Friday, September 25, 2015

The Importance of Preparation in Recording and Performing

On one level, singers are master preparers. A tremendous amount of time is spent training and practicing, and in the case of many recording artists, songwriting as well. In fact, singers are often virtually non-stop in their physical and mental preparation for success, whether or not any performance or recording dates are on the imminent horizon.

Yet another kind of preparation is all too often neglected, and that is with the technology that makes recording and live shows possible. Indeed, for all of their training and practicing for a performance career, for all of their songwriting and rehearsing prior to recording, singers rarely take the time to proactively work with the technology that facilitates both.

There are a number of reasons for this, including access and money. Not everyone has friends who work in recording studios or have Pro Tools rigs at home. Even fewer people can afford to book studio or stage time to practice, much less to record or perform.

Yet there’s more to it than that. There is often an assumption that when the time comes, a singer can show up to the studio or stage and that everything will work out… that they just need to sing the way they always have, perform the way they’ve always practiced, and that the technology and those running it will meet them where they are and ensure that things turn out perfectly.

It doesn’t work this way. And with a bit of thought, the reason why is clear: In what other setting, line of work, or discipline can you just show up, with no training or practice, and do a great job? Where else in life can you use an entirely new set of tools competently, much less expertly, without knowledge of how they function or experience with them?

Absolutely nowhere.

It’s like expecting to ride or swim perfectly the first time you get on a bike or into a pool. Practice and patience are not only to be expected, they’re required to achieve mastery.

Thankfully, access to studios, friends in high places, and deep pockets aren’t necessary to gain the skills required for stage and studio singing. With a pair of inexpensive studio headphones, a handheld microphone, an average laptop, and free recording software, we can learn the practical basics of studio hearing and singing. We are able, with the same microphone and a decent amp or pair of speakers, to practice balancing our listening and performing in a live setting (to say nothing of the many free open mic nights available in most cities).

Some singers take these steps but the vast majority do not. This needs to change.

Jennifer Hamady is a voice coach and psychotherapist specializing in emotional and technical issues that interfere with creative and self-expression.  Her new book, "Singing on Stage and in the Studio: Understanding the Psychology, Technology, and Relationships in Recording and Live Performance", will be released by Hal Leonard on March 22, 2016. 

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