Here are some things I learned… or re-learned:
Getting to the final mix always takes longer than you think.
And this wasn’t even a “final” mix… this was just a pretty darn good basement production. When I recorded in a studio for my last CD with STAR, the mixing took a lot longer, for several reasons. For one, because we were pressing CDs and when you are going to press CDs, there’s no redoing the mix once it’s sent off to production. It’s figuratively set in stone. Also, because in STAR we didn’t always get together as a band to review the mix – we listened individually and emailed notes back and forth, having to negotiate decisions in writing.
In this case, although neither of the above were true, it still takes time to step away from the mix, let your ears refresh for a couple of days, and then come back to it. Repeat for every time you make a change, even a 1dB change in a level of a track or an EQ band, and you can see how it takes a while.
Sometimes the fastest, least careful vocal take is the best. Or at least works just fine.
We decided between one mix and the next that we would modulate up a whole step near the end. That meant I needed to re-record the vocals at the end of the track. I forgot to do it until a half hour before I had to leave for the meeting in which we were going to mix in these new vocals. So I banged out three vocal tracks (lead and two harmonies) in 30 minutes and that was that. No warmup, only one or two takes per track, done. The vocals aren’t perfect, but perfection shouldn’t usually be what you’re after anyway. Emotion should.
When you get to the point you can stop trying to sound any particular way and just sing, that’s when your voice finally comes out.
I spent the last few recording all kinds of stuff from jazz to ska (that didn’t work) to pop to funk to rock to I can’t even remember what else. That was good practice for finding the range and ability of my voice, but now that I’m doing my own project, I’m not trying to meet any particular expectation, I’m just singing. And the comments I’m getting right and left are that I’ve finally found my voice. About time.
You may never think your own voice is anything spectacular, but that doesn’t mean other people won’t like it.
I think my voice sounds prettier, deeper, nicer, and just overall better in many other recordings I’ve done, but the consistent comments I’m getting from this recording is that people like it, and like it more than most everything else I’ve done. And they like it not only because it’s my voice, but – so they say – because the voice sounds great. So be it. I’m glad to hear it.
Pitchiness can be OK sometimes. To a degree. In some genres.
There is a sharp note or two and definitely a few flats in this song, but in my opinion they actually contribute to the emotion. This is a big song with a lot of emotion, so I think the lack of pitch perfection is fine. Some may disagree. But for the record there is not a single bit of auto-tuning in this song.
Vocal comping by someone else – someone experienced and with a good ear – is the way to go.
I first comped together my own vocals, but then my bandmate started from scratch and re-comped everything. In some cases we picked the same takes, but in many cases he picked takes that seemed less “good” to my ears. It’s hard for most vocalists to select the most emotional take rather than the most perfect take. You probably need someone else’s ears to do that for you.
And now for the shameless plug, in case you’re curious…