5 Tips for Working with Vocalists from Johnny Norberg


As a music producer, collaborating with vocalists is one of the most exciting and challenging things you can do. Vocal tracks require a different approach and a few things must be kept in mind. This is especially the case if you don’t have experience as a vocalist.

In this post I welcome Johnny Norberg,  a talented producer and vocalist. He’s here to share a few tips on how you can really make your vocal tracks stand out compared to the rest.

1. Communication

Have a discussion with the vocalist about what you want to achieve before you start the collaboration. If you already have ideas, let your vocalist know. This will give both of you direction right from the start.

This is also a good time to discuss the technicalities of how you want the track to be released, how payments should be made, and how contracts are to be drafted.

Both parties will know what’s going on, which can help to avoid any future frustration.

2. Headroom

Leave headroom in the track prior to sending it to the vocalist. When developing lyrics, its best to get a feel for the track and to try several different approaches. The best way for vocalists to do this is by creating a temporary mix. Listen to the different results and select the best ones.

It is much easier to do add vocals to an unmastered track as it can be very difficult to add them into a track that has no more room left.

3. Constructive Feedback

Be willing to give and receive feedback.

Vocalists have a good ear and may be able to hear things in the production that may or may not need to be altered.  Vocalists often play different instruments and having this experience can help the track stand out even more.

The same goes with vocal melodies and lyrics, as small changes can make a big impact. Make sure to give constructive feedback where you see fit, and have open discussions to make the best track possible.

4. Edits and Modifications

Spot issues in the arrangement that may make incorporating vocals difficult. The song may sound great, but complications such as short breakdowns and timing issues can make it difficult to incorporate vocals.

Stereo imaging, sidechain compression, EQ and other effects should be considered once the vocals are recorded and added to the mix. Stereo imaging can widen the vocals to make them sound warmer. Sidechaining specific sounds against the vocals can make room for them and using EQ can help the vocals punch through the mix.

Producers often don’t put enough effort into the effects and will add the vocals roughly on top of a track that has already been mixed down. It’s better to add the vocals in harmony with the sounds and instruments in the track. With the right approach, you’ll get a better fit and often a more natural vocal sound.

5. Have Fun and Follow Up!

One of the fun parts about collaboration is following up the release with the artist and reviewing how well it went. Keep in touch and share news about the success!

Have fun, make friends, and make great music together!

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