydrated throughout the whole day. Authority Nutrition recommends using the 8×8 rule, which is 8 glasses of 8 ounce glasses per day. Others recommend halving your weight and drinking that many ounces. You also want to avoid things like soda, acidic or sugary juices, alcoholic drinks, tomatoes, spicy food, and some people say milk. Acidic food and drink cause acid re-flux and heartburn issues while singing, and dairy can cause extra phlegm to build up in the throat. If you are drinking while singing drink room temperature water so that your voice stays warm and loose. Try not to drink too much though because it can wash away important mucus that your vocal chords need to protect themselves.

Rule #3

Be mindful of your speaking voice. Believe it or not but speaking can actually be more strenuous on your voice than singing. A lot of singing habits are built while you talk. Something called vocal fry is common in many people. Vocal fry is that low crackly part of your voice that you feel in the top of your throat and happens to most people in the morning or when your sick. It is one of the most damaging things you can do to your vocal folds and will make all singing really tough on you. Try doing high sighs and yawns in the morning if you start to feel that fry creeping in. Or just try speaking in a high part of your voice and it should start to mitigate. Avoid shouting and raising your voice for extended periods of time. Parties and concerts are the worst times to talk to people. If you are in a job that requires a lot of talking make sure you’re breathing well because it will help you stay in good vocal placement and save those chords!

Rule #4

Take a break from vocal activity. Many singers will take a vocal rest period for a day or so where they avoid talking or singing all day as best they can and just let the vocal folds recover. That way they can rebuild themselves and be in perfect singing shape.

Rule #5

Practice makes permanent! When you practice make sure you are practicing every thing with good healthy technique because if you have practiced one part over and over in an unhealthy way then you will be singing that part unhealthily over and over. I’ve never liked the phrase practice makes perfect. Instead it should be perfect practice makes perfect. 

Rule #6

Breathe! Practice breathing. Focus on good posture and breathing in a way that expands your rib-cage. Nothing too high so that your shoulders move or too low so that your belly looks pregnant. If you’re having trouble with a part of your music and it feels stressed or pained then try adding more breath you’ll be amazed at how many things it can help.

Rule #7

Exercise! This one might seem unnecessary but singing requires a lot of fitness. You need to develop lung capacity so that you’re not getting out of breath while on stage or wherever you are performing. Having your body in shape will help you keep your stamina while you’re performing so that you can do those long performances.

Rule #8

Practice, practice, practice. Make it a habit to sing every day at least 30 minutes each day and you’ll start feeling all those benefits quickly and maintain all your good vocal habits that you are working on. It is okay to take a day off every so often of course but if you stop for too long then you’ll break the habit.

Use these rules and I promise you that you will start to notice a big difference in your voice and even your overall health. Singing is not just about impressing your friends or becoming famous but it is a way of life! Singing leads to happiness, healthiness, and spreading joy and emotion to all those around you.

Why should I even sing?

The health effects of singing

If you’re here then you have asked yourself that very question. If I am not a good singer than why should I even bother? Why should I allow myself to be vulnerable with something I’m not even good at? Well there are many answers to that. My question to you is do you enjoy singing? If the answer is yes then,

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Singing promotes so many wonderful things in the body. We can become aware of the way our body works. You breathe deeply and let your abs contract against your lungs to push all the air out to belt out those high notes. You get that feeling in your upper cheek bones and it starts to feel almost tingly. When you nail that tricky part of the song that took you many times listening to figure out. All these things promote a lot of healthy things in your body that you are probably unaware of.

Breathing is an essential part of life but taking in these deep breaths and using them to push out sound can have a relaxing effect on the body. It also helps circulate the oxygen to your whole body and brain. The brain receiving more oxygen can effectively making you smarter!

That buzzing feeling you get in your cheeks and nose can help prevent allergies. Also it can help your sinuses be healthier and help prevent illness.
Most importantly, when you start enjoying your singing it does so many different things to your brain. It helps you develop new synapses between neurons and stimulates those right brain muscles which is the creative side of your brain. It boosts confidence as well and can make you an already better and happier person.
And don’t take my word for it! Check out this article from the BBC that speaks about all the many healthy aspects of singing.

Come and Sing With Me!

I always hear people say “Oh I can only sing in the shower,” or “I can’t sing, I’m completely tone deaf.” I get so tired of hearing these excuses! Everyone can sing to some degree and shouldn’t feel discouraged before they even really try. I love hearing new people sing. I enjoy the uniqueness that every single person brings to the table. Music is the love of my life and I wish everyone would join in with me.

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I advocate for singing because it is so fun and easy to join in song with other people. Whenever Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing comes on everyone always starts jamming out, and it’s always a fun time.

So don’t be afraid! Get out there and make music. Learn an instrument! Go out to a karaoke night somewhere! If you love it then do it and we can all enjoy the unique voice that everyone was born with.