Sooner or later, every singer makes a recording. Whether it’s in a world-class studio or singing into your laptop, when that red recording light turns on you want to be at your best. For most of us, though, recording drains our voices of vitality. It’s frustrating when your beer-soaked, sweaty stage vibe or sudsy shower serenade never sound as good when replicated for posterity. We like to blame the gear but the real issue lies within. As soon as the red light comes on we try too hard and become self-conscious. It is possible to overcome “red light fever,” but you’ve got to address it way before you step up to a large-diaphragm microphone.
Recording is different than singing on stage or in the shower, just like movie acting is different than theater acting. No one knows or cares if a vocal was recorded in one pass, yet lots of singers feel embarrassed when they require multiple takes. All that matters is the end result. Like scenes in movies, the singing on your favorite recordings is really a hi-light reel edited together as a single performance. It’s not cheating; it takes stamina and a mental focus to maintain vocal continuity for several hours. In other words, chops.
When recording, a producer plays the role of movie director. Unfortunately, many singers choose to save money by producing themselves and it often backfires. There is a physical connection when you perform on stage and it’s hard to separate the effort from the outcome. Without the visual aspect, your singing may not have as much impact as you think. If you can’t afford a producer, spread your recording session out over many weeks. Let some time pass before listening to rough mixes in order to gain a fresh perspective on what you’ve sung.
By far, the best way to champion “red light fever” (and the cheapest) is to never turn it off. Simply get into the habit of turning on the voice memo app on your phone every time you sing – even when warming up or vocalizing. Set aside a little time each night to listen to bits of what you recorded. Keep the good sections and delete the embarrassing stuff. In time, you will lose the concern that you’re recording. The best singing occurs when you don’t care who’s listening . . . and that starts with you!